|Chad Costello gets congratulations from his family and a fist bump from son for winning ECHL leading scorer award - photo by Lauren Lyssy|
With the eyes of the entire ECHL on them the Allen Americans and Tulsa Oilers kicked off the 2014-2015 Kelly Cup playoff season last night with Allen, the Western Conference #1 seed, dominating play and coming away with a 6-2 victory. Over the course of the regular season the keys to victory were mentioned over and over and the game last night embodied most of them. Here is a list:
- Get off to a good start: Allen wins 85% of their games when scoring the first goal. Vincent Arseneau scored the first goal of the game at 6.11 of the first period.
|Vincent Arseneau scores the first playoff goal - photo by scenebykimberly.com|
- Finish your checks: Allen set the tone early in the game that they were going to be tough to play against.
- Win the special teams battle: Allen excelled all year on the power play and penalty kill and last night was no exception. Allen was 2-7 (28.6%) on the power play and killed off all four Tulsa power play opportunities.
- Get shots on the net: Allen out shot Tulsa in all three periods for a game total of 41-21.
- In key games your best players have to be your best players: Goal scorers for Allen were Arseneau, Spencer Asuchak (2), Chris Crane, Chad Costello and Gary Steffes.
|Chris Crane puts the puck in the net - photo by scenebykimberly.com|
- Don't take stupid penalties: As the most penalized team in the ECHL this has been difficult for the Americans but last night the penalties were 26 minutes and nine infractions for Tulsa and and 10 minutes and five infractions for Allen.
- Dominate the second period: This is not so much a key to victory but a pattern that has been there all year. Allen has scored 23 more goals in the second period than any other team in the ECHL. The Americans out scored their opponents 120-68 in the second period during the regular season. It happened again last night as the Americans scored four unanswered goals in the second period after Tulsa had taken a 2-1 lead.
- Get good goal tending: Former Kelly Cup MVP Riley Gill was good in goal stopping nineteen of twenty one shots.
- Be aggressive but don't gamble: With so many skilled offensive players on this team both upfront and in the back it is easy to gamble and get caught with odd man rushes. Allen limited odd man rushes last night and defensemen had assists on five of the six goals and the primary assist on two of the goals.
Here are the video highlights with all of the goals:
If the Americans continue to play as they did last night this could be a short series but if they let up and don't follow the keys above a talented offensive team like Tulsa will make them pay.
STEVE MARTINSON'S POST GAME COMMENTS
- I thought we could have had two or three more goals in the first period but instead Tulsa tied the game on a play where the puck took a bad bounce and we weren't in great position because it looked like we had possession of the puck. They ended up getting a goal on that play so it was a 1-1 game at the end of the first period.
- It was nice having a big second period with four goals as it made for a less stressful third period.
- There were a lot of positives from the game tonight and maybe the most important is we have three lines that can score. I felt like every shift that went on the ice there was a possibility of creating a scoring chance. With the lineup we have it is going to be tough to defend us.
- We have a lot of different ways to come at a team. I thought we were physical tonight led by Arseneau but all of our physical guys stepped up. Asuchak had a great game both scoring and with his physical play. He got two goals but could have had a couple more.
- The power play goal by Steffes was typical for Gary. It is on his stick and it is in the net as he went top shelf on the goalie. That goal saved our power play percentage for the night.
- It is difficult when you have to scratch guys like Clarke tonight. Everyone deserves to play during the playoffs and it is painful if you are not in the lineup. It would nice if you could dress one more player for the playoffs. You get to increase the roster to twenty three but don't get to increase the number of players that can dress. In the AHL they get to dress two extra players for the playoffs. I would like to see the ECHL change the rule so we could dress one extra player in the playoffs.
- Toronto beat Iowa tonight so Milwaukee has been eliminated from the playoffs which means Gary Steffes will not go back to Milwaukee and will be with us for the rest of the playoffs.
- Ian Schultz has been injured and not playing recently for Iowa but as soon as he is cleared from his injury which should be any day he will be coming back to Allen. Tanner Eberle is doing well in Bridgeport and they are pleased with his play even though he has not been scoring. Bridgeport will not be in the AHL playoffs so we will see Eberle back soon as well. Bottom line is we will be adding depth and will have more tools in the toolbox soon.
- I put everyone that is eligible to return to Allen on the "Playoff Eligible" list (Schultz, Schwartz, Dell, Eberle, Anderson, Turgeon) but I have only three roster slots saved for all of these players. Once I bring three players from the playoff eligible list back that will constitute the final roster. With the ECHL rule of saving slots without naming players it provides more flexibility in case one of the players on the list gets injured or never becomes available because their team makes a deep playoff run. It is a really good new rule they have put in place since the last time I coached in the ECHL. It is a fair way to treat teams that send a lot of players to the AHL.
- I think we have a pretty good playoff team. For the month when we were not winning consistently it was because we were not hard to play against. By adding guys like Asuchak, Arseneau and Stevenson we have become more physical and harder to play against. Adding Schultz back in the lineup will help even more. So I like our playoff team because we have a better balance of skill guys and physical guys with skill. I think to be good in the playoffs you need to be big, fast, tough and skilled and you need a good balance of all of those traits and not be too much one way or another. Our playoff roster has the right balance and we will get better going forward when we get some of these AHL guys back.
- The more depth you have the easier it is to play on the road. That is way we have had a good road record as we have pretty good depth.
- In addition to the Allen vs Tulsa game one other playoff series starts tonight as Utah takes on Idaho. These happen to be the two series that are not using a 2-3-2 format. Allen vs Tulsa is 2-2-1-1-1 and Utah vs Idaho is 1-2-2-1-1.
- Congrats to coach Steve Martinson who was one of the five finalists for the ECHL Coach of the year and to Toledo coach Derek Lalonde for winning the award.
- Today the ECHL Defenseman of the Year will be announced. Another opportunity for an Allen player to be recognized.
- With his goal last night Gary Steffes has now scored 49 goals between the Allen regular season (44), in the AHL in Milwaukee (4) and the Allen playoffs (1). It is only a matter of time and maybe tonight when Gary hits the magical 50 mark.
- Talked to a lot of fans last night still thinking about making the trip for one or both of the games in Tulsa this weekend. There will never be a better opportunity to go on a playoff road trip so take the leap and join what will be a big group heading to Tulsa. For reduced price tickets and to sit with the other Allen fans contact Todd Streets in the Tulsa ticket office at 918-632-7825 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The crowd for the game last night was 4012 which was good for a Tuesday night game in Allen. Have never seen a time when the Allen staff, players, players families and season ticket holders but in so much effort to get the word out about these two midweek playoff games. It is nice to see all of the effort pay off. Let's hope the crowd is even bigger tonight.
DID YOU KNOW: The ECHL utilizes two referees in both the Conference Finals and the Kelly Cup Finals.
|Spencer Asuchak all alone in front, "he scores" - photo by Lauren Lyssy|