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Colorado Eagles look to build on recent success in shortened AHL season

By Paul Patane, SportsEngine, 01/28/21, 1:00PM MST

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Hub exclusive: The Loveland-based affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche was one of 28 American Hockey Leagues that retook the ice on Jan. 25 for training camp. Regular-season games begin in early February.

The Colorado Eagles are one of 28 AHL teams that opened training camp this week. The team begins its pandemic-shortened 2021 regular season on Feb. 5 against Stockton. Photos courtesy of the Colorado Eagles

The Colorado Eagles are one of 28 AHL teams that opened training camp this week. The team begins its pandemic-shortened 2021 regular season on Feb. 5 against Stockton. Photos courtesy of the Colorado Eagles

It’s been a long wait for the Colorado Eagles to return to play. 

The Eagles, the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche, took the ice on Monday for the start of training camp, representing the first time the team has been assembled to play since mid-March of last year when the league suspended operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Eagles play their first of 38 regular-season games as part of a pandemic-shorted 2021 season on Feb. 5, when they’ll start their third AHL campaign by taking on the Stockton Heat at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland for the first of two games that weekend.

The Eagles’ training camp roster features a lot of familiar faces, including T.J. Tynan and Jacob MacDonald, the team’s top two points producers from a year ago. 

Tynan had a team-high 47 points a year ago, with five goals and 42 assists. MacDonald, a blueliner, had 16 goals and 26 assists, and was the league’s top-scoring blueliner during the 2020-21 season.

T.J. Tynan (pictured) had a team-best 47 points for the Eagles during the 2019-20 season and is one of several key returners joining this year's Eagles squad. The center inked a new deal to stay with Colorado for another season in March 2020.

T.J. Tynan (pictured) had a team-best 47 points for the Eagles during the 2019-20 season and is one of several key returners joining this year's Eagles squad. The center inked a new deal to stay with Colorado for another season in March 2020.

Tynan inked a new one-year pact with the team last spring, while MacDonald signed a two-year deal on March 27, 2020 to keep him within the Avalanche organization through the 2021-22 season.

The team’s top goal-scorer, Sheldon Dries, also returns. The center tallied 21 goals last year.

The franchise’s other key returner is Greg Cronin, head coach of the Eagles. Cronin has more than 30 years of coaching experience, including at Colorado College from 1990-93.

With a combination of returning faces and shrewd signings to bolster team depth, the Eagles seem poised to be a playoff contender that would like to compete for their first Calder Cup, especially considering the success they experienced last spring prior to the league-wide shutdown. 

The Eagles boasted a 34-18-3 overall record last year and were winners of seven of their final 10 games before play was suspended — good for 72 points and second place in the Pacific Division standings.

A question mark for the Eagles as they start the season will be in goal, as the club lost one half of it’s goaltending tandem from a year ago. 

Hunter Miska, who had a .924 save percentage and 2.48 goals-against average with the Eagles last season, was relegated to the Avs’ taxi squad this winter and has made one NHL start this winter, which resulted in a Jan. 21 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. 

With Miska joining the state’s NHL club in Denver, the Eagles signed Parker Gahagen to a one year-contract on Jan. 21 to bolster their goaltending depth. A product of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Gahagen has seen limited AHL action to date, having had stints with the Toronto Marlies and San Jose Barracuda.

Other goalies invited to training camp, which is closed to fan attendance, include Trent Miner and Peyton Jones. 

Adam Werner, who split time with Miska in net for the Eagles last year, had been loaned by the Avalanche to play in Sweden during the lockdown to continue sharpening his skills and has since returned to the Centennial State. He made 31 starts for the Eagles last season and produced a .909 save percentage and 2.92 GAA.

Three teams, the Charlotte Checkers, Milwaukee Admirals and Springfield Thunderbirds, chose to opt out of playing this season due to COVID concerns. All three teams intend to return to the AHL for the 2021-22 season. Another team is expected to be added to the league next year as well, with the NHL’s forthcoming addition of the Seattle Kraken.

No fans will be allowed to attend home games for the Eagles at the start of the season, though the club will work with health officials to potentially allow in-person attendance at a later date. Fans will be able to stream games live via AHLTV, with subscription packages available.

Editor's note: The Eagles' first two games of the season, scheduled against the Stockton Heat, have been canceled. The team's first game of the season is now scheduled for Feb. 13, when the Eagles travel to take on the San Diego Gulls.

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