It was just a Saturday night game in the middle of the season, but it is hard to overstate the importance of Allen’s win last night in Wichita. A disappointed crowd of 5226 at INTRUST Bank Arena watched as the Americans beat the Thunder 3-2. Why was this win so important, let me count the ways:
- Allen came back from a 2-1 deficit, scoring twice in 61 seconds late in the third period to win the game.
- Allen won despite not playing its best. On Friday night Allen scored first, outshot Wichita and won the special teams battle on the way to a 4-3 win. Last night the Americans did none of those and still found a way to win.
- Allen beat the second-best team in the Mountain Division back-to-back on Wichita’s home ice.
- With the two road wins in Wichita after a home win against Tulsa on Wednesday the Americans jumped a big hurdle. For the first-time all-season Allen has won three straight games.
- Winning three straight doesn’t sound like a lot but the fact is only three ECHL teams have a longer winning/points streak than Allen.
- For the first time since before Thanksgiving, Allen is not in last place in the division in points or points percentage.
– The three wins this week are just a small step but a very important small step. Despite all of the injuries and having very few AHL contracted players on the roster, coach Costello has consistently said he believes in the team and Allen will get better and will start winning consistently. The Americans have started climbing that mountain and the results are starting to show. Allen has won three straight, five of the last seven games and six of the last 10. Slow and steady improvement that needs to continue.
– Last night it didn’t look good for Allen early in the game. It took Wichita just 77 seconds after the opening puck drop to take the lead. The Americans were lucky to get out of the first period only trailing 1-0 since they were outshot 17-8. Luke Peressini kept Allen in the game with some great saves.
– The hole got deeper when Wichita took a 2-0 lead midway through the second period on a power play goal a second before the penalty expired. It started to look like it was not going to be Allen’s night. Everything changed for the Americans late in the period when the old reliables, Combs and Crone, combined to give the Americans life. A slick short drop pass from Crone set up Combs for a one timer from the faceoff dot that Jack blasted by the goalie. That goal energized the Americans and that momentum carried over to the third period. However, Wichita had a 2-1 lead after the second period and had to feel good given the Thunder’s record when leading after the second period prior to last night was 14-1-1-0 and Allen’s record when trailing after the second period prior to last night was 1-16-0-0.
– Allen dominated the third period outshooting Wichita 15 -7. Allen had plenty of opportunities but could not get the equalizer until rookie Grant Herbert, playing in his second pro game, made a great play by stealing the puck in the slot and making a perfect pass to Chad Butcher at the near circle. Butcher buried the puck in the back of the net. Just 61 seconds later (16:11) Hargrove, Combs and Finlay combined for the game winner. Finlay took a nifty pass from Combs and found himself all alone on the side of the goalie. A little dangle and a top shelf game winner. It was Finlay’s second game back after missing three weeks with an injury.
– Allen out shot Wichita 15-7 in the third period but what was key is the Americans had 10 of the last 12 shots. Once Allen took the lead the defense took over, even after Wichita pulled its goalie.
– Goal scorers for Allen were Jack Combs (20), Chad Butcher (2), and Liam Finlay (12). Combs is now tied for the league lead in goals. Here are the video highlights with all of the goals and some of the saves including the 2-on-0 Allen opportunity: https://www.echl.com/en/video/2023/1/allen-americans-vs-wichita-thunder—jan-14-2023-WVIFDM6a
– Here are the game recaps from both teams:
CHAD COSTELLO COACH’S COMMENTS
“I am proud of our team. We never quit. We always believed we were coming back to win this one. Our big players stepped up their game in the third period.”
“I love that we have been through so much and we are still standing and fighting back. We feel this will help us in the long run.”
“We have had a lot of players raise their games to a higher level, that is leadership.”
“I give all credit to our leaders in the locker room.”
“We can’t be satisfied with our recent success; we have to continue to raise the bar.”
“Great goaltending was a big key to our success this weekend.”
“We don’t play again until we return to Wichita next Friday, we still have some improvements we can concentrate on.”
“Liam Finlay leaves tomorrow for the All-Star game. I wish Finns best of luck.”
“We will be adding another player to the roster on Wednesday and will be an even stronger team.”
– I was listening to the pregame interview with Wichita coach Bruce Ramsay last night and he acknowledged what coach Costello has been saying. Ramsay’s comment, “Allen is a much better team than they were a couple of weeks ago, they have made some great additions. Other teams are going to find that out as well, when they start playing against them.”
– Liam Finlay is off to the All-Star game today. It is always a great experience, especially for young players. The format for the game should fit Finlay’s style like a glove. The tournament will be a series 3-on-3 running clock timed rounds with the skills competition taking place between rounds. The skills competition results will count toward the cumulative score. The game will be televised live on the NHL Network and streamed on FloHockey. The game is tomorrow night (Monday) and starts at 7:00 pm EST.
– The #1, #2 and #7 teams in the Mountain Division lost last night. The four teams in between won. Because the number of games played varies from 32-36, points percentage is the best way to look at the standings. Here is the latest with points in parenthesis. The only Mountain Division teams in action today are Tulsa at Wichita.
- .838 – Idaho (57)
- .597 – Wichita (43)
- .563 – Kansas City (36)
- .514 – Rapid City (37)
- .453 – Tulsa (29)
- .426 – Allen (29)
- .409 – Utah (27)
DID YOU KNOW: Here are the 2023 playoff formats by league. It includes the number and percentage of teams that qualify plus some details:
NHL16 of 32 (50%) of teams make the playoffs4 rounds, all best of 7No byes but do have wildcardsAHL23 of 32 (72%) of teams make the playoffs5 rounds1st round is best of 32nd & 3rd rounds are best of 54th & 5th rounds are best of 79 teams get byes into the 2nd roundECHL16 of 28 (57%) of teams make the playoffs4 rounds all best of 7No byes or wildcardsSPHL8 of 11 (73%) of teams make the playoffs3 rounds all best of 3No byes or wildcards, all 11 teams are in one division
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