The Allen Americans and Idaho Steelheads have never missed the playoffs since joining the ECHL. This is the fourth year in the playoffs for Allen who won the Kelly Cup in 2015 and 2016. It is the 15th straight year for Idaho in the playoffs. They won the Kelly Cup in 2004 & 2007 and lost in the finals in 2010.
- Despite their successful ECHL playoff history Allen is entering this series in a very unique position because they are the underdog. Only two of the sixteen teams in the playoffs had fewer points in the regular season than Allen. The Americans had 78 points which is the lowest point total in franchise history.
- Allen will have to rely on the old adage of once you make the playoffs anything can happen and Allen fans have reason to be optimistic. The Americans roster is vastly different since March 1st and the results have been as well. After struggling in January and February with a .326 winning percentage, coach Martinson made wholesale changes and it worked as the team's winning percentage from March 1st on was .647. It was a high risk move that has proved why Steve Martinson has been so successful over the years.
- How much of a gamble is Martinson making with this playoff roster? My answered is very little because the Americans wouldn't be in the playoffs without all of the changes. It is however, pretty dramatic when you consider Allen will go to battle with an unprecedented eight rookies on the playoff roster. There will also be eight players on the ice in this series that have played fewer than 15 games with the Americans this season including five that have played less than 10 games.
- Yesterday I included a matrix of the four Mountain Division teams in the playoffs. Here is how that matrix looks if you look at it head to head between Allen and Idaho
Goals Scored (average per game)
3.39 - Idaho
3.26 - Allen
Goals Allowed (average per game)
2.61 - Idaho
3.22 - Allen
Goal Differential (goals scored minus goals allowed)
+56 - Idaho
+3 - Allen
Shots For (average per game)
36.11 - Idaho
30.74 - Allen
Shots Against (average per game)
28.36 - Idaho
36.25 - Allen
Shooting Percentage (goals as a percent of total shots)
10.5% - Allen
9.1% - Idaho
Power Play Percentage
17.5% - Idaho
17.1% - Allen
Penalty Kill Percentage
84.2% - Idaho
81.6% - Allen
Power Play Goals Scored
57 - Idaho
51 - Allen
+229 - Idaho
+38 - Allen
Goals Against Average (GAA)
2.53 - Idaho
3.16 - Allen
.912 - Allen
.909 - Idaho
Record Last 10 Games
9-0-1-0 - Idaho
4-4-2-0 - Allen
- Idaho outperforms Allen in 11 of the 13 stats above. The Americans have a better shooting percentage than Idaho (10.5% vs 9.1%) and a slightly better save percentage. These two stats will not be good enough if Allen can't generate more shots on goal and allow fewer shots on goal. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate the issue. Last weekend Allen and Idaho split two games but the Americans were outshot 96-42. If you look at the last eight times these teams played in the regular season which takes you back to November, Allen has never had more than 26 shots on goal and their average shots over the eight games is 23. Idaho on the other hand had over 50 shots once and over 40 shots five times with an average over the eight games of 41 shots per game.
- It is difficult to look at the stats above and not come away thinking Idaho is the better hockey team as there is no doubt based on the stats the Steelheads have the advantage. The stats don't lie but the team that will take the ice tomorrow night against Idaho is not the team that complied the stats above.
- A couple of notes about the lineup for tomorrow night. When the playoff roster was submitted to the league there were two players on the reserve list, Alexandre Carrier and Tristan King. While there is nothing preventing coach Martinson from swapping players on the reserve list it probably means King has still not recovered from his injury and will not be in the lineup. One player that will be in the lineup and playing a new position is rookie Matt Foget. Matt has played center almost exclusively in his career but played wing in his first two games in Allen. With Thomas Frazee ineligible for the playoffs, Foget will take over as the third center and be back at his natural position.
- The goalie matchup in this series will be something to watch. Jake Paterson has taken over as the #1 goalie since his arrival in Allen at the beginning of March and has played a big role in the team's turnaround. Other than missing a few games when he was injured Jake has been the go to guy and has complied a record of 9-4-1-0. Paterson has played against Idaho three times and stopped 135 of 144 shots for a save percentage of .938. Idaho will have to decide between their rookie goalie, Tomas Sholl, who has been outstanding since joining the team in early March and their experienced NHL contracted goalie, Philippe Desrosiers who was just assigned to the Steelheads by the Dallas Stars this week. Sholl has started 11 games for Idaho and has a record of 9-0-1-1 with a GAA of 1.24 and save percentage of .953. Hard to see him not getting the start however it is worth noting his two losses have come against Allen. Desrosiers was with the Texas Stars for over a month but played in only two games so has not seen a lot of game action recently.
- The game preview will continue tomorrow when I will dig deeper into the stats in comparing Allen and Idaho.
- Many fans thought it was a matter of time before the San Jose Barracuda was eliminated from the playoffs with the hope that Colby McAuley would be assigned to Allen. The Barracuda have to win out and the San Diego Gulls have to lose their remaining games in regulation for San Jose to qualify for the playoffs. The Barracuda have been doing their part as they beat Bakersfield 2-1 last night for their fourth straight win while San Diego lost to Tuscon 4-0. San Jose plays Bakersfield again tonight in another win or go home game.
- The 2018 Kelly Cup playoffs officially get underway tonight with all eyes on the one game being played between Orlando and South Carolina. South Carolina is the #2 seed in the South Division but had the third most points (104) in the league during the regular season. Their record against the #3 seed Orlando this season was 7-3-0-1.
- For the second straight year Matt Register was voted as the ECHL Defenseman of the Year and David Makowski finished second. Just like last season Register led the league in points but Makowski led all defensmen in average points per game. Congrats to both.
- There is a great story written by Rick Gosselin about Alex Guptill in the Dallas Morning News this morning. Rick has been a great supporter of the Allen Americans over the years and has been a big help to me with his advice and counsel. Here is the Guptill story: https://sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallas-stars/stars/2018/04/11/winding-journey-former-stars-prospect-now-key-piece-allen-americans
- One of Allen's great fans brought this article from nbcdfw.com to my attention and all you need to see is the title to know how wrong it is, "Dallas Wings Only North Texas Professional Team to Make the Playoffs This Season." The article says in part, "When it comes to North Texas professional sports teams, women ruled this season. The WNBA's Dallas Wings are the only local pro team to make the playoffs. The Wings record may have been 16-18 but they still made it to the first round of the playoffs." I guess nbcdfw.com isn't aware of the Allen Americans who are in the playoffs for the ninth straight season and have won championships in four of the last five seasons. C'MON MAN!
I am sure Allen fans congratulate the Dallas Wings on their season but let's let nbcdfw.com know they are missing out on the most successful pro franchise in the DFW Metroplex. I will personally provide tickets for the home playoff games next week to anyone on the staff that would like to check out the Allen Americans. Read this story and take the time to contact nbcdfw.com and let them know about the Allen Americans. https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/sports/North-Texas-Major-Sports-Franchises-Dont-Make-Playoffs-for-the-First-Time-in-History-479288423.html
DID YOU KNOW: Here is a followup to the info from yesterday about Riley Gill. In case you missed it here it is again:
I have had a lot of questions regarding Riley Gill
based on the ECHL transactions on Monday (April 9) that showed he was
released by the team under the heading, "CONTRACTED PLAYERS RELEASED
(unrestricted free agents as per ECHL Playing Rule 73 (f). That playing rule states that the last day a team may place a player
on waivers is Friday, April 6. Any player released following that date
is declared an unrestricted free agent and is ineligible to be added to
another team's roster for the duration of the regular season or
playoffs". The bottom line is Riley Gill is no longer with the Allen
Americans and is now an unrestricted free agent.
Everything changed on Riley's status when the ECHL transactions were issued yesterday afternoon. Here is the exact wording: "release voided, player placed back on injured reserve (4/9), omitted from playoff roster due to injury"
Here is what my reporting turned up after talking to multiple sources about this entire matter. Back in October Riley made it clear to coach Martinson this would be his last season. When Martinson was notified this past week that Riley had been medically cleared he took the action to release him since he wasn't going to be ready for the playoffs having not played since October. It turned out there was some miscommunication between the doctors involved and in fact Gill had not been medically cleared. Thus the change was submitted to show that he is still on the injured reserve list. My reporting is that all involved know that once Gill is medically cleared he will be released.