- 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.
STEVE MARTINSON'S POST GAME COMMENTS
- 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.