Monday, March 9, 2015

Allen Readies for Rapid City, Remaining Schedule Breakdown, More AHL Moves, EIHL Playoff Primer

 Cardiff Devils & Trevor Hendrikx (front row center) Win Challenge Cup - See "DID YOU KNOW" Below

- The Allen Americans are spending as relaxing a week as you can on the road in minor pro hockey taking on the Rapid City Rush Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday before heading home to Allen. The Americans will have an hour or so of ice time this morning for a practice in preparation for the game tomorrow night and then plenty of free time. The weather in Rapid City will be very similar to Allen with lows in the 40's and highs in the 60's and plenty of sunshine.

- Will have a full game preview tomorrow but suffice it to say Rapid City has been playing some of the best hockey in the Central Division for a while. It wasn't long ago the Rush were in a fight to stay out of last place and now they are battling for second place just two points behind Quad City. The Rush have won twelve of their last seventeen games and two of the five losses were in overtime. This three game series will be a challenge for Allen.

- With the Central Division title all but wrapped up with an eighteen point lead what does Allen have to play for? The most tangible thing the Americans are playing for is home ice in the playoffs. Allen has 83 points and a three point lead over Fort Wayne, Florida, Reading, and Idaho who all have 80 points. Allen will have to play well down the stretch to get home ice advantage over Idaho in the Western Conference and over all of the other teams if the Americans can  make it to the finals. Just as important as home ice advantage is the fact that the transition from the CHL to the ECHL was difficult with such short notice for putting a team together and coach Martinson would like nothing better than to finish the year with the most points in the league.

- With four teams (Quad City, Rapid City, Wichita, Tulsa) battling for three playoff spots the Americans will have a lot to say about the outcome as fourteen of Allen's remaining sixteen games are with these four teams. Here is the home and away breakdown for the sixteen remaining Allen games.
                        Home     Away
Rapid City -       2             3
Wichita -            2             3
Tulsa -               2             2
Missouri -          1             -
Brampton -        1             -


- For those following all of the AHL franchise moves two more changes may take place this week. According to a story in the Winnipeg Free Press the approval for the shift of the Winnipeg Jets' AHL franchise back to Winnipeg for this fall looks to be only days away as part of two transfer proposals. One will have the Jets' AHL team (St. John's IceCaps) relocate to Winnipeg. To fill the void in St. John's for the 2015-2016 season the Montreal Canadiens are proposing to move their AHL franchise from Hamilton to St. John's.

- Rylan Schwartz and Aaron Dell were back in the line up yesterday for the Worcester Sharks. Aaron  stopped 22 of 25 shots and Schwartz had an assist but the Sharks lost to Providence 3-2. Spencer Asuchak was not in the line up for Providence as he has missed the last three games with an injury.

DID YOU KNOW:  Saw lots of congratulations on social media for Trevor Hendrikx as his team (Cardiff Devils) won the EIHL Challenge Cup yesterday. It reminded me of when Bruce Graham tried to explain the playoff syetem in the EIHL several  years ago which is very different than the CHL or ECHL playoffs. The name of the league in the United Kingdom is the  "Elite Ice Hockey League" (EIHL). It is a ten team league with teams from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. More former Allen players have played in the EIHL than any other league in Europe. Graham, Berube, Pitton, McMillin, Hendrikx, Dacosta, Whitley, Effinger, Zion, and Brown is just a partial list of the former players that have played in the EIHL. 

There are three different championships you can win in the EIHL. The first is the Challenge Cup championship and it can be best explained as certain regular season games (less than fifteen) are designated challenge cup games which lead to a one game final and that is what Cardiff won yesterday. While it is important and great to win any championship, it is the least prestigious of the three. After all the EIHL regular season will not be over until the end of March. The second EIHL championship is for having the most points in the regular season (like the  Governor's Cup in the CHL). Cardiff (Hendrikx) is currently in third place and Nottingham (Graham & Berube) is in fourth place in the EIHL standings. The Braehead Clan (Scotland) is currently in first place.

The third and most important EIHL championship which is equivalent of the CHL Presidents' Cup or ECHL Kelly Cup is called the British Championship. It is not nearly as protracted as the playoffs in North America and would be more akin to a soccer playoff. Here is how it works. Eight teams make the playoffs with the first round being a two game home and home series with  #1 vs #8, #2 vs #7, etc. If the teams split the two games it is aggregate goals that win. The four winners of the first round then go to Nottingham where they always hold the semifinals and finals which are on the same weekend. This year it will be April 4th and 5th. The two semi final games will be held on the 4th with the two winners playing for the championship on the 5th. The entire post season playoff is just four games for the winner. 

Winning all three championships, which is called the Grand Slam, is rarely accomplished. It has only happened once in the last ten years and that was by the Nottingham Panthers in 2012-2013, the first season Bruce Graham was on the team.

There you have it, more info on the EIHL playoffs than you ever wanted to know. Hope I did Bruce proud in my explanation. He reads the blog on occasion so he or somebody else will correct anything I may have wrong.

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