And then there were five, that is five teams left competing for the 2017 Kelly Cup. Toledo beat Fort Wayne 5-0 at home last night to win that series 4-1 and claim the Central Division championship. Here are the details about the Komets loss and future courtesy of Justin Cohn of The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne: https://www.journalgazette.net/blog/ice-chips/20170507/questions-answers-after-ks-season-ends
Toledo joins Manchester (North Division) and South Carolina (South Division) as division champions. Only the Mountain Division, where Colorado holds a 3-1 series lead over Allen, has yet to be decided. They play game five this afternoon (4:05 pm CDT).
The ECHL put their fingerprints all over game five between Allen and Colorado with three suspensions that were announced yesterday afternoon. Allen will be without the services of Bryan Moore who was suspended for one additional game (two total) for an incident with a fan after the game on Wednesday. Colorado’s Mason Geertsen was given a game misconduct aggressor penalty in the last five minutes of the game on Thursday which is an automatic one game suspension so he will miss the game this afternoon. Finally, the Eagles Alex Belzile, who is leading the ECHL in playoff goals (10) and points (17), was suspended for two games for a cross-checking penalty (that targeted the head) in the third period on Thursady. Here is the ECHL press release announcing the suspensions. https://www.echl.com/echl-announces-fine-suspensions-may-6
I had a chance to ask coach Martinson about Bryan Moore getting suspended for an additional game (two total) after Moore reacted to a Colorado fan spitting on him as he was in the tunnel leaving the ice after game three on Wednesday. Here is what Martinson had to say:
“That incident was so avoidable. Colorado should follow the league rule that requires they have the exit covered. Colorado knows having the tunnel uncovered is a problem because they have a police officer come down at the end of the game. We should have been notified of potential issues with the fans.”
To win the game this afternoon Allen needs to survive the first 10 minutes and score the first goal of the game, something they have not been able to do in the first four games of this series. Colorado has scored the first goal in all four games and the goals came early. In game one it was at the 3:30 mark, game two at 4:46, game three at 10:00 and game four at 3:28. Even though the Americans came back to win game four after giving up the first goal of the game that is a rare occurrence against Colorado.
Special teams will be another big key in the game today. The power play is still not firing on all cylinders but the Americans did manage to score one power play goal while going 1-8 in the win on Thursday. In the last game the Allen penalty kill not only held Colorado scoreless on five power play opportunities but really turned the game around on a Tyler Barnes shorthanded goal with 63 seconds remaining in the second period. That goal gave Allen their first lead (2-1) in the entire series and seemed to energize the team for the rest of the game. In the first four games of this series Allen (4-24) and Colorado (3-18) have the exact same power play percentage (16.7%) though Allen has had more opportunities. Winning the special teams battle will most likely determine the winner of this game. An advantage for Allen is Colorado will be missing a key component of their power play in Alex Belzile.
The totals for the first four games of this series have Colorado outscoring Allen 14-9 and outshooting the Americans 113-108. The penalty minutes are 100 for Colorado and 79 for Allen.
Here is an update to show how Allen and Colorado rank in some statistical categories among the eight teams that were in the division finals:
Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 3rd (17.11) – Colorado 4th (16.78)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 6th (3.00) – Colorado 1st (3.78)
Goals Allowed per Game: Allen 4th (2.67) – Colorado 4th (2.67)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 3rd (22.7%) – Colorado 5th (21.6%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 3rd (88.9%) – Colorado 8th (79.1%)
Allen wins today if they get off to a fast start, score the first goal, win the special teams battle and avoids giving up odd man rushes because they gamble offensively. The Americans allowed only 18 shots on goal in game four after allowing more than 30 shots in the first three games. A defensive effort like game four will go a long way to extending this series.
Officials scheduled for the game this afternoon are referees Jonathan Sitarski (#23) and Jeremy Tufts (#6) and linesmen Erik Contino (#89) and Jon Shaw (#6).
I mentioned yesterday that this game is a 50-50 game based on historical records across all major league sports when a team has a 3-1 lead and is playing game five at home. It is also good to remember Allen is 10-5 in game fives since Steve Martinson became the coach and most of those game fives were on the road. Throw in the fact Allen is 4-1 on the road in the playoffs this year while Colorado is 2-2 at home. None of these stats have any bearing on the game today but some good signs nevertheless.
Toledo is now waiting around to see who they will meet in the Western Conference final. If Allen comes back to win they would not finish the series until Wednesday. If the series with Colorado gets extended to six or seven games it will be a short turnaround for whoever wins. The Mountain Division champion will start the Western Conference finals series with Toledo on the road and the first two games are already scheduled for next Friday (May 12) and Saturday (May 13).
The San Jose Barracuda beat San Diego 5-1 at home last night to even their second round series 1-1. The series now shifts to San Diego for the next three games on Wednesday, Friday & Saturday.
DID YOU KNOW: Haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere but Riley Gill has set another career playoff record in this series against Colorado. In game two Riley became the ECHL career leader in playoff minutes played and now has a total 4975 minutes, surpassing the old record of 4841. Riley already holds the record for most career playoff game appearances with 88 surpassing the old record of 80. He also has the record for most playoff wins at 52 surpassing the old record of 43. It was one year ago today that Riley tied the record for most career playoff wins with a 4-2 victory over Missouri. Here is what I said at the time. – There was a huge milestone reached last night as Riley Gill became the winningest playoff goalie in ECHL history. The win last night was number 43 all time for Riley and ties him with Nick Vitucci who played in the 1990’s. Riley took 70 games to get his 43 wins while Vitucci played in 80 playoff games. Congrats Riley!