Sunday, May 11, 2014

Allen Wins, You Will Walk Together Forever

THE CHAMPS - photo by
It wasn't as dramatic as last year but it was quite a feat as the Allen Americans won their second consecutive Presidents' Cup last night with a 5-2 win over the Denver Cutthroats to win the series 4-1. How cool is it to celebrate the one year anniversary of winning the franchise's first championship by getting a sold out crowd of 6125 together to win a second championship. The goal scorers were Kerbashian (2), Bootland, Schaafsma and Lessard.

I have so many thoughts about the game, the team, the coach, the fans and the season that this will be a long rambling post so I ask for forgiveness up front. I will save all of my thanks yous for another post I will do tomorrow. Here goes:

- To the Denver team a heartfelt congratulations on an outstanding year. A great hockey team that made it to the CHL finals in only their second season in the league. Definitely a team to be reckoned with in the future.

- The one player all of the coaches, players and fans were most happy for was no doubt Daniel Tetrault. A natural born leader, in his fourteenth year of professional hockey, he earned his first championship on his third trip to the finals. His "will" and his "want" were so obvious on the ice you could cut it with a knife. In addition to leading all players in the playoffs with a plus/minus of +19 he contributed points in four of the five games in the finals. In the locker room the team counted down each victory during the playoffs starting with 12 by having a player change the number after each victory. When it was time to change the number from 1 to 0 after the championship victory last night the honor went to Tetrault. The 34 year old veteran, the oldest player on the team was also the ironman of the team, playing in every game this year. That total is 66 regular season and 17 playoff games. What a way to go out, winning a championship. And what a nice touch by captain Mike Berube as the first person he gave the cup to after it was presented to him by Jim Wiley, CHL Director of Hockey Operations was Daniel Tetrault.

- It was such an unreal feeling in the AEC as the game ended with all of the excitement but I also sensed the pride that was running through the fans. I think everyone felt part of the team at that moment. It was quite special.

- As much as I enjoyed watching the players celebrate on the ice it was also great to see how excited the rest of the staff was, like equipment manager Kacee Coberly and his helper Jordon Dutton, trainer Ossama Kassab, bus driver Scott Alexander, and all of the front office staff.

- For Kacee Coberly it was his last hockey game as he is headed home to Oklahoma to begin a second career outside of hockey that is more family friendly. No more long road trips and late nights at the rink. What a way to go out for Kacee with a second championship and also being voted the best equipment manager in the CHL this year. Good luck Kacee, you will be missed.

- It was also great to see all of the wives, girlfriends, friends and particularly family celebrate with the guys. I saw tears of joy 30 minutes after the game was over. How special for all of them!

- On this Mothers Day a special acknowledgement to the moms on the team. Yes, the hockey season is grueling for the players but imagine what it is like for the moms with young children to deal with late night hockey games, long road trips, all of the "guy" activities and after hours commitments. How about the team giving the wives and girlfriends a championship necklace this year to go along with the championship rings the players receive. And no I wasn't put up to this by one of the wives. Well, maybe one of them suggested it would be a good idea but I wholeheartedly agree.

- Congratulations to Jamie Schaafsma on being named the playoff MVP. I always call Jamie a good luck charm as he has now been in the championship finals for six straight years. Jamie's story this year somewhat mirrors what happened last year with Brian McMillin. Jamie had a slow start with only one goal in the first nineteen games of the season, his playing time was reduced and he missed some games. He stayed positive, worked hard and his play the last part of the season and the playoffs led to his MVP selection. For the record, Jamie led the team in scoring during the playoffs with twenty points (10 goals 10 assists).  And we all found out this year he is a pretty darn good defenseman when he pitched in when needed because of injuries.

- Another player that is great to see win a ring is Greger Hanson who had an outstanding playoffs with seventeen points (7 goals 10 assists). If you remember, Greger did not get to play in game seven last year when he was with Wichita as he was injured in game six (broken jaw). His speed, quickness and tenacity were evident in this year's playoffs and that wrap around goal to win game three in the finals will be talked about for years to come. Greger had four game winning goals in the playoffs.

- It was nice to see players from the past at the game last night including Jordie Benn (2009-2010), Chris Kaufman (2009-2010), and Jason Deitsch (2011-2013)


Coach Martinson was kind enough to take some time from the celebration to come into the season ticket holder lounge after the game and share his thoughts. It was great to see this old school, nose to the grindstone, grizzled veteran of many battles both as a player and a coach with a big smile on his face. He knows what works as a coach and he lives and dies with his approach which is definitely old school. As he has said many times I stay out of the players locker room,  I expect them to do the right thing, I am not a babysitter, I don't spend time with the players on the bus, I don't eat with the players, I have enough friends so I don't need the players to be my friend. I'm sure the championship means a lot to Steve even though it is old hat to him. This is his second championship with Allen for a total of eight as a coach to go along with the two championships he won as a player.  This guy is a winner and he knows how to coach and more importantly he knows how to recruit players. He deserves a long term contract and I hope whoever owns this team gives him one. Here are a few of the comments from Martinson:

- What a great crowd and it really helped us tonight. Momentum is such a big part of hockey and the crowd helped the guys keep going. Once we got that first goal you could feel the crowd come alive.

- Everyone on this team, including the injured guys, contributed to this championship. Different guys throughout the series made plays, young guys, veterans, those that had lots of ice time and those that didn't.

- You need veteran guys in the playoffs to lead by example and that is what Daniel Tetrault did along with many others. It is always good to have youth on your team and they carried us early in the year but at this time of year you really want  your veteran guys to step up and lead by example and Tetrault did that for us.

- It was hard to get going in the first period as we had to kill eight minutes of penalties. Penalty killers upfront is one area where did not have a lot of depth this year.

- I thought playing three games in four nights really favored our team. They have that one big line and in the playoffs that is a lot of skating for that line. I have had some teams that have had the top scorers in the league and if they go cold in the playoffs you don't have the depth. Having three games in four nights on home ice with last change and our depth was hard to overcome.

- We had a lot of guys who contributed and made plays during the playoffs but Jamie Schaafsma had an outstanding playoffs and was deserving of the MVP. He had a slow start to the year but the second half of the season he was one of our best players. He scores, kills penalties, plays both sides of the puck and has a good personality. For me, it is really nice to see a guy like Jamie have success.

- Bryan Pitton certainly could have been the MVP as he played great. Once we went down to one goalie he grabbed it and took control. I am really happy for him as he had some tough times as many goalies have early in their career in the ECHL. I have never had a more low maintenance goalie than Bryan.


- Kale Kerbashian was named the games #1 star last night. It was fun to see Kale get stronger and stronger each game since he returned from injury six games ago. Last might he had two goals, an assist and was a +4.

- Having lived through this championship euphoria last year everyone knows what is about to happen and that is lots of change. That is why I like so much about Fred Shero's quote, "Win today and we walk together forever." This team will be connected forever and their accomplishments remembered but make no mistake changes always happen and this year probably more than normal. It is sad to know so many of those we have come to know and enjoy will not be back. But for a couple of days lets celebrate and thank the guys for a job well done.

Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: In the odd stat category, how about winning the Presidents' Cup without scoring a single power play goal in the entire final series as Allen went 0-26 on the power play.

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