LOVELAND, Colo. – The ECHL All-Stars defeated the Colorado Eagles 7-3 in the 20th ECHL All-Star Game presented by University Colorado Health on Wednesday in front of 5.289 fans at Budweiser Events Center.
South Carolina goaltender Ryan Zapolski was named the game’s Most Valuable Player after stopping all 17 shots he faced during the second period. Zapolski is just the fourth goaltender to earn ECHL All-Star Game Most Valuable Player honors joining Cory Cadden (1994), Frank Doyle (2005) and Adam Berkhoel (2007).
The ECHL All-Stars got on the board first 6:33 into the first period as Wheeling’s Andrew Hotham beat Colorado goaltender Kyle Jones with assists going to Gwinnett’s Casey Pierro-Zabotel and Toledo’s Willie Coetzee.
Colorado’s A.J. Hau tied the score at 12:40, snapping a shot past Reading’s Philipp Grubauer from the right-wing circle.
The Eagles took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission courtesy of a Joey Sides power-play goal at 16:44. Sides corralled a puck on the left post, and beat Grubauer with a backhand to the top shelf.
Chris Francis of Las Vegas pulled the ECHL All-Stars even 3:06 into the second period. On a 2-on-1 rush, Francis’ wrist shot from the right-wing circle beat goaltender Adam Brown.
Just 1:41 later, the ECHL All-Stars went back on top. Evansville’s Nathan Moon fed Coetzee between the circles and he beat Brown with a quick shot to the glove side to make it 3-2.
Cincinnati’s Taylor Ellington extended the ECHL All-Stars lead to 4-2 at 15:46, gathering in a pass from Utah’s Mitch Wahl on the left post and redirecting the puck past Kyle Jones, who replaced Brown in goal midway through the second period.
Hotham tallied his second of the night at 18:35, beating Jones with a quick wrister from the high slot.
The ECHL All-Stars finished their second-period scoring burst at 19:51. Wahl’s shot hit off the crossbar, and Orlando’s C.J. Severyn was able to gather in the loose puck and slide a shot past Jones to make it 6-2 after 40 minutes of play.
The five second-period goals for the ECHL All-Stars ties the record for most goals by a team in one period of an ECHL All-Star Game.
Colorado climbed back within three 44 seconds into the third period as Michael Forney gathered in a loose puck at the top of the crease, and slid a shot past Gwinnett goaltender Mike Lee.
Dustin Gazley of Elmira scored with 18.9 seconds left on the left post to set the final.