Monday, June 29, 2015

Weekly Update - Allen Signings, Qualifying Offers, Player Movement, ECHL Meetings, Videos & More

There has been a lot of activity this past week so thought it would be a good time to try and gather as much of it as possible into one blog post. If you are a regular user of social media there may not by much new but for the others there certainly will be, so here goes.


- Brian McMillin has signed to play in the top French league (Ligue Magnus) for next season and will be playing for the Ducs de Dijon (Dijon Dukes) which play in Dijon, France. Dijon is in eastern France about 200 miles southeast of Paris. And yes it is where Dijon mustard originated in 1856 when the acidic green juice of not quite ripe grapes was substituted for vinegar in the traditional mustard recipe. The regular season is just 26 games long and will start in mid September and finish in mid February.

- Tyler Ludwig is retiring and will not return. Pretty nice way to leave the game with three straight championships. Best of luck to Tyler, Taylor and family!

- Coach Martinson is hard at work trying to get players signed before qualifying offers are due tomorrow (Tuesday, June 30) at 11:59 EDT. He expects to have six players signed by the deadline.

- Martinson will utilize all eight qualifying offers which carry with them a minimum of a 5% increase in salary. By making a qualifying offer he will be able to protect the rights to these players. If you combine the six players he hopes to have signed, the players who have AHL contracts that he can't sign, and those players he knows won't be back, he should have enough qualifying offers available to protect every player he is interested in. 

- With the NHL draft just completed Martinson has not had an in depth conversation with San Jose on what players might be assigned to Allen. He will attend the Sharks development/prospects camp which starts July 5th and will have a much better idea at that time how things might look for the Americans. The relationship between Martinson and San Jose is outstanding which makes things work for both parties. It is also great for players that sign in Allen.

- Martinson has not signed any new players yet with most of the effort this past week concentrating on re-signing players from last year and getting all of the qualifying offers prepared and sent out. 

- It will be interesting to see the list of those that get qualifying offers. Because veterans can become unrestricted free agents on September 1st, even if they are given a qualifying offer, some teams do not give qualifying offers to veterans. I would not expect to see qualify offers used on all of the Allen veterans if they are not signed by tomorrow. There might be an exception but some of the veterans may not be protected which doesn't mean they won't be back if they are interested in returning to Allen.

- The ECHL releases qualifying offers for all teams (unlike the CHL) so look for the complete list to be released on Wednesday, at least last year it was released on July 1st.


- Won't go through all of the activity around the league but some high profile players have already signed to play in Europe. Here are some that played in the ECHL Central Division or for the Allen Americans in the past along with some former Allen players that have been traded or retired.

Sebastien Thinel - The long time CHL player who played many years in Odessa and has been the Missouri Mavericks captain for the last four years is headed to France where he will play for Grenoble.

Jesse Schultz - The long time Rapid City Rush forward and leading scorer has signed in Germany.

Erick Lizon - The long time Wichita Thunder bad boy who led the team in penalty minutes has signed in Great Britain (Nottingham).

Devin DiDiomete - Devin played for a short time with Allen this year before going to Missouri and then finishing the season in Idaho. He has signed in Slovakia.

Mario Lamoureux - The leading scorer for the Quad City Mallards has signed in Denmark.

Mark Guggenberger - The former Allen Americans goaltender (2013-2014) has signed to play in Hungary for next season.

Mike Berube - The longtime Allen defenseman who was the team captain for the 2013-2014 CHL championship and played in England (Nottingham) this past season has announced his retirement.

Alex Lavoie - Alex was the third leading scorer for the Florida Everblades this season after setting many rookie records for Allen in the 2013-2014 season. Alex has been traded from Florida to the Gwinnett Gladiators.

Matt Register - Another former Allen player who was the ECHL Defensemen of the Year two years ago and runner up this past season. Matt has been traded from Ontario to Gwinnett.

Judd Blackwater - Judd played for Allen in 2010-2011 and was in Ontario last season. He has signed to play for a team in Hungary next year which plays in the Austrian League.

Colton Yellow Horn - The long time Allen favorite will move from Japan where he played this past season to Austria League for the upcoming season. He will play for a team in the Czech Republic.


- Congrats to the Allen Americans who won the "Award of Excellence" for the best website in the ECHL.

- The biggest news coming out of the ECHL meeting was the change in overtime and shootout rules. The ECHL will follow the lead of the NHL in the 2015-16 season with fewer skaters in overtimes and in shootouts. The ECHL will now allow just three skaters during the five minute overtime instead of the four used this past season. And the number of shooters in a shootout will be reduced from five to three, only going beyond three if there has not been a winner determined with those first three shooters. Based on the experience in the AHL this year where they had three minutes of 4 on 4, followed by four minutes of 3 on 3 many fewer games will go to a shootout. In 2014-2015, the AHL witnessed 75% of its games end in overtime compared to 35.3% the year before under the 4 on 4 format. Since Allen had one of the worst overtime/shootout records in the ECHL last season these changes are welcome news. For the record Allen was 3-6 in overtime games and in shootouts scored just 9-39 or .231 percent which was the fourth worst percentage in the league.

- Have not seen any other rule changes for next year reported out of the league meetings but have been told there will in fact be some changes that will impact rosters. Will have to wait on the specifics. The ECHL will put out a recap of the Board of Governors meeting from last week which will have more details on other rule/roster changes for next season.


- Former Allen player, Liam Huculak (2009-2011), recently started working for the Bakersfield Condors (AHL) as the Director of Business Development. If you recall, Liam had an interesting background as he graduated from Colgate University with major in environmental geography and a minor in theater. He also recently got married. Congrats Liam/Hooch!

- Just like the hockey team the Allen Ice Angels are already preparing for next season. The Ice Angels received so much great publicity throughout the playoffs and Allen is so lucky to have such a great group of professionals entertaining at each and every game. Prep classes for auditions start July 10th and auditions are August 9th.

- If you have an interest in tracking the players that have been signed by all 28 ECHL teams check out Team Sin Bin ( as they have done all of the work to compile this information. It is always current and all you have to do is go to the web site and click on the "ECHL Transactions" tab. I will include the info on the Central Division in my blog updates but the complete list will be at

- Here are the players that have been signed and announced by the four Central Division teams. Expect many additions to this list this week as there are many players signed but not announced.
Allen (0) - None
Missouri (2) - Andrew Courtney (F), Tanner Fritz (F)
Tulsa (4) - Phil Brewer (F), Kevin Carr (G), Kevin Noble (D), Adam Pleskach (F)
Wichita (0) - None

- The Americans had more than their share of serious injuries this season with Brian McMillin, Jesse Messier and Ian Schultz all having fractures with long recovery times of 4-6 months. Tough to see the x-rays of those fractures with screws holding things together. Hope they are all back to 100% next season. Ian just had his surgery recently so he will miss the start of the season. 

- On a more pleasant note here are couple of videos you might enjoy if you haven't already seen them. The first is produced by the ECHL and it is their weekly show which covers the playoffs and championship. It is 36 minutes long but worth the time. The second video is produced by the Allen Americans and is just four minutes long.

DID YOU KNOW: Salaries increase as a player moves from the ECHL to the AHL to the NHL but so does their per diem, the money they get each day on the road for meals and incidentals. Here are the per diem rates by league for the past season. Incidentally, the ECHL per diem increases $1 to $40 next season.
ECHL - $39 per day
AHL   - $69 per day
NHL   - $103 per day

Monday, June 22, 2015

Steve Martinson's Recruiting Process Is One Of The Best - The Details About 2015-2016

It is striking how quickly the Allen Americans have moved from championship, to celebration, to scattering for the summer. It has been just one week and the conversation has already turned to next season and putting together the 2015-2016 version of the Allen Americans.

Steve Martinson just completed his nineteenth year as a professional hockey coach and his results speak wonders about his ability to recruit players. He has won nine championships and has only missed the playoffs one time in nineteen years. The one time he missed the playoffs was in 2011-2012 with the Chicago Express (ECHL) when he had six players promoted to the AHL and six other players sustain season ending injuries. To make matters worse the team decided they were going to fold at the end of the season so the last part of the season was played knowing they were not returning. As coach always says, "Not an excuse, just the facts."

 After a week of championship celebrations Martinson has started talking to players this week to have a conversation about next season. Early signings could take place before the week is out.

Recruiting is the most important aspect of the job for a general manager/head coach and Martinson does it all year long. Everyday he is in contact with players and agents. Whether it is telephone calls, texts or social media he maintains contact with as many players as possible and this is the case both in the off season and during the season.

The starting point to putting together the 2015-2016 Allen Americans team is determining a budget. While the salary cap is a given cost, housing and insurance costs the team more than the players salary. A big cost factor is how many married players are on the team. Married players get their own apartment while the single guys share an apartment. Health insurance is much cheaper for single players and married guys without children than it is for families. One of the goals for the coming year will most likely be to reduce the cost of housing and insurance.

With three straight championships you might think everything would be positive in putting the 2015-2016 team together but that is not the case. Many of the players want to try playing in the AHL or Europe. Brian McMillin has already been signed by a team in Dijon, France with more surely to come. Being on a championship team gives players leverage to pursue these opportunities. So you have a situation where some players want time to find other opportunities before committing to Allen. Another issue facing Martinson is after winning the Kelly Cup all of the players feel they deserve a raise in pay however the amount available for salaries will increase by just $200 per week for the entire team. The salary cap is set by the Professional Hockey Players Association (PHPA) and ownership and is spelled out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). This season the salary cap was $12,200 per week to be shared by all players on the active roster. Next season the salary cap will increase to $12,400. That is an average increase of just $10 per week per player.

What is Steve Martinson's secret to recruiting? Have as many tools in your recruiting tool kit as possible. With the salary cap, competing based on salary is not the key to success as a player can always find a team willing to pay $50 or $100 more per week. The key to getting the best players is having other reasons to have them want to play for your team. Here are some of the many tools Steve Martinson uses when making a pitch to players.

-  Allen has never missed the playoffs and has been to the championship finals four times in six years and won three straight championships. You can count on many additional weeks of pay as Allen makes a deep playoff run along with a couple of extra months of lodging and playoff bonuses. This can total $10,000 - $15,000 more in compensation over a team that does not make the playoffs. 

- You will play an upbeat, aggressive offensive system in Allen that is also dedicated to defensive hockey. Points you score in the ECHL won't keep you in the American Hockey League (AHL) but points will get you noticed. You have to be able to play without the puck and you have to understand the game and that is what we will help you with in Allen. With our system you will have plenty of opportunity to get points. Allen led the Central Hockey League in goals scored in 2013-2014 and led the ECHL in goals scored this year (2014-2015). We won't handcuff you in the third period with a lead. We will take less risk but we will keep our foot on the gas. If you want to play in a system where you can score a lot of points come to Allen.

- You will play for a great organization and you will play in a great facility in the six year old Allen Event Center which is surrounded by shopping and restaurants.  

- You will play for a team that has a history of moving players to the AHL. We had fifteen different players from our roster spend time in the AHL this year. Our goal is to see you progress in your hockey career.

- Playing in the Dallas Metroplex you have access to whatever interests you may have including the Stars, Cowboys, Mavericks and Rangers. Playing where you have a major international airport makes it easier for you and your friends and family to travel in and out of DFW and for players to get to AHL cities quickly if called up.

- You will live on a golf course and can play golf year around. Average high temperature during the hockey season is 79 in October, 66 in November, 57 in December, 55 in January, 61 in February, 69 in March, 77 in April and 84 in May. It is a great place to live whether your are single or married.

- If you like to fish there are plenty of opportunities within fifteen minutes of your apartment. Fishing is great.

- We will help with whatever your post hockey career interests are through our intern program. We had four players participate in the intern program this past season. 

- There is a great fan base that supports the team and the players.

With three straight championships to his credit Steve Martinson will have plenty of players and agents calling him this summer. When you have a successful program in a great location a lot of players will want to play in Allen.

Because Steve Martinson has been around minor pro hockey for so long he has a real advantage when it comes to recruiting. But even with the contacts he has developed over the years he spends many hours going over data to determine who to recruit. He has a couple of techniques that he uses to find those diamonds in the rough, players who have underperformed but will thrive in his system and players that have not been used in the right way on their current teams. It is no coincidence that each year there several players that come in and have a career year in Allen. Whether it is young guys like Lavoie, Lessard, Asuchak, Baker, Hanson or experienced players like Costello and Steffes they thrive in the Martinson system.  

Another issue the coach needs to be aware of is the veteran status of each player as the number of veterans on the team is limited to just four. A veteran is defined as a player with more than 260 regular season professional games ( for games in Europe only the top six leagues count). The Americans started this season with four veterans (Costello, Combs, Tyler & Trevor Ludwig) and have two players (Schaafsma & Steffes) that will become veterans next season. Combs was not replaced when he left for Europe and Tyler Ludwig is retiring so there are four veterans on the final roster. A decision will have to be made whether to re-sign all four veterans.

Until July 1st all of the Allen American player's rights for the ECHL remain with Allen (unless the rights are traded) but on July 1st Martinson has to submit to the league a list of no more than eight players he wants to protect. These eight names do not include players that have already signed. Because only eight players can be protected there is incentive to get as many players signed by July 1st as possible. The eight players will be given qualifying offers which for most part must be 5% above their salary from last season. The qualifying offer period is from July 1st to August 1st. The rules are a little different for players with 39 or fewer games, 40 or more games and veterans but in almost all cases the offer must include a 5% salary increase.

Here is my opinion of how Martinson will approach recruitment for next season.

- Look for fewer married players, especially married players with children, on the roster next season.

- Coach Martinson will be loyal to the players that helped bring the Kelly Cup championship to Allen. That doesn't mean everyone wishing to return will be signed but he will reach out to everyone to see what they want to do.

- When you win the championship everyone feels they deserve a raise but with the salary cap increasing just $200 that is not possible. Some players will be asked to play for less money because CHL salaries were typically higher than ECHL salaries. To get good players to sign in the CHL a coach had to offer more salary than the player would have gotten if they signed in the ECHL. It is important that the players are dealt with fairly and are paid what they are worth based on ECHL salaries.

- Because of salary cap issues Martinson played most of last season with fewer players than were allowed. He would prefer to have a full roster next season. Because players assigned to Allen by San Jose with NHL/AHL contracts cost the Americans only $525 per week against the salary cap (the rest of their salary is paid by the parent club) having 4-6 of these players will actually help.

- Those that are ready to sign immediately will be the top priority. Those that wait run the risk of other players being signed and a slot not being available or money not being available.

- Coach Martinson will strive to get as many players signed as quickly as possible. A good goal would be to have the top two lines, four defensemen and a goalie signed by July 1st.

- With the average salary being about $620 per week ($12,400 divided by 20 players) finding good young players that make less than the average is critical so you can pay the top end guys.

- Popularity of players with the fans is not a big factor when it comes time to signing. It is strictly based on performance. You can always find another popular player.

- If Martinson finds a good player at the right price they will get signed right away.

- With just four veteran slots available the decision on veterans will be a difficult one.

- The affiliation with San Jose will continue though it has not been formalized yet. Allen will have players assigned for development from the beginning of the season unlike last year when some players from Worcester were sent to other teams because Allen came to the ECHL very late.

One thing is certain, Steve Martinson will have the same type of team as he has always had. They will compete hard, be physical and be difficult to play against. The team will be tough but also skillful. He recruits guys that understand you must work hard, be in great shape, follow the system, be a team guy and finish checks. He builds his teams to have depth rather than a few super stars. This approach has worked for nineteen years and it will work again in year twenty as he puts together the 2015-2016 team.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Thank Yous All Around - The End Of The Season

While we are all still basking in the glory of a hockey season that ended with a Kelly Cup championship for the Allen Americans it is time for me to say my thanks to all involved. I sure consider myself lucky to have started this blog three seasons ago and have all of them end with championships.

Who would have imagined a blog started for the Heritage Ranch Allen Americans fan club now reaches people all over the US and Canada as well as the hockey hotbeds in Europe on a daily basis and has just passed 450,000 pages views.  It proves fans of the Allen Americans are all over the world.

I want to start out by thanking all of the fans that frequent this blog. It has been my pleasure to meet many of you and your words of encouragement in person, comments at the end of each blog post, on Twitter, Facebook, message boards, and email have been very satisfying and inspiring.

Thanks to the many fans, bloggers, and media from all over the league that have promoted the blog as fair and balanced and also have shared information with me about their teams. One of the unexpected benefits of writing the blog has been getting to know all of the passionate fans from other teams.

Joe Babik, Director of Communication for the ECHL spent more time with me this season than I deserved to help educate me about the policies, rules,and procedures of the ECHL. Joe has gone above and beyond the call of duty and seems to respond to questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Thank you to the players who have never said no to a single request I have made of them for a chat, an interview or a question.  I have gotten to know most of these young men both professionally and personally and they have represented the Americans in an outstanding manner.

One of my goals when I started the blog was to share the personal stories of the players. The wives/girlfriends, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and friends I have met have been great about sharing family stories which I have then been able to share in the blog. Thanks to all of you.

Thanks to Steve Martinson, Kevin Colley, and Erik Adams for always being willing to talk to me and help educate me. A special thanks to coach Martinson, for allowing me to stop by his office after every game and every practice to ask questions and talk about the team. It is his openness and trust that has allowed the blog to have information you can't find anywhere else.

A special thank you to Tommy Daniels, Director of Communication & Broadcasting who has been a tremendous help to me for three years. He is the one that encouraged me to start the blog, made me feel like part of the media team, answered many questions, let me stop by his office on almost a daily basis to get current information, publicized the blog to attract new readership, and invited me to be part of the between periods conversation on his radio broadcast to talk hockey and promote the blog. He even let me do color commentary in Tulsa during the first round of the playoffs. Tommy is the best in the business and is always willing to share his knowledge with others.

Thanks to photographers Kimberly Sauer and Lauren Lyssy who work tirelessly to provide pictures for the blog. You may know I write the blog in the morning and get up at 4:00 am. Many mornings after a game, Kimberly and Lauren are up until 2:00 am or later to process all of their pictures and email me their best ones. It sure makes for a better game recap with their pictures included.

Thanks also to the entire Team Sin Bin which has welcomed me into their group this year and made it very  easy for me to get my stories on their site ( A special thanks to Matt Harding (SinBinThunder) and Joe Rozycki (SinBinMavs) who work their magic every day to post my stories.

Unlike most writers, bloggers, and other media types that cover the Americans I have a dual role as in addition to being a blogger I also coordinate the activities of the fan club at Heritage Ranch where I live. In this capacity I spend a lot of time in the front office of the Americans arranging for season tickets, suites, individual game tickets, seats for soldiers tickets, and other promotions. I want to thank the entire sales and marketing staff and especially Mike Martin and Robert Fatta who have gone out of their way to help me and the residents of Heritage Ranch.

Finally, thanks to Matt Canavan, Allen Americans President, who is always willing to answer my questions about how the league operates, the business end of minor pro hockey and any other questions I may have.

So a third consecutive magical season has come to an end. I have been a season ticket holder since the beginning so I have been following the team since its inception but these last three seasons have been different. I was able to see the team from a different perspective and the access I was given by the entire organization helped me bring the Allen Americans story to the blog.

Soon everyone will scatter to the winds and all of the uncertainty about next year commences. Based on past history more than half of the team will not return. Some will choose to go to Europe, some will be in the AHL, some will not be re-signed and some will retire. Tyler Ludwig has already let it be known he will be taking a 9 to 5 job and will retire from professional hockey. Super fan Wendy Ellis said it best, "The day after is always so bittersweet. Winning is awesome - so happy for the guys! Saying goodbye is the hardest day of the season! We will miss these guys and their families so much. Such a wonderful group. So proud and so grateful we get to share it with them. We have come to realize how fortunate we are to get to know the players and their families the way we do and to have access the way we do."

This will be the last daily blog post for the year. It is time to hit the gym to try and shed the twenty pounds I gained during the season by writing the blog in the morning instead of working out. I will still blog on an as needed basis as new information becomes available. If you are on Facebook or Twitter you can see whenever there is a new post on the blog by liking my page on Facebook at "Allen Americans Blog" or following me on Twitter at @allenamericans1. I will also put any new post up at which is a great place to get information about all teams in the ECHL during the off season.

DID YOU KNOW: Season-Ending Rosters were due yesterday at 3 p.m. EDT. They may include up to twenty players. Since AHL contracted guys are excluded everyone else on the Allen roster should have been included on the Season-Ending Roster.

Allen Wins Kelly Cup - You Will Walk Together Forever

It wasn't as dramatic as 2013 when Todd Robinson scored an overtime goal in game seven to win the first CHL championship for Allen but it may have been a more important game seven for the Allen Americans as they won the ECHL Kelly Cup in their inaugural season in the league last night in a winner take all game against the South Carolina Stingrays. In a game that was atypical of the finals, Allen scored early and often and beat the Stingrays 6-1 before an announced crowd of 6125 which must be the number the Americans have to post to please the Fire Marshall because by all reports there were more than that in the building. 

 There were certainly some skeptics when the seven Central Hockey League (CHL) teams were absorbed by the ECHL just before the start of the season and very few people thought the eventual Kelly Cup winner would come out of the Central Division. The Allen victory last night was in a way for all of the teams in the Central Division.

I have so many thoughts about the game and the series not sure where to start so will do what comes easiest and that is random thinking and writing, so here goes. 

- The South Carolina Stingrays should be congratulated on a historic season. You never want to get blown out in a championship final but the game last night should not diminish one bit the phenomenal success the Stingrays had this season. They set records that will stand for many years to come. Congrats to the players, coaches and entire franchise. Spencer Carbery is a young coach (33) who Steve Martinson voted as ECHL coach of the year. Look for him to be coaching at a higher level in the near future.

- Steve Martinson always says in big games your best players have to be your best players and that sure happened in game seven. ECHL scoring champion Chad Costello (125 points) and ECHL leading goal scorer Gary Steffes (44 goals) figured in all six Allen goals. Costello got the first and third goals for Allen along with an assist. Steffes scored the fourth goal for Allen which was the goal that chased ECHL MVP goalie Jeff Jakaitis from the game after just 26 minutes. Steffes also had two assists for a total of three points. Add in the stellar play of goalie Riley Gill, assists by Jamie Schaafsma on both Costello goals and the veterans really stepped up in game seven. 

- There was plenty of help from some of the new guys as Vincent Arseneau had two goals and Chris Crane, who played with great energy throughout the series, had a goal and two assists. For the record the six goal scorers for Allen were in order, Costello (8), Arseneau (6), Costello (9), Steffes (13), Crane (10), Arseneau (7). 

- Congratulations to Greger Hanson who was selected as the playoff MVP as he led Allen in scoring with 29 points (12 goals 17 assists) and had three game winning goals. Having to wear a full face mask seems to be a lucky charm as both Greger and Brian McMillin in 2013 won the playoff MVP award after having teeth knocked out and wearing a mask/cage during the playoffs.

- One of the best pictures of the night was one where all of the fans who attended the game from the old CHL teams gathered for a picture on the ice. To see Missouri, Wichita, and Tulsa fans in their team jerseys and the friendships between the fans was nice to see. Don't get me wrong some of the best comments on social media went something like this, "Congrats Allen for the great win tonight and bringing home the Kelly Cup, I was cheering for you as you did the Central Division proud. Now I am going back to disliking you and hope you don't win again."

- One of the most enjoyable parts of watching the team win a championship is the reaction of their families and friends. The tears of joy, celebrations, and pictures are very special and are memories that will be cherished forever.

- Many players go through their entire professional career without winning a championship and winning just one is an amazing accomplishment but to win three in a row rarely happens especially with the same team. Just four players have been in Allen for all three championships and a special stick tap to them. Congrats to Trevor Ludwig, Tyler Ludwig, Brian McMillin and Jamie Schaafsma. 

- Here are some quotes from near and far about the game and the championship:

"In this series I didn't think we played our best game. It didn't surprise me tonight we scored six goals. We don't need a lot of scoring chances to score, so it was just good timing.".....Steve Martinson

"We talked about wanting to play more of our game. We got caught playing a little too safe. It was awesome that we got back into our game with puck control, scoring chances and offense.".....Chad Costello

"It's pretty special to win my second Kelly Cup, especially in a tight series like this in seven games. It was a mental and physical battle the whole playoff series.".....Riley Gill

"I am in disbelief and shock as there are not many other adjectives to describe that game. We completely failed to execute for some reason in every facet of the game. That is a tough pill to swallow in game seven of the championship. It is not what you want to see."..... South Carolina coach Spencer Carbery

"This was a really special team and I love those guys. We have been through so much and for the first time since I quit playing I wanted to be part of the group. I wanted to be in the room.".....Spencer Carbery

"Every game in this series has been low scoring and close and to have this in game seven. I can't believe it.".....Chad Costello

"We played our puck possession game, our defense held the puck more and were able to pull guys out of position. It is the way we play and I thought it was our best game of the season.".....Steve Martinson

"This is awesome. A three peat for Allen is incredible. A sold out barn tonight, it was so loud with the best crowd of the year. It was just great.".....Riley Gill

"Win one in the CHL, solid. Win two in a row in the CHL, impressive. Join ECHL and win third in a row in the first season, priceless. Congrats Allen! #proudCHLer." .....long time CHL goalie Tim Boron

"Congrats on the win boys! #partytimenow #3peat #enjoy".....Jonathan Lessard

"Still don't like them that much but huge congrats to the Allen Americans for winning the Kelly Cup. What an accomplishment!".....Sebastien Thinel, long time Odessa and Missouri player

"Congrats to the Allen Americans on the Kelly Cup #3peat #RockYourRed".....Alex Lavoie

"This has turned into the Riley Gill show, Allen goalie is really stellar.".....Scott Eisberg, Sports Director for WCIV-TV channel 4, the ABC affiliate in Charleston who was at the AEC to cover game seven.

"Congrats to the Americans on the ECHL championship! #3peat #champions #welldeserved #Americans".....Mike Berube

"South Carolina won 23 games in a row, beat teams in the playoffs that earned 96, 105 and 107 points  and didn't win the championship. it is really hard to do win folks.".....Jason Guarente who covers the Reading Royals for the Reading Eagle

"I've always said I've had the same team for 19 years now. Just different names on the front and back. But it has been the same team.".....Steve Martinson

"Coaching and talent go a long way, regardless of your league - as the Allen Americans prove on an annual basis.".....Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News

"It took just one season for Allen to conquer a new league.".....Ryan Gerbosi, Dallas Morning News

- Steve Martinson has said numerous times the affiliation this year with San Jose and Worcester was the best he has ever had. It was nice to see all of the messages coming from the teams and the fans in San Jose and Worcester. The late season additions from Worcester (Crane, Rumpel, Schwartz, Arseneau, Abeltshauser) shows the strength of the affiliation. Saw where someone had pointed out 14 of the 22 goals Allen scored in the final series with South Carolina were scored by players that spent time in Worcester during the season.

- What can you say about the record of Steve Martinson. He has now won nine championships in 19 years as a head coach and in three years as the Allen coach has never lost a playoff series (10-0) or a game when his team could be eliminated (8-0). He is out of fingers for championship rings as he has two as a player in addition to the nine as a coach. He is the best recruiter in the business and has a way to get players to play to their potential which is a deadly combination. It isn't easy playing for him as he is old school for sure but if you want a coach that has developed a winning formula, play for Steve Martinson. It is impossible for me to understand why the team ownership has not extended his contract and given him a long term deal. He obviously deserves it but it also is in the best interest of the team and team ownership. C'MON MAN! GIT-R-DONE!

- if I know Steve Martinson and I do, he has already taken calls and made calls to agents and players to start the recruitment process for next season. There are so many reasons to play in Allen as the recruiting tool kit is overflowing with tools but you can add ECHL champion as another recruiting tool. It will be a good summer of recruiting for coach Martinson. 

- With the official attendance last night of 6125 for the 95th playoff game and number 1103 overall the season comes to an end with a new ECHL attendance record of almost five million. To be exact the attendance was 4,979,066. 

- There are a lot of thank yous to be handed out but will save that for tomorrow which will be the last daily blog post of the season.

DID YOU KNOW: In the odd stat of game seven there was not a single player on the Allen roster that had just one point in the game. It was either zero points or multiple points for everyone on the roster. With six goals and seven assists that is hard to do. The  multiple point scorers were Costello, Steffes and Crane with three and with two points Schaafsma and Arseneau.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Game Seven Preview - Allen vs South Carolina Kelly Cup Final

Today is the final game preview of the season and there will be enough numbers to make your head spin. The numbers will prove absolutely nothing as if there was ever a game where the past doesn't predict the future this would be the game. However, whether you are an Allen fan, South Carolina fan or an ECHL fan it is always fascinating to look at the statistics to help figure out who will win the game. There is plenty of ammunition for both teams to say the odds are in their favor. Here are a few examples:

- Allen hasn't lost a playoff series in the last three years going a perfect 9-0
- South Carolina has never lost a game seven series in franchise history going a perfect 3-0
- Allen is 7-0 in elimination games under Coach Steve Martinson
- South Carolina has already won two game sevens in the playoffs this year 
- The home team is 22-9 all time and 6-1 this year in ECHL game seven playoff games
- The road team has won two of the three game sevens in championship finals history
- Allen has never been under .500 in a playoff series at home and are 1-2 in this series
- South Carolina won the last game seven Kelly Cup final (2009) on the road
- In his 19th year of coaching Steve Martinson has never lost a game seven at home
- Spencer Carbery was a member of the 2009 Stingrays team that won game seven on the road
- Allen is 9-4 at home in the playoffs this year
- South Carolina is 10-3 on the road in the playoffs this year

So grab the ones you like as you can find plenty of reasons why your favorite team should win on Sunday and become the Kelly Cup Champion.

Here is a statistical comparison of Allen and South Carolina looking at the regular season, playoffs and head to head:

Regular Season: Allen (292) - South Carolina (224)
Playoffs: Allen (83) - South Carolina (85)
Head to Head: Allen (16) - South Carolina (18)

Regular Season: Allen (203) - South Carolina (163)
Playoffs: Allen (69) - South Carolina (78)
Head to Head: Allen (18) - South Carolina (16)

Regular Season: Allen (1644) - South Carolina (1065)
Playoffs: Allen (414) - South Carolina (324)
Head to Head: Allen (92) - South Carolina (94)

POWER PLAY (Overall)
Regular Season: Allen (21.9%) - South Carolina (15.3%)
Playoff: Allen (18.2%) - South Carolina (15.9%)
Head to Head: Allen (17.6%) - South Carolina (4.8%)

Regular Season: Allen (21.0%) - South Carolina (16.1%)
Playoffs: Allen (26.2%) - South Carolina (14.6%)
Head th Head: Allen (30.0%) - South Carolina (8.3%)

Regular Season: Allen (22.6%) - South Carolina (14.4%)
Playoffs: Allen (5.3%) - South Carolina (17.6%)
Head to Head: Allen (0.0%) - South Carolina (0.0%)

Regular Season: Allen (86.3%) - South Carolina (87.7%)
Playoffs: Allen (85.5%) - South Carolina (79.8%)
Head to Head: Allen (95.2%) - South Carolina (82.4%)

Regular Season: Allen (86.6%) - South Carolina (86.3%)
Playoffs: Allen (84.9%) - South Carolina (81.4%)
Head to Head: Allen (100%) - South Carolina (100%)

Regular Season: Allen (86.0%) - South Carolina (89.1%)
Playoffs: Allen (86.0%) - South Carolina (78.0%)
Head to Head: Allen (91.7%) - South Carolina (70.0%)

- What if anything can be derived from all of the info above? Allen has cut down on penalty minutes during the playoffs and in the finals actually has fewer penalty minutes than South Carolina. You would expect not a lot of penalties will be called in game seven however, it is an area where Allen might have an edge. The Stingrays were the #1 ranked penalty killing unit in the ECHL during the regular season at 89.1% but in the playoffs have slipped to 79.8%. Head to head shows an even bigger advantage for the Americans. In the three games in Allen the Americans are 3-10 on the power play while holding South Carolina scoreless at 0-9. Special teams could be the difference maker in game seven.

- It sounds like a broken record but you cannot emphasize enough how important it is which team gets off to the best start and scores the first goal. During the regular season both Allen and South Carolina won 85% of the games when they scored the first goal. In the playoffs Allen is 9-1 when scoring first and South Carolina is 9-6. Allen has struggled in the first period during the playoffs having scored just fifteen goals and allowing twenty compared to the second period when they have scored 29 goals and allowed 29. The third period has been the best for Allen as they have out scored their opponents 36-20. If Allen can get on the scoreboard first it will give them a lot of momentum and keep what should be the loudest crowd of the season in the game. 

- Who will be the individual heros in game seven is anyone's guess. Allen had the leading scorer in the ECHL during the regular season in Chad Costello who had a phenonenal 125 points (41 goals 84 assist) to lead all scorers by 45 points and is due for a big game. Gary Steffes led the ECHL in goals with 44 despite having a nine game call up to the AHL. He had three goals in the first two games in Allen and has not scored since. He tends to score in bunches so watch out if he gets going. Greger Hanson has been the leading scorer for Allen in the playoffs with twenty nine points (12 goals 17 assists) and has a knack of getting big goals. Chris Crane has been playing great two way hockey in this series. The big goal could come from last year's playoff MVP Jamie Schaafsma or Spencer Asuchak. Any of the defensemen could be the hero as they are all capable of putting the puck in the net. If Allen is victorious in game seven it will because of their depth and the hero could be any of the sixteen skaters. 

- For the Stingrays the top line of Andrew Rowe, Wayne Simpson and Derek DeBlois has led them in the regular season and during the playoffs. They were great during the regular season but have been outstanding in the playoffs. Check out these numbers:

Wayne Simpson
Regular Season: 55 points (16 goals 39 assists) in 65 games or .85 points per game
Playoffs: 38 points (13 goals 25 assists) in 26 games or 1.46 points per game

Andrew Rowe
Regular Season: 56 points (17 goal 39 assists) in 44 games or 1.27 points per game
Playoffs: 33 points (14 goals 19 assists) in 26 games or 1.27 point per game

Derek DeBlois
Regular Season: 45 points (21 goals 24 assists) in 59 games or .76 points per game
Playoffs: 29 points (11 goals 18 assists) in 26 games or 1.12 points per game

Like the Americans the Stingrays have a team with a lot of depth so the hero may not come from the top line. Joe Devin has 13 goals in the playoffs which ties him for second in the ECHL just one behind Rowe who has 14. The top two defensemen in scoring for the playoffs are from South Carolina not Allen. Drew MacKenzie has 19 points and Michal Cajovsky has 17 points.

- The other big factor in deciding who wins the Kelly Cup will be the play of goalies Riley Gill and Jeff Jakaitis. A great matchup between the current ECHL MVP (Jakaitis) and the former Kelly Cup champion and playoff MVP (Gill). In the first six games of this series Gill has faced 173 shots and allowed 17 goals  while Jakaitis has faced 177 shots and given up 14 goals. Here are their stats for the entire playoffs:

Riley Gill
Minutes Played: 1108
GAA: 2.49
Save %: .901

Jeff Jakaitis
Minutes Played: 1652
GAA: 2.65
Save %: .905

- There has been a lot of discussion on social media and message boards about the fact that Allen has had an easier road to game seven of the Kelly Cup Finals than South Carolina. The facts are indisputable and show Allen has played fewer minutes in fewer days.  Allen has played 24 games while South Carolina has played 26 games to get to game seven. Allen has been involved in four overtime periods in the playoffs while South Carolina has been in sixteen overtime periods. If you calculate all of this to total minutes played in the playoffs it comes out to 1475 for Allen and 1741 for South Carolina. If you convert the total minutes to games (60 minutes per game) Allen has 24.5 games while South Carolina has 29 games. So the Stingrays have played the equivalent of 4.5 more games than Allen to get to game seven of the finals. If you recall, Allen actually started their first round earlier than the other teams so they have played their 24.5 game equivalents in 55 days while South Carolina played their 29 game equivalents in just 52 days. 

Some have said or implied if Allen wins the Kelly Cup it will be diminished because they have had an easier road to the finals. I will take South Carolina coach Spencer Carbery's point of view on the topic of one team being more tired than another. Carbery said, "If you are tired at this time of year when you are competing for a championship that is pretty embarrassing. I don't care if you are playing hockey, basketball or soccer, if you can't get an energy level up this time of year then you don't belong playing pro sports."

- No matter what the outcome of game seven, this is a great showcase for two outstanding teams as well as the entire ECHL. After 1008 regular season games and 94 playoffs games the Kelly Cup comes down to one game before a sellout crowd at the Allen Event Center in Allen, Texas. 

- The referees scheduled for game seven are Pierre Lambert #20 and Frederic Leblanc #25

DID YOU KNOW: Game seven between Allen and South Carolina will be only the fourth time in ECHL history the championship has gone to a game seven. Prior to this year it happened in 1989, 1999 and 2009. In the very first ECHL championship (1989) there were just five teams in the league and four of them made the playoffs. The championship final series was contested between the #2 seed Johnstown Chiefs and the #4 seed Carolina (Winston-Salem) Thunderbirds. Carolina beat Johnstown 7-4 in game seven on the road to win the championship which at the time was called the Riley Cup.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Potpourri: A Mishmash of Stress Relief News From A to Z You May or May Not Find Interesting

It is the calm before the storm of the seventh game of the Kelly Cup Finals and with two days to go thought it would be a good time to talk about anything but the game. Here is a hodgepodge of items you may or may not find interesting but some things that will get your mind off the big game for a bit. Everything from  "A" (Aaron Gens) to "Z" (actually "Y" for Yellow Horn). Here goes:

- Aaron Gens and Riley Gill were teammates with South Carolina defenseman Michal Cajkovsky last season when they all played for the Reading Royals.

- When I first interviewed Jamie Schaafsma three years ago he told me his favorite childhood toy was a miniature hockey stick. Have yor ever seen his son Sutter without a miniature hockey stick? Guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. 

- The Missouri Mavericks announced yesterday that they have reached an affiliation agreement with the New York Islanders. Missouri joins the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL) as the Islanders primary minor league affiliates.

- Steve Martinson is always in the process of recruiting players and thinking about recruitment. He once told me one of the best things about winning a championship is it makes for a better summer because it makes for better recruiting. I remember seeing this "subtle" recruiting  approach when he had a veteran slot open in January. "80 degrees in Allen today. Pretty sure a lot of guys went golfing today after practice. Have a vet spot open."

- You are playing worse everyday and right now you are playing like the middle of next week....Herb Brooks.

- The Professional Hockey Players Association (PHPA) is having their annual meeting next week in Orlando where all ECHL and AHL teams will send player representatives. Trevor Ludwig will be representing the Americans.

- Don't have a complete birthday list but happened to notice from social media it is a busy week and they guys better be on their toes. Jennifer Adams has a birthday today, Riley Gill can give his wife a championship for her birthday as Angela Gill celebrates on Sunday and Holly Ludwig has a birthday on Wednesday. Happy Birthday ladies. 

- Colton Yellow Horn who last played in Allen in 2011-2012 but is fondly remembered has signed to play in Austria (Orli Znojmo) for the 2015-2016 season. He played in Japan last year.

- Steve Martinson and South Carolina coach Spencer Carbery both played in the CHL for the Tulsa Oilers. Both were tough, physical players. Martinson played in 42 games for Tulsa in 1983-1984 and had 240 penalty minutes. Carbery played 63 games in 2006-2007 and had 157 penalty minutes.

- Speaking of penalty minutes the 432 Martinson had in Hershey in 1985-1986 is always discussed but he also had 108 penalty minutes in just 11 playoff games in 1986-1987 playing for the Adirondack Red Wings (AHL). 

- St. Peter and Satan were having an argument one day about hockey. Satan proposed a game to be played on neutral ice between a select team from the heavenly host and Satan's own hand picked boys. "Very well," said the gatekeeper of heaven. "But you realize, I hope, we have all the good players and the best coaches." "I know and that's all right," Satan answered unpreturbed, "We've got all the referees."

- It is interesting to check out the web sites of the other Central Division teams and see everyone fully engaged in next season with 2014-2015 becoming a distant memory. From Rapid City promoting their "State of the Nation" event, to the big affiliation announcement in Missouri to several teams having select a seat events for next year. The closest thing to current hockey was Tulsa sponsoring Stanley Cup watch parties.

- In case you forgot there are big changes in the ECHL next year as there will be six divisions instead of four and only the division winner will be assured a playoff spot. Each conference (Eastern & Western) will have eight teams make the playoffs with the three division winners and the next five highest win percentage teams making the playoffs.

- The seven teams in the Central Division this year will be split as follows:
Brampton - moves to Eastern Conference, North Division with Wheeling, Kalamazoo & Toledo
Rapid City - moves to Western Conference, West Division with Alaska, Utah, Idaho & Colorado 
Quad City - moves to Western Conference, Midwest Division with Evansville, Fort Wayne, Cincinnati & Indy
Allen, Missouri, Tulsa & Wichita - comprise the Western Conference, Central Division 

- Sebastien Thinel who is second all time in assists in the Central Hockey League (609) and played many years for Odessa and more recently in Missouri has signed to play in France (Grenoble) for next season.

- When I do "30 Questions" with new players or write player profile stories one question always asked is do you have a favorite motto or saying and they are mostly hockey related. I always remember what Gary Steffes told me as it is much more profound. Gary said his was, "Until you find the cause for which you are willing to die for, you will never truly live."

- If you have ever spent time in Minnesota (land of 10,000 lakes) you would understand why great hockey players and avid fishermen hail from there. Kyle Follmer, Brian McMillin, Aaron Gens, and Riley Gill all love to fish and have found some great fishing in ponds around the Allen area.

- Steve Martinson's answer to the motto or saying question applies to life as well as hockey. "You can't expect to be the best if you don't work the hardest."

- Super fan Mark Costello reached out to fans of the former CHL teams and offered to provide free tickets to game seven if they wanted to travel to Allen to cheer on the Americans. What a nice gesture! I think he has at least 20 coming for the game.

DID YOU KNOW: This is Steve Martinson's 19th year as a head coach and you have probably heard many times he has won eight championships. Here is how he has fared according to hockeydb in all eighteen years with year nineteen to be decided on Sunday.
8 - Won Championship 
1 - Lost in Final
6 - Lost in second round 
2 - Lost in first round
1 - Out of playoffs

Thursday, June 11, 2015

It Is The Ultimate Game Day - Talking Cups, Cliches & Good Luck

 I could spend time today talking about average goals per game, GAA, special teams percentage and a bunch of other statistics but none of that matters at this point. Working out all summer, the drudgery of training camp, the long 72 game regular season, over 25,000 miles worth of time on the bus, all the time away from family, 24 playoffs games and it all comes down to one game to win the Kelly Cup for the Allen Americans. All of the hard work and effort comes down to this one game and the chance to be an ECHL champion in the first year in the league. Nothing could be more exciting and fulfilling. It is what every player in the league aspires to but few get the opportunity to accomplish.

- Both the Allen and South Carolina franchises deserve accolades for an outstanding season. From the quality of the teams to the coaching staffs to the front offices they should be very proud regardless of the outcome of game seven. It is always difficult to lose in a game seven after the extraordinary effort these teams have put forth to get to this point. The game today will be the 99th of the season for the Stingrays and 97th for the Americans. 

- Both teams are ready to go as they have been preparing for this game since October. They are two teams full of confidence and expecting to win. It all comes down to which team will do a better job of executing and performing under pressure with a huge spotlight on them. The best team will win. I would say good luck to both teams but in this game it is not about luck as the play on the ice makes the luck.

- The Allen Americans have been in this must win position many times in the last three years under coach Steve Martinson and they have always played their best in big games. I see no reason for today to be any different. The Americans are a prefect 7-0 in games where they could be eliminated since Martinson has been the coach and in his nineteen years of coaching (8 championships) he has never lost a seven game series at home. However, nothing that has happened in the past is relavant other than preparation for what happens today.

- Coach Martinson always says our best players have to be our best players in big games and I look for that to happen in game seven.

- Champions are not made at the fitness center or on the ice but through something deep inside them. You have to want it so bad you spend every minute focusing on success. You have to want to succeed more than you want to breathe. Strength does not come from external performance, strength comes from belief.  

- It should be quite the spectacle at the Allen Event Center with a standing room only crowd, the drummers as raucous as ever being loud and proud, the best dance team in the ECHL (Ice Angels) in top form, fans from around the Central Division coming to support the Americans, a big contingent of fans from South Carolina, former players and staff, friends and family of the players, owners, ECHL brass, and of course those 1500-2000 diehard fans that are always at the games even midweek in January in crappy weather. The press box will even be standing room only as everyone wants a piece of this game seven pie. 

- I am already nervous and all I am going to do is watch so thought I would post a few of the time honored cliches we have all heard about the "big game" for you to enjoy:

- Tonight is for all the marbles
- There is no tomorrow
- The fat lady will sing tonight
- Anything less than a championship is unacceptable
- Second is the first loser
- Tonight is for bragging rights
- It all comes down to which team wants it more
- It's gut check time
- Winning isn't everything, it is the only thing
- There is no I in TEAM
- If you're not first, you're last, tonight is the night

I will end this post the same as past years because it really captures what professional sport is all about at any level and what the Allen Americans represent.  A bunch of men playing a game, strangers coming together for a common goal, willing to do anything for each other.

Win today and we walk together forever."
—Philadelphia Flyers Coach Fred Shero wrote this on his famous chalkboard before the Flyers' 1974 Stanley Cup finals victory.


South Carolina Forces Game Seven With 4-1 Win, Martinson & Carbery Comments & More

Not much went well for the Allen Americans last night as they lost to the South Carolina Stingrays 4-1 before an enthusiastic crowd of 4078 at the North Charleston Coliseum to tie the series 3-3 and force a game seven which will be played in Allen on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. CDT. One of the keys to winning the game for Allen was holding the Stingrays top line in check and the Americans were able to do that as Simpson, Rowe and DeBlois only tallied two assists in the game. However, South Carolina got plenty of scoring from secondary sources as goals by Marcus Perrier (4), Joe Devin (12&13), and Frankie Simonelli (3) provided all the offense the Stingrays would need. By the time Allen got on the scoreboard with a goal by Vincent Arseneau (5) in the third period the game was already out of reach. 

Two other keys to victory for Allen didn't work out so well. Getting out to a fast start didn't happen. South Carolina not only scored the first goal of the game but also the second and third. Finally, special teams favored the Stingrays as they got their first power play goal of the series going 1-3 in the game. Allen was 0-3 and has now gone four games without a power play goal (0-11).

So there is plenty to find fault with how the Americans played in the game last night but the trip to South Carolina was a huge success. Most (including yours truly) didn't expect there would be a return trip to Allen for game seven. To go on the road trailing 2-1 in the series and come away with two wins to set up a game seven at home is a great accomplishment. Sure it is disappointing to win the first two games in South Carolina and lose the third but one of the reasons the team played their butts off all season was the get home ice advantage. Now they have the chance to make that home ice advantage pay off. 

Allen and South Carolina are two great hockey teams that are well coached, have a ton of talent, and deserve to be in this position. After a grueling and grinding playoffs run of 24 games for the Americans and 26 games for the Stingrays it only seems appropriate it comes down to one game, winner take all, for the Kelly Cup. May the best team win and regardless of the outcome both of these teams have shown the greatness of ECHL playoff hockey and should be proud of what they have achieved this season. 


- It is simple to explain the loss tonight as we had way too many unforced turnovers in the game which gave South Carolina way to many quality scoring opportunities.

- We did not have enough guys playing hard enough to win, it is that simple.

- More important than home ice on Sunday is we need all hands on deck. Not sure if we need a motivational speaker or or some mirrors but it is time for our veteran players to step up for the game of a lifetime.


- I was really proud of the team tonight. After having two difficult games and with our backs up against a wall at home, after playing the last two games and losing with crushing defeats, for us to respond and force a game seven in their building makes me proud of our group. 

- The team gets to play one game for a Kelly Cup championship and not a lot of people can say that. It is something to savor and we are going to go in there guns a blazing. 

- We did exactly what we wanted to do game plan wise. We executed it, guys competed, we were on the puck. It was impressive all the way around.

- Anything can happen in game seven. That is what we wanted, to get to game seven and give ourselves an opportunity to play one game for a Kelly Cup. Now it is a matter of taking advantage of this opportunity and trying to hoist that cup on Sunday in Allen, Texas. 

- It is game seven and anything can happen. We don't feel we have an advantage but we feel comfortable. Their building is going to be full, it is a tough environment to play in and we know that. But we are in the dance.


- There will be more game preview information over the next few days but thought it would be good to share some cumulative stats for the first six games of the series as it shows how evenly matched Allen and South Carolina have been.
Goals: Allen (16) - South Carolina (18)
Shots: Allen (185) - South Carolina (177)
Power Play: Allen (3-17) - South Carolina (1-21)
Penalty Minutes: Allen (92) - South Carolina (94)

- Allen fans are beyond fortunate to have the opportunity to win a championship on home ice for the third straight year. Hope the AEC is full and the crowd is loud.

- The game on Sunday will be the 25th playoff game for Allen and the 14th home playoff game this season. In the first 13 home games the Americans have an average attendance of 3358. South Carolina averaged 3238 for the 13 games they played at home. 

- Steve Martinson is 9-0 in playoff series since becoming coach of the Allen Americans. How sweet would It be to get to 10-0. His record in elimination games is also perfect at 7-0. 

DID YOU KNOW: The game on Sunday will be only the fourth time in the 27 year history of the ECHL that a series has gone seven games. It happened in the first year (1989) and also in 1999 and 2009. In 2009 South Carolina defeated Alaska. Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery was a player on that team and they won game seven on the road.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Allen Wins in OT Again, Game Recap, Game Six Preview, Coaches Post Game Comments & More

3-2 is the new favorite number combination for Allen Americans fans. For the second game in a row the Allen Americans beat the South Carolina Stingrays 3-2 in overtime and now have a 3-2 series lead with a chance to win the Kelly Cup in game six tonight at the North Charleston Coliseum. The hero in the game last night, which started an hour late because of a storm related power outage, was Greger Hanson who took a great pass from Konrad Abeltshauser and scored the game winner from the left circle at 5:25 of overtime to send most of the 4184 fans that attended the game out the doors wondering why the Stingrays can't win at home. 

The Stingrays should ask that game six be played in Allen because their home playoff record now stands at 4-8 compared to an almost unbeatable road record which is 10-3. Seven of South Carolina's twelve home games have gone to overtime. Their home overtime record is just 2-5 and they have lost five of their last six home overtime games. 

Last night South Carolina got on the scoreboard first with the only goal of the opening period when Patrick Gaul was able to swat the puck in the net after a scramble in front of Riley Gill. Allen tied the score 1-1 with the only goal of the second period as Jamie Schaafsma got his fifth goal of the playoffs putting in a shot taken by Chris Crane. Crane scored the go ahead goal, his ninth, early in the third period assisted by Schaafsma and Steffes but the ECHL's leading scorer in the playoffs, Wayne Simpson, tied the score for the Stingrays 2-2 at the 16:05 mark to send the game into overtime. Allen held the Stingrays without a shot in the OT until Abeltshauser took a pass from Kevin Young and joined the rush. Konrad came up the middle of the ice with speed and caught several South Carolina players flat footed, made a perfect pass to Hanson who was wide open and Greger buried the shot past goalie Jeff Jakaitis for the win. 

As dangerous as South Carolina has been on the road it is important for the Americans to approach the game tonight just like a game seven. You know the Stingrays will leave everything on the ice and the Americans need the same level of energy and intensity to avoid bringing the series back home for game seven.


- That was a "big money" play by our two European players (Hanson & Abeltshauser). Konrad made a great play up the middle of the ice with a perfect pass to Greger who knows how the finish. 

- That is a pretty good feeling when you see the puck hit their net in overtime.

- I thought that was our best game of the series. We can still improve but we had a lot of quality chances in the game tonight.

- We now have the advantage of last change in game six which is really big when you have to contend with the Stingrays top line. 

- I voted for Spencer Carbery as ECHL coach of the year as both he and his team have done an outstanding job this season. I like to think I am pretty smart when it comes to these situations as well. We will have to be ready for South Carolina's best game tomorrow (Wednesday) night. 


- That was a tough game and it is very disappointing

- On the game winning goal our player got stretched out in the neutral zone and they made a "D" to "D" pass and Abeltshauser was able to gain the middle of the ice and he was coming with a ton of speed and catches a bunch of our guys flatfooted and attacked through the middle. That play is tough to defend but we have seen it before. 

- This game was frustrating not only because we lost in overtime again but just the process tonight. We didn't have what I thought some of our guys would have on a night like tonight. We were not hard enough and that was disappointing. I thought we would be way harder at times during the game tonight and just weren't.

- I am not into excuses so if you are tired this time of year when you are competing for a championship that is pretty embarrassing for a professional athlete. I don't care if you are playing hockey, basketball or soccer. If you can't get an energy level up this time of year then you don't belong playing pro sports.

- If I am playing in the game tomorrow night (Wednesday) there isn't an ounce of anything left in my body when I finish the game. I absolutely lay everything I have on the line in this building. That is what you hope you see tomorrow from our group. The series is really irrelevant at this point. It is more about what we do on home ice tomorrow night and what we leave out here and then we will live with the result. 


- "Of course it's frustrating that we can't win at home. It's tough that we haven't been able to win at home because our fans have come out and given us great support. It just seems like one bounce goes their way and that is it. I know everyone in our locker room believes we can still get it done.....South Carolina Stingrays captain Andrew Rowe

- "Konrad (Abeltshauser) made an unbelievable play at the blue line. I got some room in their zone and was lucky to score"......Greger Hanson

- "I thought we had some pretty good energy after Wayne's (Simpson) goal and had a chance to win it in regulation".....Andrew Rowe

- Both teams continue to struggle on the power play as neither has had a power play goal in the last three games. South Carolina does not have a power play goal in the entire series (0-18). Allen is 3-14 in the series but on the road in the playoffs are just 2-35 (5.7%). 

- A fast start and first goal would be huge for Allen tonight. Allen is 6-0 when leading after one period and 5-4 when trailing after one period. South Carolina is 6-4 when leading after one period and 2-4 when trailing after one period. 

- With the Kelly Cup on the line tonight I was reminded of what some of the players have shared in the past about mottos or sayings. When Jamie Schaafsma was a kid he had a poster on his wall that said, "I play to win" and Kevin Young always embraced the saying, "Win Your Last Game." Jamie's wife, Nicole tweeted one year with the championship on the line, "If you are not first, you are last, tonight is the night."  All of these capture how the Americans should approach the game tonight, that this is the last game of the season. The series isn't important, it is what you do tonight.

- Over the years coach Martinson has used many hockey quotes and several of them are appropriate for a game as important as the one tonight. 
"Remember, hard work beats skill when skill doesn't work hard"
"Don't try and manufacture plays that aren't there"
"Trying to do too much is just a code word for dumb player"
"All we need is for everyone to play their best, nothing more than that"

- And here are some famous hockey quotes from other hockey greats to relax you before the big game:

"We know that hockey is where we live, where we can best meet and overcome pain and wrong and death. Life is just a place where we spend time between games".....Fred Shero

"The top three worst things I've seen in hockey? The invention of the trap. The invention of the morning skate. And the invention of the extremely ugly uniform".....Brett Hull

"My teeth weren't that good to begin with, so hopefully I can get some better ones".....Duncan Keith 

"Why is a puck called a puck. Because dirty little bastard was taken".....Martin Brodeur

"How would you like a job where every time you make a mistake a big red light goes on and 18,000 people boo"....Jaques Plante

"You can always get someone to do your thinking for you"..... Gordie Howe after being asked why players wear a cup but not a helmet.

"I will personally challenge anyone who wants to get rid of fighting to a fight".....Brian Burke

"Arrive at the net with the puck and in ill humor".....Fred Shero

"The only difference between this and Custer's last stand was Custer didn't have to look at the tape afterwards".....Terry Crisp after a 10-0 loss

"There are rough players and there are dirty players. I am rough and dirty".....Stan Mikita

"If you can't beat them in the alley you can't beat them on the ice".....Conn Smyth

"Win today and we walk together forever".....Philadelphia Flyers coach Fred Shero wrote this on his famous chaulk board before the Flyers 1974 Stanley Cup finals victory.


DID YOU KNOW: According to the ECHL the Allen vs South Carolina series is the eighth time in ECHL history the finals was tied 2-2. The winner of game five in the previous seven finals has gone on to win the Kelly Cup. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Game Five Preview, Finals Stats Leaders, The Ironmen, PHPA Annual Meeting & More

It is game day for the Allen Americans as they take on the South Carolina Stingrays in game five of the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals. At this point there aren't many secrets left between these two teams. The chess game between the two coaches will continue as they each make adjustments to help give their team an edge. With the series tied 2-2 the formula for success for Allen is apparent. Keep the top Stingrays line in check, don't get behind early in the game, and continue to win the special teams battle. Here are some stats that prove the point:

- In the two games Allen has won (games 2 & 4) the Stingrays top line had a total of two points. In the two games Allen has lost (games 1 & 3) the top line had a total of twelve points.

- Allen is 9-1 in the playoffs when they score the first goal and are undefeated when leading after the first period. 

- The Stingrays have not scored a power play goal in the finals and are now 0-15.

- Here are the statistical leaders for both teams in the finals (4 games):
Points: Dyson Stevenson - 5 (2 goals 3 assists)
Goals: Gary Steffes - 3
Assists: Steffes, Greger Hanson, Aaron Gens - 3
Plus/Minus: Chris Crane +2

Points: Andrew Rowe - 6 (3 goals 3 assists)
Goals: Rowe, Wayne Simpson - 3
Assists: Rowe, Michal Cajkovsky - 3
Plus/Minus: Simpson +4

It is difficult to draw any conclusions based on just four games but it does seem to reinforce how much South Carolina relies on Rowe & Simpson for offense. Coach Carbery has stated in interviews their team is not built with a lot of prolific scorers so they rely heavily on the top line. For Allen it might surprise fans that Dyson Stevenson is the leading scorer in the finals and what is even more surprising is Chad Costello has just one assist in the four games thus far.

- You often here coach Martinson say when it comes to critical games like tonight your best players have to be your best players. One of the strengths of this Allen team is its depth and the ability to get points from all three lines. However, the team really needs the best players to step up. Over the last two games, three of the best players on the team (Costello, Steffes and Asuchak) have combined for zero points, had just eleven shots and are a -8. Look for that to change in the game tonight. 

- With two high scoring offenses it can be tough on goalies but they have both been difference makers in their team's wins. Who has the better game tonight will dictate the outcome. Here are their stats in the finals:
Riley Gill: GAA 2.48 - Save Percentage .908
Jeff Jakaitis: GAA 2.41 - Save Percentage .912

- The sequencing of the referees for the first four games has resulted in an interesting outcome. Surely it is just a coincidence that South Carolina has won when the pair of Stephen Reneau and Pierre Lambert have been the referees and Allen has been the winner when Fredric Leblanc and Ryan Murphy have been the referees. If you have any belief the referees decide the outcome then it is good news for Stingrays fans as Reneau and Lambert are scheduled tonight.

- In the grasping at statistical straws category (hey, it worked on Sunday) during the playoffs South Carolina is 1-2 in game fives while Allen is 2-1. The Stingrays lost game five in the Division finals and Conference finals by the identical score of 5-4. 

- The game tonight will be the 23rd playoff game for Allen following a 72 game regular season. There are three players that have played in every game so tonight will be their 95th game of the season. Hats off to the "Ironmen" Chad Costello, Aaron Gens and Jamie Schaafsma. This will also be the 95th game of the season for Gary Steffes who played nine games in the AHL. It is far and away the most games these players have played as professionals. Prior to this year the most games these guys have played in a season has been Schaafsma (87), Steffes (76), Costello (72) and Gens (48).

- This is the last thing on any of the players minds but they will be in training camp in just over 100 days after the end of the playoffs. 

- One of the many recruiting tools coach Martinson uses when recruiting players is the extra money they will earn because the Americans always make a deep playoff run. Rather than just focusing on weekly salary he asks players to look at the total compensation they can earn for the season. This year players will get an extra nine or ten weeks of pay plus the playoff bonus. This will amount to an extra five to ten thousand dollars or more depending on the player. 

- The PHPA (Professional Hockey Players Association) will hold its annual meeting next week in Orlando. Player representatives from all ECHL and AHL teams will gather to review the past year and provide input and direction to the PHPA for next season and beyond. One of the more unique agenda items is when ECHL Commissioner, Brian McKenna, provides the player representatives their "State of the League Address" and then meets with the ECHL players in a closed door interactive meeting where the players have the opportunity to put forth issues, questions, feedback and ideas. Would love to be a fly on the wall for that session. 

DID YOU KNOW: The finals aren't complete but the Allen Americans are assured of playing more playoff games than anytime in their history including the two championship seasons. Here are the playoff games played in each season:
2015 - 22 ( could go as high as 25)
2014 - 17
2013 - 19
2012 - 6
2011 - 13
2010 - 20

Monday, June 8, 2015

Allen Beats The Stingrays 3-2 (2OT), Ties Series 2-2, Game Recap, Martinson's Comments & More

The boxscore shows the Allen Americans defeated the South Carolina Stingrays last night by a score of 3-2 on a goal by Vincent Arseneau at the 8:49 mark of the second overtime in front of a huge crowd of 7058 at the North Charleston Coliseum. In what was a must win game for the Americans it looked like Allen might have an easy time when they scored twice in just 29 seconds early in the first period on goals by Dyson Stevenson (3) and Greger Hanson (11). Allen's 2-0 lead was short lived however, as South Carolina got on the board when they had a full two minute five on three power play. The Americans actually killed off the penalty but the Stingrays scored just two seconds after the penalty expired on a rebound goal by outstanding rookie Derek DeBlois (11). South Carolina tied the score 2-2 at 11:49 of the second period on a goal by another rookie, Caleb Herbert (3). Almost a full game (56:56) elapsed from that point in the second period when the Stingrays tied the score until Vincent Arseneau scored his fourth goal of the playoffs for the game winner at 8:49 of the second overtime. The series is now tied 2-2 with game five on Tuesday at 7:05 (EDT).

- In the game preview yesterday three keys to victory were discussed and Allen delivered on all three. Number one was to slow down the top line. The ECHL top two playoff scorers (Wayne Simpson & Andrew Rowe) had no points and just one shot on goal. The second key was to get off to a fast start and get the first goal of the game. The Americans not only got the first goal but scored the first two goals and had a 2-0 lead before the game was seven minutes old. During the playoffs Allen is now 9-1 when scoring first. The third key was to continue their great special teams play. Allen did not score on the power play (0-3) but held South Carolina scoreless on six power play attempts. 


- After losing two of three games in Allen it was important to play well in this game. Obviously, it is a pretty big win to get this first one on the road.

- I thought both goalies were really good tonight and came up with big saves when their team needed them.

- The shots on goal (46-37) are a bit deceiving because South Carolina had double the power play opportunities that we did. The box score shows three for us but we really only had two as one was very short.

- We are back in the series but still haven't played our best hockey yet. There are several things we can do to improve. 

- We were stopped on several point blank chances during the game and we need to do as better job finishing when we get those chances.


- Jamie Schaafsma mentioned when he was live tweeting on the ECHL Twitter account Saturday evening what a big accomplishment it is for both South Carolina and Allen to make it to the Kelly Cup Finals. When you have a 28 team league and must win three best of seven series just to make the finals it is quite a feat for both teams. Jamie certainly knows what he is talking about having reached the championship finals seven years in a row. This year will be the most playoff games he has ever played in a season.

- With the series tied 2-2 you would expect Allen and South Carolina to be close statistically. Check out these four game totals:
Goals: Allen 12 - South Carolina 12
Shots on Goal: Allen 122 - South Carolina 121
Penalty Minutes: Allen 50 - South Carolina 56
Penalty Infractions: Allen 21 - South Carolina 20

- It is an oversimplification to boil down wins and losses to merely holding the Stingrays top line (Simpson, Rowe, DeBlois) in check but the numbers are certainly interesting. Here are their combined point totals by game with the result:
Game 1 - 3 goals, 2 assists (South Carolina wins 4-3)
Game 2 - 0 goals, 1 assists (South Carolina loses 5-2)
Game 3 - 3 goals, 4 assists (South Carolina wins 4-1)
Game 4 - 1 goal, 0 assists (South Carolina loses 3-2)

- The three star selections always seem subjective and there are usually plenty of candidates to choose from but last night the great goalie play for both teams was mentioned by fans, coaches, players and broadcasters. Riley Gill saved 44 of 46 (.957 save percentage) shots on the night, made many spectacular saves and kept Allen in the game, especially in the first overtime when the Stingrays out shot the Americans 10-4. Riley should have been the #1 star of the game but to not even be one of the three stars is perplexing. C'MON MAN!

- Home ice is supposed to be an advantage but it sure hasn't worked out that way thus far in the playoffs for the Stingrays. They have the best playoff record on the road at 10-3 but have struggled at home where their record is now 4-7. Four of the seven home losses have come in overtime.

- Greger Hanson certainly wasn't bothered by wearing a cage last night after losing a couple of teeth in game three. Greger had a goal and was named the #2 star of the game. Remided me of the 2012-2013 season when Brian McMillin had a similar type of injury and wore a cage for most of the playoffs and went on a scoring spree that earned him the playoff MVP award. Could happen again.

- Have read many comments about the incident that caused the injury to Greger Hanson. From what I understand the referees acknowledged that it should have been a double minor but neither referee saw  what happened. The back referee was behind the play but didn't have an angle to see the incident.  You could argue that they should have put two and two together and what was troubling is they didn't even confer to ascertain what happened. Everyone (both teams) agreed there was no intent to injure on the play. 

- If you want to see highlights from the game you can find them on YouTube under the title, "South Carolina Stingrays - Highlights vs Allen - 6/7/15" but you should also check out the local television station coverage which has clearer highlights along with interviews with Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery and goalie Jeff Jakaitis. There are three separate videos. Sorry for not being able to embed everything but am working on an IPad and can't figure it out. Here is the local TV site:

DID YOU KNOW: As if they don't have enough to think about in the midst of the Kelly Cup Finals, coaches Steve Martinson and Spencer Carbery must submit their season-ending rosters by 3:00 pm EDT a week from today (6/15). Season-ending rosters may include up to 20 players and cannot include any player who did not sign an ECHL contract in 2014-2015. However, because AHL contracted players are excluded this exercise should not be a difficult one for either of these teams.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Allen vs South Carolina Kelly Cup Game Four Preview

It is game day for the Allen Americans as they take on the South Carolina Stingrays in game four of the Kelly Cup Finals with a 7:05 p.m EDT puck drop. Trailing in the series 2-1, to say this is a must win game for the Americans would be an understatement. The game will be played in North Charleston, South Carolina which like Allen is a northern suburb of a larger city (Charleston). Similar to Allen, the Stingrays play in a city owned facility (North Charleston Colisuem) which opened in 1993 and seats 10,537 for hockey. 

- If there is a single key to victory for Allen it would be finding a way to slow down the Stingrays top line of Wayne Simpson, Andrew Rowe and Derek DeBlois. They are ranked #1, #2, & #4 in playoff scoring and Simpson has already broken the single season playoff scoring record (34) that has stood for fifteen years. Simpson has 36 points, Rowe 32 points and DeBlois 26 points. A look at the first three games of the series proves this point. In game one this line had three of four goals and seven of ten points for South Carolina and the Stingrays won 4-3. In game two this line had no goals and just one assist and Allen won the game 5-2. Game three had the top line scoring three of four goals and seven of ten points again and the Stingrays won the game 4-1. It is easier said than done but if Allen is to be successful they must control the Stingrays top line and not let them dominate the game as they have done in the two South Carolina victories.

- Special teams are always a big key to any playoff game and based on the first three games in Allen the Americans are winning that battle. Allen is 3-10 on the power play while holding South Carolina to 0-9 on the power play. The question that arises is whether Allen can maintain that excellence on the road. The Americans have one of the worst road power plays in the playoffs having gone just 2-31 (6.5%) and their road penalty kill is 84.4% (7-45). In Allen's favor is the fact that South Carolina has only killed penalties at 77.8% at home during the playoffs allowing opponents to go 8-36 on the power play. 

- If you want a simple predictor of who will win the game all you have to do is watch for the first goal. Allen has won close to 90% of the games when they score the first goal with a record in the playoffs of 8-1. Unfortunately the first period has been the weakest for Allen as they have scored just 13 goals compared to 28 in the second period and 34 in the third period. 

- If you just look at their record in the playoffs you might conclude both teams will struggle in the game tonight. On the road Allen is 4-4 and at home South Carolina is 4-6. And if you are really grasping at statistical straws the Stingrays have lost game four in the first three rounds of the playoffs. Allen is 2-1 in game fours. 

- On the road in the playoffs Allen has scored 26 goals and allowed 29 goals. At home South Carolina has scored 30 goals but allowed 37 goals.

- It is no coincidence that the two teams in the Kelly Cup Finals are the most prolific scoring teams in the playoffs. Allen is #1 averaging 3.62 goals per game and South Carolina is #2 averaging 3.35 goals per game.

- Had the chance to exchange messages with coach Martinson as the team was leaving the rink after an early evening practice last night. Here are a few of his thoughts:
- A 7:05 p.m. game time start is a bonus for us after traveling all night on the bus
- We worked on some adjustments as we need to improve is some areas
- The key to success is we need everyone pulling on the rope!
- With this being such an important game the guys that are going well will get a lot of ice time

- The referees scheduled for the game tonight are Frederic Leblanc (#25) and Ryan Murphy (#10). The same pair worked game two in Allen which the Americans won 5-2. 

- If you didn't get a chance to follow along as Jamie Schaafsma took over the ECHL Twitter account last night in a live tweet session you missed an entertaining event. From the serious to the ridiculous, from fans near and far (The Netherlands), from teammates past (Booter Bootland) and present (Asuchak, Young, Clarke, Descoteaux, Tyler Ludwig). Here are a few examples of the hard hitting questions and answers:

Your favorite video games? Call of Duty & NHL 15

Do players get distracted during games? I would like to say we don't but that is why we have the Ice Angels.

Who has the manliest playoff beard? Aaron Gens, he looks like Gerard Butler from the movie 300.

What is your favorite food? Pizza & Sushi (not together)

How often do you shampoo your hair #greasy? (Asked by Nolan Descoteaux) Everyday with Head & Shoulders. I just made $500. #sponsored

Miracle on Ice or Mighty Ducks? Mighty Ducks!

How many corn dogs can you eat at one sitting? (Asked by Garrett Clarke) 79

How many pregame naps you take in the spare room looking into my eyes? (This question was asked by Booter Bootland as the Schaafsmas have the apartment the Bootlands used to occupy and yes there is a picture of Booter on the wall) The picture keeps my family out of that room!

What sport would you play other than hockey? Slo pitch if they had the pros.

Favorite type of poutine? KFC has the best.

DID YOU KNOW: While it seems the playoff attendance has been disappointing the ECHL average attendance in the playoffs has increased every year for the last five years. Of the sixteen teams that made the playoffs this year Allen is ranked #6 with an average attendance of 3348 and South Carolina is #14 with just 2678. Here is the average ECHL playoff attendance by year.