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

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