ALLEN, TX – The day that Allen fans wait for each year has finally arrived. It is time for playoff hockey as the Americans take on the Idaho Steelheads tonight at the Allen Event Center. Game time is 7:05 pm.
To say that Allen fans have been spoiled by success over the years would be an understatement. The Americans have made the playoffs for seven straight years. The team has opened the playoffs at home all seven years. The Americans made it to the CHL championship final in their first year (2010) before losing to Rapid City and they have won their league championship for the last three years (two in the CHL and one in the ECHL).
Steve Martinson is in his fourth year as the head coach in Allen and has never lost a playoff series. He is 10-0.
The Americans have home ice advantage in this series with Idaho and that just may come in handy. While going 10-0 in playoff series in the last three years, Allen has gone to a game seven five times. They have won all five times. Coach Martinson has never lost a game seven at home in 20 years of coaching and has lost just one game seven on the road in 20 years. Best not to take his team to a game seven.
Is winning the first game of a playoff series important? The answer is obviously yes but losing the first game of a series certainly doesn’t mean you lose the series. When Allen won the CHL championship in 2013 they lost the first game in all three series that year. To make matters worse all three playoff series started at the AEC. Allen lost to Denver 2-1 in the first game of the opening round but won the series 4-1. In the second round, the Americans lost the first game to Missouri 5-1 but won the series 4-3. In the championship final, the Americans lost the first game to Wichita 4-1 but went on to win the Presidents’ Cup in game seven with that dramatic 3-2 overtime goal by Todd Robinson.
If you didn’t get the chance to attend or listen to the radio show yesterday from Dodge City of McKinney here is a recap. Tommy Daniels along with myself and Rick Gosselin from the Dallas Morning News spent an hour talking with coach Steve Martinson about the playoffs and the match up with Idaho. Gosselin was not scheduled to attend but showed up on his own to show support for the Americans. Rick is a nationally known sports writer who is very busy with his job at the Dallas Morning News writing about the Stars, Mavericks, Rangers, and Cowboys and appearing regularly on TV and radio talking sports. It is great he takes time out of his schedule to support the Americans. Rick has written several feature articles about the Americans over the years including one about Steve Martinson back in 2014, “The best coach in the Dallas area is someone you have never heard of” which you can check out here:http://allenamericansblog.blogspot.com/2014/10/final-roster-update-eight-players.html
Coach Martinson indicated during the radio show that Jake Hildebrand will get the start in game one but Riley Gill will also get a start, Martinson just isn’t sure in which game. Martinson hasn’t made a final decision on whether he will go with seven defensemen or ten forwards in the game tonight. He did talk about the impact Kyle Neuber has had in games with his abilty to deliver checks and clog the space in front of the net. At an imposing 6′ 3″ 250 pounds, Nueber is capable of some real devastation with legal hits. Wouldn’t be surprised if Neuber is in the lineup. It is however, a tough decision as Martinson would like to play all seven healthy defensemen. Coach Martinson expects to get Nikita Jevpalovs assigned to Allen by San Jose at some point but is not sure when. The Barracuda have two games remaining (Saturday & Sunday) and are fighting to make the playoffs.
I was also on a radio show in Boise last night to talk about the upcoming series with the Steelheads. John Mulhern is the host of the Bud Light Idaho Steelheads Hockey show on 1350 AM KTIK in Boise. He is also the home game ice level color analyst for the Steelheads. John’s show will be on every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday until the season is over. Here is the link to John’s radio show: http://www.ktik.com/2014/10/20/steelheads-audio/ It is on from 7:00 – 8:00 pm Allen time and would be a great way to get the other side of this series. If you are on twitter give John a follow (@Mulhern4) as you will get some great info about this series with Idaho.
– The ECHL will go with a two referee system for all playoff games this year. The referees scheduled tonight are Stephen Reneau (#17) and Mike Sheehan (#11). The linesman are Brian Bull (#49) and Alex Black (#63).
– There are just two ECHL games scheduled tonight. In addition to Allen vs Idaho, the #3 seed (Colorado Eagles) kick of their series against the #6 seed (Utah Grizzlies).
– In the only game scheduled last night the #6 seed in the Eastern Conference (Adirondack Thunder) took a 1-0 series lead by defeating the #3 seed (Manchester Monarchs) by a score of 3-2.
– Congrats to Missouri coach Richard Matvichuk as he is the recipient of the 2015-16 John Brophy Award as the ECHL’s Coach of the Year. Well deserved for sure.
– I have some extra tickets for the game tonight courtesy of the Allen Americans. They are in section 119 and they are free. Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested.
DID YOU KNOW: Allen has opened the playoffs at home all seven years of their existence. Here are the year-by-year results:
March 26, 2010 – Lost to Laredo 4-3
March 31, 2011 – Beat Rio Grande Valley 4-1
March 30, 2012 – Beat Texas 5-0
March 28, 2013 – Lost to Denver 2-1
April 2, 2014 – Beat Brampton 7-2
April 14, 2015 – Beat Tulsa 6-2
April 14, 2016 – ???? Idaho ????