There will be a complete Allen vs Fort Wayne series preview tomorrow, but today I wanted to cover a myriad of topics in what could be called the good, the bad and the ugly. Won’t put the topics into  those categories so you can decide for yourself where they fall. It may be a case of “where you sit is where you stand” if you know what I mean. Here goes:

– The ECHL final four is now set with the final two teams decided last night. South Carolina and Wheeling earned spots in the Eastern Conference final in dramatic fashion. Both teams had to win game six at home just to have a game seven. Here are the game seven results. South Carolina beat Adirondack 3-2 in double overtime. If double overtime isn’t dramatic enough, South Carolina’s starting goalie was injured in the first overtime and had to be replaced by 20 year old rookie, Vitek Vanecek. Vanecek is not just any rookie as he was named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team. He stopped all eight shots he faced and earned the win. Not to be outdone, Wheeling won their game seven against Reading which also went to overtime. Riley Brace scored with just 37.1 seconds remaining in the first overtime to give the Nailers a 4-3 win over the Royals.

– The conference finals pit the #2 seed South Carolina Stingrays vs the #5 seed Wheeling Nailers in the Eastern Conference and the #2 seed Fort Wayne Komets vs the #4 seed Allen Americans in the Western Conference. Getting to the final four of 28 ECHL teams is quite an accomplishment for all four franchises. Congrats to all.

The “stinkbait” evidence.

– If you follow social media you may have heard about “poogate” or “stinkbaitgate” in Missouri on Tuesday. Someone in the Mavericks organization decided it might help their team win game six if they put stink bait (a foul smelling concoction used for fishing that looks like poo)  in the Americans locker room and in the coaches office. When the Americans showed up for the game they were obviously aggravated with the smell and much more aggravated when they found the cause of the smell. The stinkbait was hidden under player stalls in the locker room and under the furniture in the coaches office. Since the rooms are kept locked there is little question who was responsible. Seems pretty childish for a Missouri organization that prides itself in being a classy organization and it certainly does not reflect well on the ECHL.  I don’t have all of the facts but I did hear coach Matvichuk was aggravated with all of the Americans fans that were sitting behind the Mavericks bench in Allen and making noise with cowbells, horns, etc and asked that something be done about it. My understanding of the Americans’ position is these are fans who buy tickets and can make noise if they choose. The row behind the visitors bench is left empty, the fans are told they cannot touch or pound on the glass, they cannot lean over the glass, and they have to keep quiet once the puck is in play. The Americans staff had a briefing with the ushers prior to each game and also monitored the situation during the games to make sure the rules were not violated.  I also heard there was some concern expressed by Missouri related to the visitors locker room. Not sure of the details but with the Texas Revolution indoor football team playing playing on Saturday between the Allen vs Missouri games on Friday and Sunday it had to be disruptive in the visitors locker room. Not sure how all of this is connected but it was obvious if you watched the handshake line after Allen won the series on Tuesday, the coaches were not happy with each other. It qualified as a handshake if you look close but no eye contact and no words were exchanged. I am sure some choice words have been uttered by both sides that would not be suited for children (or most grown ups). The action that Missouri took for whatever reason seems a little beneath a professional hockey team in a game six of the playoffs. Whether a fine or other discipline will be taken against the Mavericks by the ECHL remains to be seen and even if the league did take some action it may not be made public. When I contacted ECHL Director of Communications, Joe Babik for a statement about the incident in Missouri he told me, “The ECHL is in the process of gathering information to see what transpired.” When I talked to Allen coach Steve Martinson he was not happy about the incident but felt the best revenge was winning the game and the series. Martinson’s exact quote was one of his typical quips, “Don’t pour gas on the fire if you don’t want a bigger fire.”

– I probably don’t have the best perspective on this because since starting the blog in 2012 I have never experienced the Americans losing the last game of the season. The day will come but it just has not happened yet. I have seen so many messages posted on social media the last few days about how well someones favorite team did this year and how proud they are of their team. I am sure I would say the same thing but do you really think all these fans are happy with the season and proud when their #1 seeded team (Toledo Walleye, Missouri Mavericks, Washington Capitals, Dallas Stars) lose in the first or second round of the playoffs? I can see proud but happy has to be a stretch. I liked the headline of a story by Mike Heika on this issue, “Observations: Stars need both support and tough love from the fan base to take the nextstep.” Here is a link to his story: http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallas-stars/stars/2016/05/12/observations-stars-need-support-tough-love-fan-base-take-next-step
– Saw a quote from Fort Wayne’s great defenseman Mike Embach on social media which was interesting. Embach played against Chad Costello when they were both playing junior hockey in the USHL in 2005-06. Embach had this to say about Costello, “I know who he is. I know he is a good guy. I think Shawn Sydlowski (Fort Wayne forward) is better.” You can understand Mike sticking up for his teammate but here are the facts. This season Chad had 103 points (24 goals 79 assists) while Shawn had 75 points (25 goals 50 assists). Last season Chad had 125 points (41 goals 84 assists) while Shawn had 74 points (38 goals 36 assists). In their ECHL careers Chad Costello has played in 237 games and scored 367 points (113 goals 254 assists) while Shawn Sydlowski has played in 118 games and scored 178 points (75 goals 103 assists). If you figure out points per game over their entire ECHL career it comes out to 1.55 for Costello and .95 for Sydlowski. Throw in the fact that Chad has been selected as MVP by the league in 2012 and 2016 and by the players association (PHPA) in 2015. They are both great players who are currently tied for the playoff scoring lead with 15 points. Who will do the best in the upcoming series is anyone’s guess but if you look at their body of work it is pretty obvious Chad has been the better player.
– With the Dallas Stars loss to St.Louis last night the Allen Americans are once again the last Texas based pro hockey team still playing. Would invite the Stars fans to check out the Allen Americans. With the Dallas Stars out of the playoffs we might get to see Mike Heika, who covers the Stars for the Dallas Morning News at the Allen Event Center. Mike is a big supporter of the Allen Americans but rarely has time to get to an Allen game during the Stars hockey season.
DID YOU KNOW: The Fort Wayne Komets have the highest playoff winning percentage of the four teams remaining in the playoffs. Here is the list with the playoff record in parentheses:
.727 – Fort Wayne (8-2)

.627 – South Carolina (8-3)
.615 – Allen (8-5)
.615 – Wheeling (8-5)

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