If you checked the score of the Allen Americans game last night or watched/listened to it live you know the Americans won the game 3-2 in a shootout. It was as exciting a finish as you could wish for if you are an Allen fan. Aaron Gens scored with just 3.5 seconds left in the game to tie the score 2-2. The Americans won the game in a shootout as Greger Hanson and Matt Willows scored while Riley Gill stopped both Utah shooters.
The subplots in this game were many. Here are my thoughts:
- There is little doubt this team has great confidence in goalie Riley Gill. When you have a three time Kelly Cup champion, who is the winningest playoff goalie in ECHL history, in the net it just gives the team confidence. Gill stopped 78 of 81 (.963) shots in the back to back wins in Utah including seven in the overtime last night. With Gill in goal Allen has a record of 4-2, without him they are 2-5.
- It was fitting to see Aaron Gens get the big goal to tie the game last night. He was a healthy scratch on Wednesday in Colorado for the first time since joining the Americans. Gens played two solid games in Utah. He had the big goal last night, an assist on Friday night and was a plus two for the weekend.
- The Americans won both games in Utah after giving up the first goal of the game. They have given up the first goal in eight of their 12 games and the two games in Utah are the only ones they have won.
- Last season Allen was 3-4 in shootouts and converted on only 23.5% (8-34) of their shootout attempts. Last night they were 2-2 as Greger Hanson and Matt Willows converted.
QUOTES FROM THE GAMES
"We played much better tonight. We had a strong first 10 minutes but then we started turning pucks over.".....Allen coach Steve Martinson
"We took a bad penalty in the third period and then followed it up with a bad penalty kill.".....Martinson
"It was great to see the comeback, this type of game can really help when you are struggling.".....Martinson
"I started to go with two defensemen toward the end of the overtime period because we were giving up more chances than we were generating. I figured we had a better chance in the shootout.".....Martinson
"We played an unreal game. I thought we could've won 6-2. Riley Gill made some huge saves once again, that is why he has won as many championships as he has. We have to be proud of the way we played. I thought we played excellent in both games.".....Utah coach Tim Branham
"I liked our effort, I thought our system play was much better tonight. We did a lot of good things tonight. We played an unreal hockey game for 59 minutes.".....Branham
"It was a great pass from Chad Costello and I knew I had to get the shot off quickly. Both goalies were great tonight, but Riley was a little better.".....Aaron Gens describing is game tying goal
ANATOMY OF THE GENS GOAL
If you didn't have a chance to see the Aaron Gens goal to tie the game 2-2 with 3.5 seconds remaining it is a fascinating play where every Allen player played a key role. There was a faceoff in Allen's offensive zone to the left of the Utah goalie with 13.2 seconds remaining. Chris Crane won the draw against Utah's Jon Puskar but the puck got tangled in their feet as they both fell to the ice. When they went down Puskar's helemt came off. Spencer Asuchak was at the dot in a flash, dug out the puck, sent it to Eric Roy at the point and headed to the front of the net. With 10 seconds left Roy passes the puck to Chad Costello on the side boards. At the same time Puskar has to head to the Grizzlies bench because he doesn't have his helmet. Costello is all alone and has time to make a play. At this point Asuchak is in front of the net, Crane has his back to Costello heading toward the net and Matt Willows is on the opposite of the ice heading toward the side of the goal. Aaron Gens is on the opposite side board, behind and outside Willows. With nobody pressuring Costello he clearly sends a pass through the slot intended for Willows. The pass bounces off the heel of a Utah defensman's stick and goes right to Gens who takes a shot that the goalie gets a piece of but it trickles in. There was actually 6 seconds left when the goal went in but the clock continued to run and was stopped with 3.5 seconds remaining. Sorry for all the detail on this goal but as I watched the replay (probably 50 times) it became obvious how everyone contributed. Crane winning the faceoff and engaging Puskar all the way to the ice where he lost his helmet, Asuchak's quick action to get to the faceoff dot, dig it out of the legs and throw it back to Roy and then go immediately to the front of the net. Roy getting the puck to the wide open Costello on the side boards. Willows and Gens positioning themselves on the opposite of the ice to accept the pass from Costello. When you give Chad Costello time and space to make a pass it usually means something good is likely to happen and Aaron Gens made it happen last night.
- The team left immediately after the game on the close to 1100 mile trip to Missouri. They will stay in Independence until Tuesday when they take on the Mavericks. The Mavericks are hosting their inaugural "Education Day" game with a 10:30 am start. Talk about changing your game day routine. The good news for the Americans is with an early start they will arrive back in Allen at a reasonable hour Tuesday night.
- It was announced yesterday that Allen has traded Rick Pinkston to the Manchester Monarchs for a player that should be named today or tomorrow. Pinkston is a class guy who is great with the fans and it always hurts to lose that type of player. Sometimes when the coach identifies a skill set he needs to improve the team, a good player is dealt to get the player that will help. Hopefully it will be a decent fit for Pinkston in Manchester. The Monarchs are a good team (currently 2nd in the North Division) and Manchester is just 75 miles from where Rick played his college hockey at Dartmouth.
- It was a great night for the San Jose affiliated teams with Allen winning 3-2, the Barracuda beating the Texas Stars 8-5 and the Sharks beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1.
- With the Allen win and a loss by Colorado, the Americans are still in fifth place in the Mountain Division but are only three points out of first place.
- Finally, no blog tomorrow as the team has the day off and I am headed to Lake Texoma to do some striper (Striped Bass) fishing. Wish me luck.
DID YOU KNOW: Chad Costello is already #40 on the all-time ECHL assist list (268) even though he has only played in 250 ECHL games. Chad is one of only three players that have averaged over 1.00 assist per game in their ECHL career.