- It is game day as the Allen Americans take on the Rapid City Rush tonight in game four of the Central Division Finals. All playoff games are important but if Allen can win tonight and go up 3-1 in the series you have to like their chances. If Rapid City gets the win they will be right back in the series at 2-2 and all of a sudden it is a best of three. Look for Costello, Steffes and Hanson to be contributors tonight after being held in check by Rapid City on Thursday.
- It will be a late night for Allen fans as the game tonight will not
start until 9:05 CDT which is an hour later than normal start times for
weekend night games in Rapid City. Would assume the later start has
something to do with scheduling at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. If
you recall this game was originally scheduled midweek and was changed.
The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology was originally scheduled
to have their graduation in the ice arena but according to their web
site that has been moved to the convention center which is another part
of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. So it will be a late night for Allen
fans but for those looking for a good sign Rapid City only had one late
start like tonight during the regular season and that was also against
Allen. The Americans beat Rapid City in that game 4-1.
- Have mentioned on numerous occasions what distinguishes Allen from many other teams is their depth. Here are some facts that back up that statement. Fifteen of the twenty players on the trip to Rapid City have AHL experience. This is a deep and skilled team that is also physical which is exactly what is need to be successful in the playoffs. When you can put together three lines which include Chad Costello, who won the ECHL scoring title by 45 points on one line, Gary Steffes who led the league in goals on another and Spencer Asuchak who is second in the ECHL in playoff scoring on a third and surround them with guys like Hanson, Schwartz, Crane, Arseneau, and Schultz, who have all spent time in the AHL this year, add in the championship experience of captain Jamie Schaafsma who was the playoff MVP in the CHL last year and the international experience of Patrik Valcak you have a team that is tough to play against and three lines that are interchangeable. Combine that with a defensive group that includes the winner of the Defenseman of the Year in the Central Hockey League in 2014 (Tyler Ludwig) and 2013 (Kevin Young), the highest scoring defensemen in the ECHL this season (Aaron Gens), a member of the ECHL all-rookie team (Justin Baker), and two guys with significant AHL experience in Konrad Abeltshauser (107 games) and Trevor Ludwig (145 games) you have depth all over the ice. Throw in the Kelly Cup playoff MVP from the 2013 Kelly Cup Champions in goalie Riley Gill along with goalie Joel Rumpel who was a finalist for the 2013-2014 Hobey Baker Award and just finished his collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin and signed a one year deal with the NHL's San Jose Sharks. Add it all together and that is what you would call depth on a hockey team. Just sayin'!
- When looking at keys to victory, special teams and goaltending are always at the top of the list as well as getting of to a good start. With 75% of all ECHL regular season games won by the team that scored the first goal, a good start is key. In the playoffs Allen is at the top of the list with a perfect 3-0 record when scoring the first goal. Rapid City is close to the bottom of the list as their record in the playoffs when scoring first is 4-3.
- The referee scheduled for the game tonight is Stephen Reneau (#17). Reneau is best known as the referee who worked the longest game in ECHL history which happened just over a year ago (4/28/14) when Idaho defeated Colorado 3-2. The four overtime epic lasted just over 197 minutes of playing time and spanned five and a half hours from start to finish. Reneau, who is from the Kansas City area, got his start as a referee when he was working at a local rink and running a men's league. One night a referee didn't show up so he was forced into action. The linesmen tonight will be Erik Contino (#33) and Tyler Landman (#80).
- There were two games in the ECHL playoffs last night. For the second game in a row Florida beat South Carolina in overtime after the Stingrays came back in the third period to tie the game. After winning in three overtimes on Wednesday Florida won 5-4 in two overtimes last night. After being down in the series 3-0 the Everblades have clawed back into the series with the two OT wins in South Carolina. Florida now heads home trailing 3-2 in the series. Game six and seven (if necessary) will be in Florida on Monday and Tuesday.
- In the Pacific Division Finals Ontario beat Utah last night 4-2 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in that series. Game five is scheduled tonight in Utah.
- The North Division Final is tied 2-2 with Fort Wayne at Toledo tonight. The home team has won all four games thus far with both of Fort Wayne's wins coming in overtime.
- If you are fan of an ECHL Western Conference playoff team you have to like what has been a grueling second round thus far for all of the teams in the Eastern Conference with lots of overtime games. If this continues through the Eastern Conference Finals it might be advantageous to whatever team comes out of the Western Conference.
- Darryl Hunt is a writer that has covered the Worcester Sharks for many years and writes for the worcesterherald.com and Sharkspage.com. Darryl just posted a final report card for the Worcester Sharks now that their season is completed and covered almost every player on the roster including their stats and their contract status for the 2015-2016 season. (RFA = restricted free agent, ELC = entry level contract). Here is what Hunt had to say about four players that spent time in Allen this year. The numbers for the skaters are goals, assists and total points and then plus/minus. For the goalies the numbers are wins, losses, overtime losses and then goals against average & save percentage.
27 Rylan Schwartz C (43 games; 5-10-15; +7; 11PIM; RFA)
It was a tale of two different season for Schwartz: before being sent to
the ECHL he was basically invisible on the ice, and after his recall he
was a truly serviceable third/fourth line player that made lots of
great plays where all of his point total took place. I can see San Jose
giving him another shot next season, but odds are it’s the last one
he’ll get. Grade: C
10 Konrad Abeltshauser (50 games; 3-16-19; +2; 19PIM; year 3 of 3 year ELC)
Abeltshauser’s biggest issue is confidence. He gets down on himself far
too quickly when he makes a mistake, and that in turn leads to other
mistakes. When he playing well he’s as solid a defenseman as you’d
expect, but one slip-up and he looks like an overmatched rookie. As I
type this he’s lighting up the ECHL, so hopefully that will get him on
the right track for next season. His upside it way too high for anyone
to give up on him just yet. Grade: C
29 Aaron Dell (26 games; 15-8-2; 2.06; .927; RFA)
Dell started the season third on the depth chart and on an AHL contract
and ended it as the number one goalie for the Worcester Sharks and an NHL
contract in his pocket. No player can dream of a better scenario. His
2.06 GAA set the Worcester city record for season and career in that
stat, and his .927 save percentage set season and career franchise marks
for the WorSharks. Simply put; Dell is the reason Worcester made it to
the playoffs. Grade: A
34 J.P. Anderson (16 games; 6-8-1; 2.71; .900; RFA)
All Anderson had to do to stay in the AHL was not be terrible, but
unfortunately for him he was unable to be consistent enough while
Grosenick was in the NHL and he was outplayed by Dell. Then in the ECHL
Anderson got outplayed again by other goaltenders and wasn’t placed on
the Allen Americans playoff roster. Anderson likely won’t be qualified,
and without a huge season next year in the ECHL (if he can even land a
job) he’s likely on the long list of promising goalies that didn’t make
the cut. Grade: D
DID YOU KNOW: The ECHL playoff attendance continues to disappoint. After 66 playoff games the average attendance is just 3370. Here is the average attendance for the eight teams remaining in the playoffs.
5002: Fort Wayne
2828: Rapid City
2357: South Carolina