ALLEN, TX – The Allen Americans commence their eighth playoff run on Wednesday having made the playoffs every year in franchise history.

The playoff roster can consist of 23 players. Here is my take on what the playoff roster will look like. Coach Steve Martinson will start with 21 players and save two roster spots for qualified San Jose players (Mike Brodzinski, Alex Schoenborn, Jonathan Martin) to be added later if needed.

The 21 players on playoff roster should be:

Goalies:
Riley Gill
Jamie Murray

Forwards:
Spencer Asuchak
Tyler Barnes
Josh Brittain
Chad Costello
Tanner Eberle
Zach Hall
Greger Hanson
Alex Krushelnyski
Wade MacLeod
Bryan Moore
Gary Steffes
Dyson Stevenson

Defensemen:
Travis Brown
Joel Chouinard
Mike Gunn
Miles Liberati
David Makowski
Eric Roy
Harrison Ruopp

– You will notice that Derek Mathers is not on the list above. The ECHL rule states if you are a player under contract to an AHL team you must play at least five games with your AHL contracted team to be eligible for the ECHL playoffs. Each team can have two exceptions to this rule. In Allen’s case, there are three players (Eric Roy, Travis Brown, Derek Mathers) under contract to AHL teams that did not play five AHL games. Coach Martinson can only include two of the three on the playoff roster. Because of the shortage of defensemen, I think Mathers will be the one left off the playoff roster. It is difficult for everyone when a player has been with the team all season and then doesn’t make the playoff roster.

– The official ECHL release of all of the playoff rosters will be out sometime today but teams have been given permission to release them so you might see releases from some teams being issued before the ECHL release.

– Before I look at the first round matchup between Allen and Utah I wanted to preview the four Mountain Division teams in the playoffs and compare them in a way that may help determine who is the strongest and weakest team based on regular season results. I tried this last season and it is a way to compare teams across a number of statistical categories and then come up with an overall score. Can’t say the “Barry the Blogger Matrix” is a good predictor of Kelly Cup success as it had Fort Wayne vs South Carolina in the finals last season.

– Below is how the four teams in the Mountain Division playoffs stand in 11 statistical categories. Fairly easy to see the strengths and weaknesses of each team.

Goals Scored (average per game)

4.08 – Allen
3.68 – Colorado
3.25 – Idaho
3.13 – Utah

Goals Allowed (average per game)
2.82 – Allen
2.86 – Idaho
2.86 – Colorado
3.33 – Utah

Shots For (average per game)
32.94 – Colorado
32.33 – Idaho
32.10 – Utah
31.44 – Allen

Shots Against (average per game)
29.75 – Colorado
30.44 – Utah
32.94 – Idaho
34.93 – Allen

Shooting Percentage (goals as a percent of total shots)
13.0% – Allen
11.1% – Colorado
9.8%  – Idaho
9.6%  – Utah

Power Play Percentage
24.8% – Colorado
24.4% – Allen
21.3% – Idaho
16.4% – Utah

Penalty Kill Percentage
85.8% – Idaho
84.4% – Allen
83.7% – Utah
83.4% – Colorado

Power Play Goals Scored
74 – Colorado
71 – Allen
57 – Idaho
50 – Utah

Plus/Minus
+334 – Allen
+148 – Colorado
+30   – Idaho
-91    – Utah

Goals Against Average (GAA)
2.76 – Allen
2.80 – Colorado
2.80 – Idaho
3.27 – Utah

Record Last 10 Games
9-0-1-0 – Allen
8-2-0-0 – Idaho
7-3-0-0 – Utah
5-5-0-0 – Colorado

– Finally, I tallied up the rank for each team in every category to get an overall score. The lower the score the better. If you finished first in every category you would get a final score of 11. Here are the results:

20 – Allen
23 – Colorado
28 – Idaho
39 – Utah

– Based on the stats you would pick Allen as a heavy favorite over Utah and Colorado a slight favorite over Idaho. While this is an interesting way to look at regular season performance it is not a very good way to pick outcomes.

ALLEN VS UTAH PREVIEW, PART 1

– I will do the typical statistical game preview tomorrow but want to give a broad overview today to get everyone prepared for this best of seven series between the Allen Americans and the Utah Grizzlies.

– The Allen Americans franchise was established in 2009 in the Central Hockey League (CHL). The CHL (seven teams) was absorbed by the ECHL in 2014. The Americans play at the Allen Event Center (AEC) which has a capacity of 6275 for hockey. The AEC opened in 2009 and was built at a cost of 52.5 million dollars. Allen is a northern suburb of Dallas with an estimated population of around 95,000. The Americans are affiliated with the San Jose Sharks (NHL) and San Jose Barracuda (AHL).

– The Utah Grizzlies joined the ECHL in 2005 but can trace their origins back to the Virginia Lancers, one of the founding members of the ECHL in 1988. The franchise moved many times over the years before landing in Utah. One of the stops was in Macon, Georgia in  2001-02 where the team had one of the most famous names in hockey history, the Macon Whoopee. The Grizzlies play at the Maverik Center which has a capacity of 10,100 for hockey and was opened in 1997 at a cost of 54.1 million dollars. Naming rights for the Maverik Center belong to Maverik Inc., owners of convenience stores throughout the area. The arena was built for the 2002 Winter Olympics and was the main venue for all hockey events. The Grizzlies play in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Valley City which is the second largest city in Utah with a population of around 133,000. The Grizzlies are affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks (NHL) and San Diego Gulls (AHL).

– The Allen Americans are coached by legendary coach Steve Martinson who is in his 21st year as a head coach and has won 10 championships. Martinson has been the coach and general manager in Allen since the 2012-13 season and has won a championship (two CHL & two ECHL) for four straight years.

– The Utah Grizzlies are coached by Tim Branham who has been in Utah since the 2013-14 season. This is his first head coaching position. Tim was the assistant coach for three years in Reading prior to getting the job in Utah. He was in Reading along with Riley Gill when the Royals won the Kelly Cup in 2013. Branham has made the playoffs every season he has been in Utah but has not gotten past the second round.

– Both Allen and Utah played well down the stretch to accomplish their immediate goals. Allen was able to overtake Colorado for the #1 seed in the division by winning their last eight games. Utah was in a battle with Alaska and Missouri for the last playoff spot and prevailed by winning seven of their last eight games including five in a row on the road.

– Allen is seeking their third straight Kelly Cup which has never been done before. No team has even made it to three straight finals before. Utah is in the playoffs for the 10th straight season which is the second longest streak (tied) in ECHL history.

– It seems the case every year that Allen doesn’t get good home dates in the first round of the playoffs and this year was no exception. If the series goes seven games Allen plays at home on a Wednesday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday. To make matters worse the lone weekend game is on Good Friday. Here is the first round schedule:

Game 1 – Wednesday, April 12 at 7:05 p.m. CT at Allen
Game 2 – Friday, April 14 at 7:05 p.m. CT at Allen
Game 3 – Wednesday, April 19 at 7:05 p.m. MT at Utah
Game 4 – Friday, April 21 at 7:05 p.m. MT at Utah
Game 5 – Saturday, April 22 at 7:05 p.m. MT at Utah (If Necessary)
Game 6 – Monday, April 24 at 7:05 p.m. MT at Allen (If Necessary)
Game 7 – Tuesday, April 25 at 7:05 p.m. MT at Allen (If Necessary)

– Allen’s overall record this season was 49-17-4-2 while Utah’s was 36-29-5-2. Both teams would be considered excellent road teams. Allen won 25 games at home and 24 roads games. Utah won the same number of games on the road (18) as they did at home. This series should be quite a battle with two well-coached teams that are both playing great hockey coming into the playoffs. Allen is clearly the favorite in the series but the Americans will have to be on the top of their game to beat Utah.

– Come back tomorrow for a deep dive into all of the statistical comparisons between Allen and Utah in a game day preview.

OTHER COMMENTS

Joel Chouinard and Chad Costello both received honors yesterday by the ECHL. Joel was honored for his league-leading plus/minus (+47). That is the sixth highest plus/minus total since they started handing out this award in 1992.  Chad has won the scoring title for the last three years. In those three years, he has scored 350 points (117 per year average) and he has won the scoring title by a total of 102 points (average of 34 per year). Now that is impressive!

– Chouinard and Costello have something else in common besides receiving ECHL year end awards yesterday. They are the only two Allen players that that did not miss a game all season having played in 72 straight games. They are the 2016-17 Ironmen.

– Steve Martinson is in his 21st year as a head coach and his playoff record is something to behold.

Here are a few of his playoff accomplishments:
20 – the number of times Martinson has made the playoffs in 21 years as a head coach
10 – the number of championships Martinson has won as a head coach (he also has two as a player)
2 – the number of times a Martinson coached team has lost in the first round of the playoffs
1 – the number of times a Martinson coached team has lost a game seven in the playoffs

DID YOU KNOW: Current Allen players Alex Krushelnyski and Bryan Moore played for Utah last season. Former Allen Americans that also spent time in Utah include Aaron Dell, Ian Schultz, Jonathan Lessard, Drew Daniels and Adam Pineault.

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