Man, if you leave the Avalanche out of the equation, it has been a magical year of 2017 for hockey teams in Colorado.
After the University of Denver captured it’s eighth NCAA National Championship back in April, the Colorado Eagles have done their part and won the 2017 Kelly Cup for their first ECHL Championship since joining the league a handful of years ago.
The Eagles joined the ‘Premier AA Hockey League’ the ECHL for the 2011-12 season after the other AA league — the CHL — folded in June of 2011. While in the CHL, Colorado twice won the President’s Cup (2005, and 2007) — so this marks their third league championship since their inauguration in 2003.
Colorado had a solid record of 47-20-2-3 in the regular season this year, but it was only the third best record in the league as both the Toledo Walleye and Allen Americans had better records and clinched their respective divisions. Still, the Eagles got hot when it mattered most and ended up defeating both of those teams in the playoffs on their road to the Kelly Cup Finals.
In the Finals, they faced off against the South Carolina Stingrays — who were a middle of the pack team in the Eastern Conference this year that also got hot in the playoffs. South Carolina had a high-scoring run in their side of the playoff bracket, but in the end they were no match for the high-flying Eagles.
Colorado finished off the sweep of the Stingrays with a 2-1 victory in North Chareston, South Carolina on Monday night to clinch the 2017 Kelly Cup.
The game-winning goal was scored by Thornton native Luke Salazar, a former walk-on player at the University of Denver and has played pro hockey all over the world since. It was truly a great story of a hometown kid helping out his hometown team win a big time championship.
Salazar is a smaller forward, listed at 5’7″, 160 lbs. that has overcome all the odds to compete at the division-I level in college hockey and now at the professional level. His size was always the question and is probably why he never got a fair shot at the NHL level, but he has taken what his career has given him and ran with it.
In 72 games this regular season for the Eagles, Salazar scored 30 goals and 47 assists for a total of 77 points. His numbers went down a bit in the playoffs, only scoring 8 points in 20 games, but his game-winning goal on Monday night to clinch the sweep was perhaps the biggest goal he has ever scored.
Congratulations to the Colorado Eagles on their Kelly Cup Championship and to all of the fans in Northern Colorado who have supported them since 2003!