ALLEN, Texas – After I saw the final score between Tulsa and Idaho last night (Tulsa lost 4-1) I started thinking about how Allen, Wichita, and Tulsa must feel as they squander opportunity after opportunity to win games and make the playoffs. The fact is no matter how much these three teams lose, two of them are going to qualify for the Kelly Cup playoffs. I know the saying goes that once you make the playoffs anything can happen, but the way these teams have been playing it is hard to see any them getting past the first round.
– Vince Lombardi used to say, “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing.”
John Wooden’s quote about losing should give Allen, Wichita and Tulsa hope as they approach the final two games of the regular season this weekend. “Losing is only temporary and not all-encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it, and try hard not to lose the same way again. Then you must have the self-control to forget about it.”
Everyone loses. It is how you come back from those losses that define you.
– One team’s misfortune is another’s opportunity, and there have been a lot of opportunities given to Allen, Wichita and Tulsa to make the playoffs recently. None of them have grasped the opportunity thus far. Wichita has lost six of their last seven games. Allen has lost six of their last nine games. Tulsa has lost four of their last six games. You combine it all together and these three teams contending for the playoffs have won six and lost 16.
– The true measure of success is how you bounce back from failure and the good news for Allen, Wichita and Tulsa is they all have a chance to make the playoffs if they play well this weekend. As a reminder, they all have two games remaining. Allen is at home to take on Idaho who has a winning percentage of .664. Wichita is on the road to take on Colorado who has a winning percentage of .700. Tulsa is at home to take on Rapid City who has a winning percentage of .371.
– Tulsa has the easiest schedule but they have no margin of error because they trail Allen and Wichita by three points. The Oilers must win both games against Rapid City and hope the Americans and Thunder lose. When it comes to tiebreakers, Allen is in the most precarious position and Wichita the strongest. Wichita will win any ties after the games on Saturday pure and simple. The only way Allen and Tulsa could be tied is for Allen to get just one point against Idaho and Tulsa get four against Rapid City. They would be tied with 77 points and the first tiebreaker is wins minus shootout wins.
As of today, they are tied with 31 wins. If Tulsa wins twice and Allen gets just one point this weekend, the Oilers would pass Allen in wins so the tiebreaker would go to them unless both wins come in a shootout and don’t count. Highly unlikely but if that happens Allen would make the playoffs on the second tiebreaker (goal differential). It sounds complicated because it is. The solution for Allen is to get two points in any fashion against Idaho and they are in the playoffs.
– I have had several questions about what happened to Tyler Poulsen and why was he suspended by the team. Tyler went back to school (University of Alabama – Huntsville) to finish up his school work for the year. The reason Allen suspended Tyler rather than release him is by doing a suspension it allows Allen to keep his rights.
– The other question I have been asked has to do with the number of amateurs a team can sign to tryout contracts. Many fans are under the impression only two amateurs can be signed. That was the rule in the Central Hockey League but is not the case in the ECHL.
– I have also been getting a lot of questions about the playoff roster which is due on Monday (3:00 pm EDT). I am sure the coaches for Allen, Wichita, and Tulsa are all working on their playoff rosters even though one of them will not make the playoffs. The playoff roster is limited to 23 players. Two factors for coaches to consider is whether injured players should be given a roster spot and should spots be saved for players in the AHL. The way roster spots work for AHL players is a little different in that they will not be named on the playoff roster but will be designated on a “playoff eligible list”. There will be “slots” saved that can be filled by any qualified AHL player the coach puts on a the playoff eligible list. For example, there could be five players on the list but only three slots saved. Once the AHL player is available (end of AHL season or loss in the playoffs), the coach has to decide to add them to the playoff roster and use up one of the three slots or pass on the player. Once the three reserved slots are filled no other players can be added later. It is definitely a chess game for coaches to decide what AHL players to put on the list and how many slots to save.
– The race for Brabham Cup as the ECHL regular season champion has come down to two teams, the Florida Everblades with 106 points and Toledo Walleye with 103 points. Florida is the odds-on favorite with a three-point lead and three games remaining all against Jacksonville (one at home). Toledo has two games remaining (Fort Wayne at home and Indy on the road).
– There are four days remaining in the regular season, but only the South Division has all four playoff teams determined.
In the North Division, Worcester and Wheeling are battling for the fourth playoff spot with Wheeling barely hanging on. The Central Division only has two teams qualified (Toledo and Fort Wayne) for the playoffs with Cincinnati, Indy, Kalamazoo and Kansas City vying for the third and fourth seeds. Cincinnati is pretty much in and Kansas City is pretty much out though mathematically things could go a different way. The real battle to follow is Indy and Kalamazoo. As fate would have it, they play each other in the last game of the season on Sunday and it could be for a spot in the playoffs. Finally, the Mountain Division has Allen, Wichita, and Tulsa battling for the final two playoff spots.
– If you look at the Western Conference standings, it is apparent the top two teams in both divisions are far superior to the rest of the division if you look at points earned. In the Central Division, Toledo has a 24-point lead on third place and Fort Wayne has a 15-point lead over third place.
In the Mountain Division, Colorado has a 22-point lead over third place and Idaho has a 17-point lead over third place. There are always upsets in the playoffs but the four teams at the top of the Western Conference (Toledo, Fort Wayne, Colorado, Idaho) will all be heavy favorites in the first round. If you had to pick an upset candidate, it would be Fort Wayne who has been in a slump going 3-4-3-0 in their last 10 games.
– I will have a complete game preview of Allen vs. Idaho tomorrow, but suffice it to say Allen will be facing the hottest team in the ECHL this weekend. After beating the Oilers in Tulsa last night 4-1 the Steelheads have won eight in a row and 10 of their last 11 games.
DID YOU KNOW: In the last four ECHL seasons (2014-18) just five players have scored 30 or more goals twice. Two are from the Allen Americans. Here is the list.
Chad Costello Allen Americans
Greger Hanson Allen Americans
Shawn Szydlowski Fort Wayne Komets
Justin Taylor Kalamazoo Wings
Dane Fox Kalamazoo Wings & Kansas City Mavericks
In the last four ECHL seasons, five players have scored more than 40 goals. Two are from the Allen Americans. Here is the list.
Gary Steffes (44) Allen Americans
Chad Costello (41) Allen Americans
David Pacan (41) Brampton Beast
Brendan O’Donnell (41) Florida Everblades
Adam Pleskach (41) Tulsa Oilers