The most familiar refrain heard from coaches and fans after the Allen Americans defeated the Iowa Heartlanders 6-3 last night to qualify for the Kelly Cup playoffs was, “It’s nice to see the old Allen Americans tonight.” In the most important game of the season the experienced players took the lead. Jack Combs and Spencer Asuchak scored first period goals and the Americans never looked back. Chad Costello assisted on four of the six goals, Asuchak contributed a second goal and Colby McAuley scored his second goal in as many nights to help eliminate Idaho, the team that traded him to a non-playoff team back in the middle of March. Colby has played four games since being acquired from South Carolina at the trade deadline and has scored a goal in three of them.
– What made the difference last night was Allen came out hitting and finishing its checks from the opening puck drop. The Americans avoided turnovers, got the puck in deep when there wasn’t a play at the blue line and the forecheck was as good as it has been all season.
– The Americans great play on the ice created a spirit and enthusiasm in the crowd that was also reminiscent of the “old Allen Americans.” And to bring it full circle, coach Steve Martinson had a post game session with season tickets holders just like the old days to recap the game and answer questions. Just like the old days, he answered every question that was asked and stayed until there were no more questions.
– Allen had a 2-0 lead by the 6:41 mark of the first period, but Iowa had a chance to get back in the game with a five minute power play for the final 4:58 of the period. The Heartlanders managed just one goal and the Americans took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. The second period was all Allen Americans who outscored Iowa 3-0 and put the game away.
– Goal scorers for Allen were Jack Combs (21), Spencer Asuchak (26,27), Ben Carroll (2), Jared Bethune (8) and Colby McAuley (12). Here are the video highlights: https://youtu.be/AkqmQc4aIhg
– Game recaps
- Allen Americans: https://allenamericans.com/media/americans-clinch-playoff-berth-with-regular-season-finale-win/
- Iowa Heartlanders: https://www.iowaheartlanders.com/en/2021-22-news/ia-wor-recap-game-72
COACH’S CORNER WITH STEVE MARTINSON
“Thanks for the turn out tonight and your support all season.”
“It was nice to see the old Allen Americans tonight. We pursued the puck and it was the best forechecking we have done all year.”
“The veterans stepped up and made plays and got us going and the young guys made plays right through the lineup.”
“The Asuchak, Costello and McAuley line was a combined +13.”
“It was a lot of fun and I felt like it was the old Allen Americans back. That is a big lift to play that way again as we go into the playoffs.”
“I don’t know if I will be in Allen next season or not. I am going to start talking to other teams, but the biggest thing for me right now is working on the playoffs. The best thing for everyone is for us to go into the playoffs and win and play the way we are capable of playing.”
“I never want to pick my poison on who we are playing. We will be ready for whoever it is.” The last time we played in Utah we had a lot of guys injured and called up. Teams like Rapid City, who just work hard, have given us trouble.”
“Not starting the playoffs until Friday and Saturday will help us. We have had a lot of players fighting a virus bug that has been going around the locker room and others are dinged up and injured. Not playing until next Friday will help us get healthy and rested up.”
“The match penalty on Kneen was not a kick. The guy had his legs tied up and he was just trying to free himself. His skate never left the ice.”
“My homework assignment for the players will be to watch their shifts and memorize them as that is the way we need to play next Friday.”
– An hour after Allen won they got a bonus as Rapid City defeated Tulsa and that meant the Americans finished in third place in the Mountain Division instead of fourth. Allen’s first round opponent will be the Rapid City Rush. Here is the schedule:
- Friday, April 22 at Rapid City
- Saturday, April 23 at Rapid City
- Tuesday, April 26 in Allen
- Friday, April 29 in Allen
- Saturday, April 30 in Allen*
- Monday, May 2 at Rapid City*
- Wednesday May 4 at Rapid City*
– Allen scored first, had a first period lead and a second period lead which has been a formula for success this season. The Americans went the entire season without losing a game in regulation when leading after the second period and finished with a record of 20-0-1-1.
– Spencer Asuchak scored his 27th goal of the season last night which is the most goals he has ever scored in a single season as a professional or in junior hockey. He also passed Chad Costello (26 goals) for the team lead in goals this season.
– Bruce and Whitney Graham and family (four kids) attended the game last night. It was great catching up with them and see how the family has grown. They live in the Moncton, New Brunswick area now. Bruce was the star of the inaugural Allen Americans team in 2009-10. He was the second round pick (#51 overall) of the New York Rangers in the 2004 NHL draft. He led that first Allen team in scoring with 79 points (31G, 48A) in 64 games. The team went to the championship final in 2009-10 before losing to the Rapid City Rush. After winning a championship in Great Britain (Nottingham Panthers) in 2012-13), Graham returned to Allen and was part of the 2013-14 championship. How big of a goal scorer was Bruce Graham in Allen:
- In the history of the Allen franchise just eight players have scored 30+ goals in a season. Bruce Graham and Chad Costello are the only players to do it twice.
- Of the top 10 goal scorers in Allen franchise history, Graham is #1 in goals scored per game. He scored 97 goals in 184 games for a goals per game average of .53.
DID YOU KNOW: The ECHL Stats post today is about which teams make the Kelly Cup Conference finals. While the odds favor the teams finishing #1 or #2 in the division becoming the conference finalists, the #3 seeded Americans can look back to the 2017 playoffs for inspiration. The Eastern Conference finals that season pitted the fourth place team from the North Division (Manchester) against the third place team from the South Division (South Carolina). The Stingrays won 4-3 and met the Western Conference Champion, the second place team from the Mountain Division (Colorado) in the Kelly Cup finals. Colorado beat South Carolina 4-0 to win the Kelly Cup. FYI, Allen was the #1 team in the Mountain Division that season and lost to Colorado in the second round.It is no surprise the division champs in all four divisions have the most wins or are tied for the most wins in the last 10 games in their respective division. Could all four make it to the conference finals? Highly unlikely as even three of four making it to the conference finals would be above the historical average. The closest was in 2019 when three division champs (Newfoundland, Florida, Tulsa) were joined by second place Toledo in the conference finals. Here is the record over the last 10 games for the four division champions:North: 8-1-1-0, ReadingSouth: 8-2-0-0, FloridaCentral: 7-2-1-0, ToledoMountain, 6-4-0-0, Utah