By Brendan Price / USPHL.com
Northern Colorado Eagles (4) vs. Idaho Falls Spud Kings (5)
All games at Greeley Ice Haus
Friday, March 3, 8:30 p.m. MST
Saturday, March 4, 3:30 p.m. MST
Sunday, March 5, 12 p.m. MST (if necessary)
Between the Eagles and Spud Kings, NoCo won the overall season series with a 7-3-0 record, although appearances can be deceiving. The Spud Kings closed out the regular season on a season-best five game winning streak, including two straight wins over the Eagles last weekend in Idaho Falls. Three of the last four meetings have been decided by two goals or less.
In addition to their current win streak, Idaho Falls has been scorching hot during the second half of the season, going 12-4-1 since Jan. 5 with wins at Ogden and Provo along with their two-game sweep of Northern Colorado last weekend.
A key to all the winning? The Spud Kings are an offensive wagon, scoring four or more goals in eleven of their last 17 games. George Goodwin (30-18-48) and Justin Davis lead the charge; Goodwin has averaged over a point and half per game as a Spud King and his linemate Davis (21-29-50) is having a career year as well. Idaho Falls have continued to add scoring depth down the stretch, with the additions of Liam Filip and Kaito Okubu combining for six goals and eleven points in the team’s final five regular season games.
It’s not all about scoring, either. Goaltender Colin Rowbotham has stabilized the goaltending position since arriving from the NAHL. Rowbotham has been a workhorse, starting 14 of the team’s 17 games down the stretch. He’s been extremely effective against the Eagles, going 2-1-1 with a sparkling 1.77 GAA and a .934 save percentage.
The Eagles enter the postseason looking to put a sluggish end of the regular season behind them. NoCo dropped seven of eight headed into the postseason, but will get to return home and play postseason games in front of their fans in Greeley for the first time as a member of the USPHL. NoCo’s defense and goaltending have been the story this season and they will look to shut down Idaho Falls in the playoffs. Rookie goaltender Evan Stringer fared well against the Spud Kings this season, going 5-2-0 and allowed one goal or fewer in all five of his victories.
Defensively, the Eagles will turn to third-year veteran Xavier Fortin to lead from the blue line. Fortin set career highs in all major offensive categories, finishing the season with 45 points (12-33-45) in 51 games and averaged over 32:00 of ice time per game.
Offensively, the Eagles’ top line will look to keep cooking. Forward Brayden Fryfogle has 17 points (9-8-17) since his return from the Saskatchewan Junior League, and Matthew Perry has 17 points (5-12-17) in 13 games since being acquired from the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes.