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ALLEN, Texas – What a difference 12 days can make. It was just 12 days ago the Allen Americans were playing the Idaho Steelheads at the Allen Event Center (AEC) with their playoff life on the line. The Americans split two games against Idaho and became the #3 seed in the playoffs only to face the Steelheads. Fast forward 12 days and the teams are back at the AEC with an important playoff game on the line.

– After two big wins in Idaho, the Americans have a chance to put a stranglehold on this series in the game tonight. Playoff stats from the NHL show just how critical this game is for both teams. In the history of the NHL, there have been 187 times a team has taken a 3-0 lead in a best of seven series. Just four times have teams come back from a 3-0 deficit. That equates to a 97.9% success rate for the team with a 3-0 series lead. If Idaho wins tonight and reduces Allen’s series lead to 2-1, the odds of Allen winning the series (based on NHL historical stats) reduces to 69.7%.

– Idaho will have their captain, Jefferson Dahl, back in the lineup after missing the first two games of the series because he was assigned to the AHL. C.C. Hawkley of Team Sin Bin spoke with Dahl after Idaho’s practice Monday: https://thesinbin.net/captain-of-the-ship-jefferson-dahl-set-to-return-for-game-3/

It is hard to overstate how important Dahl is to the Steelheads. In addition to being the team captain, Dahl led the teams in points (61) and penalty minutes (113) in the regular season despite only playing in 61 games.

– Allen could have Tristan King back in the lineup which could give them a boost. Tristan is an experienced playoff veteran with 54 playoff games to his credit including 20 games as part of Allen’s 2016 Kelly Cup championship team. With the exception of 2014 King has been in the playoffs every season since he turned pro in 2010-11.

– There isn’t much to compare with only two playoff games played but here is the comparison between Allen and Idaho.

ALLEN IDAHO
Goals For/Against 8/6 6/8
Power Play 0.0% (0/5) 25.0% (2/8)
Penalty Kill 75.0% (2/8) 100.0% (0/5)
Leading Scorer Shmyr (1G-2A = 3 pts ) Harstad (2G-1A = 3 pts)
PIM leader Pochiro – 6 French – 8

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

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 8th (12.50) – Idaho 11th (10.50)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 1st (4.00) – Idaho 7th (3.00)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 9th (3.00) – Idaho 15th (4.00)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 13th (24.00) – Idaho 8th (34.50)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 9th (34.50) – Idaho 4th (24.00)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 12th (0.0%) – Idaho 3rd (25.0%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 12th (75.0%) – Idaho 1st (100.0%)

– A couple of things of note from the stats above even with the very small sample size. Allen is in the middle of the pack on penalty minutes which is very unusual. That may be a good thing since the Americans have lost the special teams battle in the first two games despite winning both games. Special teams are definitely a key to the game tonight. It will also be worth noting what impact Jefferson Dahl has on the style of play as he is an agitator and will try to an antagonize some of the Allen players who are known to have a short fuse. Keep an eye on Dahl (#21) to watch the game within the game.

– A fast start has been the key to victory for Allen in the first two 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 12 times and the team that scored first has won nine of the games.

– Goalie matchups will also be key in the game tonight. There is no suspense for Allen as Jake Paterson will get the start. Idaho started their more experienced contract goalie, Philippe Desrosiers, in game one even though he had not played much in the last month while being on assignment to the AHL. In game two, Idaho went back to their rookie goalie Tomas Sholl, who was the best goalie in the ECHL over the last month of the regular season. Sholl has been outstanding overall but has struggled against Allen giving up nine goals in the last two games against the Americans. If I had to guess you will see Desrosiers in goal tonight.

– The referees scheduled for the game are Chris Pontes (#12) and Tyler Puddifant (#28). The linesmen are Aaron Schacht (#31) and Brian Bull (#95).

OTHER COMMENTS

– There was only one ECHL game played last night and in that game, Florida beat Atlanta 3-2 to take a 2-0 series lead. I have said this before but Florida is a different team this season. Over the last few years, they have been skilled and done well in the regular season but struggled in the playoffs against teams with a lot of toughness. This season, Florida is skilled and tough. It is still very early in the playoffs but Florida is #2 in average penalty minutes per game (19.00) and looks to be the team to beat coming out of the Eastern Conference.

– There are five games on tap tonight in the ECHL including one where a team can be eliminated. Here are the games tonight.

South Carolina at Orlando (Orlando leads 2-0)
Manchester at Reading (Manchester leads 3-0)
Toledo at Indy (Toledo leads 2-0)
Idaho at Allen (Allen leads 2-0)
Wichita at Colorado (Colorado leads 2-0)

– After 14 playoff games ECHL attendance has averaged 3951 per game, but the range has been dramatic. Two teams (Toledo & Fort Wayne) have averaged over 6500 per game while two teams (Wichita & Manchester) have averaged under 2500 per game. Selling playoff tickets can be difficult for sales and marketing departments because there tends to be a lot of midweek games and typically there is not a lot of time between when the playoff dates are known and games are played. Fort Wayne and Toledo have had big crowds in the playoffs but are still averaging 700 (Toledo) and 1200 (Fort Wayne) fewer fans than during the regular season.

DID YOU KNOW: During the regular season Colorado had the highest shooting percentage in the league at 11.5% and Tulsa had the lowest at 7.9%. Here are the highest and lowest thus far in the playoffs.

Highest Shooting Percentage
16.7%  –  Allen
10.7%  –  Toledo
9.7%    –  Colorado
9.3%    –  Orlando
9.0%    –  Florida

Lowest Shooting Percentage
1.7%  –  South Carolina
3.6%  –  Worcester
5.6%  –  Reading
5.9%  –  Manchester
6.0%  –  Atlanta

The five teams with the highest shooting percentage all lead their series 2-0.