Sunday, April 22, 2018

Allen vs Idaho Game Five Preview, Secret Weapons Attend Allen Practice, Playoff Update and the Oldest Hockey Player in the World

It is game day at the Allen Event Center (6:05 pm puck drop) and not just any old game day. For the Idaho Steelheads it is win or go home so they will obviously be playing for their playoff lives. The Allen Americans will also be playing desperate because there is no way they want this series returning to Boise.

- Coach Steve Martinson held a practice at 5:30 pm last night and brought in a couple of secret weapons to help out. Who better to bring in for practice than two former Allen captains, Chad Costello and Gary Steffes. Two main cogs in Allen's back to back Kelly Cups. Gary is an inspiration on and off the ice and who can forget the 2014-15 season when Gary had 57 goals between the regular season and playoffs as Allen won their first Kelly Cup. Two Kelly Cups, three MVP's, three scoring titles and never missing a game regular season or playoffs (276 straight) in his three year career in Allen tells you all you need to know about Chad Costello.

- The team spent a lot of time at practice working on the power play and who better to help out in sharing his wisdom than Costello. Chad averaged 45 power play points per season in his three years in Allen which is a good overall season for most players. Having the quarterback of the top power play in the league (2014-17 average) help out with power play practice is great.

- The value of having Chad and Gary on the ice with coach Martinson at practice is more than anything related to X's and O's. Their willingness to come back, hang out with the guys, share their experiences says a lot about the history of the Allen franchise and why it has been so successful. Hopefully their presence is an inspiration to the entire team but especially to all of the rookies.

- It is hard to overstate the importance of the game tonight. You know Idaho is saying if they can get a win in game five and get the series back to Boise they are right back in the series. It would be reminiscent of last year when Allen went down 3-0 to Colorado and and then won two games in Colorado to get the series back to Allen.

- Here is an update of the comparison stats between Allen and Idaho after four playoff games with the Americans holding a 3-1 series lead.

                                     ALLEN                            IDAHO

Goals For                    14                                      11
Goals Against             11                                      14
Power Play                 7.7% (1/13)                       17.6% (3/17)
Penalty Kill                  82.4% (3/17)                     92.3% (1/13)
Leading Scorer           Shmyr (2G-2A-4)               Harstad (2G-2A-4)
                                    Makowski (2G-2A-4)         Parizek (2G-2A-4)
Most PIM's                  Pochiro - 10                       Baldwin - 9

-  Here is how Allen and Idaho rank among the 16 teams in the ECHL playoffs:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 7th (14.25) - Idaho 9th (13.00)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 2nd (3.50) - Idaho 9th (2.75)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 8th (2.75) - Idaho 15th (3.50)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 12th (27.50) - Idaho 8th (35.25)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 9th (35.25) - Idaho 5th (27.50)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 15th (7.7%) - Idaho 4th (17.6%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 13th (82.4%) - Idaho 2nd (92.3%)

- Shot differential has been an issue for Allen all season and to a lesser extent in this series. The Americans overcome this with an excellent shooting percentage (12.7%). Coach Martinson mentioned in the loss on Friday the team did not support the puck as well as they did in the earlier games. Puck possession and supporting the puck will be a key to victory tonight.  

- The biggest positive for Allen in this series is they have scored the first goal in all four games and the young guns/rookies have led the way. It was Braylon Shmyr in game one, Jared Bethune in game two, Shmyr again in game three and J.C. Campagna in game four. Keeping this streak alive would be big for the Americans.

- The biggest negative in the series for Allen has been special teams play. The Americans can't keep losing the special teams battle and expect to win. The team knows this and there was a lot of time working on special teams at practice last night. Hopefully a little of that Costello and Steffes power play magic rubbed off and there will be one or two power play goals by Allen tonight.  

- It is kind of a broken record you hear from fans and coaches alike but taking retaliation penalties has been costly to the Americans. I know the referees have been warned about the antics of Idaho captain, #21 Jefferson Dahl, but Allen needs to avoid retaliating. As coach Martinson has said many times, if a player does something you don't like and he isn't willing to drop the gloves just take down his number because there will be another time for paybacks. This game is too critical for those type of penalties.

- Here is the game five preview issued by the Allen Americans: 

- The referees scheduled for the game are Tyler Puddifant (#28) and Stephen Thomson (#27). The linesmen are Addison Brush (#80) and Michael Houle (#49). This is the same crew that handled the game on Friday. Hopefully they have had time to take a look at game four video with their supervisor and assess the calls and non calls in the game.


- Here is a recap of all eight ECHL first round playoffs series:

North Division
#1 Adirondack vs #4 Worcester - Adirondack leads the series 3-2. Worcester won 6-5 last night in Adirondack to avoid elimination. These teams combined for a total of 12 goals in the first four games of this series before combining for 11 last night. Game six is in Worcester on Monday with game seven, if necessary back in Adirondack on Wednesday.

#2 Manchester vs #3 Reading - Manchester swept Reading in four games and has been waiting around since last Wednesday to see who their opponent will be in the division finals.

South Division
#1 Florida vs #4 Atlanta - Florida swept this series and will now take on Orlando in the division finals. 

 #2 South Carolina vs #3 Orlando - In the surprise of the playoffs thus far Orlando beat South Carolina 2-1 in overtime last night to sweep the series. During the regular season South Carolina had a record of 7-3-0-1 against Orlando but when it came to playoff time the Solar Bears went 4-0 against the Stingrays. Orlando will be seeking another upset in the division finals when they take on the ECHL regular season champions the Florida Everblades.

Central Division
#1 Toledo vs #4 Indy - Toledo made short work of Indy sweeping the Fuel in four games. The Walleye finished the series with Indy on Thursday and are now waiting to see who their opponent will be in the division final.

#2 Fort Wayne vs #3 Cincinnati - Fort Wayne won in Cincinnati 2-1 last night to take a 3-1 lead in the series. The Komets will have a chance to advance when they take on the Cyclones in Cincinnati this afternoon (3:00 pm EDT).

Mountain Division
#1 Colorado vs #4 Wichita - After trailing 3-0 in this series Wichita has won two games in Colorado to close the gap to 3-2. Last night the Thunder blew a 4-2 lead in the third period but came back to win the game 5-4 in overtime. Wichita scored the game winner 21 seconds into overtime. Game six is in Wichita on Monday and if necessary game seven will be in Colorado on Wednesday.

#3 Allen vs #2 Idaho - Allen has a 3-1 series lead and will have the chance to advance and avoid returning to Idaho if they can win tonight (6:05 CDT).

- Vincent Arseneau and his Utica Comets lost 3-2 in Toronto yesterday in the first game of their best of five series.  Game two is this afternoon.  Colby McAuley and the San Jose Barracuda beat Tucson  6-3 at home last night to even the best of five series 1-1. The final three games of this series will be in Tucson with game three on Wednesday and game four on Friday.

DID YOU KNOW: I have written about this before but I just saw on one of the morning TV shows a feature about the oldest hockey player in the world, Mark Sertich, who resides in Duluth, Minnesota. The Sertich name is one of the famous last names synonymous with hockey in Minnesota. Mark Sertich is 96 years old and still plays hockey regularly. A World War II veteran, Mark completed the famous Duluth marathon (Grandma's Marathon) six times and then got hooked on inline skating and raced in his first of those at age 75 and has completed 11 of them. Here is a video from last year about this ageless wonder.



Saturday, April 21, 2018

Idaho Avoids Sweep, Allen Leads Series 3-1, Game Recap, Steve Martinson's Post Game Comments, Video Highlights, Playoff Update and the Odds Revisited

The Idaho Steelheads avoided a sweep last night with a hard earned 2-1 win over the Allen Americans before a crowd of 4363 at the Allen Event Center. As was expected the Steelheads came out buzzing and dominated the early play out shooting the Americans 9-2 in the first eight minutes of the game. Several grade A saves by Allen goalie Jake Paterson allowed the Americans to weather the storm. The Americans once again scored the first goal of the game on a great individual effort by rookie J.C. Campagna. Unlike the first three games of this series Allen could not make scoring the first goal of the game and taking a lead (1-0) into the first intermission hold up.

- Idaho scored the only goal of the second period to tie the score 1-1 and the only goal of the third period for the 2-1 victory. Special teams and retaliation penalties were the difference in the game as both Steelhead goals were scored when Allen was not at full strength. On the second period goal Jefferson Dahl, the agitator extraordinaire for the Steelhead, was whistled for a cross-check but Zach Pochiro decided to retaliate and turned an Americans power play advantage into two minutes of playing four on four during which Idaho scored. Idaho's game winning goal early in the third period was scored on the power play and was the result of another retaliation penalty, this time the referee didn't see the first infraction but caught the retaliation by Bryan Moore. 

- The Allen power play continues to struggle going 0-3 last night for a series total of 1-13, a paltry power play percentage of 7.7%. Don't forget the lone power play goal was on a five-on-three. The penalty kill has also struggled in this series despite Allen's 3-1 series lead. The Americans penalty kill unit has given up a power play goal in three of the four games for a total of 3-16 which is a penalty kill percentage of 81.3%. Allen's power play is ranked #14 of 16 and the penalty kill is ranked #13 of 16 in the Kelly Cup playoffs.

- Here is a complete game recap issued by the Idaho Steelheads:

- Here are the video highlights from ECHL Rewind which includes all of the goals, a fight, some great saves and a few missed opportunities:

- Here is the Sporfie highlight of Allen's only goal. A great play by J.C. Campagna:


- Martinson's post game interview with Kayla McLain:

- If you watched the video above you can tell coach Martinson was not happy with the officiating in the game so that was a topic of conversation when I talked to him after the game. From past experience I know what Martinson does when he thinks the referees made mistakes. He takes the time to review the video and takes clips of the issues he has and then tries to discuss with the supervisor that is in attendance at the game. One no call Martinson mentioned was when Casey Pierro-Zabotel was taken down from behind and ended up crashing into the net. Here is the Sporfie highlight of that play and you can judge for yourself if Casey was tripped:

 - Here are a few of Steve Martinson's comments

"We have some work to do on the power play. We talked about what we need to do but then we didn't do a good job of executing."

"They have a good team and came out strong. We got outplayed early and were losing puck battles. We weathered the storm early in the first period and managed to score first."

"Undisciplined penalties hurt us tonight and contributed to both Idaho goals."

"Our defensemen didn't have good gaps on either of the Idaho goals."

"Now we have to get to work, get the work boots on for Sunday."    


- Three teams had a chance to sweep their series last night but only Florida got the job done beating Atlanta 3-2 in overtime to advance to the South Division finals. Wichita kept their hopes alive with a lopsided 6-0 win in Colorado.

- Here is how the playoffs stand after last night. Manchester, Florida and Toledo have advanced to the second round. Orlando has a 3-0 lead over South Carolina. Three series are 3-1, Allen leads Idaho, Colorado leads Wichita and Adirondack leads Worcester. Finally Fort Wayne leads Cincinnati 2-1 in their series.

- Games on tap tonight are Worcester at Adirondack, South Carolina at Orlando, Fort Wayne at Cincinnati and Wichita at Colorado.

- Joel Chouinard leads all ECHL players in plus/minus thus far in the playoffs with +8.

- The great starts by Allen are certainly reflected in goals scored by period. Allen has as many goals in the first period (7) as the second and third periods combined. The Americans have outscored Idaho 7-4 in the first period, the goals are tied 3-3 in the second period and 4-4 in the third period.

- Shots by period show Allen getting out shoot in all three periods in this series and the shot totals get worse as the game progresses. The Americans have been out shot 42-45 in the first period, 38-44 in the second period and 30-52 in the third period.

- Allen doesn't play tonight but a couple of possible additions to the roster do play today. Vincent Arseneau and his Utica Comets play in Toronto at 4:00 pm EDT in the first game of their best of five series. Colby McAuley and the San Jose Barracuda are at home to take on the Tucson Roadrunners in a late game (9:00 pm Allen time). Tucson leads the series 1-0.

- Matt Willows, who spent time with Allen last season, announced yesterday he was retiring from professional hockey at the ripe old age of 26. Talk about going out on top, Willows led the Reading Royals in points (74) and goals (32) this season. His 74 points were ranked third in the ECHL and his 32 goals were ranked sixth.

DID YOU KNOW: How have the odds changed after Allen lost last night and now holds a 3-1 lead in the series? Based on historical NHL data in seven game series where one team takes a 3-1 lead the odds of winning the series is 90.8% but the odds of winning game five is only 56.1%.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Allen With Chance for a Sweep, Allen vs Idaho Game Four Preview, Playoff Update, Players' Tribune Story and More

It is win or go home for the Idaho Steelheads tonight at the Allen Event Center (AEC) so you can expect they will define the term playing desperate. It is easy to forget the Steelheads were ranked #6 in the ECHL in points (96) and winning percentage (.667) during the regular season. They also finished the regular season as the hottest team in the league going 9-0-1-0 in their last 10 games. Idaho is a very good hockey team and they will not go away easily.

- The game tonight has the Allen Americans in uncharted waters in the Martinson era. Through four championships and 16 previous series the Americans have never had a 3-0 series lead with a chance to sweep at home. Allen has had a chance to sweep only one other time and that was in the first round in 2014 against Brampton but that was on the road. Allen lost game four but won the series 4-1.

- Allen has won four in a row in a playoff series twice under Steve Martinson and both were against the Denver Cutthroats. In the first round in 2013 and the finals 2014 in the Central Hockey League, Denver won game one and then Allen won four in a row.

- Here is an update of the comparison stats between Allen and Idaho after three playoff games.

                                     ALLEN                            IDAHO

Goals For                    13                                      9
Goals Against             9                                        13
Power Play                 10.0% (1/10)                      15.4% (2/13)
Penalty Kill                  84.6% (2/13)                      90.0% (1/10)
Leading Scorer           Shmyr (2G-2A-4)                Harstad (2G-1A-3)
                                    Makowski (2G-2A-4)          Parizek (2G-2A-4)
Most PIM's                  Pochiro - 8                          French - 8

-  Here is how Allen and Idaho rank among the 16 teams in the ECHL playoffs:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 9th (12.67) - Idaho 11th (11.67)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 1st (4.33) - Idaho 8th (3.00)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 9th (3.00) - Idaho 15th (4.33)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 12th (27.33) - Idaho 8th (35.00)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 9th (35.00) - Idaho 5th (27.33)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 11th (10.0%) - Idaho 6th (15.4%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 11th (84.6%) - Idaho 6th (90.0%)

- Allen's offense has been very good in the playoffs as they lead all teams averaging 4.33 goals per game. This has been accomplished largely on even strength goals which is a good sign. Even better is the Allen focus on team defense has produced more even strength offense. David Makowski captured this perfectly in his post game interview on Wednesday when he was asked about his offensive production in this series (2G, 2A).  His response was he is concentrating on his defensive play and the offensive will take care of itself. David captured how the buy in on defense has led to improved play by the Americans in this series.

- Allen did manage a power play goal on Wednesday which was their first of the series. They are 1-10 on the power play and the lone goal was a five-on-three. A power play goal (or two) would go a long way in winning the game tonight. Avoiding stick penalties and retaliation penalties will also be important in this game and the more disciplined team will likely be the winner. 

- A fast start has been the key to victory for Allen in the first three games of this series and there is no reason to believe the team that has the best first period won't come out on top tonight. Between the regular season and playoffs Allen and Idaho have played 13 times and the team that scored first has won 10 of the games. Will the young guns come through again with an early goal as they have in the first three games? By the way, the official scoring was changed on the second Allen goal on Wednesday. Matt Foget did get a piece of the puck on the goal originally credited to Eric Roy. The young guns got both Allen goals in the first period.

- Goalie matchups will also be key in the game tonight. There is no suspense for Allen as Jake Paterson will get the start. Idaho has gone back and forth with starting goalies but I can't imagine, with all the marbles on the line, Idaho will not go with the more experienced goalie, Philippe Derosiers, tonight.

- There has been a lot of conversation about the major penalty Bryan Moore took on Wednesday for elbowing and whether it will lead to a suspension. I had a chance to see the play in slow motion on a close up video and it is clear there was no elbow to the head on that play. I doubt very much there will be any additional discipline taken by the ECHL.   

- The referees scheduled for the game are Sean MacFarlane (#4) and Stephen Thomson (#27). The linesmen are Addison Brush (#80) and Michael Houle (#49). MacFarlane is the only one of the four that worked the game on Wednesday.


- Here is the game preview issued by the Idaho Steelheads:

- Here is the updated ECHL playoff bracket. Thanks to Robert Ciccotelli of the Americans front office for updating and sharing the bracket:

- There are three ECHL playoff games on tap tonight and a sweep is possible in all three. Florida is ahead 3-0 and plays in Atlanta, Colorado is at home with a 3-0 lead and a chance to sweep Wichita and Allen can close out Idaho at the AEC.

- Toledo beat Indy 3-2 last night to sweep the Fuel and join Manchester in advancing to the second round. Toledo will play the winner of the Fort Wayne vs Cincinnati series in the Central Division finals. Cincinnati beat Fort Wayne last night at home in a wild 7-6 game that went to overtime. The Komets have a 2-1 lead in the series with game four in Cincinnati on Saturday.

- Orlando beat South Carolina last night 2-1 in overtime even though they were outshot 50-30. The Solar Bears scored the game winning goal shorthanded at 17:29 of overtime. This has been the most surprising of all of the first round series. South Carolina had 29 more points than Orlando in the regular season but their offense has dried up in this series. The Stingrays have a total of two goals in three games. They have two goals on 110 shots for a shooting percentage of just 1.8%.  Orlando has a 3-0 lead with two chances to close out the series at home on Saturday and Sunday.

- Adirondack leads Worcester 3-1 with game five in Adirondack on Saturday. The winner of this series will take on Manchester in the North Division finals. Manchester wrapped up their series on Wednesday so they will have plenty of time to rest after playing five periods of overtime in their four game sweep of Reading.

- Here is the ECHL Today with info on the games tonight and status of all of the playoff series including a new record for longest playoff winning streak:

- I heard Gary Steffes is in town and will be attending the game tonight. It says a lot about the Allen franchise to have past leaders like Gary and Chad Costello come back to support the team.

- Here is the latest hockey story from "The Players' Tribune" which is a website where professional players write the stories. This story was written by Brad Marchand and he talks about his journey to the NHL. There are many great lessons in this story from knowing what it takes to reach your goals, not listening to others about your abilities, the importance of role models and teammates in your success and why to be the best you have to work the hardest. Here are a few quotes from the story:

"My mom likes to say I came out of the womb mischievous."
"I have always felt you have to be willing to do anything to win, even if that means being hated."
"If I played the game any other way, you absolutely would not know my name."
"The way I play got me drafted by the Boston Bruins at 5'9"
"I don't care how fast your guys are or how good your system is, what you need is a room full of guys who are willing to do anything."

Here is a link to the story:

- Game four has been kind to Allen over the years. In their 16 playoff series over the last five seasons the Americans have a game four record of 12-4.

- The San Jose Barracuda lost their first game of the playoffs 4-2 to Tuscon last night at home. Game two of the best of five series will be in San Jose on Saturday. Vincent Arseneau's team (Utica) plays their first game in Toronto on Saturday. 

DID YOU KNOW: Going back to the 2016 Kelly Cup playoffs Allen has won five straight playoff games against Idaho. More importantly the Americans have won the first three games of this series against the Steelheads and Idaho has yet to have a lead. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Allen Wins, Takes 3-0 Series Lead, Game Recap, Steve Martinson's Comments, Sporfie Highlights, Playoff Update, Cancer Awareness Specialty Jersey Sale and More

You can call it the brink, the cusp, the verge, the threshold or the edge of elimination but that is exactly where the Allen Americans placed the Idaho Steelheads with a 5-3 win last night. A Wednesday night crowd of 3226 watched as the Americans played a complete game to take a 3-0 series lead. There is still plenty of work to do to win the series but Allen put themselves in an excellent position going into game four on Friday.

- The Americans hit all the keys to victory. They once again scored the first goal of the game to set the tone and the young guns got the job done for the third straight game. In game one it took just 116 seconds for Braylon Shmyr to get Allen on the scoreboard. In game two it was Jared Bethune and it took only 94 seconds. Last night it was Shmyr again and it took all of 128 seconds.

- The first goal was just the start of Allen's dominance in the game. Allen had the lead after the first period (2-1) and the second period (4-2). With a first period lead Allen's record during the regular season was 21-4-1-0  and with a second period lead it was 25-4-0-1.

- Allen had the only power play goal of the game (five-on-three) and killed four Idaho power play opportunities. Idaho had a slight edge in shots on goal (36-34) but with seven minutes left in the game Allen had a 34-24 shot advantage. With a 5-2 lead Allen went into a defensive mode and Idaho had the last 12 shots of the game.

- Here is the game recap from the Allen Americans with quotes from Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Jake Paterson and coach Martinson.

- Here is the game recap from the Idaho Steelheads:

- Goal scorers for Allen were Braylon Shmyr (2), Eric Roy (1), Alex Guptill (1), J.C. Campagna (1), and Zach Pochiro (2). Here are the game highlights from ECHL Rewind:

- Here are the Sporfie highlights for the five Allen goals.

Braylon Shmyr - Watch as Shmyr starts the play with a pass to Makowski and ends the play when Makowski's rebound is tipped by an Idaho player right to Braylon. Shmyr puts it in the open net with the goalie still trying to recover from the Makowski shot.

Eric Roy - This play is started with a faceoff win by Matt Foget. Tristan King passes to the point, the puck goes D-to-D and Eric Roy takes a wrist shot. When I watched this goal live it looked like Foget got a piece of the puck.

Alex Guptill - This is the five-on-three power play goal. Makowski takes the shot from the blue line. Pierro-Zabotel doesn't get an assist on this goal but was screening the goalie. Makowski's rebound goes to Guptill and he puts it in the net.

J.C. Campagna - A couple of things to watch on this clip. First is how Zach Pochiro skates away from the defenseman and drags him away from Campagna skating up the right wing and then Zach makes the pass to J.C. Also notice how Gordie Ballhorn crashes the net and knocks Corbin Baldwin down just as Campagna takes the shot.

Zach Pochiro - You can't see it on this clip but Mike Gunn made a nice pass to spring Pochrio who beat the goalie going five hole.


Pregame interview with Kayla McLain:

Post game interview with Kayla McLain:

- I had a chance to talk to Martinson after the game and here are some additional comments:

"We had several more great chances to score tonight."

"Tristan King hasn't had a lot of practice time since were were on the road last week. He did have a couple of practices this week but I was trying to make sure he got the right amount of ice time tonight."

"We had a real nice push in the second period with the power play goal and out shooting them 16-5."

"Everyone is buying into our approach and not trying to do too much. We are doing much better at dumping the puck in rather than trying to carry it in on a low probability play. We are not beating ourselves now."

"The plan for the next game is the same. We don't want to let them back in this. We have to do all of the little things that add up to achieving what we want. All the things we talk about and work on is what we have to execute."


- The five minute major penalty Bryan Moore received for elbowing in the first period will certainly be reviewed by the league. Being a repeat offender, Moore will not get the benefit of the doubt from what looked like an elbow to the head. Have to think there is a good chance he will get suspended.

- This series is definitely not over but the odds are certainly in the Americans favor and they are pretty overwhelming. If you take all seven game series from all major sports (MLB, NBA, NHL) there has been 369 times where there has been a 3-0 lead. In all but five (98.6%) the team with the 3-0 series lead went on to win. The odds of winning game four with a 3-0 series lead is about 63%.

- Here is a brief recap of the current status of the ECHL first round playoffs series:

North Division
#1 Adirondack vs #4 Worcester - Adirondack leads the series 3-1 and this is the only first round series where both team have won a game. This has been a very low scoring series with two shutouts and two games where the losing team had just one goal. Game five is Saturday in Adirondack. 

#2 Manchester vs #3 Reading - Reading was the first playoff team to be eliminated as they were swept my Manchester. The first two games of this series went to double overtime and the third game was decided in single overtime. Last night the game was closer than the final score of 3-0. The score was 1-0 before Manchester scored two empty net goals in the final 48 seconds of the game. Reading got swept in this series but every game could have gone either way.

South Division
#1 Florida vs #4 Atlanta - Florida is up 2-0 in this series with game three in Atlanta tonight. 

 #2 South Carolina vs #3 Orlando - Orlando is up 2-0 in this series with the next three games at home. Game three is tonight.

Central Division
#1 Toledo vs #4 Indy -Toledo took a 3-0 lead in this series with a 3-1 win in Indy last night. Toledo can wrap up the series tonight. If needed game five will be in Indy on Saturday.

#2 Fort Wayne vs #3 Cincinnati - Fort Wayne has a 2-0 series lead with the next three games in Cincinnati. Game three is tonight.

Mountain Division
#1 Colorado vs #4 Wichita - Colorado beat the Thunder 4-2 last night to take a 3-0 lead in this series. Wichita built a 2-0 lead early in the second period but could not hang on. The Eagles will have a chance to wrap up the series on Saturday.

#3 Allen vs #2 Idaho - Allen has a 3-0 series lead and will have a chance to sweep Idaho with a win in game four on Friday.

- Several of you contacted me wishing there was a way you could purchase the cancer awareness specialty jersey with loved ones names on the jersey. If you haven't seen the info from the team you can buy one of these jerseys but you need to act quickly. Here are all of the details:

DID YOU KNOW: Allen chased Idaho goalie Tomas Sholl last night after they scored their fourth goal in the second period. Since joining the Steelheads in early March Sholl's record is 9-2-1-1 and all four losses have been to Allen. Sholl has only given up only 22 goals in his 13 games but 14 of the goals have been against Allen. Sholl had a regular season save percentage of .953 but the last three times he has faced Allen his save percentage was .800, .826 and .818 and he gave up 13 goals. Would have to expect Idaho will start their NHL contracted goalie, Philippe Derosiers on Friday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Allen vs Idaho Game Three Preview, Playoff Update, Playoff Attendance, Best and Worst Playoff Shooting Percentage

What a difference 12 days can make. It was just 12 days ago the Allen Americans were playing the Idaho Steelheads at the Allen Event Center (AEC) with their playoff life on the line. The Americans split two games against Idaho and became the #3 seed in the playoffs only to face the Steelheads. Fast forward 12 days and the teams are back at the AEC with an important playoff game on the line.

- After two big wins in Idaho the Americans have a chance to put a stranglehold on this series in the game tonight. Playoff stats from the NHL show just how critical this game is for both teams. In the history of the NHL there have been 187 times a team has taken a 3-0 lead in a best of seven series. Just four times have teams come back from a 3-0 deficit. That equates to a 97.9% success rate for the team with a 3-0 series lead. If Idaho wins tonight and reduces Allen's series lead to 2-1 the odds of Allen winning the series (based on NHL historical stats) reduces to 69.7%.

- Idaho will have their captain, Jefferson Dahl, back in the lineup after missing the first two games of the series because he was assigned to the AHL. It is hard to overstate how important Dahl is to the Steelheads. In addition to being the team captain Dahl led the teams in points (61) and penalty minutes (113) in the regular season despite only playing in 61 games.

- Allen should have Tristan King back in the lineup which could give them a boost. Tristan is an experienced playoff veteran with 54 playoff games to his credit including 20 games as part of Allen's 2016 Kelly Cup championship team. With the exception of 2014 King has been in the playoffs every season since he turned pro in 2010-11.

- There isn't much to compare with only two playoff games played but here is the comparison between Allen and Idaho.

                                     ALLEN                            IDAHO

Goals For                    8                                         6
Goals Against             6                                         8
Power Play                 0.0% (0/5)                           25.0% (2/8)
Penalty Kill                  75.0% (2/8)                        100.0% (0/5)
Leading Scorer           Shmyr (1G-2A-3)                Harstad (2G-1A-3)
Most PIM's                  Pochiro - 6                          French - 8

-  Here is how Allen and Idaho rank among the 16 teams in the ECHL playoffs:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 8th (12.50) - Idaho 11th (10.50)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 1st (4.00) - Idaho 7th (3.00)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 9th (3.00) - Idaho 15th (4.00)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 13th (24.00) - Idaho 8th (34.50)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 9th (34.50) - Idaho 4th (24.00)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 12th (0.0%) - Idaho 3rd (25.0%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 12th (75.0%) - Idaho 1st (100.0%)

- A couple of things of note from the stats above even with the very small sample size. Allen is in the middle of the pack on penalty minutes which is very unusual. That may be a good thing since the Americans have lost the special teams battle in the first two games despite winning both games. Special teams are definitely a key to the game tonight. It will also be worth noting what impact Jefferson Dahl has on the style of play as he is an agitator and will try to antagonize some of the Allen players who are known to have a short fuse. Keep an eye on Dahl (#21) to watch the game within the game.

- A fast start has been the key to victory for Allen in the first two games of this series and there is no reason to believe the team that has the best first period won't come out on top tonight. Between the regular season and playoffs Allen and Idaho have played 12 times and the team that scored first has won nine of the games.

- Goalie matchups will also be key in the game tonight. There is no suspense for Allen as Jake Paterson will get the start. Idaho started their more experienced contract goalie, Philippe Desrosiers,  in game one even though he had not played much in the last month while being on assignment to the AHL. In game two Idaho went back to their rookie goalie Tomas Sholl, who was the best goalie in the ECHL over the last month of the regular season. Sholl has been outstanding overall but has struggled against Allen giving up nine goals in the last two games against the Americans. If I had to guess you will see Desrosiers in goal tonight.

- The referees scheduled for the game are Chris Pontes (#12) and Tyler Puddifant (#28). The linesmen are Aaron Schacht (#31) and Brian Bull (#95).


- There was only one ECHL game played last night and in that game Florida beat Atlanta 3-2 to take a 2-0 series lead. I have said this before but Florida is a different team this season. Over the last few years they have been skilled and done well in the regular season but struggled in the playoffs against teams with a lot of toughness. This season Florida is skilled and tough. It is still very early in the playoffs but Florida is #2 in average penalty minutes per game (19.00) and looks to be the team to beat coming out of the Eastern Conference.

- There are five games on tap tonight in the ECHL including one where a team can be eliminated. Reading is down 3-0 to Manchester. Here are the games tonight.

South Carolina at Orlando (Orlando leads 2-0)
Manchester at Reading (Manchester leads 3-0)
Toledo at Indy (Toledo leads 2-0)
Idaho at Allen (Allen leads 2-0)
Wichita at Colorado (Colorado leads 2-0)

- If you want more details on the five games check out the ECHL Today:

- After 14 playoff games ECHL attendance has averaged 3951 per game but the range has been dramatic. Two teams (Toledo & Fort Wayne) have averaged over 6500 per game while two teams (Wichita & Manchester) have averaged under 2500 per game. Selling playoff tickets can be difficult for sales and marketing departments because there tends to be a lot of midweek games and typically there is not a lot of time between when the playoff dates are known and games are played. Fort Wayne and Toledo have had big crowds in the playoffs but are still averaging 700 (Toledo) and 1200 (Fort Wayne) fewer fans than during the regular season.

DID YOU KNOW: During the regular season Colorado had the highest shooting percentage in the league at 11.5% and Tulsa had the lowest at 7.9%. Here are the highest and lowest thus far in the playoffs.

Highest Shooting Percentage
16.7%  -  Allen
10.7%  -  Toledo
9.7%    -  Colorado
9.3%    -  Orlando
9.0%    -  Florida

Lowest Shooting Percentage
1.7%  -  South Carolina
3.6%  -  Worcester
5.6%  -  Reading
5.9%  -  Manchester
6.0%  -  Atlanta

The five teams with the highest shooting percentage all lead their series 2-0.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Practice Update, How Important is a 2-0 Series Lead, Playoff Update and Allen's Game Three Historical Symmetry

- I swear you can attend an Allen Americans practice this time of year and know the series standing just by observing the body language and counting the smiles on the ice. With a 2-0 series lead it was a pleasant day to watch practice yesterday. I would describe practice as a combination of some very serious high octane systems work and some fun. The fun came in the form of a three-on-three cross ice mini-tournament at the end of practice.

- Tristan King has been skating when the team was on the road and practicing without any restrictions when the team is in town so when he is cleared from a medical standpoint he will be ready to go. It is a day to day thing but Tristan is definitely getting close.

- How important is a 2-0 lead in this series with Idaho? I decided to take a look back at the 16 previous series since Steve Martinson took over in Allen in 2012-13. He is 15-1 in those 16 series and of course won four straight championships. Counting the current series with Idaho the Americans have taken a 2-0 lead four times in 17 series, 12 series were tied 1-1 after two games and in one series Allen was down 0-2 and lost to Colorado. Here is the year by year breakdown of each series after two games, the team involved and the series result. Note every time Allen has had a 2-0 lead in a series the Americans won the series 4-1.

Idaho                    2-0   ????

Utah                     1-1   4-1
Colorado              0-2   2-4

Idaho                   1-1   4-3
Missouri               1-1   4-2
Fort Wayne          2-0   4-1
Wheeling             1-1   4-2

Tulsa                   2-0   4-1
Rapid City           1-1   4-2
Ontario                1-1   4-3
South Carolina    1-1   4-3

Brampton            2-0   4-1
Quad City           1-1   4-3
Denver               1-1   4-1

Denver              1-1   4-1
Missouri            1-1   4-3
Wichita              1-1   4-3

- Here is a brief recap of the current status of the ECHL first round playoffs series:

North Division
#1 Adirondack vs #4 Worcester - This series is a 1-2-2-1-1 format with Adirondack in the lead 2-1. This has been a low scoring series with a combined total of nine goals in three games including two shutouts. Game four is Wednesday night in Adirondack. 

#2 Manchester vs #3 Reading - This series is the typical 2-3-2 format and Manchester has the lead 3-0. It has been a tough series for team owner Jack Gulati and the Reading Royals as they have lost all three games in overtime. The first two games went to double overtime and last night Reading lost game three at home in overtime by a score of 4-3. Reading scored first and had a 3-2 lead after the second period but could not hang on. The game was decided 17:34 into overtime. These teams have to be exhausted having already played five overtime periods. In four days they played three games that totaled 269 minutes of playing time. That is the equivalent of  4.5 games in four days, whew! The teams have the day off today before resuming with game four on Wednesday in Reading.

South Division
#1 Florida vs #4 Atlanta - This series is a 2-3-2 format and got under way last night with Florida winning 4-1. Atlanta hung in for a while as there was no scoring in the first period but the Everblades eventually wore them down out shooting the Gladiators 49-21. Game two is tonight in Florida.

 #2 South Carolina vs #3 Orlando - This series is a 2-3-2 format and has been the surprise of the playoffs thus far. South Carolina had 29 more points than Orlando in the regular season and head to head was 7-3-0-1 against the Solar Bears. However, Orlando has taken a 2-0 series lead winning in South Carolina 2-0 and 2-1. The series is now back in Orlando for game three on Thursday.

Central Division
#1 Toledo vs #4 Indy - Another 2-3-2 format which has Toledo ahead 2-0. It took double overtime for Toledo to win game one at home by a score of 4-3. Game two had the identical score (4-3) but was decided in regulation time. The series now shifts to Indy for game three on Wednesday.

#2 Fort Wayne vs #3 Cincinnati - This 2-3-2 series opened in Fort Wayne and the Komets hold a 2-0 lead. It took double overtime to win game one and former Allen captain Jamie Schaafsma was the hero with the game winning goal in overtime. Game two was decided in regulation with the Komets coming out on top 3-1. Each team scored a goal in the last 37 seconds of the game. The series now moves to Cincinnati with game three scheduled for Thursday. 

Mountain Division
#1 Colorado vs #4 Wichita - This format is 2-3-1-1 and actually started in Wichita because of scheduling conflicts is Colorado. The Eagles lead in the series 2-0. Game one went to overtime before Colorado won by a score of 2-1. The overtime game winner was scored by the Eagles on a shorthanded breakaway. Last night Colorado jumped out to a lead scoring 25 seconds into the the game. Wichita regrouped and had a 2-1 lead early in the second period on goals by former Allen players Travis Brown and Dyson Stevenson. The wheels then came off on the Thunder as Colorado scored four unanswered goals to win the game 5-2. The series heads to Colorado for game three on Wednesday.

#3 Allen vs #2 Idaho - Allen has a 2-0 series lead in this 2-3-2 format series. Game three is in Allen on Wednesday.

- Allen fans will be paying close attention to the AHL playoffs with special focus on two series. Vincent Arseneau and his Utica Comets vs Toronto Marlies and Colby McAuley and his San Jose Barracuda vs Tucson Roadrunners. Here is some info on these two series.

North Division
#1 Toronto Marlies vs #4 Utica Comets - Toronto was the best team in the AHL during the regular season with a record of 54-18-2-2, 112 points and a winning percentage of .737. Utica's regular season record was 38-26-8-4, 88 points and a winning percentage of .579. If you have to pick one stat to compare teams the best indicator might be goal differential. Toronto scored 254 goals and allowed 170 for a goal differential of +84. Utica scored 211 goals and allowed 216 for a goal differential of -5. The format for this series is 2-2-1. The games in Toronto are April 21, 22, and 29. The two games scheduled in Utica are on April 25 & 27. Depending on how this series goes Vincent Arseneau could be back in Allen if the Americans advance to the second round.

Pacific Division
#1 Tucson Roadrunners vs #4 San Jose Barracuda - Tucson's regular season record was 42-20-5-1, 90 points and a winning percentage of .662. San Jose's record was 34-26-4-4, 76 points and a winning percentage of .559. Tucson's goal differential was +41 and San Jose's was -12. What San Jose has going for them is a lot of momentum as they won their last six games of the season to sneak into the playoffs. They are the hottest team in the league even though they have the worst winning percentage of any of the 16 playoff teams. The format for this series is 2-3. The first two games will be in San Jose on April 19 & 21. The final three games are scheduled in Tucson on April 25, 27 & 28.

DID YOU KNOW:  I came across this odd and meaningless stat when looking at Allen's ECHL history in game three. The Americans have played in 10 game three playoff games since joining the ECHL. The losing team in all 10 games has scored either one or two goals.  In the first seven games the losing team had one goal and the last three the losing team had two goals. Here are the game three scores since Allen joined the ECHL. To keep the streak alive the losing team tomorrow night needs to score two goals.





Monday, April 16, 2018

We Have a Few Things To Work On, Regression to the Mean, Odds of Winning Game Three, Playoff Update, Arseneau & McAuley AHL Schedule, Asuchak & Gill All-Time Records

The nature of playoff hockey is don't get too high and don't get too low. The time for reveling in the glory of two road wins is now past and the focus for the Allen Americans is to deal with as coach Martinson said, "We have a few things to work on."

- The most important stat after two games in this series is Allen has a 2-0 lead but if you look behind the two wins there is room for improvement. The Americans were outshot in both games. In game one they held Idaho to just 29 shots which is way below the 40 shots per game the Steelheads averaged against Allen during the regular season. However, the Americans managed just 24 shots in game one. Game two was back to normal between these team with Idaho out shooting Allen 40-24. After two games the shot total is 69-48 in favor of Idaho. While Allen came away with two victories this is not the recipe for continued success so I am sure it will be an area of emphasis at practice the next couple of days.

- If you believe in percentages, which coach Martinson does, one stat to look at after two playoff games in the shooting percentage. Allen's was phenomenal at 16.7%. Only one other playoff team has a shooting percentage in double digits (Toledo at 10.7%). Allen had one of the top shooting percentages in the ECHL during the regular season at 10.5%. Regression to the mean would say the Americans will be unlikely to sustain a 16.7% shooting percentage because it is so far outside the normal range. Practically it means Allen needs to generate more than the 24 shots they had in each of the first two games because the shooting percentage will be less than 16.7%. 

- Special teams will be another area where more work needs to be done. The Americans were 0-5 on the power play in Idaho though they did score a goal three seconds after an Idaho penalty expired. Over the last 12 games Allen is 4-33 on the power play (12.1%). The penalty kill unit gave up a goal in both games for a penalty kill percentage of 75% (2-8). The Allen penalty kill has been very good over the last 12 games at 86.4% (6-44). In addition to scoring a power play goal in both games in Idaho the Steelheads have converted at a rate of 15.4% over the last 12 games. The Idaho penalty kill was 0-5 in the first two games and has allowed a power play goal in just two if their last 12 games for a penalty kill percentage of 94.4% (2-36).

- What did work extremely well in Idaho for the Americans was getting off to fast starts. That had been an issue the last part of the season but the guys were ready to play from the opening puck drop in both games and the stats tell the story. Allen scored first in both games and never relinquished the lead in either game. Allen was outshot 69-48 in the two games and out of the six periods of play had the edge in only two. The Americans outshot the Steelheads in both of the first periods.

- It has only been two games but Allen's leading scorer is Braylon Shmyr with a goal and two assists. Braylon also leads the team in shots (6). Joel Chouinard leads all ECHL players with a plus/minus of +7.

- If you like tracking the odds, history says game three will be a tough one for Allen to win. Across the three major league sports (MLB, NBA & NHL) in seven game series when a team starts on the road and takes a 2-0 lead their odds of winning game three is 54.7%. If you look at the NHL only the odds drop to 52.7% and if you look at NHL opening rounds only the odds drop to 42.4%.

- Since joining the ECHL Allen has played in 10 playoff series. Their record in game three of those 10 playoff series is 4-6. The Americans record in game three at home is 1-2. The road record in game three is 3-4.

- Wichita opened their playoffs, the first since 2013, with a bitter defeat at the hands of the Colorado Eagles last night. Because of arena availability in Colorado the Thunder got to open the series at home.  Wichita took a 1-0 lead at the 7:12 mark of the first period and held that lead until midway through the third period before Colorado got the equalizer on a power play. Despite being outshot 39-14 the Thunder got the game to overtime with the score tied 1-1. Colorado crushed Wichita's hopes in the worst way scoring the overtime game winner on a shorthanded breakaway goal.

- Here is how the eight ECHL first round playoffs series currently stand:

North Division
#1 Adirondack vs #4 Worcester - Adirondack leads 2-1
#2 Manchester vs #3 Reading - Manchester leads 2-0

South Division
#1 Florida vs #4 Atlanta - The first game of this series is tonight.
 #2 South Carolina vs #3 Orlando - Orlando leads 2-0

Central Division
#1 Toledo vs #4 Indy - Toledo leads 2-0
#2 Fort Wayne vs #3 Cincinnati - Fort Wayne leads 2-0

Mountain Division
#1 Colorado vs #4 Wichita - Colorado leads 1-0
#2 Idaho vs #3 Allen - Allen leads 2-0

- There have been 14 playoff games played thus far with five of them going to overtime. Of the five overtime games four went to double overtime. Another fun fact is the higher seeded team has won all five overtime games.

- The first round playoff dates for the AHL are out. Allen fans are interested in when Colby McAuley (San Jose) and/or Vincent Arseneau (Utica) might be available. Both teams will be heavy underdogs as #4 seeds going against the #1 seeded division champions. The series are the best of five and game three for both teams is April 25 so that is the soonest these players would be available if their teams get swept. Game five is April 29 for Utica and April 28 for San Jose. If either team pulls off a first round upset the second round would not conclude until the middle of May.

- Allen's leading scorer against Idaho this season including the two playoff games is Joel Chouinard who has 12 points in 12 games, all assists. The leading goal scorer is Bryan Moore with five goals in 12 games.

DID YOU KNOW: With two more playoff games under his belt this past weekend Spencer Asuchak is now at the top of the heap in career playoffs games. Here are the all-time top five, a who's who of Allen history.

78 games - Spencer Asuchak
76 games - Greger Hanson
61 games - Jamie Schaafsma
61 games - Tyler Ludwig
60 games - Chad Costello

You can't talk about playoff records without mentioning Riley Gill who has been out with an injury he suffered in a game way back on October 21. If not for that injury Riley would be adding to his already out of reach ECHL all-time career playoff records. Here are three to contemplate and remember the ECHL is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Most Playoff Wins - Riley has won 53 playoff games which has produced three Kelly Cup championships (two in Allen & one in Reading). Second place for most playoff wins is 43 and third place is 31.

Most Playoff Game Appearances - Riley has appeared in 90 playoff games. Second place is 80 and third place is 48.

Most Playoff Minutes Played - Riley has logged 5095 minutes, 254 more than second place and 2189 more minutes than third place.