The Allen Americans have four days to rest and prepare for what will be one of the most grueling series you can imagine. Their opponent, the Colorado Eagles, also have four days to rest and prepare for one of the most grueling series you can imagine. There is no love lost between Allen and Colorado and in some ways they are very similar. They are tough and gritty, they will finish their checks and they have plenty of players willing to drop the gloves. Since joining the ECHL in 2015 the Americans and Eagles have taken turns as the most penalized team in the league. Over the last three years Allen has averaged 1422 penalty minutes per year and Colorado has averaged 1433. Colorado has averaged 86 fights per year and Allen has averaged 78. Typically in the playoffs there won't be as much fighting as during the regular season but you can be assured this series will be the survival of the fittest and depth will be important.
- The one thing that is very different about Allen and Colorado is playoff success. Allen hasn't lost a playoff series since Steve Martinson became coach in 2012. Allen has won 15 straight playoff series, four championship including the last two Kelly Cups. The Colorado Eagles are in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since joining the ECHL in 2011. They were eliminated in the first round of their last five ECHL playoff appearances. Add the fact that three players on the Eagles roster (Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Matt Register, Darryl Bootland) won championships in Allen and you have a Colorado team that is very motivated. If this series lives up to expectations it should be one for the ages.
- There will be plenty of time over the next three days to wade through all sorts of statistical information about Allen and Colorado but today is a good time to pause and reflect on just how fortunate the fans of the Allen Americans have been over the last five years. I say this all of the time but to win four straight championships, all on home ice, is a lifetime worth of success for most fans. Just getting to the second round of the playoffs is an amazing feat and if the Americans don't win another playoff game it is a successful season though you would never convince Allen fans, players and coaches of that. My point is Allen has already made it to the "Elite Eight" of the ECHL playoffs. If it wasn't for the fact Allen has won four straight championships that would be considered a big success to make it to the top eight of a 27 team league. It shouldn't be the case but only in Allen is anything less than a Kelly Cup considered a disappointing season.
- Three teams have advanced to the second round of the playoffs thus far and they are all from the Western Conference. Allen, Colorado and Fort Wayne all won their series 4-1. Only Toledo, who is the #1 seed in the league has struggled in the first round. The Walleye are tied with Kalamazoo 3-3 with the deciding game seven in Toledo on Tuesday. Hope it isn't the kiss of death but Toledo has already posted their schedule for round two against Fort Wayne. The schedule comes with the obligatory asterisk that says *if the Walleye advance past the Division Semifinal, but still a cause for concern for the superstitious.
- Anything could happen in the Eastern Conference as all four series are 3-2 with the higher seeded team trialing in all four. Manchester, Brampton, Orlando and South Carolina are all looking for upsets. Everything will be decided by Wednesday evening.
- There are two playoff games tonight both in the Eastern Conference. Brampton is at Reading (Brampton leads 3-2) and Greenville is at South Carolina (South Carolina leads 3-2).
- The ECHL dictates at the start of the playoffs the time frame for each round and then the teams involved work out the specific dates within those time frames. All series are best of seven. If your favorite team is still in the playoffs the dates for the division finals are April 28 to May 10, the conference finals are May 12 to 24 and the dates for the Kelly Cup finals are May 26 to June 7.
DID YOU KNOW: The Kelly Cup has been awarded to the ECHL playoff champion since 1997. In that time only two teams have won it three times (Alaska & South Carolina) and three teams have won it twice (Cincinnati, Idaho, Allen). Eight teams have won the Kelly Cup once and 49 different teams have played in the ECHL for at least one season since the inception of the Kelly Cup and never won a championship.