|Everyone was focused at practice yesterday, it is do or die, will over skill, and all the other cliches - photo by Dianne Webster|
You see "must win" in this blog many times throughout the season and it should really be reserved for games like tonight. When it comes down to win or go home like tonight, that is a must win game. It is what the Allen Americans face tonight (7:05) when they take on the Idaho Steelheads at the Allen Event Center (AEC). Idaho leads 3-2 in the best of seven series so the Americans have to prevail tonight to force a winner take all game seven tomorrow (Wednesday) night.
- This certainly is not strange territory to the Americans who have won three straight championships and have come from behind many times. They are in a precarious position again but in this series have been lacking the firepower compared to past seasons.
- In their three losses to Idaho, Allen has managed just one goal in each game. In the two wins they scored three goals. You add it all up and you are talking about an average of 1.80 goals per game. Only Quad City, who was swept in four games by Missouri, has a lower overage (1.75). The Americans are going to have to find some offense tonight to be successful.
- Getting off to a fast start in the first period and scoring the first goal is close to mandatory to win tonight. Both of these teams play much better with the lead. They have now played nine times including regular season and playoffs and the team that scored the first goal won all nine games.
- Another key factor in this series has been special teams play. Allen had the best special teams record in the ECHL during the regular season and was looking to capitalize on that advantage in the playoffs. While the power play has been great (26.3%) the penalty kill has been awful, killing off just 79.2% of the power plays and giving up shorthanded goals in games four and five. The team that won the special teams battle has won every game in this series.
- Vincent Arseneau will miss the game tonight as he has been suspended for two games for an illegal check to the head match penalty he received in game five. There is no question Arseneau had his stick up and got the Idaho player in the face. However, if you look at the video on a big screen and slow the hit down you can see that Arseneau does not leave his feet until after the hit and the Idaho player (Radoslav Illo) ducks to the right as Arseneau lowers his shoulder to make the hit. These are both factors (leaving your feet and whether the player that was hit changed positions) to be considered when deciding supplementary discipline. While the team sees the hit one way the league's point of view is Arseneau targeted the head and that necessitates a suspension and the league always prevails. Luckily Illo was not seriously hurt and only missed a couple of shifts.
- With the season on the line, the team struggling offensively, Arseneau serving a suspension and losing 7-1 on Saturday, you can look for some lineup changes tonight. Here are my thoughts on what might happen. Riley Gill has to get the start in goal. He has been the guy for Allen the last two years and gives you the best chance for success. The next decision for coach Martinson is whether to go with six or seven defensemen. Getting Danny Federico back in the lineup will help defensively so going with seven defensemen is the best guess. The penalty kill has struggled so look for Justin Courtnall to be back in the line up to help kill penalties. With Areseneu on suspension, Courtnall back in the line up and if seven defensemen play that means either LaFontaine or Neuber will be the ninth forward. One plays and one sits out. If Martinson does end up going with seven defensemen and nine forwards, one of the defensemen might have to take a shift or two up front. Not sure if any of them have played forward before but Jordan Rowley might be a good choice. Rowley had 24 points in 25 games this season in college as a defenseman and is one of the better skaters on the team.
- Here is how Allen and Idaho rank among the 16 playoff teams in some statistical categories considering just the playoff game results:
Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 3rd (17.40) - Idaho 8th (14.60)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 15th (1.80) - Idaho 10th (3.00)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 9th (3.00) - Idaho 2nd (1.80)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 7th (30.40) - Idaho 12th (28.40)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 5th (28.40) - Idaho 10th (30.40)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 1st (26.3%) - Idaho 4th (20.8%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 13th (79.2%) - Idaho 16th (73.7%)
- Referees scheduled tonight are Peter MacDougall (#26) and Stephen Thomson (#27). Linesmen will be Mitch Macpherson (#48) and Erik Contino (#92).
- It was great to see Aaron Gens back on the ice yesterday for the first time since breaking his ankle on March 9. He was at practice doing some lite skating but did not participate in any drills. Here is what Aaron had to say, "It feels great to be back out there with the team. A lot of work ahead but I'm thankful to be at this point and there is nothing like getting back out doing the thing that I love most."
Check out this short video:
- There were two games in the ECHL last night with the higher seeded home teams having to win game six to stay alive. One succeeded and one did not. Florida, the #4 seed in the east lost to #5 seed Wheeling at home by a score of 2-1 and has been eliminated. Wheeling joins Adirondack, South Carolina and Missouri in making it to the second round.
- The second game last night saw Fort Wayne win game six at home against Cincinnati by a score of 2-1 in overtime. This has been quite a series as Fort Wayne lost the first two games at home and has fought back again and again. Cincinnati has had series leads of 2-0, 2-1, and 3-2 only to see the Komets scratch back to tie the series 3-3. The last three games have gone to overtime and two of the three have been decided in double overtime. Game seven takes place Wednesday in Fort Wayne and you have to like their chances. By the way, former Allen captain Jamie Schaafsma had the primary assist on the game winning goal last night at the 5:30 mark of the first overtime.
- There are three games scheduled tonight and they are all win or go home games. In addition to Allen vs Idaho, the Reading Royals have one more chance to upset the top seed in the east as they take on the Toledo Walleye in game seven. The third game scheduled tonight is Utah at Colorado. Utah leads the series 3-2 so the Eagles must win to keep their hopes alive and force a game seven.
DID YOU KNOW: Allen defensemen Jordan Rowley and Thomas Carr were college teammates at the University of Alberta and just finished their college careers in March. Idaho's Kruise Reddick (#11) was also a member of that team. A total of six graduating seniors from the University of Alberta team signed to play professionally last month. In addition to the three in the Allen vs Idaho series, two other teammates (Levko Koper & Brett Ferguson) are with playing with Cincinnati and Jordan Hickmott signed with the Toronto Marlies (AHL).