ALLEN, TX – It is game day at the Allen Event Center (AEC) and all eyes will be focused on the Allen vs Colorado game as it is the only division championship yet to be decided. Toledo (Central Division), Manchester (North Division) and South Carolina (South Division) have already advanced to the conference finals.
– The game tonight will be the third straight elimination game for Allen in this series but when you have won four straight championships and 15 straight series, elimination games are something you are used to dealing with. Under coach Steve Martinson, the Americans have faced elimination games on the way to all four championships. Allen’s record under Martinson in elimination games now stands at 12-0.
– Getting the series back to Allen after being down 3-0 and winning the last two games in Colorado is a job well done by the Americans but if anyone thinks the home team is now in the driver’s seat only needs to look at the record. As I mentioned yesterday Allen’s record at home in the playoffs this year is 1-3 and Colorado’s road record in the playoffs this year is 5-0. The game tonight will be a battle of will as much as skill.
– The outcome of the game tonight will be determined by keys such as who scores the first goal, who wins the special teams battle, goalie play and commitment to the defensive end of the ice. However, the real question to ask is what team shows up for Allen and Colorado. This series has not had close games as one team or the other has dominated. In the first three games, all Colorado wins, the Eagles outscored Allen 13-5. In the last two games, Allen wins, the Americans outscored Colorado 8-1. Maybe the game tonight will be different and go down to the wire or into overtime but based on the first five games the margin of victory is more likely to be two or three goals.
– There will be lineup changes for both teams tonight. Bryan Moore will return after serving a two-game suspension. In normal circumstances that would mean one of the forwards that played the last two games will be a healthy scratch. Another option for coach Martinson would be to go with 11 forwards and five defensemen and move Dyson Stevenson to the back line.
– Colorado will get defenseman Mason Geertsen back after he served a one-game suspension. The eagles will not have the services of the top scoring player in the playoffs, Alex Belzile who will be serving the second of his two-game suspension.
– When you get to game six of a series goalie play is so important and you would have to give the edge to Allen with the experience of Riley Gill. In the last two games, which were both elimination games for Allen, Gill has stopped a total of 52 of 53 shots for a save percentage of .981. Colorado rookie goalie, Lukas Hafner, has been outstanding in the playoffs winning his first seven starts. However, in the last two games, both losses, Hafner has allowed seven goals and saved 42 of 49 shots for a save percentage of .857.
– You cannot overemphasize the importance of the first goal tonight. Allen was able to win game four after Colorado scored first but they probably don’t want to tempt that fate again. In the playoffs, Allen and Colorado have a combined record of 9-1 when scoring first. If you add in the regular season their combined record is 84-5-2-2. The quick math would tell you the team that scores first tonight has 90% chance of winning the game.
– Special teams as always will be a factor tonight and Allen has had the edge in both the power play and the penalty kill in this series. In the last three games of this series, Allen is 4-15 (26.7%) on the power play while holding Colorado to 1-12 (8.3%). The penalty kill unit also has a couple of shorthanded goals. If the Americans can win on special teams they should win tonight.
– One thing different for Allen in the playoffs this season from the two prior years has been very balanced scoring. Last year Greger Hanson had 15 playoff goals and Gary Steffes had 13. In the 2015 playoffs, Steffes had 13 goals and Hanson had 12. This season after 10 playoff games nobody has more than three goals. An indication of just how balanced the scoring is so far in the playoffs is there are six players tied for the team in goals scored with three (Costello, Hanson, MacLeod, Brittain, Barnes, Chouinard). In addition, there are five players with two goals.
– The referees scheduled tonight are Alex Garon (#9) and Stephen Thomson (#27) and the linesmen will be Lucas Bisbee (#72) and Charlie O’Connor (#43).
– If you look at the percentages in seven game series across all major league sports the Colorado still have a big advantage based on historical data. History would say Colorado has a 55% chance of winning game six and a 75% chance of winning the series. With Allen’s record in elimination games (12-0) they will be looking to defy the odds tonight.
DID YOU KNOW: I had a question about a comment Steve Martinson made in his pregame interview with Tommy Daniels in Colorado. It has to do with Colorado captain Sean Zimmerman tripping an opposing player and then deliberately falling on top of the player he just tripped. I was asked if I could show a video of what Martinson was referring to. The video below from a Colorado vs Wichita game is a good example. Zimmerman did the same thing to Tristan King last season which resulted in a concussion and he did it to Gary Steffes the other night. The league is aware of Zimmerman doing this. Hope this answers the question.