The Flagstaff Avalanche showed a little opening-game jitters as it took the ice at the Jay Lively Arena for its first game in front of a large home crowd Saturday night.
Flagstaff (2-0) had played the Chaparral Firebirds to open the season and knew what to expect going into the game, but first-year head coach Denny Lauritsen said there were definitely some opening-night nerves for his team.
"I thought it was actually a weak effort to start, and we should have come out with a lot more intensity," he said. "But being our first game in two weeks, we were able to pick it up a little bit in the second period. We had some good plays and some bad plays, and got a lot of shots on goal, and our pressure was there."
Despite the slow start, Flagstaff found the back of the net first just a minute and 43 seconds into the first period when Trey Gonzalez scored the Avalanche's first goal on an unassisted play for a 1-0 Flagstaff lead.
"Trey's one of our leaders and he's a scoring machine," Lauritsen said. "He can pick his spots and he's got a heck of a shot."
The two teams exchanged blows for the rest of the period with neither able to put points on the board, but Flagstaff took a 2-0 lead two and a half minutes into the second period.
Flagstaff's second goal was scored on the rebound by David Crawford. He cleaned up Alden Armstrong's shot from the point when the puck dribbled right to his stick and he put it past Chaparral goalie Patrick Crozier.
"The second goal was a broken play, and we just had a guy in the right spot at the right time," Lauritsen said. "Alden Armstrong took a good shot from the point and David was there for the rebound. Good things always happen when players are in the right spot."
Flagstaff continued to put the offensive pressure on the Firebirds, but Crozier stopped 30 shots in the game.
Mitchell Morgan was between the pipes for the Avalanche and stopped 13 of 14 Firebird shots.
Jonah Daniels scored the Firebirds lone goal in the second period as Chaparral was transitioning from offense to defense.
"Mitchell made some big saves, especially late on the 5-on-3 and did a good job on the power plays," Lauritsen said. "He holds his ground and plays his angles and he knows what to do: He covers the puck when our guys are gassed and moves the puck when the other team is gassed."
Lauritsen said having already played the Firebirds, Flagstaff knew what to expect, but the Avalanche played down to Chaparral's level.
"They're a big and physical team; they're a little bit on the slow side, and we played down to that, unfortunately," he said "It's a challenge to not play down to opponents, and every game is going to be different and we played with a lot of nerves being our first home game. For us to pick up our pace, we just need to play our game and move the puck a little more."
The new bleachers at Jay Lively were filled to the brim with Avalanche fans, and Lauritsen said the team was happy with the show of support.
"We're happy with the crowd and we'd love to see even more people," he said. "Being that all the high schools (Flagstaff, Coconino and NPA) make the team we know we're a big community team, we just hope to be able to give them something to cheer about."
Flagstaff next takes on the Hyland Hills Jaguars at 10:40 a.m. Saturday at the Las Vegas Ice Center.
Bill Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 556-2251.