The Allen Americans begin round two of the Kelly Cup playoffs tonight in Missouri as they take on the top seeded Mavericks in a best of seven series. There are so many subplots in this series it is hard to know where to start. Here are just a few.
- Allen finished a tough seven game series with an overtime victory against Idaho on Wednesday night. The Americans had to get up Thursday morning and travel 473 miles (by bus) to Missouri where they play the Mavericks tonight (Friday) and Saturday. Will the lack of rest make the Americans a step slower or will the momentum from Wednesday's overtime victory give them extra energy. Not the best scheduling for the Americans.
- Missouri swept their first round series in four games against Quad City and have not played in a week. It is the age old rest vs rust question. Will the week off make the Mavericks complacent or make them stronger.
- ECHL Coach of the Year for 2015-16 is Missouri's Richard Matvichuk who is in his second year as head coach of the Mavericks. He was the assistant coach in Allen for two years (2012-14), working with head coach Steve Martinson who is in his 20th year as a head coach and has won nine championships. I am sure both coaches would say their prior relationship has no impact on this series and it is just another playoff series. Don't buy that. They would both get extra satisfaction from winning this series given their past relationship. This is especially true for Mativichuk who had a disastrous first season in Missouri after leaving Allen. Missouri missed the playoffs, finished 41 points behind Allen, and lost eight of nine games they played against the Americans. Meanwhile, Steve Martinson won the Kelly Cup against all odds in the Americans first season in the ECHL.
- This season has been a different story as Missouri has been the class of the ECHL, winning the regular season title by 10 points, finished 20 points ahead of Allen and won the season series against the Americans 6-5.
- There has always been a rivalry between Missouri and Allen, especially in the Central Hockey League (CHL) days. Both teams came into the league at the same time but Allen was much more successful on the ice. The Americans went to the championship final in their first season (2010) and won the CHL championship in 2013 and 2014. The Mavericks have never made it to a championship final. They were the regular season champions in 2013-14 and entered the playoff as the #1 seed but lost to #8 seed Arizona in six games. While Allen was the best franchise in the CHL on the ice, the Mavericks were the perennial winners of the Franchise of the Year award which only intensified the rivalry.
- Another subplot to this series is there are three former Allen Americans on the Missouri roster. Bryce Aneloski (2012-13), Scott Howes (2012-013) and Trevor Ludwig (2011-15). When Allen traded Ludwig to Missouri for Tristan King early in the season it definitely created some hard feelings. Trevor was the last player remaining in Allen who had been there for all three championships, his family lives in the DFW area and he wanted to finish his career in Allen. If there was any good news in being traded you would have to assume
Missouri was at the top of the list as to where Trevor wanted to
play. Missouri coach Richard Matvichuk is a close family friend since he
played with Trevor's dad for many years in the NHL. Trevor has known
Richard since he was ten years old. Matvichuk, who played defense as a
player, coached Trevor during the first two championship seasons when he
was the assistant coach in Allen. Being traded to Missouri also gave Trevor a chance to play with his younger brother,C.J. Throw in the fact that Trevor was named the captain of the Mavericks and the Mavericks were the best team in the league there is no doubt everything has worked out well for Trevor. With three former players and the head coach having spent time in Allen you know there is extra incentive to beat the Americans.
- Another subplot to this series comes from a game in Allen on March 9 in which two great players were seriously injured. Aaron Gens broke his ankle when he was clipped by C.J Ludwig. It was Ludwig's second clipping penalty of the game and it led to a four game suspension. Missouri lost their leading scorer, Jesse Root, for the season in the same game when he was injured on slew foot penalty called on Spencer Asuchak. Asuchak was suspended for six games. Ludwig has not played against Allen since March 9. Whether you see the bad blood on both sides carryover to this series remains to be seen.
ALLEN VS MISSOURI SERIES PREVIEW
- While all of the subplots discussed above are interesting, this series will be decided by the players on the ice. In a best of seven series the better team almost always win. If you look at the regular season, Missouri was certainly the better team. Here is the regular season match up between Allen and Missouri.
Team Record: 41-24-3-4 (89 points) 52-15-3-2 (109 points)
Division Ranking: 2nd Central 1st Central
Conference Ranking: 4th Western 1st Western
League Ranking: 8th 1st
Home Record 22-10-2-2 29-6-0-1
Road Record 19-14-1-2 23-9-3-1
Goals For: 222 234
Goals Against: 204 162
Power Play: 21.1% 17.2%
Penalty Kill: 86.4% 85.0%
Most PIM's Stevenson (115) C. J. Ludwig (95)
Leading Scorers: Costello (24-79-103) Barnes (24-37-61)
- Here is how Allen and Missouri rank among the 16 playoff teams in some
statistical categories considering just the playoff game results:
Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 7th (14.14) - Missouri 10th (12.50)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 12th (2.29) - Missouri 3rd (4.00)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 6th (2.71) - Missouri 1st (1.75)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 4th (30.40) - Missouri 9th (29.50)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 6th (28.57) - Missouri 9th (29.75)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 1st (32.0%) - Missouri 4th (21.1%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 9th (82.8%) - Missouri 3rd (88.2%)
- During the regular season Allen played Missouri 11 times and had a record of 5-6. However, the Americans beat Missouri three of the last four games they played. In the 11 games Missouri outscored Allen 32-25 and out shot the Americans 344-334. Allen was 8-42 (19.0%) on the power play and Missouri was 10-49 (20.4%). Allen took 67 penalties in the 11 games and Missouri took 65 penalties.
- What do all of the statistics mean? They mean there are two very talented teams in this series and the winner will be the team that works the hardest, wins the special teams battle and gets the best goal tending. Goalie Josh Robinson's regular season stats for Missouri were the best in the league. Robinson was 28-2-0-1 with a GAA of 1.88 and save percentage of .931. Riley Gill will carry the load for Allen and the two time Kelly cup champion is always at his best in the playoffs. In the first round against Idaho, Gill had a GAA of 1.96 and save percentage of .933.
- Another factor in this series and maybe in the game tonight is the assignment of players currently in the AHL to Missouri. The Mavericks have 10 AHL players that are playoff eligible. Nine of the players are in Bridgeport and one is with Utica. Both Utica and Bridgeport lost last night and have been eliminated from the AHL playoffs. It is possible some of those 10 players will be in Missouri tonight. The Mavericks saved three roster spots for these players so they could get some talented players back. The most likely additions include Patrick Cullity, Tanner Fritz, Kellen Jones, and Kane LaFranchise who all spent over 30 games in Missouri this season. Depending on how it plays out this could be a game changer for Missouri.
- Allen's affiliate (San Jose Barracuda) lost last night and trail 2-1 in their best of five series against the Ontario Reign. Game four is tonight. If the Barracuda end up losing this series it is possible Nikita Jevpalovs, who is playoff eligible for Allen, could get assigned to the Americans.
- Here is a story about Richard Matvichuk that includes the Missouri perspective on the series with Allen: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/article74484917.html
DID YOU KNOW: Allen and Missouri have met in the playoffs just one time since their franchises began in 2009. In the 2013 CHL playoffs the Americans beat the Mavericks in game seven of the semi-finals. Game seven was in Allen and the Americans won 7-3 to eliminate Missouri. Brian McMillin and Todd Robinson led the way for Allen with two goals each. The Americans went on to win the championship, beating Wichita in the final with another game seven win in Allen.