The Allen Americans long journey from last place at the end of December culminated with clinching a playoff spot yesterday. It is not the destination for this team, just the first of several more goals this team expects to accomplish. It is a tight group in the Allen locker room from the players to the coaches and staff. Congrats to all of them on this first big step on this long playoff journey.
– The path to the playoff clinching win yesterday was not an easy one. The box score shows a 5-2 win over the Oilers in Tulsa before a crowd of 5098. What it doesn’t say is Allen was playing its fourth game in five days and third within 48 hours and had travel to Tulsa on game day.
– The first half of the opening period looked like Allen had run out of gas and the Americans six game points streak (5-0-1-0) was in jeopardy. By the 11:38 mark of the first period Tulsa had two goals on a shot advantage of 14-5 and that included an Allen power play. If it wasn’t for the stellar play of goalie Luke Peressini the score could have been 4-0 or 5-0. Peressini stopped a wave of odd man rushes and breakaways to keep Allen in the game.
– The game turned around late in the first period in a way so many Allen comebacks have turned around this season. ECHL leading goal scorer Hank Crone scored on a breakaway (17:41) and ECHL leading power play goal scorer, Colton Hargrove, scored a power play goal (18:51). The first period ended with a big shot advantage for Tulsa (17-10) but a 2-2 score.
– Allen took command in the second period holding Tulsa scoreless and scoring two goals of its own. Stefan Fournier (5:44) and Jakov Novak (19:44) lit the lamp for Allen and the Americans took a 4-2 lead into the second intermission. Novak’s goal was scored on a turnover in front of the Tulsa net with 15.2 seconds remaining in the period. At that point you had the feeling Allen would not be denied. There was no scoring in the third period despite a 21-7 Tulsa shot advantage until the Oilers pulled their goalie and Jack Combs scored an empty net goal to make the final score 5-2.
– Goal scorers for Allen were Hank Crone (49), Colton Hargrove (39), Stefan Fournier (12) and Jakov Novak (5) and Jack Combs (36). Here are the video highlights: https://www.echl.com/en/video/2023/4/allen-americans-vs-tulsa-oilers—apr-9-2023-v6wHqGb2
– Here are the game recaps from the teams:
Allen Americans: https://allenamericans.com/media/playoff-spot-clinched/
Tulsa Oilers: https://tulsaoilers.com/oilers-fall-to-americans-2/
CHAD COSTELLO COACH’S COMMENTS
“I am so grateful to be able to coach this group. We have been through a lot together and for them to accomplish our first team goal of making the playoffs is very rewarding.”
“They earned this together and there is something special about this group. Now we have an opportunity to see how special.”
“We had a slow start against Tulsa. We were playing our third game in three days and four in five nights with travel the day of the game which is not ideal.”
“The team dug deep and got the job done because everyone contributed.”
“Peressini really hung in there and gave our guys time to find their legs.”
“Our special teams have been great and need to stay that way moving forward.”
“I am happy for them and proud of them as players and men.”
– Coach Costello mentioned special teams play. It has been good for a long time but especially in the four games last week. Allen earned seven of eight points in large part to special teams. Allen had power play goals in all four games for a total of 7-16 (43.8%). The penalty kill was flawless (0-11). The Americans also did a great job staying out of the penalty box. In the four games Allen took just 13 penalties while the opponents took 19.
– The one stat that consistently makes you ask why, is shots allowed. In the four games last week Allen scored 16 goals and allowed 13. Allen took 122 shots but allowed 175. Allen gave up an average of 44 shots per game. I know type of shots is important and grade A chances make a difference. With that said, you have to wonder if Allen can be successful in the playoffs giving up 40+ shots per game.
– Allen needs a win or overtime loss on Wednesday at home against Kansas City to clinch second place in the division and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. You have to like Allen’s chances given the Americans have the longest point streak in the ECHL (6-0-1-0) and a 4-1-0-0 record against the Mavericks this season.
– I have heard from many of you since yesterday about where, when, and exactly how the crow meal I will be eating is going to take place. I don’t have the details, but I am thinking this will be post playoffs and during the championship celebration. It will happen for sure (the crows are in my freezer) and it will be recorded.
– On a personal note, we are leaving tomorrow on a trip to Spain and Portugal with our best friends and my hunting buddy of over 60 years. We have done a lot of hunting together but have never hunted crows. We will be back before the end of the first round of the playoffs.
– Call this my “pre-rant” for the day. I wanted to comment on the year end awards that will be announced while I am gone. I have been watching this process for many years and in the last few years have spent a lot of time researching stats across the league each morning for my daily ECHL Stats post. There have certainly been surprises over the years, the most glaring in my view was the first year Allen joined the ECHL. Chad Costello had the best offensive season in the history of the league in 2014-15 when measured by the margin between first and second place in the scoring race. Chad had 125 points that season (41G, 84A) and won the scoring title by 45 points, the largest margin in ECHL history. Chad had more assists than any other player in the league had points. I have always chalked it up to bias against an upstart Allen team coming from the CHL that cost Costello the MVP award that season. He won the MVP award the next two seasons. His consolation prize 2014-15 was winning the Kelly Cup.
– My concern this season is Allen won’t get its just due because the Americans have so many great players, and voters will be hesitant to recognize all of them. Hank Crone, Jack Combs, Colton Hargrove and Liam Finlay all deserve recognition.
- Hank Crone leads all rookies by 17 goals and 25 points and leads the entire league by 10 goals and 12 points. Hank should be a lock for Rookie of the Year and MVP.
- Liam Finlay is third in rookie goals (31), fourth in rookie points, second in rookie points per game and second in rookie game winning goals. Liam has accomplished this playing in only 52 games. He definitely deserves to be on the all-rookie team.
- Jack Combs is second in the league in points (93), fourth in goals (36), and second in assists (57). He plays in every situation and hasn’t missed a game because of injury. Jack deserves recognition on the All-ECHL teams.
- Colton Hargrove is second in the league in goals (39), first in power play goals (19) and fourth in points (85). Another player that plays in all situations. Hargrove was described by Tulsa coach Rob Murray in his pregame interview last night as the best all-around player in the ECHL. Colton deserves recognition on the All-ECHL teams.
All four players deserve recognition and in my judgement, it isn’t even close. My hope is voters around the league didn’t decide they couldn’t vote for so many Allen players.
DID YOU KNOW: ECHL teams with most and fewest power play goals this season:MOST73: Allen*71: South Carolina*69: Wichita68: Newfoundland*68: Fort Wayne*FEWEST35: Norfolk38: Florida*39: Wheeling40: Iowa*Playoff qualified