By Ron Knabenbauer and Ryan Simmons
The Denver Cutthroats opened up the Central Hockey League Presidents' Cup Finals this past weekend with a series split at home against the Allen Americans.
After winning 5-4 on Friday in Game 1 at the Denver Coliseum, the Colorado Avalanche's CHL minor-league affiliate fell by the same score, 5-4, in double overtime in Saturday's Game 2.
"I thought it was a good hockey game," Denver coach Derek Armstrong said after Saturday's contest. "Playing against the champs, they are going to push back, and it could have gone either way. I thought we played well tonight. I thought we competed hard, a couple miscommunications cost us, but that's growing and learning as an organization."
Jamie Schaafsma scored the winning goal for the Americans at 1:51 of the second overtime to send the series to Allen, Texas tied at 1-1. The next three games will be played at the Allen Event Center before the series moves back to Colorado for Games 6 and 7, if necessary.
Denver fell down 2-0 early in Game 2, but a goal by Robin Soudek with 2:45 left in the first period helped give life to the Cutthroats and spark a three-goal run. The Fish opened the second period with two goals in the first 2:24, with Garrett Bembridge and Troy Schwab scoring in a matter of 33 seconds of one another.
The Cutthroats nearly added another goal 1:23 after Schwab's as JP Chabot appeared to have scored on a rebound in the crease. However, the goal was waved off as the officials determined the puck had been kicked into the net.
Allen tied the game at 3-3 at 7:18 of the third period, but Denver quickly responded and retook the lead 3:33 later.
Dan Barczuck scored the go-ahead goal with 9:09 remaining in the third after he grabbed the rebound from teammate Sean Zimmerman's shot behind the net, turned to his right and fired a tough-angle shot from the red line into the top half of the cage.
Anthony Maiani forced overtime by scoring the tying goal with 1:14 left in regulation while Allen had an extra attacker on the ice.
Avalanche goaltending prospect Kent Patterson made 36 saves in the loss, snapping a four-game winning streak. He had to be good early and late in Game 2 as he made 11 saves in the first period to keep Denver in the contest and stopped 12 shots in the extra periods.
"I was seeing the puck," Patterson said. "There were a few shots that I would want back."
Patterson also stopped a key penalty shot at 4:23 of the second period to keep the game at 3-2 and the momentum on Denver's side.
In Friday's Game 1, the Cutthroats used four goals by AJ Gale and a solid effort in net by Patterson to deny the Americans' comeback and earn a 5-4 victory.
Two of Gale's four tallies came early in the third period as the Cutthroats were trying to ward off Allen's late push.
Denver held a three-goal lead 33 seconds into the second period, but Allen battled back to tie the game at 3-3 before the end of the stanza.
Gale's two goals early in the third period gave the Fish back a two-goal lead with 9:33 left to play. His second tally held up as the game-winner after the Americans cut their deficit to one with 6:04 remaining.
Hat tricks are nothing new for Gale in the playoffs as he also had three goals in Denver's Game 5 series-clinching win against Arizona in the conference finals. His seven combined goals in back-to-back contests were the most in a two-game playoff stretch in over 10 years in the CHL.
Gale did not play in most of Game 2 after he suffered a lower-body injury early in the first period of Saturday's contest from a check near the corner boards. He was taken to a local hospital for observation and his playing status for Game 3 is unknown.
"AJ is a huge part of this team. We have guys that can step up and take his position," Patterson said of the team losing Gale. "It hurts not to have him, but we have a deep enough lineup to push through."
Patterson made 35 saves and denied all six of Allen's power-play opportunities in Game 1. The Americans were No. 1 in the playoffs with the man advantage entering the series, but they have yet to score on the power play against the Fish, going 0 of 10.
CORBETT, OIL KINGS DOWN 2-0
Cody Corbett and the Edmonton Oil Kings opened their WHL Championship series with the Portland Winterhawks on the road this past weekend. They were unable to seize home-ice advantage away from the Winterhawks as they lost both Games 1 and 2. They will need to pick up a few wins at home this week if they plan on hoisting the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
The Oil Kings were defeated 5-2 in front of nearly 11,000 Winterhawks fans in Game 1. Corbett was held pointless in the contest and had two penalty minutes. In Game 2, Edmonton again fell behind by three goals and could not find enough offense to mount a comeback. The final score on Sunday was 3-1 after the Oil Kings picked up a late goal.
Despite being down 2-0 in the series, the Oil Kings are looking forward to home ice and being back in Edmonton after things seemed to turn in their favor late in the second game.
“We finally started to get some pucks in deep," Edmonton coach Derek Laxdel said. "We finally started to put some pucks on net. We played with a sense of urgency.”
That urgency will need to be carried over to Tuesday's Game 3 for Edmonton to make this a series.
Corbett appeared in 65 regular-season games for the Oil Kings this season, totaling 61 points (17 goals and 44 assists). The defenseman has played in all 16 playoff games for Edmonton and has 12 points (six goals and six assists).
MILLAN WITH WHEELING
The Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL are currently trailing 2-0 in their second-round matchup with Greenville. The Nailers were defeated 7-3 in Game 1 on Saturday, but they played a much better game on Sunday in a 4-3 overtime loss. Avs goalie prospect Kieran Millan has not made an appearance in the postseason. He appeared in five games this season for Wheeling and was 2-2-0 with one shutout and a 1.75 goals-against average.
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