Under the Hood: Northern Colorado

by WSHL Staff

From now until the season starts, we will be taking a quick look under the hood of each team. From players leaving, to new signings, we will preview each team based on what coaches and players have to say.  

Northern Colorado Eagles

2018-2019 Finish: Mid-Western Division Semi-Final

Standings/Record: 28W-19L-1OTW-2OTL (3rd MW) 

(Photo by Tim Broussard, Ogden Mustangs Photographer)

The clock read 0:45 left in the third period with Northern Colorado up 2-1 on Oklahoma City in Game 2 of the MW Division Semi-Finals. With Game 1 in the bag and Game 2 seemingly over, the Eagles let off the gas pedal allowing life to spark the Jr. Blazers for one minute.

OKC scored two goals in the final minute of play to steal the win 3-2. The Eagles were not able to recover in Game 3 and their ambitions of a Thorne Cup run were seared away. 

“I really like the way we played that series, minus those 30-seconds,” Head Coach Steve Haddon said.” We sat back and gave [OKC] the momentum. But, if I had to look back, everything happens for a reason and it’s going to be the one thing that pushes us this season.”

Literally.

The Eagles are returning 14 players who experienced that final minute of play in Game 2. Coach Haddon embraced the fact that a lot of his players, last season, had not experienced deep runs in their previous teams. Just being in the position to upset others and go farther than before was experience in itself, but now, you add the one ingredient that often inspires greatness—failure.

“You have to fail to have success,” Coach Haddon said. “We learned a lot about ourselves as a group and we want to use that moving forward.”

(Photo by Tim Broussard, Ogden Mustangs Photographer)

In retrospect, the Northern Colorado Eagles have established themselves as postseason regulars since their inception. Every year, the Eagles are a strong mention in the playoff conversation.

In their first two seasons they were three points from a first place divisional finish. In 2015-16 and 2016-17 they were division champions and Thorne Cup finalists. In the past two seasons, the Eagles reached division semi-final rounds for the Mountain and, more recently, Mid-Western Division.

The Eagles will find that they are skating with a little more to prove having been named hosts of the 2020 Thorne Cup Finals.

“That’s going to be our challenge. It doesn’t matter that we have an opportunity and we’re hosting,” Coach Haddon said. “We still want to earn and prove that we deserve to be there. It’s too hard to coast all season long and just turn it on in the playoffs.”

The season is arduous and it is uncommon for teams to just coast and suddenly amp up their play over night. A spark can be pinpointed but the process of, “turning it on,” takes a while for every player to buy into a likeminded mentality.

Coach Haddon’s philosophy doesn’t allow him to put all the responsibility on a few key players and have the team rely on them. The Eagles will be going into the season as a family that utilizes teamwork effectively. However, for the sake of this article, we will briefly mention a couple returners who had big impacts last year:

Marshall Murphy(Photo by Mark Mauno, WSHL Photographer)

Murphy is set to start in net for the Eagles and brings back exceptional goaltending. This will be Murphy’s third year in the WSHL, second for the Eagles, having played for the Superior Rough Riders in 2017-2018. Murphy played to a .921 SV% and a 2.66 GAA in 39 games with 21W-16L-2OTL. Murphy collected wins against top WSHL teams including El Paso, Oklahoma City and Utah.

Coach Haddon acknowledged that Murphy has proven himself but that it takes two goalies to win the cup. This leaves room to possibility of new signing, Tanner Ames, also 20-years-old, to step in and battle for the ice time. It’s Haddon’s way of instilling healthy competition to keep the ever-important position from growing lethargic.   

Jacob Elik(Photo by Mark Mauno, WSHL Photographer)

Elik has spent multiple years playing in the WSHL. The veteran made his debut with the Southern Oregon Spartans in 2016-2017, moved to the Casper Coyotes the following year, and then found himself on the Eagle’s squad for 2018-2019. Elik’s best season was by far with the Eagles clocking in 15G-43A-58Pts. making him the Eagle’s top point producer.

After Elik, the Eagles will be without forwards Mark Revniaga, Nikita Sheberov, and Jarret Marks; Defenders Zach Vanderwal, Trent Hines, and Michael Petrotto.

Elik is looking at his fourth season with Northern Colorado and will likely eclipse 150 WSHL games.

Fortunately for the Eagles, the team did not have a lopsided spread of points as they produced by committee. Defensively speaking, the team did lose the long-time presence of Trent Hines who spent the length of five seasons, or 242 games, manning the Eagles blue line. 

Coach Haddon talked about the inconsistency in the lineup due to injury as the reason why he never likes to deem certain players as “go-to.” Haddon was adamant in saying that of the 14 players returning, at least nine of them have three years playing under his wing.

“I’m expecting everyone coming back to take one step further in their junior careers and that’s to have their best season,” Haddon said. “We are going to do it by committee again, that’s how we’ve always done it to get far.”

“Whether you are a new guy or a returner, we are a new group together.”  

Coach Haddon put it simply; his team is half old and half new. Everyone that is new to the Eagles is a first year Junior-A player. From the goalies, to the defensemen, to the forwards, there is a healthy mix of players who understand the culture and players who are coming in ready to contribute.

More news and details to be released by teams as the 2019-2020 season approaches. Stay up to date with the latest  and complete Northern Colorado Eagles news by going to http://coloradojunioreagles.pointstreaksites.com/view/junioreagles/

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