Saturday, May 14, 2016

Allen Wins Series Opener Against Fort Wayne 5-3, Quotable Quotes From All Sides & More

The Allen Americans earned a hard fought 5-3 victory over the Fort Wayne Komets last night before a crowd of 5729 at the Memorial Coliseum. The Americans have a 1-0 series lead in the best of seven ECHL Western Conference final.

- Allen has a history of poor opening games in playoff series. Even though the team has never lost a playoff series under coach Steve Martinson (12-0) they have struggled in first games. Prior to this season the Americans were just 3-7 in first games. In 2013, Allen lost every first game on the way to to the Central Hockey League (CHL) championship.

- The win last night was similar to Allen's win in the first game of their second round series against Missouri. In both instances it was the age old question of rust versus rest. Allen came into both series with less rest but momentum from big wins. Fort Wayne came into this series having swept their previous opponent (Utah) in four games (just as Missouri had done before playing Allen). The Komets had a week between games (as did Missouri). The results were similar in both series as Allen, with less rest but more momentum, won both first games.

- One thing to keep in mind for Allen fans if you want to follow through on this analogy from the Missouri series. After the Mavericks knocked the rust off in the game one loss they dominated game two with a 5-2 win. You can look for Fort Wayne to come out hard in game two on Sunday.

- How much of a fast start did Allen have in the game last night? How about three unanswered goals before the first period was barely half over. And it was all on special teams which Allen has lived on all season. A shorthanded goal by Gary Steffes (4) and power play goals by Greger Hanson (9) and Casey Pierro-Zabotel (6) silenced the crowd and had the Komets back on their heels. Despite the 3-0 Allen lead, Fort Wayne got the momentum back on their side going into the first intermission as they scored their first goal with just 13 seconds left in the period.

- There was no scoring in the second period but Fort Wayne had the better chances. After Allen outshot the Komets 16-6 in the first period the Americans mustered just four shots on goal in the second period. Allen headed to the second intermission with a 3-1 lead.

- The third period was back and forth as far as the goal scoring was concerned, but Fort Wayne controlled the puck possession and had many more quality scoring chances. Riley Gill was called on to make numerous great saves.  The Komet's Troy Bourke scored at the 3:16 mark to cut the score to 3-2 and it looked like the Americans were in trouble. However, Allen got their two goal lead back at at the 13:28 mark when Nikita Jevpalovs scored his first goal of the playoffs. He walked away from his defender and fired a shot from the faceoff circle past Komet's goalie Pat Nagle. Just two minutes after the Jevpalovs goal, Troy Bourke score his second goal of the period for Fort Wayne to cut the score to 4-3. That was as close as the Komets would get as Vincent Arseneau score an empty net goal with 36 seconds remaining in the game to make the final score 5-3. As always, go to the ECHL Rewind section of the ECHL website to see all of the goals and also some great saves by the goalies. Here is the link:

- Shots on goal ended up even with each team getting 26 shots but that hides what really happened in the game. Allen dominated play in the first period out shooting Fort Wayne 16-6. In the last two periods Fort Wayne out shot Allen by a total of 20-10.


 "I liked the start. Then we stopped getting pucks deep.".....Allen coach Steve Martinson

"We can't keep turning pucks over in the neutral zone and expect to win.".....Martinson

"I thought both goalies played well and made some big saves.".....Martinson

"I thought we came out firing and that was huge. We put them on their heels early.".....Aaron Gens who was behind the bench for Allen

"I thought we could have been better at some decision making in the second and third period but overall we are happy with the win.".....Gens

"We got off to a great start in that opening period and then let off the gas."..... Allen captain Gary Steffes

"Riley Gill made the big saves when we needed them and we picked up a big win in this series.".....Steffes

- Justin Cohn is a sports writer who has worked for the Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne since 1997. He does a great job covering the Komets. If you are on Twitter give Justin a follow @SportsiCohn. Here are a few quotes from the Komet's coach and players after game one last night. These come from from Justin's story. You can see more quotes, read the entire story and view some great video highlights at this link:

"We have to play a full 60 minutes. They came in here hot off a game six win on the road. The first period they were flying".....Fort Wayne defenseman Jordon Southhorn

"After that goal Trevor Cheek got for us late in the first period, we got some momentum and if we start working down low, I like our chances.".....Southhorn

"They came off a huge game and they were ready to battle. Not that we weren't, but they came out and that early shorthanded goal kind of knocked us down a bit because we were buzzing and ready to go. We had to work back from it. So maybe it was (rust). Maybe we had to get the compete level back.".....Komet defenseman Mike Embach

"We weren't sharp at all. It was probably the worst we had been outshot in the first period all year. We were flat. We were horrible in our own end. It was a slow start that basically ended up costing us.".....Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham

"We had some guys who just flat out didn't play good tonight. A few of our better players just didn't play well and, at this time of year, that is going to cost you.".....Graham

"I thought our transition game was better than theirs in the second and third.".....Graham

"It was inexcusable to give up two power play goals and one shorthanded goal. It has been our Achilles heel when we have lost in these playoffs, costing ourselves really (with penalties)".....Komet goalie Pat Nagle

"We beat them 3-1 in 5-on-5 play and that is great news for us. If we stay out of the box we will be in great shape for the next game (Sunday).".....Nagle


- Allen and Fort Wayne have the day off today before resuming the series tomorrow (Sunday). Puck drop scheduled for 5:00 pm Allen time (CDT).

- Gary Steffes had a Gordie Howe hat trick scoring the first goal of the game shorthanded, assisting on the game winning goal by Nikita Jevpalovs, and sticking up for teammate Chad Costello with a fight. Now that is leadership. For his effort Gary was named the #1 star of the game.

- It is hard to believe but Allen is the least penalized team of the four teams still in the playoffs. Here are the average penalty minutes per game:

21.15 - South Carolina
15.50 - Wheeling
14.75 - Fort Wayne
12.86 - Allen

- With two assists last night Chad Costello has taken over the playoff scoring lead. Chad has 17 points (3 goals 14 assists). Fort Wayne's Shawn Sydlowski is in second place with 15 points.

- Jamie Schaafsma had a great game for the Komets. Jamie was on the ice for all three Fort Wayne goals and none of the five Allen goals. He ended up the game with one assist, a +3, and four penalty minutes.

- In the odd stat category the Eastern Conference final also got underway last night with South Carolina shutting out Wheeling 3-0. Just like in the Allen game, the first South Carolina goal was scored shorthanded. The two shorthanded goals were scored at almost the exact same time of the game. Gary Steffes got his shorty at the 5:27 mark of the first period. The Stingrays scored theirs at the 4:54 mark of the first period. 

- Wheeling is at South Carolina again tonight for game two of the Eastern Conference final.

DID YOU KNOW:  How did the Fort Wayne Komets get their name? This is from their website.  Ernie Berg started it over 60 years ago. He was the one who began thinking about hockey in Fort Wayne, Indiana. But it was after the city announced plans of building the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Berg took a trip to Toledo one night to watch an IHL game. That was all it took. Berg came home full of enthusiasm.

With the thought of Fort Wayne building a beautiful new big building, Berg couldn't help but envision it filled with people for a hockey game. It was a dream. A dream later to become reality. The dream came true with the dropping of the first puck at the start of the 1952-53 International Hockey League season.

Many have wondered about Komets being spelled with a "K". Berg did it. He wanted to have a name that suggested speed, flash, excitement. And he spelled it with a "K" instead of a "C" after his wife. Her name was Kathryn but she always went by Kay.

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