Story by: Scott MacDonald
With the Colorado Eagles making the jump from the ECHL to the American Hockey League at the beginning of the season, there was plenty of roster change to account for. When the dust settled and the season began, only a handful of players from last year’s Eagles team remained.
Although the familiar faces may be few and far between, the fans here in Eagles Country remain just as loud and loyal to their team as ever. There’s one familiar face, however, that has fans cheering just a few decibels louder anytime his name is announced over the PA at the Budweiser Events Center.
Second-year Eagles forward Michael Joly has become a big fan favorite here in Loveland. And for good reason, too.
Last season, in his first year with Colorado, the 23-year-old led the Eagles with 41 goals and 67 points in just 52 games, en route to helping the team to its second straight Kelly Cup title. Joly found his game — and a home — here in Loveland.
“I love it, the fans are awesome,” said Joly of playing in Eagles Country. “I love the fans so much and they love me a lot. They treat me really good here and the organization does, too. I love it.”
Perhaps it was the fans that helped propel Joly to the incredible season he had last year. Or perhaps the 23-year-old is just hitting his stride. Either way, he’s become an instrumental part of the team, both this season, and most certainly last season, as well.
“Last year was a big season,” said Joly. “I knew what I had to do to get my contract for this year. The (Colorado Avalanche) talked to me, so I had to pull out a big year. I just had a good year last year.”
To say he had just a good year is probably putting it lightly, too. And to say he was key in the Eagles’ Kelly Cup run last season would also be a bit of an understatement. Picking up right where he left off during the regular season, Joly led the team with 13 goals and 29 points in the 24 games it took Colorado to claim its second consecutive Kelly Cup. After the cup was raised, Joly was named the ECHL playoff’s MVP.
“It was awesome being an MVP and all, but (Joe Cannata, Eagles goaltender) could’ve had it too,” said Joly humbly. “It was such an exciting playoff for all the guys that were there.”
Kelly Cup victory now in the past, it’s time for the Eagles, and Joly, to prove they belong in the AHL. If there was any question Joly wouldn’t be able to hang in this new league, now a little over halfway through the season, he’s effectively dispelled any and all doubt of his ability. Joly is putting together a very respectable campaign; and he’s already surpassed his previous bests in the AHL.
“I had a slow start this year,” said Joly. “I was scratched a couple of times but I made my way through now; and I think if I keep going like this great things will happen.”
And great things have been happening for Joly here in Colorado. After all, he’s enjoyed back-to-back career years. When asked what’s been going so well for him over his past two seasons here in Loveland, he said his growing confidence is the key to his success.
“Just being confident,” added Joly. “…I’m just trying to keep playing my game and improve a lot in what I have to improve on. With the confidence I have right now, good things will happen so I just try to keep it going.”
Joly’s confidence on the ice is what earned him a contract to remain in the Avalanche organization. When the Avs offered the AHL contract to Joly, it came as little surprise to the confident Colorado forward. He knew he had earned it.
“I was kind of expecting it because I had an unbelievable year last year, so I was expecting something good to happen, at least a one-way (contract),” said Joly. “That’s just a step — to have a one-way — eventually I hope to have something bigger.”
If Joly continues to play his game and produce the way he has over the past two seasons, there’s a good chance he’ll be awarded something much, much bigger. Even perhaps an NHL contract with the Avalanche.
“Yeah, I see myself in the NHL,” said Joly of his future, with a subtle smirk. “But I got to make my way through and have them see me in the NHL.”