It is game day for the Allen Americans as they take on the South Carolina Stingrays in game four of the Kelly Cup Finals with a 7:05 pm ET/6:05 pm CT puck drop. The game will be played in North Charleston, South Carolina which like Allen is a northern suburb of a larger city (Charleston). Similar to Allen, the Stingrays play in a city owned facility (North Charleston Colisuem) which opened in 1993 and seats 10,537 for hockey.
Trailing in the series 2-1, to say this is a must win game for the Americans would be an understatement.
If there is a single key to victory for Allen it would be finding a way to slow down the Stingrays top line of Wayne Simpson, Andrew Rowe and Derek DeBlois. They are ranked #1, #2, & #4 in playoff scoring and Simpson has already broken the single season playoff scoring record (34) that has stood for 15 years. Simpson has 36 points, Rowe 32 points and DeBlois 26 points.
A look at the first three games of the series proves this point. In game one this line had three of four goals and seven of ten points for South Carolina and the Stingrays won 4-3. In game two this line had no goals and just one assist and Allen won the game 5-2. Game three had the top line scoring three of four goals and seven of ten points again and the Stingrays won the game 4-1. It is easier said than done but if Allen is to be successful they must control the Stingrays top line and not let them dominate the game as they have done in the two South Carolina victories.
Special teams are always a big key to any playoff game and based on the first three games in Allen the Americans are winning that battle. Allen is 3-10 on the power play while holding South Carolina to 0-9 on the power play. The question that arises is whether Allen can maintain that excellence on the road. The Americans have one of the worst road power plays in the playoffs having gone just 2-31 (6.5%) and their road penalty kill is 84.4% (7-45). In Allen’s favor is the fact that South Carolina has only killed penalties at 77.8% at home during the playoffs allowing opponents to go 8-36 on the power play.
If you want a simple predictor of who will win the game all you have to do is watch for the first goal. Allen has won close to 90% of the games when they score the first goal with a record in the playoffs of 8-1. The first period has been the weakest for Allen, scoring just 13 goals compared to 28 in the second period and 34 in the third period.
If you just look at their record in the playoffs you might conclude both teams will struggle in the game tonight. On the road Allen is 4-4 and at home South Carolina is 4-6. And if you are really grasping at statistical straws the Stingrays have lost game four in the first three rounds of the playoffs. Allen is 2-1 in game fours.
On the road in the playoffs Allen has scored 26 goals and allowed 29 goals. At home South Carolina has scored 30 goals but allowed 37 goals.
It is no coincidence that the two teams in the Kelly Cup Finals are the most prolific scoring teams in the playoffs. Allen is #1 averaging 3.62 goals per game and South Carolina is #2 averaging 3.35 goals per game.
Had the chance to exchange messages with coach Steve Martinson as the team was leaving the rink after an early evening practice last night. Here are a few of his thoughts:
– A 7:05 p.m. game time start is a bonus for us after traveling all night on the bus
– We worked on some adjustments as we need to improve is some areas
– The key to success is we need everyone pulling on the rope!
– With this being such an important game the guys that are going well will get a lot of ice time
The referees scheduled for the game tonight are Frederic Leblanc (#25) and Ryan Murphy (#10). The same pair worked game two in Allen which the Americans won 5-2.
DID YOU KNOW: While it seems the playoff attendance has been disappointing the ECHL average attendance in the playoffs has increased every year for the last five years. Of the sixteen teams that made the playoffs this year Allen is ranked #6 with an average attendance of 3,348 and South Carolina is #14 with just 2,678. Here is the average ECHL playoff attendance by year.
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