Sunday, April 22, 2018

Allen vs Idaho Game Five Preview, Secret Weapons Attend Allen Practice, Playoff Update and the Oldest Hockey Player in the World

It is game day at the Allen Event Center (6:05 pm puck drop) and not just any old game day. For the Idaho Steelheads it is win or go home so they will obviously be playing for their playoff lives. The Allen Americans will also be playing desperate because there is no way they want this series returning to Boise.

- Coach Steve Martinson held a practice at 5:30 pm last night and brought in a couple of secret weapons to help out. Who better to bring in for practice than two former Allen captains, Chad Costello and Gary Steffes. Two main cogs in Allen's back to back Kelly Cups. Gary is an inspiration on and off the ice and who can forget the 2014-15 season when Gary had 57 goals between the regular season and playoffs as Allen won their first Kelly Cup. Two Kelly Cups, three MVP's, three scoring titles and never missing a game regular season or playoffs (276 straight) in his three year career in Allen tells you all you need to know about Chad Costello.

- The team spent a lot of time at practice working on the power play and who better to help out in sharing his wisdom than Costello. Chad averaged 45 power play points per season in his three years in Allen which is a good overall season for most players. Having the quarterback of the top power play in the league (2014-17 average) help out with power play practice is great.

- The value of having Chad and Gary on the ice with coach Martinson at practice is more than anything related to X's and O's. Their willingness to come back, hang out with the guys, share their experiences says a lot about the history of the Allen franchise and why it has been so successful. Hopefully their presence is an inspiration to the entire team but especially to all of the rookies.

- It is hard to overstate the importance of the game tonight. You know Idaho is saying if they can get a win in game five and get the series back to Boise they are right back in the series. It would be reminiscent of last year when Allen went down 3-0 to Colorado and and then won two games in Colorado to get the series back to Allen.

- Here is an update of the comparison stats between Allen and Idaho after four playoff games with the Americans holding a 3-1 series lead.

                                     ALLEN                            IDAHO

Goals For                    14                                      11
Goals Against             11                                      14
Power Play                 7.7% (1/13)                       17.6% (3/17)
Penalty Kill                  82.4% (3/17)                     92.3% (1/13)
Leading Scorer           Shmyr (2G-2A-4)               Harstad (2G-2A-4)
                                    Makowski (2G-2A-4)         Parizek (2G-2A-4)
Most PIM's                  Pochiro - 10                       Baldwin - 9

-  Here is how Allen and Idaho rank among the 16 teams in the ECHL playoffs:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 7th (14.25) - Idaho 9th (13.00)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 2nd (3.50) - Idaho 9th (2.75)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 8th (2.75) - Idaho 15th (3.50)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 12th (27.50) - Idaho 8th (35.25)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 9th (35.25) - Idaho 5th (27.50)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 15th (7.7%) - Idaho 4th (17.6%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 13th (82.4%) - Idaho 2nd (92.3%)

- Shot differential has been an issue for Allen all season and to a lesser extent in this series. The Americans overcome this with an excellent shooting percentage (12.7%). Coach Martinson mentioned in the loss on Friday the team did not support the puck as well as they did in the earlier games. Puck possession and supporting the puck will be a key to victory tonight.  

- The biggest positive for Allen in this series is they have scored the first goal in all four games and the young guns/rookies have led the way. It was Braylon Shmyr in game one, Jared Bethune in game two, Shmyr again in game three and J.C. Campagna in game four. Keeping this streak alive would be big for the Americans.

- The biggest negative in the series for Allen has been special teams play. The Americans can't keep losing the special teams battle and expect to win. The team knows this and there was a lot of time working on special teams at practice last night. Hopefully a little of that Costello and Steffes power play magic rubbed off and there will be one or two power play goals by Allen tonight.  

- It is kind of a broken record you hear from fans and coaches alike but taking retaliation penalties has been costly to the Americans. I know the referees have been warned about the antics of Idaho captain, #21 Jefferson Dahl, but Allen needs to avoid retaliating. As coach Martinson has said many times, if a player does something you don't like and he isn't willing to drop the gloves just take down his number because there will be another time for paybacks. This game is too critical for those type of penalties.

- Here is the game five preview issued by the Allen Americans: 

- The referees scheduled for the game are Tyler Puddifant (#28) and Stephen Thomson (#27). The linesmen are Addison Brush (#80) and Michael Houle (#49). This is the same crew that handled the game on Friday. Hopefully they have had time to take a look at game four video with their supervisor and assess the calls and non calls in the game.


- Here is a recap of all eight ECHL first round playoffs series:

North Division
#1 Adirondack vs #4 Worcester - Adirondack leads the series 3-2. Worcester won 6-5 last night in Adirondack to avoid elimination. These teams combined for a total of 12 goals in the first four games of this series before combining for 11 last night. Game six is in Worcester on Monday with game seven, if necessary back in Adirondack on Wednesday.

#2 Manchester vs #3 Reading - Manchester swept Reading in four games and has been waiting around since last Wednesday to see who their opponent will be in the division finals.

South Division
#1 Florida vs #4 Atlanta - Florida swept this series and will now take on Orlando in the division finals. 

 #2 South Carolina vs #3 Orlando - In the surprise of the playoffs thus far Orlando beat South Carolina 2-1 in overtime last night to sweep the series. During the regular season South Carolina had a record of 7-3-0-1 against Orlando but when it came to playoff time the Solar Bears went 4-0 against the Stingrays. Orlando will be seeking another upset in the division finals when they take on the ECHL regular season champions the Florida Everblades.

Central Division
#1 Toledo vs #4 Indy - Toledo made short work of Indy sweeping the Fuel in four games. The Walleye finished the series with Indy on Thursday and are now waiting to see who their opponent will be in the division final.

#2 Fort Wayne vs #3 Cincinnati - Fort Wayne won in Cincinnati 2-1 last night to take a 3-1 lead in the series. The Komets will have a chance to advance when they take on the Cyclones in Cincinnati this afternoon (3:00 pm EDT).

Mountain Division
#1 Colorado vs #4 Wichita - After trailing 3-0 in this series Wichita has won two games in Colorado to close the gap to 3-2. Last night the Thunder blew a 4-2 lead in the third period but came back to win the game 5-4 in overtime. Wichita scored the game winner 21 seconds into overtime. Game six is in Wichita on Monday and if necessary game seven will be in Colorado on Wednesday.

#3 Allen vs #2 Idaho - Allen has a 3-1 series lead and will have the chance to advance and avoid returning to Idaho if they can win tonight (6:05 CDT).

- Vincent Arseneau and his Utica Comets lost 3-2 in Toronto yesterday in the first game of their best of five series.  Game two is this afternoon.  Colby McAuley and the San Jose Barracuda beat Tucson  6-3 at home last night to even the best of five series 1-1. The final three games of this series will be in Tucson with game three on Wednesday and game four on Friday.

DID YOU KNOW: I have written about this before but I just saw on one of the morning TV shows a feature about the oldest hockey player in the world, Mark Sertich, who resides in Duluth, Minnesota. The Sertich name is one of the famous last names synonymous with hockey in Minnesota. Mark Sertich is 96 years old and still plays hockey regularly. A World War II veteran, Mark completed the famous Duluth marathon (Grandma's Marathon) six times and then got hooked on inline skating and raced in his first of those at age 75 and has completed 11 of them. Here is a video from last year about this ageless wonder.



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