The box score reads the Allen Americans lost to the Utah Grizzlies 2-1 in a shootout last night before a crowd of 4602 at the CUTX Event Center. However, the final score doesn’t reflect the game which shows just how strange, unexpected and cruel hockey games can be. Thursday night Allen gave up a season high 51 shots. Utah had a bunch of breakaways, odd man rushes and back door open shots but the Americans won the game. Last night the Americans felt the sting of losing. Allen outshot Utah 41-32 including 8-2 in overtime, created tons of scoring chances all through the game, hit five or six posts and missed some open nets. The Americans were foiled by some fantastic goaltending by Utah goalie Trent Miner who stopped 40 of 41 shots for a .976 save percentage.
– Despite Allen out chancing and outplaying Utah last night, several of the stats I always talk about favored Utah to win the game. Here are a few examples:
- Utah scored the first goal of the game. Allen is 18-7-1-0 (.712) when scoring first and 11-20-0-1 (.359) when they don’t score first.
- Allen trailed 1-0 after the second period. Utah’s record with a second period lead is 22-1-0-0
- Allen lost the special teams battle. Utah’s only regulation goal was a power play goal. Allen was 0-8 on the power play including 57 seconds of power play time at the beginning of overtime (carry over from regulation) and a full two minute power play.
– Utah shutdown the “Four Sure Gang” last night. There have been just two games all season where Combs, Crone, Finlay and Hargrove have been in the lineup and failed to get a single point. Both times game in the last week and shows the reliance the Americans have on the group. The two times the group failed to scorer Allen lost 5-0 (in Idaho last Friday) and 2-1 last night.
– The loss last night shouldn’t overshadow a great effort by the Americans where they played great defensively and earned a very valuable point in the tight race in the Mountain Division. The goal that earned Allen that point was scored by Grant Hebert on a great individual effort. Hebert took a pass from Stefan Fournier, blew by two defensemen and put the puck in the net early in the third period. It was a special goal because it tied the game and earned Allen a point. But it was also a special goal because Hebert’s family is in town to watch him play. The goal was Hebert’s seventh since joining the Americans in January. He has 19 points (7G, 12A) in 25 games.
– Allen dominated the overtime period outshooting Utah 8-2. The second Utah shot came with one second left in overtime. Allen put out three of its top guns in the shootout but all missed. Liam Finlay went first and hit iron, Hand Crone’s shot went wide, and Jack Comb’s five-hole attempt was stopped. Utah’s third attempt was successful. Here are the video highlights with the two regulation goals and all six shootout attempts: https://www.echl.com/en/video/2023/3/utah-grizzlies-vs-allen-americans—mar-17-2023-guCga1RA
– Here are the game recaps from both teams:
CHAD COSTELLO COACH’S COMMENTS
“Our team played really hard tonight. Both goalies played great. I am happy with the team’s effort tonight. We will take the one point and try to win the series on Sunday.”
“It was a hard-fought playoff style game. I asked the team to defend harder than they did on Thursday, and they responded. We gave up 51 shots on Thursday. Tonight, we had a 41-32 shot advantage.”
“Our power play had a chance to win the game in overtime but we didn’t pull it off but it wasn’t because of lack of effort so we can live with that.”
“They were taking Hargrove away on the power play. The goalie and shot blockers were reading Hargrove’s chances. We will make an adjustment for Sunday to try and get back on track.”
“Our new forward, Jakov Novak, arrived this afternoon. He is going to be great for us. He is a big body, he looks super athletic, and I love his attitude. It is not easy to walk into a room with 20 professional athletes coming right from college. I came to the rink about 4:00 pm and he was already there. I asked him if he was going to go home or what is your plan. He said he wanted to stay in the locker room so he can introduce himself to the players as they arrive. He wanted to meet everyone as soon as possible. I can already tell he is going to fit in great.”
– Both teams will rest up today with a rare Saturday night off, as soccer (Sidekicks) takes over the CUTX Event Center tonight. It is the only time all season the Americans play on Friday and Sunday at home with Saturday an off day. Allen and Utah are idle tonight, but every other ECHL team will be in action. Two more teams (Newfoundland and Indy) can clinch playoff spots tonight. Here is the ECHL Today with the previews for all 13 games on the schedule tonight: https://www.echl.com/en/news/2023/3/echl-today-march-18
– Kris Myllari accompanied coach Costello to the post game meeting with season ticket holders and captured the game perfectly, “I thought we had a great effort tonight. We are two teams fighting for a playoff spot and fighting for our lives. We had a great game. We hit a bunch of posts and had a lot of great chances on the power play. I thought we had a great overall 60-minute effort. If we keep that product on the ice, we will be very happy moving forward.”
– The Mountain Division could hardly be tighter for the five teams vying for three playoff spots. The top team (Idaho) won to extend its lead to 35 points and the bottom team (Tulsa) lost to fall nine points behind. Here are the standings by points percentage with points in parenthesis.
- .822 – Idaho (97 points)
- .525 – Kansas City (62 points)
- .517 – Allen (60 points)
- .517 – Utah (61 points)
- .492 – Wichita (59 points)
- .474 – Rapid City (55 points)
- .404 – Tulsa (46 points)
All five teams in the middle of the standings could finish as high as second or as low as sixth in the final standings. Every game is important.
– The QMJHL, one of the three top tier junior leagues in Canada plans to ban fighting starting next season. The government has the authority to mandate the ban but the QMJHL has already agreed to stop the fighting. The rules, procedures and discipline for fighting still has to be worked out. Here are the details from the Hockey News: https://thehockeynews.com/news/qmjhl-plans-to-ban-fighting
– When I did the research this morning to find out how many games Hargrove, Finlay, Crone and Combs played together and none of them had a point, the answer was two times, both in the last week. While doing the research I had to count how many times all of them have been held scoreless this season. I went back to 2014-15 when Chad Costello had 125 points to set the gold standard of most games scoring at least one point. I converted everything to percentage for this season since the number of games played (in parenthesis) differs. Here is what I found for percentage of games played that each player had at least one point.
- 89% – Chad Costello (64 of 72 games)
- 83% – Jack Combs (48 of 58 games)
- 79% – Colton Hargrove (41 of 52 games)
- 78% – Hank Crone (43 of 55 games)
- 72% – Liam Finlay (34 of 47 games)
DID YOU KNOW: Toledo currently has a 17-game win streak (2nd longest all-time) and a record of 24-1-1-0 over the last two months and still trails Idaho by 11 points in the race for the Brabham Cup. The last time a team won the regular season championship by more than 11 points was over 20 years ago, in 2001-02. It has only been done twice.11 points – Idaho’s current lead (97 vs 86) over Toledo for the Brabham Cup in 2022-23.15 points – In 1990-91 the Knoxville Checkers won the Brabham Cup as the regular season champion by 15 points over the Hampton Roads Admirals. Knoxville lost in the first round of the playoffs and Hampton Roads won the championship (Riley Cup).14 points – In 2001-02 the Louisiana Ice Gators had the best season ever in the ECHL (.806 points percentage) and won the regular season championship (Brabham Cup) by 14 points over the Trenton Titans. Neither team made it to the Kelly Cup finals, the Greenville Grrowl won the Kelly Cup.The moral of this story is the Brabham Cup curse has been around for a long time. Will Idaho defeat the curse in 2022-23?