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A Look Back at Allen’s Last Championship, Six Years Ago Today, With Chad Costello and Aaron Gens

Thursday, June 9th
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I thought today would be a good day to take a trip down memory lane as the Allen Americans transition from coach Steve Martinson to coach Chad Costello. Today is the sixth anniversary of Allen’s last championship, which they won at home on June 9, 2016.  It was the fourth straight championship for Martinson and the second straight Kelly Cup for Costello, who had quite a season.

– Here is a recap of the 2015-16 season for Chad Costello:

  • Scored 103 regular season points and won the ECHL scoring title by 23 points
  • Won ECHL regular season MVP Award
  • Won Kelly Cup Playoff MVP Award
  • Set ECHL all-time record for assists in one playoff year (29)
  • Set ECHL all-time record for assists in final series (10)
  • Quarterbacked Allen’s playoff power play to a league leading 27.7% including 32.7% at home

–  You can easily argue Allen’s 2016 championship was the best of the four straight between 2013 and 2016. It was hard to see it coming based on the Americans regular season performance. Here are some facts:

  • Allen’s 2015-16 regular season points percentage was just .618 on a record of (41-24-3-4). That was the lowest points percentage of any of the Americans championship seasons.
  • Allen didn’t even win its division in 2015-16, finishing 20 points behind first place Missouri who had a .757 points percentage.
  • Allen finished the regular season losing six of the last 11 games.
  • Allen’s .618 points percentage in 2015-16 was ranked tied for fifth best in the ECHL but was sixth with the tiebreaker. Teams that finish that low in regular season points percentage rarely win the Kelly Cup.

– Here are the Kelly Cup champions since 2005 with their regular season finish in parenthesis. Anyone who says once you get in the playoffs anything can happen hasn’t looked at ECHL history. Most seasons 16 teams make the playoffs but the lowest to win the Kelly Cup was #7.

  • 2022 – Toledo finished #1 and Florida finished #3
  • 2021 – Fort Wayne (5th)
  • 2020 – No Playoffs
  • 2019 – Newfoundland  (3rd)
  • 2018 – Colorado (4th)
  • 2017 – Colorado (3rd)
  • 2016 – Allen (6th)
  • 2015 – Allen (2nd)
  • 2014 – Alaska (1st)
  • 2013 – Reading (2nd)
  • 2012 – Florida (7th)
  • 2011 – Alaska (1st)
  • 2010 – Cincinnati (5th)
  • 2009 – South Carolina (4th)
  •  2008 – Cincinnati (1st)
  • 2007 – Idaho (6th)
  • 2006 – Alaska (1st)
  • 2005 – Trenton (4th)

– Allen was no better than the fourth seed in the Western Conference when the 2016 Kelly Cup playoffs began. Missouri was the heavy favorite having won the Brabham Cup as the best regular season team by a wide margin (.757 to .688). In addition to Missouri both Fort Wayne (#2) and Colorado (#3) were seeded higher than Allen.

– The Americans almost didn’t make it out of the first round, playing fifth seeded Idaho. The Steelheads got off to a terrible start but by the end of the season were one of the best teams in the division. Idaho’s record the last three months of the season was 19-6-3-2. The series was tied 2-2 when Allen got blown out 7-1 in game five in Idaho. The Americans returned home to the Allen Event Center and won game six 4-2 to set up a crucial game seven. Allen prevailed in game seven but it took a third period power play goal (David Makowski) to tie the score and an overtime goal by Tristan King to advance to the second round.

– Round two saw Allen face Missouri, the #1 team in the league and the Americans long time rival from the CHL days. To add more drama, the Mavericks were coached by Richard Matvichuk who had won championships with Allen as the assistant coach. Allen won the series 4-2 with the final game being a 5-1 win on the road. That was the famous “poogate” game when the Mavericks put stinkbait in the Allen locker room and elicited this quote from Steve Martinson after the 5-1 win that eliminated Missouri, “Don’t put gas on the fire unless you want a bigger fire.”

– After eliminating the #1 seed in the second round pretty handily, you could see the Americans gaining confidence as they moved to the third round (Conference Finals). Allen was once again the underdog as it took on Midwest Division champions and #2 seed Fort Wayne who had just dispatched Utah 4-0. Allen scored 21 goals in five games against Fort Wayne to win the series 4-1. Fort Wayne’s captain was former Allen captain Jamie Schaafsma, who won two championships with the Allen Americans.

– Allen made the Kelly Cup finals and took on another team that was not expected to make through the playoffs. The Wheeling Nailers were the #5 seed in the Eastern Conference and beat the #2 seed (South Carolina) in the Conference finals.

– Allen beat Wheeling in six games to win the Kelly Cup but it was not an easy series for the Americans. Here is a recap:

  • Game 1 – Allen gave up a shorthanded goal and two power play goals to Wheeling, but managed to to score five goals including two power play goals to win the game 5-3.
  • Game 2 – Allen trailed 7-1 at the end of the second period which included an empty net goal as Allen pulled the goalie late in the period when on a power play. The Americans scored five third period goals to close the gap but lost 7-6. With the series tied 1-1 the teams headed to Wheeling for three games.
  • Game 3 – Allen gave up the first goal of the game (second period) and could never get a lead. The Americans tied the score 1-1 (Gary Steffes) and 2-2 (Greger Hanson) but eventually lost the game 3-2.
  • Game 4 – It was Allen’s turn to score first (Gary Steffes) in a game that wasn’t decided until Eric Roy scored an empty net goal with 34 seconds remaining. Allen won 4-2 to tie the series 2-2.
  • Game 5 – This turned out to be the turning point of the series. With the score tied 2-2 after regulation time on goals by Chad Costello and Vincent Arseneau, the Americans won the game just 17 seconds into overtime on a goal by Greger Hanson. Allen headed back to the Allen Event Center with a 3-2 series lead.
  • Game 6 – It was a unique Kelly Cup clinching game for the Americans. Three power play goals (Tristan King, Greger Hanson, Eric Roy) all assisted by Chad Costello and an empty net goal (Gary Steffes led to a 4-2 Allen win and a second Kelly Cup. Allen was outshot 44-27 in the game but Riley Gill was the difference maker stopping 42 of 44 shots for a .955 save percentage.

– There is little doubt in my mind Allen would not have made it through the 2016 playoffs or even past the first round had it not been for the experience the team gained from winning the Kelly Cup the year before. The Americans didn’t have a great regular season and had to go through a team playing well at the end of the season (Idaho), the #1 seed and Brabham Cup winner (Missouri) and the #2 seed (Fort Wayne) just to get to the Kelly Cup finals. What Allen had going for it was 10 players that had won the Kelly Cup in 2015 and a coach with nine championships to his credit. Those 10 players were:

  • Vincent Arseneau
  • Spence Asuchak
  • Chad Costello
  • Aaron Gens
  • Riley Gill
  • Greger Hanson
  • Joel Rumpel
  • Gary Steffes
  • Dyson Stevenson
  • Casey Pierro-Zabotel

– Allen had plenty of help from rookies in the playoffs, especially on defense. Eric Roy had 21 points and trailed only Costello (38 points) and Hanson (23 points) in playoff points. Other rookie defensemen in 2016 were Rick Pinkston, Jordan Rowley and Thomas Carr. If you remember Aaron Gens was out with a broken ankle and didn’t play until the last game of the third round, David Makowski broke his thumb and missed the final series and Rick Pinkston missed most of the second and third rounds. Carr and Rowley really stepped up during the playoffs after just graduating from college.

– The 2016 championship saw several players make the all-time ECHL record list.

  • #1 assists in one playoff year, Chad Costello (29)
  • #1 assists in final series, Chad Costello (10)
  • #2 most points in one playoff year, Chad Costello (36)
  • #3 most points in final series, Chad Costello (13)
  • #4 most goal in final series, Gary Steffes (6)
  • #7 most goals in one playoff year, Greger Hanson (15)

– I had a chance to talk to Chad Costello and Aaron Gens about the 2016 championship and it was quite the experience. Gens spent most of the playoffs watching from the sidelines as he was trying to rehab from an injury just to get back in the lineup. I am always amazed at the detail players remember about games played six years ago. I got mesmerized in just listening to them talk about the 2016 playoffs and what the team went through. Here are a few of their thoughts and some specific plays they brought up that were key.

  • “I thought Idaho was the best team in the division at the end of the season.”
  • “The hit Vincent Arseneau put one of Idaho’s defenseman in game one of the series set the tone.”
  • “It is so important to get past the first round of the playoffs, it is only then that you know what you have.”
  • “We really put it to Missouri in the second round of the playoffs. Our team just had the belief we were the better team. Once everyone in the locker room buys into that belief we were hard to beat.”
  • “Fort Wayne tried to play us very physical and we killed them on the power play. In our wins in games one, four and five were were 7-15 (47%) on the power play.”
  • “After the loss in game two of the finals at home the entire locker room knew we were going to win the series. We were trailing 7-1 after the second period and scored five third period goals to lose 7-6. That loss gave us more momentum than a win.”
  •  Game five of the final series was key as Allen gave up a late third period goal to send the game to overtime. Allen won the game 17 seconds into overtime on a Greger Hanson goal. Chad and Aaron described that goal in so much detail it was hard to believe. From the faceoff win to the pass to the goal to what was said by Martinson after the game. They knew every step of the play, where on the ice every player was, the accuracy of the passes, the type of shot, the position of the puck when Hanson hit it and exactly how it entered the net.

– It is always fun to go back and relive the past especially a season as remarkable as 2016. I know this is much more detail than most are interested in but it was so enjoyable looking back at what in my opinion was an Allen team that over preformed to win the Kelly Cup. This video will bring back those memories and provide a vision for the future:

The post A Look Back at Allen’s Last Championship, Six Years Ago Today, With Chad Costello and Aaron Gens appeared first on Allen Americans Hockey Club.

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