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ALLEN, Texas – It is win-or-go-home for the Idaho Steelheads tonight at the Allen Event Center (AEC) so you can expect they will define the term “playing desperate.” It is easy to forget the Steelheads were ranked sixth in the ECHL in points (96) and winning percentage (.667) during the regular season. They also finished the regular season as the hottest team in the league going 9-0-1-0 in their last 10 games. Idaho is a very good hockey team and they will not go away easily.

– The game tonight has the Allen Americans in uncharted waters in the Martinson era. Through four championships and 16 previous series the Americans have never had a 3-0 series lead with a chance to sweep at home. Allen has had a chance to sweep only one other time and that was in the first round in 2014 against Brampton but that was on the road. Allen lost game four but won the series 4-1.

– Allen has won four in a row in a playoff series twice under Steve Martinson and both were against the Denver Cutthroats. In the first round in 2013 and the finals 2014 in the Central Hockey League, Denver won game one and then Allen won four in a row.

– Here is an update of the comparison stats between Allen and Idaho after three playoff games.

ALLEN IDAHO
Goals For/Against 13/9 9/13
Power Play 10.0% (1/10) 15.4% (2/13)
Penalty Kill 84.6% (2/13) 90.0% (1/10)
Leading Scorers Shmyr (2G, 2A = 4 pts) Parizek (2G, 2A = 4 pts)
Makowski (2G, 2A = 4 pts) Harstad (2G, 1A = 3 pts)
Most PIMs Pochiro – 8 French – 8

–  Here is how Allen and Idaho rank among the 16 teams in the ECHL playoffs:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 9th (12.67) – Idaho 11th (11.67)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 1st (4.33) – Idaho 8th (3.00)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 9th (3.00) – Idaho 15th (4.33)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 12th (27.33) – Idaho 8th (35.00)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 9th (35.00) – Idaho 5th (27.33)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 11th (10.0%) – Idaho 6th (15.4%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 11th (84.6%) – Idaho 6th (90.0%)

– Allen’s offense has been very good in the playoffs as they lead all teams averaging 4.33 goals per game. This has been accomplished largely on even strength goals which is a good sign. Even better is the Allen focus on team defense has produced more even-strength offense. David Makowski captured this perfectly in his postgame interview on Wednesday when he was asked about his offensive production in this series (2G, 2A).  His response was he is concentrating on his defensive play and the offensive will take care of itself. David captured how the buy-in on defense has led to improved play by the Americans in this series.

– Allen did manage a power-play goal on Wednesday which was their first of the series. They are 1-10 on the power-play and the lone goal was a five-on-three. A power-play goal (or two) would go a long way in winning the game tonight. Avoiding stick penalties and retaliation penalties will also be important in this game and the more disciplined team will likely be the winner.

– A fast start has been the key to victory for Allen in the first three games of this series and there is no reason to believe the team that has the best first period won’t come out on top tonight. Between the regular season and playoffs, Allen and Idaho have played 13 times and the team that scored first has won 10 of the games.

Will the young guns come through again with an early goal as they have in the first three games?

By the way, the official scoring was changed on the second Allen goal on Wednesday. Matt Foget did get a piece of the puck on the goal originally credited to Eric Roy. The young guns got both Allen goals in the first period.

– Goalie matchups will also be key in the game tonight. There is no suspense for Allen as Jake Paterson will get the start. Idaho has gone back and forth with starting goalies but I can’t imagine, with all the marbles on the line, Idaho will not go with the more experienced goalie, Philippe Desrosiers, tonight.

– There has been a lot of conversation about the major penalty Bryan Moore took on Wednesday for elbowing and whether it will lead to a suspension. I had a chance to see the play in slow motion on a close-up video and it is clear there was no elbow to the head on that play. I doubt very much there will be any additional discipline taken by the ECHL.

– The referees scheduled for the game are Sean MacFarlane (#4) and Stephen Thomson (#27). The linesmen are Addison Brush (#80) and Michael Houle (#49). MacFarlane is the only one of the four that worked the game on Wednesday.

OTHER COMMENTS

– Here is the updated ECHL playoff bracket:

Photo Courtesy: Robert Ciccotelli/Allen Americans

– There are three ECHL playoff games on tap tonight and a sweep is possible in all three. Florida is ahead 3-0 and plays in Atlanta, Colorado is at home with a 3-0 lead and a chance to sweep Wichita and Allen can close out Idaho at the AEC.

– Toledo beat Indy 3-2 last night to sweep the Fuel and join Manchester in advancing to the second round. Toledo will play the winner of the Fort Wayne vs Cincinnati series in the Central Division finals. Cincinnati beat Fort Wayne last night at home in a wild 7-6 game that went to overtime. The Komets have a 2-1 lead in the series with game four in Cincinnati on Saturday.

– Orlando beat South Carolina last night 2-1 in overtime even though they were outshot 50-30. The Solar Bears scored the game-winning goal shorthanded at 17:29 of overtime. This has been the most surprising of all of the first round series. South Carolina had 29 more points than Orlando in the regular season but their offense has dried up in this series. The Stingrays have a total of two goals in three games. They have two goals on 110 shots for a shooting percentage of just 1.8%.  Orlando has a 3-0 lead with two chances to close out the series at home on Saturday and Sunday.

– Adirondack leads Worcester 3-1 with game five in Adirondack on Saturday. The winner of this series will take on Manchester in the North Division finals. Manchester wrapped up their series on Wednesday so they will have plenty of time to rest after playing five periods of overtime in their four-game sweep of Reading.

– Game four has been kind to Allen over the years. In their 16 playoff series over the last five seasons, the Americans have a game four record of 12-4.

– The San Jose Barracuda lost their first game of the playoffs 4-2 to Tuscon last night at home. Game two of the best of five series will be in San Jose on Saturday. Vincent Arseneau‘s team (Utica) plays their first game in Toronto on Saturday.

– I heard Gary Steffes is in town and will be attending the game tonight. It says a lot about the Allen franchise to have past leaders like Gary and Chad Costello come back to support the team.

DID YOU KNOW: Going back to the 2016 Kelly Cup playoffs Allen has won five straight playoff games against Idaho. More importantly, the Americans have won the first three games of this series against the Steelheads and Idaho has yet to have a lead.

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