ALLEN, TX – It seems like forever since the Allen Americans finished their first round series against the Utah Grizzlies even though it was just last Saturday. I said earlier this week it was the calm before the storm and the storm arrives tonight. Game one of what should be one of the best series in the entire ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs is tonight as the Americans take on the Colorado Eagles at the Allen Event Center (7:05 pm CDT).
– The lineup for Allen tonight is still uncertain other than Bryan Moore will be out as he still has two games to serve on his four-game suspension from the Utah series. Zach Hall missed the last game against Utah, Harrison Ruopp missed the last three games against Utah and Tanner Eberle did not play at all against Utah. Contrary to my reporting earlier in the week that Tanner Eberle would miss the first two games against Colorado it is possible he could be cleared to play tonight.
– The similarities between Allen and Colorado are undeniable as they are both tough, physical, gritty teams with tons of skill and lots of depth. They both have the ability to play any style necessary to be successful and they both have three lines capable of scoring. As a refresher here is a comparison between the Americans and Eagles. The first number is the regular season stat while the number in parentheses is the stat from the first round of the playoffs in which Allen won 4-1 over Utah and Colorado won 4-1 over Idaho.
Goals Scored (average per game)
4.08 – Allen (3.60)
3.68 – Colorado (4.00)
Goals Allowed (average per game)
2.82 – Allen (2.00)
2.86 – Colorado (3.00)
Shots For (average per game)
32.94 – Colorado (29.60)
31.44 – Allen (32.40)
Shots Against (average per game)
29.75 – Colorado (25.80)
34.93 – Allen (28.20)
Shooting Percentage (goals as a percent of total shots)
12.9% – Allen (11.1%)
11.1% – Colorado (13.5%)
Power Play Percentage
24.8% – Colorado (26.3%)
24.4% – Allen (30.0%)
Penalty Kill Percentage
84.4% – Allen (92.6%)
83.4% – Colorado (73.7%)
+334 – Allen (+20)
+148 – Colorado (+21)
Goals Against Average (GAA)
2.76 – Allen (2.00)
2.80 – Colorado (2.98)
.920 – Allen (.929)
.905 – Colorado (.884)
– If you look at the stats above it is obvious how even these teams were during the regular season. They were clearly the best two teams in the Mountain Division and both had great seasons. Colorado didn’t lose a game between January 25 and March 3 and won 17 games straight which is the second longest winning streak in ECHL history. Allen was able to overcome Colorado in the standings by finishing the season on a streak of 15-0-1-0. The Americans were seven points behind Colorado with eight games remaining. The most remarkable thing about Allen’s success is they were 8-11 and in last place in the division at the end of November but from that point on finished the season going 41-6-4-2.
– If you look at the playoff stats above (in parentheses) something does stand out and that is related to the goalie play. Allen has by any measure the best playoff goalie in the history of the league in Riley Gill. He led the ECHL in save percentage during the regular season (.920) and improved to .929 in the first round of the playoffs. The Eagles #1 goalie, Clarke Saunders, is currently on loan to the San Jose Barracuda (AHL). Goalie Lukas Hafner won four straight games against Idaho after Kent Simpson played in game one and lost. The Eagles save percentage during the regular season was .905 but in the first round of the playoffs fell to .884.
– Goalie play could also explain the difference in the penalty kill percentages between Allen and Colorado. The saying goes your best penalty killer is usually your goalie. Allen’s penalty kill percentage during the regular season was 84.4% but the Gill playoff effect had it at 92.6% against Utah. Colorado’s penalty kill during the regular season was 83.4% but in the playoffs against Idaho fell to 73.7%. If there are a lot of penalties in the game tonight which results in power play opportunities it could prove to be an advantage for Allen.
– Special teams is a key in every hockey game. The Americans and Colorado were ranked #2 and #3 in the league on special teams during the regular season. If you break down home vs road regular season special team stats here is how it looks. Colorado had the best road power play in the ECHL at 25.0% but was also good at home at 24.7%. Allen was 27.3% at home and 21.3% on the road. If you look at the penalty kill the Eagles were 82.8% at home and 84.0% on the road. Allen was 82.8% at home and 86.1% on the road.
– Another thing to keep an eye on in this series is who scores first. Colorado and Allen were #1 and #2 in the ECHL during the regular season in winning games when scoring first. Both teams were almost impossible to beat when scoring first. Their combined record was a lofty 75-4-2-2. Based on that stat it is possible every game in this series will be won by the team that scores first.
– It is always interesting to watch the game within the game to see how coach Martinson sets his matchups with last change at home. Who takes faceoffs against Casey Pierro-Zabotel? How does Allen defend against Matt Register who as a defenseman is the Eagles leading scorer (tied) in the playoffs? By the way, Register had the game-winning goal in both regular season games between these teams. Which lines play against each other? It is definitely a chess match that will be interesting to follow.
– Here is an Allen vs Colorado game preview from Jay Hay who is a new Team Sin Bin writer covering the Colorado Eagle. Welcome aboard Jay: https://thesinbin.net/mountain-division-final-preview-1-allen-americans-v-2-colorado-eagles/
– The second round of the playoffs got underway last night in the North Division finals as Brampton beat Manchester at home by a score of 3-2 in overtime.
– The other three division finals series start tonight with South Carolina at Florida, Fort Wayne at Toledo and Colorado at Allen. All of the division finals series are a 2-3-2 format with the exception of Toledo vs Fort Wayne which is 2-2-1-1-1. The Toledo and Fort Wayne rinks are only 100 miles apart.
– In the Western Conference the teams that advanced to the second round went just as they were seeded. In the Central Division #1 seed Toledo takes on #2 Fort Wayne. Same in the Mountain Division where #1 seed Allen takes on #2 Colorado. It is a whole different story in the Eastern Conference. In the North Division #3 seed Brampton takes on #4 seed Manchester. In the South Division it is #1 seed Florida versus #3 seed South Carolina.
– Here is a really good preview of all four division finals series from the ECHL. Make sure to click on the “Series Matchup Sheets” as that will take you to lots of additional info/stats on each series: https://www.echl.com/division-finals-preview-2017-kelly-cup-playoffs
– In affiliation news, the San Jose Barracuda are also in action tonight as they resume their first round series against Stockton. The best of five series is tied 1-1 with the game tonight and Sunday afternoon in Stockton. If a game five is necessary it will be Tuesday in San Jose.
– If you are on Twitter and an Allen fan following Biscuit K9 (@FakeBiscuitK9) is a must. If you like good-natured wit and humor Biscuit K9 always comes through. His (yes BiscuitK9 is a he but that is the only hint you get) tweets are never mean spirited but he does make good use of the needle. Last night, for instance, BiscuitK9 tweeted this after it was announced the New York Islanders were changing their ECHL affiliation next season from the Missouri Mavericks to the new ECHL team, Worcester Railers. Have to admit BiscuitK9’s tweet made me chuckle a little. Sorry, not sorry. He tweeted, “What a season for the Missouri Mavericks, lost their name, lost their playoff spot and now lost their affiliate.”
DID YOU KNOW: There are Allen Americans alumni on all teams still in the ECHL playoffs. It is always good to see former Americans, who were part of a championship in Allen, do well elsewhere. Here is a list of players on the other seven teams in the ECHL division finals.
Brampton – Reggie Traccitto
Colorado – Darryl Bootland, Matt Register, Casey Pierro-Zabotel
Florida – Bryce Aneloski
Fort Wayne – Jamie Schaafsma, Kyle Follmer
Manchester – Daniel Doremus, *Rick Pinkston, Tony Turgeon
South Carolina – Danny Federico
Toledo – J.P. LaFontaine
*on playoff eligible list but hasn’t played, loaned to Milwaukee (AHL)