Saturday, May 30, 2015


*Please note while Barry's name remains at the bottom of this blog, he is on vacation and the information/views posted in his absence do not reflect Barry's views or the views of the Allen Americans organization.

Is he for real? Guess he just got caught up in the moment.  The first thing that came to mind, and Mayor Terrell got it too, 1 pig for 1 cow....We don't think so.  It did not take long for the Allen Mayor to set him straight.

 Great job, Mayor Terrell!

We have seen on various forums that several fans from South Carolina will be coming to Allen. Let's all make sure to make them feel welcome to support their team.

Game preview: (all statistics are 2014-2015 playoffs only)
  • Referees for game 1 are Pierre Lambert (2nd consecutive Kelly Cup Finals appearance),Steven Reneau (working his first Finals)
  • Key players to stop for South Carolina are Wayne Simpson and Andrew Rowe. Rowe leads the playoffs in goals, Simpson leads in  assists and they are first and second in points and Pt/G.
  • Both teams are tied for playoff wins and points, 12 wins and 24 points.  Allen is 8-2-0-0 at home and the Stingrays are 8-1-1-0 on the road having won last 7 on the road
  • Each team has scored 67 goals (S.C. playing 2 additional games) however, when looking at the top nine points leaders in each team, Allen leads in Sh% at 14.5 to 12.8
  • Both teams are undefeated when leading after 2 periods.
  • The worse period in GA for both teams is the second with each giving up 25
  • Chad Costello and  Greger Hanson are tied for third in Pt/G at 1.28
  • In goalie comparison, Riley Gill and Jeff Jakaitis both have playoff SV% of .900.  Gill has the edge in GAA 2.43 to 2.77
  • One major difference in the playoffs is overtime. Allen only had 1 game go to OT, whereas S.C. played 5 OTs (including 2 double OTs and 1 triple OT).  
  • One unusual stat is that Allen is undefeated when being outshot.
  • For the power play, Allen is 25.5% at home; while S.C. is 24.0% on the road. 
  • For the penalty kill Allen is 81.8% at home; while S.C. is 80.6% on the road.
  • While Allen has a better PP and PK efficiency, Allen averages over 6 mins more in PIM per game which  equates to over 3 minor penalties 

Did you know: Congratulations are due Allen Captain Jamie Schaafsma for playing in his 7th consecutive championship finals.  Jamie has also made playoff appearances in every season of his professional career beginning in 2004-2005 with the Geleen Smoke Eaters.

Please note: With a 4:05 game start, there will be no blog tomorrow.  Blog will return on Monday.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


*Please note while Barry's name remains at the bottom of this blog, he is on vacation and the information/views posted in his absence do not reflect Barry's views or the views of the Allen Americans organization.

                                               Photo courtesy of scenebyKimberly

Oh what a night!  The Allen Americans won the Presidents' Cup the previous two seasons in the CHL and have advanced to the Kelly Cup finals.  Thus the term "threepeat". Now it's time to add the "Kelly Cup" to our vast collection.

                                                  Photo courtesy of ScenebyKimberly                                        

                                                   Photo courtesy of ScenebyKimberly

JPEG Image

                                                   Photo courtesy of Lauren Lyssy

The game started with an Americans flair as Tyler Ludwig scored the first goal  just over a minute into the first period.  Then Ontario's Tristan King evened the match in the second period. The tie would be broken less than 3 minutes later by Gary Steffes.  The 1 goal lead prevailed until the games' final minute when Chris Crane buried an empty netter.  Once again we had outstanding game performances  by Justin Baker and Riley Gill. Baker assisted on the scores by Steffes and Crane and Gill again stopped 29 of 30, shots many worthy of a highlight reel.

On behalf of the Allen American fans, we believe we speak for most, thank you to the Ontario Reign for the most entertaining hockey we have seen this season.  Wishing them continued success in the AHL next year.

The 3 stars of the game were:

  1. Gary Steffes
  2. Riley Gill
  3. Ontario's goalie Joe Cannata, who had an outstanding series
The boisterous,rowdy Allen crowd, which numbered 3248, witnessed an exciting game 7.  

Coach Martinson's post game comments:
  • Good comeback, Allen never gave up and never quit in spite of being down 3-1 in the series
  • Defense improved which contributed to Gill's SV%, goalies care about their statistics too, with this victory it is back to over .900
  • Baker continues to be a phenomenal rookie, he plays with a lot of poise
  • Waiting for the results of the Toledo/South Carolina series, currently in overtime, hoping they get tired
  • It is nice to be smiling, nice to be here (Allen), working well together Matt Canavan
  • Have had prior experience with the Bruce Taylor cup, believes it's my fifth
  • Did not like the way we played at times as we were tentative, were afraid of making mistakes, need to improve forechecking
  • We had a great crowd tonight
  • I think we have a team that can win this (Kelly Cup)
  • Hoping for a South Carolina match up only because of home ice advantage
  • Have not seen South Carolina play, will start watching S.C, video to prepare for series
  • Shultz will be back at some point
  • Trevor left game, needed stitches
  • We have been much better, not giving up odd man rushes

A belated thank you goes out to Erik Adams and Aaron Gens for their input after the morning skate this past Tuesday.

We would like to apologize to Lauren Lyssy as we have been informed of some pictures not appearing on some devices.  We believe this may be due to different media platforms.  We are working to get this corrected and will re-post the photos in a future blog.

Did you know: Where's the beef?  Utah has the heaviest team in the ECHL averaging 199.36lbs.. Bakersfield is the lightest averaging 187 lbs.. Ontario and Allen both weigh in at an average of 198.09 lbs.

FYI:  there will be no blog on Friday, May 29, 2015 but we will be back Saturday, May 30th.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015


                                                  Photo courtesy of Lauren Lyssy

*Please note while Barry's name remains at the bottom of this blog, he is on vacation and the information/views posted in his absence do not reflect Barry's views or the views of the Allen Americans organization.

If you were at the event center last night you were treated to, what some may say, was the best Allen hockey game of this entire season.  We witnessed sixty minutes of solid hockey played by both the Americans and the Reign.  This game proved that an ex-CHL team can stand strong against an established ECHL team.  For the Americans, all shifts executed their best play the entire game. Few errors were made and the result was warranted. That's exactly what we need from our team tonight. If that happens, Allen will advance to the finals.  So get everyone, you know that likes/loves hockey to the game tonight and support our Allen Americans to create a sea of red.  Our attendance was 3053, a boisterous crowd. Although a good  crowd for Tuesday night, we need to do better tonight.

Ontario's Derek Couture and Judd Blackwater and Allen's Dyson Stevenson and Aaron Gens were chirping all night long which boiled over in the final 7 seconds of the game. Gens was injured which required stitches above the eye. Couture was assessed a match penalty for attempt/deliberate injury. At the time of this writing there is no announcement from the league regarding a suspension.  According to Steve Hunt of the Press Enterprise, "After the loss, several Reign players were involved in an altercation in a hallway outside the visiting locker room". No additional information available at this time.

                                                Photo courtesy of Lauren Lyssy

Game observations:
  • Ontario's Blackwater point streak was halted at 5 and he was a -1 last night and Matt Register, playoff points leader amongst defensemen was also a -1
  • Allen played a tight game defensively with no odd man rushes allowed
  • Chad Costello and Gregor Hanson again contributed by each scoring a goal and were the #1 and #3, (respectively) stars of the game 
                                        Photo courtesy of

  • Riley Gill who was the #2 star gave a stellar performance stopping 29 of the 30 shots he faced. Several of the key stops were made in the 3rd period.

Coach Martinson's Comments
  • I think that was our best defensive game -
  • they have a pretty good PP, we did not give up odd man rushes and that was the difference in the game
  • it was fun to watch Costello score on a shot to the low blocker side of the goalie.  That was a comment after the warm-ups (low blocker, low blocker)
  • the nice thing about tonight is I don't have a lot video to review because we didn't make a lot of mistakes
  • would be nice to get PP clicking, had a couple of good opportunities but the puck didn't go in
  • fun playing game 7s
  • Gen's eye is cut, hopefully no deeper damage
  • Ian Shultz  is out for tonight's game, but he should be available by next week

In Eastern Conference final, the Toledo Walleye have dug out from a 3-0 hole, forcing a game 7 in Toledo tonight. Toledo's last 2 wins have come in overtime.

Ralph Strangis was on hand last night to sign autographs, take pictures, and the ceremonial puck drop.  The Allen American fans wish him the best in his future endeavors.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015


*Please note while Barry's name remains at the bottom of this blog, he is on vacation and the information/views posted in his absence do not reflect Barry's views or the views of the Allen Americans organization.

What can be said that has not been previously said?  Well, a lot when Allen is playing!  If Allen plays tonight as we played the third period of Sunday's game another victory should be forthcoming.

We attended the morning skate and all players were confident and upbeat!  In Coach Martinson's address to the team he emphasized the need to control the puck and space.  He reminded them that we need to play all 3 periods tonight with the same intensity as the 3rd period of Sunday night's game.

We also were lucky enough to speak with Aaron Gens for a few minutes.  Aaron gave us some thoughts about where the team is now and what they have to do.

Here are some of his thoughts:

  • We need to play smarter defensively and the offense will take care of itself. 
  • Special teams play will be huge, we have to be careful we don't beat ourselves tonight. 
  • When asked about the fan support Aaron stated that when playing in Reading and playing with his brother in Evansville, fans have always been supportive. The fan support has continued in Allen where he has been treated well and with respect. Given the proper opportunity he would not hesitate to return to Allen. 
  • With Aaron's deep religious conviction we were curious as to how he handles hockey's colorful language. He replied it is an intense, competitive game where players' emotions often get the best of them, we pray that God will forgive.

Playoff Coaches:
  • In his 20 year coaching career, Allen's Coach Martinson has won 8 championships, and has missed the playoffs only once in 2011-2012.
  • Jason Christie, coach of the Reign since 2011-2012, has never won a championship series, and his teams have not advanced past the 2nd round since 2007-2008

Keys to victory tonight:
  • score first - Allen is a perfect 5-0 when scoring first
  • maintain lead- Allen is still undefeated when leading after 1st and 2nd periods and Ontario remains winless when trailing after either period
  • score on the PP -  Coach Martinson specifically addressed this at today's morning skate. Allen is still #1 for home PP percentage (29.5), 
  • penalty kill has to be strong to stop their PP goals- as stated above, Ontario is #1 and lead the playoffs. Allen's PPGA is the worst in the playoffs at home (8) and overall (15).  In talking to Erik Adams at today's morning skate, he indicated they have reviewed video and should be making adjustments tonight.
  • avoid unnecessary penalties - Ontario continues to lead the playoffs with 22 PP goals (13 of these are on the road) . In Sunday's game,we were in the box for 22 mins while the Reign were in for 20 mins. Ontario scored 1 PPG and Allen scored 1 PPG.
  • goal tending and play in the defensive zone must continue be at it's best. The strong improvement shown in game 5 has to continue tonight.

Referees for tonight's game are Frederic Leblanc and Ryan Murphy.

Quote(s) of the day:

  • Referring to road victories that clinched their 2 previous playoff series, Ontario Reign's Gasper Kopitar has been quoted saying 'We won game 5 in Utah, and game 7 in Colorado".  He does not realize that in the previous two championship years, Allen is undefeated when facing elimination.
  • Referring to game 5 on Sunday, Ontario's coach Jason Christie was quoted: "We just have to get back in the saddle and put this game behind us".  Guess he does not realize that Texans are much more comfortable in the saddle than Califorians.

Did you know:  This blog has over 4300 total pageviews.  We found some interesting data while researching this stat. The views come from all over the world with 92% coming from US and Canada (which we would all expect) but it also gets 2% from France and Germany.  Other page views are from Greece, Ukraine, Russia, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and India.  Kudos to Barry the Blogger!

Monday, May 25, 2015


*Please note while Barry's name remains at the bottom of this blog, he is on vacation and the information/views posted in his absence do not reflect Barry's views or the views of the Allen Americans organization.

Wow!  What a comeback!  The first period was pretty much like the first period of Saturday's game. Allen was getting traffic in front of the net, and were controlling play.  But, just like Saturday, nothing would go past Joe Cannata.  Cannata's objective was to shut out Allen again. Little did he know, Allen had other plans.  Allen would go on to halt Ontario's 7 game home winning streak and undefeated record when leading after the 1st and 2nd periods.  Allen finally was able to win the battle of time and space that Ontario controlled in the 3 prior games.  

Game observations:

Ontario scored first which would be their only PP goal of the night. They would score for the last time at 14:30 of the second period as Allen completely shut them down for the remainder of the game.

Justin Baker opened the scoring at 6:26 of the second on a breakaway against the suddenly human Joe Cannata.  It was Allen's first goal in over 10 periods. Baker had 1 goal, 2 assists, and was a +3 for the night. Baker was named 1st star of the game.

Allen's 2nd goal scored by Chad Costello involved a deflection off Ontario's defenseman Kyle Bigos. Costello was named 2nd star of the game.

Goal 3 was classic Gary Steffes, going top shelf off the crossbar on Cannata.

Goal 4 was scored by Spencer Asuchak on a beautifully executed tic-tac-toe resulting from a 4 on 1 odd man rush.

Goal 5 was an empty netter by Chris Crane.  In addition to the goal, Chris was a +3 for the night.

6th goal was a PP goal by Spencer Asuchak, which tied him for the playoff lead in PP goals. This goal was scored when Kyle Bigos was off the ice.  Bigos was penalized for unsportsman-like conduct after Crane scored the empty netter.  Bigos leads the league in playoff  penalty minutes (65), 12 more PIMs than Utah's Matt Pelech who stands second at 53.

Hit of the night involved Aaron Gens sending Judd Blackwater airborne on a perfectly legal check in the 2nd period.

The five goals scored in the 3rd period leads (tied with Reading) the league in playoffs for most goals scored in 1 period.

For the night Allen's 6 goals were scored on just 21 shots for a scoring percentage of 21.4. Allen's 2nd & 3rd goals were scored in less than 1 minute, and all 5 goals of the third period were in less than 11 minutes. This was accomplished in only 9 shots.

Ontario's Matt Register, who leads all defensemen, in playoff points and goals, was a -3 for the night, and held to only 1 SOG.  The previous game he was a +2 with 4 shots.  Allen successfully shut him down for the evening.

Although Coach Martinson is unavailable to comment for this blog, he had the following comments about Saturday night's game (quoted by George Alfano of The Press Enterprise)- "In last night's game, they made good plays and we didn't.  I thought we played well in game 2 but their goaltender kept making saves".

Did you know:  Ontario coach, Jason Christie, was CHL Coach of the Year in 2010-2011 as coach of the Bloomington Prairie Thunder  and was inducted into the Peoria Rivermen Hall of Fame the same year.  And according to hockeyDB, he played professional roller hockey for the New England Stingers in 1994.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


*Please note while Barry's name remains at the bottom of this blog, he is on vacation and the information/views posted in his absence do not reflect Barry's views or the views of the Allen Americans organization.

Will someone please tell us where the Allen Americans are.  They certainly have not been on the ice at the Citizens Business Bank Arena.  We stated the other day that this situation is not as dire as some may think....well this situation is dire, as Allen has painted themselves into a corner that they have to win out or hang their skates up until next season.

After not incurring a playoff shutout since 2012, the Americans have been shut out in 2 of their last 3 games. In the first period last night, it seemed as Allen had made some of the necessary adjustments needed as we were getting traffic in front of the net and controlled the tempo, but after Ontario scored first, we appeared to lose our momentum. Tonight is sink or swim, as of right now we are drowning,

Ontario scored 3 goals in 2 mins, and 5 goals total for the night.  Of the 5 goals scored 1 involved a 2 on 1 odd man rush,  1 was a break away,  and 1 was a 5 on 3 power play. Additionally the first goal of the night appeared to have deflected off the skate or leg of Ontario's forward David Rutherford.

Ontario's longest winning streak is 4 for the entire season, but for the playoffs they are 7-1 at home and 8-1 when scoring first (Allen is 5-0 when scoring first).  Both teams are undefeated when leading after the 1st, and 2nd periods, and Ontario is winless when trailing after the 1st and 2nd periods.  We need to score 1st and maintain the lead. Allen is capable of scoring as evidenced in game 1.  Forcing Ontario into a more wide open game should work to Allen's advantage.

In the last 3 games with Ontario, we have had 88 SOG, Ontario has had 65. Allen's SOG for the playoffs is 34.8 per game, Ontario's is 25.9.  Ontario has figured out how to shut us down and we need to solve this in order to win tonight.  This is a scenerio that, quite frankly, Allen was unprepared to face.

Keys to victory:  
  • score first - Allen is a perfect 5-0 when scoring first
  • maintain lead- both teams are undefeated when leading after 1st and 2nd periods, however Ontario is winless when trailing after either period
  • score on the PP - Allen is #2 on the PP with 14, but only 1 on the road!  Our road pp is 1-27, 3.7%
  • avoid unnecessary penalties - Ontario leads the playoffs with 21 PP goals (23.1%) . In last night's game,we were in the box for 37 mins while the Reign were only in for 15 mins.
  • penalty kill has to be strong to stop their PP goals, as stated above, they are #1 and lead the playoffs
  • goal tending and play in the defensive zone must be at it's best. For the playoffs, Allen has allowed a combined GAA of 2.85 and SV% of .879 - these figures have to be better tonight if we are going live another day.

The referees for tonight's match up are - Pierre Lambert and Stephen Reneau.  Both are experienced in the ECHL.

In closing, there is still hope, and hope reigns eternal (pardon the pun).  Ontario Coach Christie said "It doesn't mean nothing.  You've got to come out and make sure you are ready to play.  All those other wins are done. This is the game where we have to make sure we're focused on tomorrow."  As Coach Martinson is unavailable for post game comments, we are certain he is telling Allen similar views, telling them the losses are in the past, and we can still pull this out.

As fans, there will be many of us watching ECHL TV or listening to Tommy, cheering our hearts out, screaming at the top of our lungs for an Allen victory.  Will they let us down, or pull us up? LET'S GO RED with a big victory tonight so we may cheer for you Tuesday and Wednesday at the AEC.

Did you know: Do ECHL players improve with age?  The youngest team in the ECHL is Greenville at 24.38 years of age, Tulsa is the oldest at 27.39 years.  Allen ranks 7th at 25.93.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

*Please note: while Barry's name remains at the bottom of this blog, he is on vacation and the information/views posted in his absence do not reflect Barry's views or the views of the Allen Americans organization.

A Deserving Award for Chad

 We were going to wait until after the game for our next post but with the announcement by the PHPA yesterday we wanted to add our congratulations to Chad Costello.

Yesterday the Professional Hockey Players Association announced that the ECHL players had voted Chad Costello of the Allen Americans as the inaugural recipient of the 2014-2015 PHPA-ECHL Most Valuable Player Award.

As we know, Chad finished second to SC goalie Jeff Jakaitis in MVP voting by the league.  Being voted the best by your peer group is an honor of utmost esteem and is well deserved and well earned by Chad.  Throughout the year Chad has shown integrity both on the ice and off.   He is quick to credit his teammates for his success and always displays humility about his outstanding accomplishments this year.

Chad’s award, coupled with Gary Steffes’ Heart, Hustle and Desire award (also awarded by ECHL players) is an honor to the entire team and coach Martinson.  Allen has been accused by many uninformed fans in other cities of being a team of “bullies and thugs”.  As American fans we have known that not to be true and now the ECHL players themselves show recognition of our players’ skills.  The awards also serves to demonstrate that the ECHL players recognize Allen and the other CHL teams as part of the ECHL and deserving to be in the league.

In ECHL playoff news, Toledo staved off elimination in the Eastern Conference finals with a 5-4 victory in North Charleston. Troy Schwab let the attack for the Walleyes with two goals and an assist.  The series is now 3-1 in favor of the Stingrays.  Toledo will need another victory tonight to send the series back to their home ice.

Did you know:  Does size matter in the ECHL?  The shortest player in the ECHL is the Toledo Walleyes goalie, Jeff Lerg who is 5’6” tall.  He also tips the scales at 155 pounds.

Friday, May 22, 2015


*Please note while Barry's name remains at the bottom of this blog, he is on vacation and the information/views posted in his absence do not reflect Barry's views or the views of the Allen Americans organization.

The title above is written in jest. Many of us believe if we stick to our rituals, the team will win and all will be right with the world. Maybe if I would have wore my red socks, or maybe I should have had that Vegas Bomb before the game, maybe if wore my red jersey instead of the white jersey....maybe, maybe, maybe!  We know the rituals hard core fans perform.  If that were the case, no team would ever win, no child would win the spelling bee, there would be no winner at the Indy 500, no horse would ever win the Triple Crown, and that certainly would not have changed the result of the game last night.  The reality is the team has to play their best in order to win.  That was not the case last night.

Here are our observations of what did occur, please feel free to comment if you saw things differently:
  • Allen only had 22 shots on goal, the only other time we had that few SOG was in game 1  of this series (where they won 8-2) but most were "quality" shots. The difference being traffic in front of the goalie to allow for rebounds and screens. All of our playoff games this season had 30+ SOG with 2 exceptions at 29
  • Two potential Allen goals were thwarted on a Jamie Schaafsma break-away and a one-on-one opportunity by Chad Costello
  • The lone goal scored by Justin Baker was from a screen by Patrik Valcak
  • Gary Steffes, Chris Crane, and Spencer Asuchak combined for only 1 SOG in the entire game
  • Since game 1 Ontario continues to give us problems in our offensive zone
  • Power Play issues continue to plague Allen as we were 0-5 last night and 0-4 in game 2
For this series,as respects former Allen Americans, Judd Blackwater is a +3 with 1 goal and 1 assist and Matt Register is a -3 thus far with 1 goal, no assists. Register leads all defensemen in the  ECHL playoffs with 7 goals and 15 points.

Scoring the 1st goal continues to benefit the scoring team. In the playoffs for these 2 teams, the team scoring 1st has won 12 of 13 games.

Attendance last night at the Citizen's Business Bank Arena was 3522, bringing their playoff average to 2932.  Average playoff attendance at the AEC is  3221.

To sum it up, this scenario of losing 2 consecutive games, is not as dire as it may seem to some. In each of the last two years under Steve Martinson, Allen has lost 2 consecutive playoff games and went on to win the championship.

Did you know:  In the 2014-2015 season ECHL teams donated over $5.6 million to charity and have donated over $37 million in the last 10 seasons.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Meet the guest writers and Game 3 Preview

*Please note while Barry's name remains at the bottom of this blog, he is on vacation and the information/views posted in his absence do not reflect Barry's views or the views of the Allen Americans organization.

We, Mary and Ted, look forward to reading Barry's blog every day.  It has been invaluable to us as casual fans with only general knowledge of the intricacies of the game, the ECHL, and the teams. Knowing it was not going to be available during the most important part of this season prompted us to offer assistance in keeping it up to date.  We will rely heavily on others for assistance in this endeavor.  Mary brings a feminine touch to the blog and Ted will handle the research duties.  While we cannot promise daily postings, we will make every attempt to keep you updated.

If you have any questions or would like us to elaborate on anything, please feel free to leave a comment below and we will do our best to accommodate your request.

Game 3 Preview-

In our opinion once Allen solves the Ontario goal tending obstacle they faced on Sunday against Joe Cannata, scoring goals should come easier as the following stats project:

Chad Costello ranks no. 2 in playoff points(20), and first in assists (15).  He also ranks second in points per game at 1.54.

Gregor Hanson leads in playoff goals (9), ranks 3rd in points (19), and is 3rd in points per game at 1.46.

The current playoff  road record for Allen is 3 wins 2 losses. Historically since the 09-10 season their overall game 3 road record is 8 wins 4 losses. Under Coach Martinson game 3 road record is 5 wins 2 losses.

As Barry always preaches special teams should be a major factor in the game.  

For the current playoffs, Ontario ranks 1st in power play (24%), Allen ranks 3rd (22.2%)

Since Ontario is slightly more proficient on the power play it will be vital that Allen resists taking unnecessary penalties.

The penalty kill rankings paint a different picture with Allen ranking 13th (82.0%) and Ontario ranking 14th (80.9).  

With these teams so evenly matched we anticipate a close, physical game.

Did you know:  Within the entire current ECHL there is only 1 player from Slovenia (Ontario's Gasper Kopitar who reigns from Jesenice, Slovenia) and 1 player from Germany (our very own Konrad Abelthauser hails from Bad Tolz, Germany).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Oops, I Am Headed To The Wrong Ontario! How I Was Unprepared For The Move To The ECHL

Sometimes life's pleasures come into conflict and that is what has happened to me. Both the Allen Americans and myself are up at 3:00 a.m. preparing for a trip to Ontario but the team is headed to Ontario, California and I am headed to the province of Ontario in Canada.

How does a person who has written about the Allen Americans every single morning for 203 straight days and is invested in the team as much as I am bail at this critical time in the playoffs?

As it turns out I wasn't prepared for the move to the ECHL just like some of the teams in the Central Division. Most of my adult life has included a two week fishing trip to Canada and Minnesota at this time of year and when the Americans were in the Central Hockey League the playoffs were long over by the time I headed to Canada. In the ECHL the playoffs can continue until the middle of June.

This fishing trip was planned a year ago and to make matters worse after the fishing trip there is a wedding to attend in Minnesota so the bottom line is I will miss the rest of the playoffs and today will be my last blog post of the season. I will certainly miss writing about the rest of the playoffs but will have a great time with some great guys in the Canadian wilderness where the agenda is very simple. Fish, eat, fish, drink, fish, sleep, fish and repeat.

Won't go into all of the thank yous and reflections as is normal in my last post of the season because there is still a lot of hockey to be played. Just want to thank the players, their families, the coaching staff and the front office for all of their cooperation as I could not write the blog without them.

The good news is two Allen Americans super fans have volunteered to be guest writers while I am away. Mary Betz and Ted Hosterman have kindly agreed to help out in my absence. Be generous and gentle with them as they learn the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the software and gather information to include in the blog. They won't be writing every day but for those of you that are regular readers, you won't have to go cold turkey as there will be periodic posts. Thank you Ted and Mary for volunteering.

One of the nice things about going this deep in the playoffs is there is a lot of interest in the team so you can find great stories/articles about the team everyday. A Google search should bring you plenty of stories. A one stop shop for all ECHL playoff updates is at where I am am a member. They have bloggers from Ontario (Duck & Hound) at that site and have full coverage of the Toledo vs South Carolina series as well. Other sites to check out for information include:

DID YOU KNOW: I have a media credential and spend plenty of time in the press box as it is a great source of learning, education, dialogue and information from writers, photographers, broadcasters and officials but when it is time to drop the puck I take my place in the seats I have had since the beginning and become a fan. Photographer Kimberly Sauer ( took the picture below of the guys celebrating the Gary Steffes goal in the 8-2 win on Sunday. If you look in the background you can see Barry the Blogger and friend (Jerry Tucker) as fans. That is me with the yellow headset listening to the voice of the Allen Americans, Tommy Daniels, and joining the "celly" with the red light.

Barry the Blogger and friends join in the "Celly"

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

ECHL Players Vote Gary Steffes as Recipient of Heart, Hustle and Desire Award

Gary Steffes Defines Heart, Hustle & Desire

Just came across this press release from the Professional Hockey Players Assosciation (PHPA) written by Darryl Dionne. Congrats to Gary on this honor. As many have said there is nobody that works harder than Gary and he deserves all of the recognition he gets. And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

One of 55 goals Gary has scored this year in ECHL & AHL - photo by Lauren Lyssy

Author: Darryl Dionne, PHPA Director of Communications and Business Development
Date: May 19, 2015

(Niagara Falls, ON) The Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA) is pleased to announce that ECHL players have voted
of the Allen Americans as the inaugural recipient of the 2014-15 PHPA – ECHL Heart, Hustle, and Desire Award.  The PHPA-ECHL Heart, Hustle, and Desire Award is awarded to the player, considered by his peers, to be the hardest working player in the League, demonstrating heart, hustle, and desire each and every night.
Known as a team leader and solid all-around player who maintains a high level of fitness, Steffes led the ECHL in goal-scoring this season with 44 goals in 63 games.  He added 29 assists and finished with a plus-minus of +32. Steffes led the ECHL with 18 powerplay goals, tied for third with 8 game winning goals, and was named to the ECHL Second All-Star Team.  He helped the Americans to a first place finish in the Western Conference standings, and second overall in league standings.
“This is a tremendous honor, and I feel incredibly blessed and encouraged,” said Steffes.  “Striving for excellence and holding myself to the highest standard in every shift, every game, and during practice is a big part of my game, and I am encouraged and very thankful that other players recognize that.”
“On behalf of the PHPA Membership, I offer my most sincere congratulations to Gary on this well-deserved recognition,” added PHPA Executive Director, Larry Landon.  “To be recognized by your peers as the hardest working player in the league speaks volumes to his character, leadership, and passion for the sport.”
The 2014-15 season marked the first time players from the ECHL voted on a series of season ending individual awards.

2014-15 PHPA Player Voted Awards 
ECHL Heart, Hustle, and Desire Award
Gary Steffes
Height: 6’2” Weight: 210 lbs.
Position: Center
Age: 27
Hometown: Grand Blanc, MI

Career Achievements:
Led the ECHL in goals, 2014-15
All-ECHL Second All-Star Team, 2014-15
Central Hockey League (CHL) Man of the Year nominee, 2012-13
Central Hockey League (CHL) All-Rookie Team, 2010-11

Ontario Shuts Out Allen 3-0, Game Recap, Steve Martinson's Post Game Comments & More

Former Allen American Judd Blackwater returned after missing 5 games - photo by

- After getting soundly beaten by the Allen Americans by a score of 8-2 in game one of the Western Conference Finals everyone expected the Ontario Reign to play a much better game in game two on Monday night. Mission accomplished as Ontario shut out the Americans 3-0 before a small crowd of 2922 at the Allen Even Center. The game started out with Allen getting lots of scoring opportunities as they out shot Ontario 18-6 in the first period. The first big difference between game one and two for Ontario was the play of goalie Joe Cannata. Cannata was thrust into game one in relief after having missed a month with an injury and gave up five goals in 51 minutes of play. That must have knocked off all of the rust as he was the difference maker last night especially in the first period when Allen dominated the play.

Allen could not solve Ontario goalie Joe Cannata who had a 35 save shutout - photo by Lauren Lyssy

- After a scoreless first period another difference from game one to game two happened when Ontario scored the first goal of the game on a shot from the slot by Garry Nunn. Judd Blackwater, who was playing in his first game since being injured and missing the last five games, had an assist on the Nunn goal.  Scoring the first goal has been a great predictor of victory for both of these teams in the playoffs. Combined they have won eleven of twelve games (92%) when scoring first.

- Another big difference from game one to game two was special teams. Allen won the special teams battle in game one as the Americans were 3-6 on the power play and held the Reign scoreless (0-5) on their power play opportunities. Last night was just the opposite as Allen went 0-4 on the power play and Ontario was 1-5.

- Despite out shooting Ontario 35-24 the Americans could never solve Joe Cannata who recorded just his second shut out of the year.

- It is difficult to put your finger on exactly what went wrong for Allen. The passes weren't as crisp and there were a lot of bouncing pucks as the ice conditions seemed to be effected by the 90 degree temperatures and close to 100% humidity. It also appeared the Reign adjusted how they were entering the Allen zone from game one and that subtle change put additional pressure on Allen. Finally, Allen did not have as many guys driving the net and screening the goalie as they did in game one. Cannata seemed to have a good look at most Allen shots. Whatever it was, it gave Ontario a split in Allen as they now head home for the next three games which will be played on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.


- That obviously is not what we were looking for. The difference tonight is their goalie was much better after giving up five goals last night. He saw every shot that we took and that was the difference in the game.

- We did not get in front of their goalie. Their defensemen blocked us out and kept us from getting in front of the net. We just didn't pay the price tonight. We will have to play a more greasy game on Thursday if we expect to win.

- We can't rely on shooting the puck and scoring. We have to get in front of the goalie and create screens to be successful. At this time of year, when you are playing the best teams, if you don't have your "A" game you are not going to win and I don't think we had our "A" game tonight.

- Nobody thought it was going to be easy tonight but we did not play as determined in this game as we did in the first game. Maybe we thought we would make some plays and the puck would be in the net but that was not the case. Hopefully that sinks in and Thursday we are back to our physical, hard working game with traffic in front and pucks on the net.

- I will review the tape of the game and look for how many times we had the opportunity to get to the front of the net and didn't do it. How many times Ontario was able to interfere and hold us off in front of their net.

- They had a couple of goals disallowed and I thought our goalie was interfered with on one of their goals but that had nothing to do with why we didn't score.


-  Defensemen Kevin Young and Konrad Abeltshauser combined for eleven shots in the game. Forwards Greger Hanson, Spencer Asuchuk, Chris Crane and Jamie Schaaafsma combine for just four shots.

- With the loss last night Allen's playoff winning percentage fell to .692 which is still the best among the final four teams. Allen is now 9-4 in the playoffs while Ontario is 9-5.

- Ontario's Matt Register had an empty net shorthanded goal last night and continues to lead all defensemen in the playoffs with fifteen points (7 goals 8 assists). Konrad Abeltshauser is second with eleven points.

- The loss last night ended the Americans winning streak as they had never lost a game two in the  playoffs since Steve Martinson became coach. Their game two record now stands at 8-1. If you are wondering about game three playoff record it is 6-2 overall and this year it is 1-1. Allen lost game three to Tulsa in the first round and won game three against Rapid City in the second round.

DID YOU KNOW: Last night was the first time Allen has been shut out in a playoff game since Steve Martinson has been coach of the team. The last time an Allen team has been shut out in a playoff game was April 7, 2012. It was the year the Texas Brahmas bounced Allen out of the playoffs in the first round in six games. Game five was at the Allen Event Center and Allen goalie Marco Cousineau stopped 19 of 20 shots only to be outdone by Texas goalie Brad Fogal who stopped 23 of 23 to get the 1-0 shut out victory.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Allen Beats Ontario 8-2, Game Recap, Martinson's Post Game Comments, A Mea Culpa, Stats & More

- The box score reads the Allen Americans beat the Ontario Reign last night 8-2 to take a 1-0 lead in the ECHL Western Conference Final before a crowed of 3452 at the Allen Event Center. Yes it is only one win and whether it was a 2-1 win or 8-2 win it is still only one win but the game certainly gave the Americans a lot of confidence and sent a message to the naysayers around the league that predicted whatever team came out of the Central Division would not be able to compete with the established ECHL teams. This series is far from over and a team as talented as Ontario will be on their game in the rematch tonight (7:05 p.m.) but the question of how good the Allen Americans can be has already been answered.

- When you write a blog every day you have good days and bad days and my day yesterday was about as bad as Ontario's. Here are a few examples. Allen doesn't do well in the first game of series (they were 2-6 under Steve Martinson), WRONG!  Judd Blackwater will play for Ontario (he should be in the line up tonight), WRONG! Allen will struggle to stop the best power play in the league (Ontario went 0-5), WRONG! David Rutherford will not play for Ontario, WRONG! Allen's power play percentage is inflated because of one 5-10 game against Rapid City (the Americans went 3-6), WRONG! The Americans have the best offense in the ECHL, RIGHT!

- The Americans struck early and often and the game was essentially over when Ontario pulled starting goalie, Jussi Olkinuora, after Allen made the score 3-0 at the 8:54 mark of the first period. Joe Cannata, who was one of the ECHL All-Star goalies replaced Olkunuora and surrendered five goals to Allen. Cannata is an excellent goalie but has just returned to the line up after being injured. It was his first action in a month.

- Allen goal scorers were Gary Steffes (7 & 8), Chris Crane (5), Ian Schultz (6), Chad Costello (5), Greger Hanson (8 & 9), and Patrik Valcak (1). The three stars of the game were #1 Riley Gill, #2 Greger Hanson and #3 Chad Costello.


- It was a good night for us getting those three goals early, the penalty kill played well, the power play was good, and Riley Gill was good making some great saves when Ontario had scoring opportunities. We had good puck possession and were able to execute our game plan.

- Our goalies save percentages aren't as high because in some games we have not played well defensively. That last goal we gave up to Ontario in the third period falls into that category.

- We still have some things we can work on to get better for tomorrow. We had some turnovers and tried to be too cute at times when the best option would have been to get the puck in deep. There are things we can do better but this is not a game where we have to do a lot of analysis. We know what happened on those plays where we gave them good scoring chances and we will try and tighten that up. We hope to give them more of the same tomorrow only a little better.

- Shots on goal can be deceiving in a game like tonight. We were out shot (28-22)  because we didn't get many second and third chances because the pucks were in the net. When you score eight goals there are a lot of second and third shots that don't happen.

-  Injuries are part of the playoffs and this series will be physical. We have players that dish it out and we also have players that aren't playing that I am confident will do well if called on and they are chomping at the bit to get in the line up. Injuries are just part of the playoffs and sometimes it can cost you depending on who gets hurt. Ontario has Judd Blackwater on the side lines and he is one of their best players. We have lost Rylan Schwartz and he was a point a game guy when he was here earlier in the season.

- What we will stress to the players for the game tomorrow is all of the little things that added up to the big things. Don't go into the game trying to be the hero. Just do all of the little stuff like concentrating on what you do when you don't have the puck and being in the right position defending. Tonight was a great example of doing all of the little things right.

- At this point in the playoffs we already have plenty of stats. The best thing for guys careers going forward is winning. So we stressed to the guys what we have to do to win, not what we have to do to score.

- I know when I played, every time I punched a guy that was off the playing surface and on the bench it was an automatic game misconduct. I never ever got to stay in the game and I know I did it several times in my playing career. I am going to have to check the rule book on that one.


-  Greger Hanson leads the ECHL in goals scored in the playoffs with nine and Chad Costello leads in power play points with eleven. Kevin Young leads in assists by defensemen with nine.

- There were a lot of great goals scored last night but two that really stood out were Chad Costello's goal that went from Greger Hanson to Aaron Gens coming down the right wing who made a perfect pass to Costello all alone in the slot and Patrik Valcak's goal where Chad Costello took a pass from Valcak at the goal mouth but rather than shooting Chad passed back to Patrik for the tip in. Sure hope video highlights get posted so everyone can enjoy these and all of the goals over and over.

- With all of the positives from the win last night it won't mean much if the Americans don't back it up with another good game tonight. After being embarrassed in game one everyone knows Ontario will be much better in game two and Allen will have to play their best hockey to win. Chad Costello said it best in his post game interview, "Our offense was clicking and Riley made the big saves. This is a great Ontario team we beat today and I am sure they will be a different team tomorrow night."

- Depth and balanced scoring has been a key to Allen's success in the playoffs. Six different players  had goals in game one and Allen now has eight players with at least four goals in the playoffs.

- Chris Crane has a goal in four straight games and Chad Costello has at least one assist in six straight games. These are the longest current streaks in the playoffs.

- Allen scored the first goal of the game for only the fifth time in their twelve playoff games. Allen is a perfect 5-0 when scoring first.

- Allen was 3-6 on the power play yesterday and are now 13-40 in the playoffs on the power play at home for a league leading percentage of 32.5%.

- With the eight goal outburst Allen raised their average goals per game to 4.38, over a goal better than second ranked Ontario who averages 3.38 goals per game.

- The referees for the game tonight will be Frederic Lablanc who was one the referees in game one. The other referee will be Jake Brenk who is familiar to Allen fans from his years in the CHL. Brenk played professional hockey and was a fifth round draft choice of the Edmonton Oilers back in 2001. Brenk led his team in scoring in 2008-2009 when he played in Holland and had 64 points (36 goals 28 assists) in just 40 games. In 2005-2006 he played in Holland for a team called the Nijmegen Emperors and they won the championship. One of his teammates on that championship team was none other than Allen defenseman Kevin Young.

- Had the chance to meet Joe Ernst before the game yesterday. Joe is the ECHL Vice-President of Hockey Operations. He is responsible for all of the on ice officials, on ice discipline, and the administration of rules and directives. He has worked for the ECHL for 24 years and is the only referee to have ever worked over a 1000 regular season games. Joe was generous with his time and answered many questions about how the league recruits, trains and evaluates officials and what the reporting requirements are for the referees after a game is completed. Have to admit that all of the ECHL staff I have met have been open, friendly, and more than willing to engage in conversion, answer questions and educate those that are less informed like yours truly.  

DID YOU KNOW: The Allen Americans have never lost game two of a playoff series since Steve Martinson has been the coach. They are a perfect 8-0.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

It Is Game Day In Allen, Players to Watch, Keys To The Game, My Opinion & A Year Ago Today

- It is game day in Allen as the Americans take on the Ontario Reign in the opening game of the ECHL Western Conference Finals. The winner of this series will take on the Eastern Conference champion for the Kelly Cup. South Carolina leads Toledo 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Final after winning last night 4-3 in Toledo. The top seeded Walleye have dug themselves a deep hole losing two games at home to start the series but can take solace in the fact that Toledo and South Carolina have played six times this season between regular season and playoffs and the visiting team has won all six times. The series resumes on Wednesday in South Carolina.

- Yesterday's blog was all about comparing team statistics in the regular season and playoffs so today it is time to take a look at some of the individual players you will be watching in this series. Both teams have rosters that are very different from the start of the season but also have a nucleus of players that has been with the team all year.


- Allen was without a doubt the most talented offensive team in the ECHL during the regular season and the individual statistics would bear this out. Here are a few examples:

Chad Costello had 125 points (41 goals 84 assists) to win the scoring title by 45 points which was an all time record. Gary Steffes finished ninth in ECHL scoring.

Allen finished one-two in goals scored with Gary Steffes leading the league with 44 and Chad Costello finishing second with 41.

Chad Costello led the league with 84 assist. Second place was 59.

Gary Steffes had 18 power play goals which was six more than anyone else in the league

Allen finished one-two in power play assists with Chad Costello leading the league with 35 and Aaron Gens second with 22.

Greger Hanson led the ECHL in game winning goals (11) and shorthanded goals (5).

Aaron Gens led all ECHL defensemen in points (58), assists (48), power play assists (22), and power play points (25).

Tyler Ludwig led all ECHL defensemen in goals with 16.

Allen had four defensemen (Gens, Young, Baker, Tyler Ludwig) in the top eighteen in scoring for defensemen.

Riley Gill led all ECHL goalies with 33 wins.

- With all of this firepower it is no wonder Allen was well represented when the post season ECHL awards were handed out. Chad Costello was selected to the All-ECHL first team, Aaron Gens and Gary Steffes were selected to the All-ECHL second team and Justin Baker was selected to the All-Rookie team. Chad Costello finished second in the MVP voting and Aaron Gens fourth for Defensman of the Year.

- During the regular season Ontario scored 42 fewer goals than Allen and had no players in the top 20 in scoring or top five in any of the statistical categories tracked by the ECHL. Former Allen defenseman Matt Register finished third in scoring (50 points) and goals (14) for defensemen. Matt was the ECHL's Defenseman of the Year last year and finished second this year. He was also selected to the All-ECHL first team for the second consecutive year.

- Another former Allen American, Judd Blackwater was the leading scorer for Ontario during the regular season. Judd had 63 points (35 goals 28 assists) in just 59 games. Matt White was second in scoring with 60 points (28 goals 32 assists).


- Both Allen and Ontario are very different teams in the playoffs from the teams they started the year with. Ontario improved their team through trades starting in January when they acquired David Rutherford from Missouri. Late season trades in March brought Garry Nunn from Gwinnett and Josh Brittain from Missouri.

- The Allen playoff roster was bolstered by getting players like Spencer Asuchak, Gary Steffes and Ian Schultz back from call ups to the AHL and getting players assigned from their affiliations with San Jose and Worcester. Vincent Arseneau, Chris Crane, Konrad Abeltshauser, Joel Rumpel and Rylan Schwartz all came to Allen from the parent clubs.

- Here are the leading scorers for both teams in the playoffs:

16 points - Greger Hanson (7 goals 9 assists) - 11 games
15 points - Spencer Asuchak (7 goals 8 assists) - 11 games
15 points - Chad Costello (4 goals 11 assists) - 11 games
11 points - Ian Schultz (5 goals 6 assists) - 7 games
10 points - Konrad Abeltshauser (3 goals 7 assists) - 11 games

14 points - Matt Register (6 goals 8 assists) - 12 games
13 points - Garry Nunn (5 goals 8 assists) - 12 games
12 points - Tristan King (4 goals 8 assists) - 11 games
11 points - Mike White (7 goals 4 assists) - 12 games
10 points - Judd Blackwater (5 goals 5 assists) - 8 games
10 points - Maxim Kitsyn (3 goals 7 assists) - 12 games


- I attended the 6:45 p.m. practice last night which served as a pregame skate since the team will not skate this morning with a 4:05 game start this afternoon. Talked to several players after practice and the common theme was a focus on team defense and staying out of the penalty box. Allen does best when they limit the opponents quality scoring opportunities and avoid the approach of we will score five goals and out score the opponent. If the team can have the attitude of it is more important to win the game than score goals they will be fine.

- Special teams are always critical but even more so in this series with two referees and the Ontario power play. It is the best in the league during the playoffs (26.2%) and on the road it is even better at 30.0%. The Allen power play is ranked #5 overall (20.8%) and #1 at home (29.4%) but those percentages are a little deceiving. If you take out the 8-1 home victory over Rapid City when Allen was 5-10 on the power play the overall percentage drops from 20.8% to 13.9% and the home power play percentage drops from 29.4% to 20.8%. 

- Injuries are always key in the playoffs and Allen will certainly miss Rylan Schwartz who will miss the remainder of the playoffs. Everyone else should be available for today's game though a couple of players are nursing minor injuries as is the case with most players this time of year. For Ontario, Judd Blackwater and David Rutherford were both injured May 3rd in the first game of the Ontario vs Utah series. They have missed the last four games. Blackwater will probably be in the line up today and Rutherford not.

- The ECHL announced this week the seven referees who will be working the Conference Finals and Kelly Cup Finals. Fans, players, and coaches may disagree with the selections but these are the referees that rated the best throughout the year and it is a huge honor in the referee profession to be chosen. Most of these referees have worked the finals in the past and of course they will be working in pairs for the rest of the playoffs. The seven are Jake Brenk, Pierre Lambert*, Frederic Leblanc*, Ryan Murphy*, Stephen Reneau*, Peter Tarnaris*, and Andrew Wilk.
*worked the finals last year

- The referees scheduled for Allen vs Ontario this afternoon are Frederic Lablanc and Andrew Wilk. Wilk is in his third season as an ECHL referee and was selected to referee the ECHL All-Star game this year. He has prior experience in the WHL, NAHL and SPHL and has worked championship finals in those leagues. Lablanc has been with the ECHL for six seasons and has worked the finals in the past including last year. He has also worked several NHL prospect camps as a referee.

- Wanted to end the blog this morning talking about something I know nothing about. One of the advantages of writing a blog is being able to share your opinion even on topics where you have none of the facts. After all, I am an expert at my own opinion. When the Allen Americans were sold to the Steven Brothers, somewhere on a message board or on social media it was stated that the coaches for all three teams (Wichita, Tulsa, & Allen) were given contracts that will expire after next season. I am sure there is a case to be made for treating all three franchises the same but if you have one coach who has won essentially three titles in a row with two CHL championships and an ECHL Division championship why on earth would you not want to offer him a contract extension rather than risk the chance of him leaving. To have won as much as Steve Martinson has in Allen the last three years (regardless of what happens the rest of the way in the playoffs) and not be offered a contract extension has probably never happened or rarely happened in professional hockey. C'MON MAN!

DID YOU KNOW: What a difference a year makes. A year ago Allen had already won the CHL championship and the players were headed home. This year the team is only halfway through the playoffs and will not head home for another month if they make the finals. For a trip down memory lane here is the blog post from a year ago today.

- It doesn't take long from championship, to celebrations, to scattered to the winds. There has been a steady stream of players heading to the airport the last few days; Hanson, Tarasuk, Franson, Graham, Zion, Maiani, Lavoie, and Lessard to name just a few. And then those that make the long trek by driving like Schaafsma to Ontario or Bryan Pitton to California. Those that will be here during the summer include the Ludwigs, Bootland, Tetrault and McMillin. It won't be long until the focus will change to building a roster for next season. Such is the life cycle in the CHL.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Allen vs Ontario Western Conference Final - Series Preview

The Kelly Cup Conference Finals got underway last night as the South Carolina Stingrays went into Toledo and took the first game of the series from the Walleye by a score of 2-1. Game two of the 2-3-2 series is tonight. Meanwhile Allen and Ontario are preparing for their showdown which starts tomorrow afternoon (Sunday) with a 4:05 p.m. CDT puck drop. Here is a series preview.

Allen Americans: Allen was established as a new franchise in 2009 and played in the Central Hockey League for five years before moving to the ECHL this season. The team plays in the Allen Event Center which was opened in 2009 and has a capacity for hockey of 6275. The Americans are currently affiliated with the San Jose Sharks (NHL) and Worcester Sharks (AHL). The team has been successful from its inception having made the playoffs every year since they were established. Here is their playoff record with the coach in parentheses:
2009-2010: Lost in Finals (Dwight Mullins)
2010-2011: Lost in Third Round (Dwight Mullins)
2011-2012: Lost in First Round (Dwight Mullins)
2012-2013: Won Championship (Steve Martinson)
2013-2014: Won Championship (Steve Martinson)

Ontario Reign: Ontario, which is based out of Ontario, California was establish as a franchise in 1993. From 1993-2000 they played in Huntington, West Virginia as the Huntington Blizzard. They were then relocated to Beaumont, Texas where they were known as the Texas Wildcatters. They were in Beaumont until they relocated to Ontario in 2008 where they have been ever since. After this season the franchise will be moving to Manchester, New Hampshire and become the Manchester Monarchs. There will still be a team in Ontario but it will become an AHL franchise which is moving from Manchester.  The Reign play at the Citizens Business Bank Arena which opened in 2008 and has a capacity for hockey of 9736. Here is their playoff record in Ontario:
2008-2009: Lost in First Round (Karl Taylor)
2009-2010: Out of Playoffs (Karl Taylor)
2010-2011: Out of Playoffs (Karl Taylor)
2011-2012: Lost in First Round (Jason Christie)
2012-2013: Lost in Second Round (Jason Christie)
2013-2014: Lost in First Round (Jason Christie)

Two experienced coaches lead these teams in Steve Martinson (Allen) and Jason Christie (Ontario). Combined they have over 2200 games as head coaches in professional hockey. Here are the details.

Jason Christie - Jason is in his thirteenth year has a head coach and with the exception of one year in the CHL they have all been in the ECHL. Before joining the Reign he had stops in Peoria (2000-2005) and Utah (2005-2008). His one year in the CHL was with Bloomington (2010-2011). Jason also spent two years as an assistant coach for Chicago Wolves of the AHL (2008-2010). Christie in fourth all time in games coached in the ECHL with over 850 games. He is still looking for his first championship as a head coach.

Steve Martinson - It is hard to match resumes with Steve Martinson who is in his nineteenth year as a head coach. He has coached over 1300 regular season games and has missed the playoffs only one time in nineteen years. Coach Martinson likes to say about that one year he missed the playoffs that it is not an excuse but he had six season ending injuries, six guys called up to the AHL and the team knew they were folding at the completion of the season. In his first eighteen years as a head coach Martinson has won eight championships in three different leagues.

The Teams:
Both of these teams are loaded with talent. They each have fifteen players that have played in the AHL and both teams have over 700 games of AHL experience on their playoff roster. Allen has nine players that played in the AHL this season and Ontario has five.

Regular Season: Allen (48-14-6-4) - Ontario (43-19-4-6)
Playoffs: Allen (8-3) - Ontario (8-4)

Goals Scored:
Regular Season: Allen (292) - Ontario (239)
Playoffs: Allen (47) - Ontario (42)

Goals Allowed:
Regular Season: Allen (203) - Ontario (184)
Playoffs: Allen (33) - Ontario (27)

Penalty Minutes (average per game)
Regular Season: Allen (22.83) - Ontario (18.68)
Playoffs: Allen (15.64) - Ontario (17.67)
With two referees in this series there will most likely be more penalties called on both teams. If you look at the regular season Allen and Ontario took penalties a lot differently. Here is a breakout:
Minor Penalties: Allen (477) - Ontario (380)
Major Penalties: Allen (66) - Ontario (89)
10 Minute Misconducts: Allen (23) - Ontario (9)
Game Misconducts: Allen (12) - Ontario (5)

Power Play:
Regular Season: Allen (21.9%) - Ontario (18.0%)
Playoffs: Allen (20.8%) - Ontario (26.2%)

Penalty Kill:
Regular Season: Allen (86.3%) - Ontario (83.7%)
Playoffs: Allen (80.4%) - Ontario (82.8%)

Regular Season: Allen (+291) - Ontario (+294)
Playoffs: Allen (+59) - Ontario (+40)

Goals Against Average:
Regular Season: Allen (2.73) - Ontario (2.44)
Playoffs: Allen (2.96) - Ontario (2.22)

Save Percentage
Regular Season: Allen (.906) - Ontario (.915)
Playoffs: Allen (.876) - Ontario (.906)

- Allen and Ontario played twice during the regular season and split the two games which were both played in Ontario. Ontario won on February 10 by a score of 4-1. Allen won on February 11 by a score of 5-2. Both teams had excuses with Allen's travel schedule taking them from Allen to Brampton back to Allen and then to Ontario, a period which they did not skate for six out of ten days. Ontario also had a difficult travel schedule and had to use emergency back up goalies because of injury. Both teams are very different than the teams that played in February.

- Special teams are always a big key to victory and with the likelihood of more penalties being called in this series because of the two referee system special teams will be even more important. Ontario has performed better in the playoffs than Allen on both the power play and penalty kill. Allen will have to win the special teams battle if they expect to win the series.

- Another key to victory is getting off to a good start and scoring the first goal of the game. Allen and Ontario are a combined 9-1 during the playoffs when they score the first goal.

- Allen has had a relatively easy time getting to the Conference Finals beating Tulsa 4-1 and Rapid City 4-2 however the Americans have been plagued with some very poor games followed by very good games. The loss to Tulsa was 5-1. The losses to Rapid City were 4-2 at home and 7-4. Allen will have to be more consistent in their defensive zone and stay away from games where they gamble and give up breakaways and odd man rushes if they want to win the series with Ontario.

- Ontario had a difficult first round series with Colorado and were down 3-2 and had to win two games at home to get the series win. Their second round win over Utah was much easier winning 4-1.

- The bottom line is these are two very skilled teams that are also hard to play against. The series promises to be playoff hockey at its best and the winner could easily be determined by special teams play, a hot goalie, or key injuries.

- Here is the complete schedule for the series with Ontario. All times are local times so add two hours to the start times in Ontario if you want the start time in Allen.
Western Conference Finals
 Game 1 - Sun May 17 4:05 PM Ontario at Allen
Game 2 - Mon May 18 7:05 PM Ontario at Allen
Game 3 - Thu May 21 7:00 PM Allen at Ontario
Game 4 - Sat May 23 6:00 PM Allen at Ontario
Game 5 - Sun May 24 6:00 PM * Allen at Ontario
Game 6 - Tue May 26 7:05 PM * Ontario at Allen
Game 7 - Wed May 27 7:05 PM * Ontario at Allen
*if necessary

DID YOU KNOW: Over the years the ECHL championship finals have seen many lopsided series. Only three times in 26 years has the finals gone to seven games. Here is a break down for all 26 years.
4-0 - 3 times
4-1 - 14 times
4-2 - 6 times
4-3 - 3 times

Friday, May 15, 2015

Allen Prepares For Ontario, Practice Update, Schwartz Out, The Story of the Bruce Taylor Trophy

See "Did You Know" below for the connection between Bruce Taylor and Steve Martinson

- It is two days before the Allen Americans take on the Ontario Reign in the ECHL Western Conference Finals. This time of year is always exciting and Allen fans are so fortunate the team has been this far in the playoffs for three consecutive years. It is exciting because playoff hockey is the best of all sports, it gets more intense in each subsequent round as the series are between the best of the best, the interest from the media grows in each round as you see more and more stories about the team, players families and friends from near and far come to Allen to take in the games in person and the atmosphere in the Allen Event Center ramps up. Throw in the fact it is the first year in the ECHL for the Americans, the opponent (Ontario) is a new team for the Allen fans to see, the Central Division Champs are carrying the hopes of all seven teams that came from the CHL who have received little respect from many in the established ECHL and you have many subplots to observe. Bottom line is everyone who follows Allen Americans hockey needs to be at the AEC Sunday (4:05 p.m.) and Monday (7:05 p.m.) to see these games. It promises to be hockey at its best.

- You may wonder how are things different for the team as they prepare for the series with Ontario. The fact is in terms of preparation Steve Martinson's approach, which he learned early in his coaching career, is keep things the same and don't make it special. Keep doing what got you to this point, work on the things you have been working on to improve but don't create an environment where players are trying to do to much as that actually works against good performance. It is extra work for the coaching staff because they are not as familiar with Ontario as they were with first and second round opponents Tulsa and Rapid City. Every spare moment is spent reviewing video and devising a game plan for the series. For example, ten minutes after they got off the ice from practice yesterday both Steve Martinson and Erik Adams were in their office reviewing video. Allen and Ontario played two games in early February which is some help but both teams are very different now than they were in February. Even though the systems are the same the team you play in February is the not same team you play in the playoffs. For that reason the coaches spend more time on what has happened in the first two rounds of the playoffs than what happened in February.

- The drills at practice are very similar to what they have been all season. There might be some extra work on a certain phase of the game such as the power play but the routine is the same as the regular season. The guys are all nursing bumps and bruises this time of year so the break between games gives everyone a few days to heal. Coach Martinson did share that the injury Rylan Schwartz sustained in the Rapid City series will keep him out of the line up for the rest of the playoffs. If you are interested in attending a practice but can't because they are usually held during the day, Saturday may be an opportunity. Because of ice availability the practice time is scheduled for Saturday evening at 6:45 p.m. It should be a short practice so it may not be much  but feel free to stop by the Community Rink and check it out.

- Weather permitting there will be another tailgate party prior to the game on Sunday. It will start at 2:00 p.m. in front of the AEC and there will be activities for everyone. The team bus will be available for tours and if you have never been on the bus it is worth getting to the AEC early to see how the team and coaches travel. It will be an eye opener for sure. Bus driver, Monty Williams, should be available and can answer all of your questions about the bus which is affectionately known as "The Ol' Girl" or "Big Red" depending on who you ask.

- With the ECHL going to a two referee system for the next two rounds of the playoffs it will be important for teams to be disciplined and not take penalties away from the play. Ontario (17.67 PIM's per game) and Allen (15.64 PIM's per game) are the most penalized teams of the final four so they need to be aware there will be an extra pair of eyes watching for infractions and realize behavior that went unnoticed up to now will be seen and called.

- I will do an in depth series preview tomorrow but you might enjoy this one which was published by the ECHL yesterday. 

Allen is the first expansion team to make the Conference Finals since Idaho in 2004 while Ontario is making its first appearance in the Conference Finals in its fifth post season appearance.

The Americans eliminated Tulsa in five games in the Central Division Semifinals before dispatching Rapid City 4 games to 2 in the Central Division Finals. Allen led the ECHL in the regular season with 4.06 goals per game and the offensive attack has carried over to the postseason with a playoff-leading 4.27 goals per game average. The third period has been the Americans’ best during the playoffs as they have outscored their opponents 21-7 over the final 20 minutes. Greger Hanson leads Allen, and is tied for third overall in the playoffs, with 16 points (7g-9a) while Chad Costello (4g-11a), who won the ECHL regular-season scoring title with 125 points, and Spencer Asuchak (7g-8a) are tied for fifth with 15 points each. Riley Gill and Joel Rumpel have shared the goaltending duties for the Americans, with Gill recording five of the club’s eight wins through two rounds.

Ontario has reached the Western Conference Finals with a 4 games to 3 win over Colorado in the Pacific Division Semifinals, a series in which the Reign won both Games 6 and 7 on home ice, and a 4 games to 1 win over Utah in the Pacific Division Finals. The Reign went 22-9-5 on home ice during the regular season and have gone 5-1 at home during the playoffs, with five consecutive wins entering this series. Matt Register, who was named to the All-ECHL First Team and was runner-up for the Defenseman of the Year award, leads the Reign in the postseason with 14 points (6g-8a) while Garry Nunn, a late-season acquisition from Gwinnett, has added 13 points (5g-8a). In goal, Jussi Olkinuora has posted a 7-3 record in 11 appearances and ranks fourth with a 2.05 goals-against average.

Allen and Ontario met twice in the regular season, splitting a pair of meetings in Ontario in February.

DID YOU KNOW: The winner of the Western Conference Finals will be presented with the Bruce Taylor Trophy. It has been awarded to the Western Conference playoff champion, since 2005. Previously the Bruce Taylor Trophy was awarded to the playoff champion of the West Coast Hockey League (WCHL) until the league was absorbed by the ECHL in 2003. The WCHL's championship trophy was known as the Taylor Cup. Bruce Taylor was the the founder of the league and also originally owned three of the six founding teams (Bakersfield, Fresno and Reno). The San Diego Gulls were by far the most successful postseason team in WCHL history, winning five of the eight Taylor Cup championships awarded. How ironic if a Steve Martinson coached Allen team would win this series with Ontario and receive the Bruce Taylor Trophy since Martinson was the coach of the San Diego Gulls when they won the Taylor Cup five times as champions of the WCHL. Martinson knew Taylor personally from the WCHL days and told me he was a great guy.