It was a disappointing start to the division finals for the Allen Americans losing 5-4 to the Idaho Steelheads last night before a crowd of 4239 at CUTX Event Center. Allen scored first and won the special teams battle, two keys to the game, but could not overcome costly turnovers that led directly to goals for Idaho.
– Allen got the party started at 13:53 of the first period when Grant Hebert took a pass from Justin Young and fired the puck home from the slot. Considering teams that score first have won 77% of the games thus far in the playoffs there was reason for optimism. However, before fans could sit back down in their seats after the red, red, red chant Idaho had tied the score 1-1 off a bad turnover by the Americans. It was a mere eight seconds after Hebert’s goal. The first period ended with the score tied 1-1.
– Allen took a 2-1 lead early in the second period (4:21) when Colby McAuley scored on his old team, but once again Idaho responded immediately. This time it took 42 seconds. Idaho took its first lead of the game midway through the period on another bad turnover by the Americans. With the Steelheads leading 3-2, Stefan Fournier scored a power play goal to tie the score 3-3. It Fournier’s third goal of the playoffs (tied for the team lead). The back and forth continued when Idaho scored late in the period (18:17) to take a 4-3 lead into the second intermission. It was not a good sign when you consider the Steelheads record this season when leading after the second period is now 49-2-0-0.
– Things went from bad to worse when Idaho took a 5-3 lead just 18 seconds in to third period. Allen made a big push in the period outshooting Idaho 20-12 and did manage to cut the score to 5-4 at 15:21 but they could not get the equalizer.
– Here are some stats and comments from the game.
- Allen allowed 46 shots, the fourth most shots allowed in the playoffs.
- Allen was outshot 16-6 in the first period and 18-13 in the second period.
- Allen’s 20 shots in the third period were the third highest total in any period in the playoffs.
- The referees let a lot of typical penalties go calling just three penalties in the game.
- Allen was 1-2 on the power play and Idaho was 0-1.
- Allen’s lone penalty was for not going immediately to the bench after losing the helmet.
- With the loss Allen’s record against Idaho this season is now 0-9.
– The goal scorers for Allen were Grant Hebert (1), Colby McAuley (1), Stefan Fournier (3) and Jack Combs (3). Colton Hargrove led the Americans with eight shots. Here are the video highlights: https://www.echl.com/en/video/2023/5/idaho-steelheads-vs-allen-americans—may-5-2023-R7H26Vut
– Here are the game recaps from both teams if you want more detail than I shared above:
Allen press release: https://allenamericans.com/media/game-recap-americans-drop-game-1-to-idaho/
– Aaron Gens and Gary Steffes met with the season ticket holders after the game. Here is what they had to say:
“That was a very unique playoff game. All of the ups and down with everything that happened in the game. We did not have a good start despite getting the first goal. I thought we needed a better effort, especially in the first two period. Yes, we got 20 shots in the third period, but in our mind, it wasn’t good enough.”…..Gens
“We have to be better from the net out and we have to be sure we are ready to go tomorrow night.”…..Gens
“I think our team is a lot better than we played tonight. We learned tonight we have to be a lot stronger on pucks. We can’t swing and have one handed effort at pucks. We have to make really strong hard passes and we can’t try and play cute.”…..Steffes
“Idaho is very good defensively. They are very good at protecting pucks and being on the attack. It is going to push us to be at our best and we are capable of doing just that. We have complete confidence in the team that we can rise to the highest level in game two.”…..Steffes
“Mental toughness and physical toughness are absolutely essential for us to win this series. Mental toughness is important as the game goes up and down and adversity strikes when the ref makes calls you don’t agree with, or bounces don’t go your way. Physically we have to play hard, we have to hit them, and we have to battle. Our most successful guys tonight were the players playing physical.”…..Steffes
“Ice conditions are a factor for both teams and that is how you have to approach it. I didn’t hear the guys talking about the ice. Yes, the puck was bouncing a lot tonight, but you just have to battle through it.”…..Steffes
“I am sure coach Costello will take a deep look at our lineup and their lineup, look at the video and make some decisions. You have to remember we put up 20 shots in the third period so that was just effort, not based on changes.”…..Gens
“I am incredible impressed that our team is full of resilience. All year this team has faced unbelievable adversity at various point throughout the season, but they remained resilient. From last place at Christmas to look where we are sitting now. This team will respond as they are absolutely mentally tough. Tomorrow will be a different day and we will respond well to this loss. I have absolute confidence.”…..Steffes
– It is hard to overstate the importance of game two tonight. It is tough to say game two of a seven game series is a must win for Allen, but if the Americans go down 0-2 heading for four games in Boise this could be a short series. Remember, Idaho’s home record during the regular season was 32-4, an all-time ECHL record. The Americans can take some hope from the fact Utah beat Idaho twice in Boise, but the Steelheads have proven to be a tough at home with sellout crowds for every game.
– Maybe the most frustrating thing watching Idaho play Allen is there are no surprises. Idaho plays the same way every game. They dump the puck and outwork the opponent forcing turnovers and making it hard for Allen defensemen to break out of their zone. Team defense is a hallmark of the Steelheads as evidenced by allowing just 153 goals in the regular season, 26 less than the next lowest team. As a comparison Allen allowed 263 goals in the regular season. It seems as if Allen needs to play a near perfect game for a full 60 minutes to win against Idaho. That will be the goal in game two tonight.
– Coach Costello juggled the lines late in the game trying to get a spark. Most notably Colby McAuley played with Hargrove and Crone, a combination that worked well earlier in the season. Liam Finlay then played with Butcher and Combs and that line scored the Americans fourth goal. It will be interesting to see what changes Costello will make in the line combinations tonight.
– As for the lineup tonight Ty Farmer (injury) is not available and Jakov Novak is back at school finishing his master’s degree. I had several questions if Novak will return. Yes, he will return but I don’t know the exact date. Aiden Brown is the only available player that was not in the lineup last night.
– Toledo took a 1-0 lead in its series with Cincinnati last night. The game was tied 2-2 in the third period when Cincinnati’s Sean Allen took a five minute major penalty for boarding (game misconduct). The Cyclones took a minor penalty during the five minute major and the bottom line is Toledo blew the game open with four power play goals. The final score was 6-2, the Walleye had a 37-17 shot advantage and were 5-8 on the power play. Here is the game recap from Cincinnati: https://cycloneshockey.com/news/2023/05/major-penalty-costs-clones-game-one-to-walleye
– All four division finals series are in action tonight. Here is the ECHL Today with the previews. https://www.echl.com/en/news/2023/5/echl-today-may-6
– Given Toledo is the only undefeated team in the playoffs (5-0) it is no surprise the Walleye have to some gaudy stats:
- Toledo’s power play percentage is 44.4, second place (Newfoundland) is 26.3%.
- Toledo’s third period scoring is +11 (14-3). The next closest team is +6.
- Toledo is averaging 4.60 goals per game and allowing 1.80.
- Toledo has scored first in every game and won them all (5-0)
– After 48 playoff games the ECHL average attendance is 4188. Last season the average playoff attendance was 4385 over 85 playoff games.
DID YOU KNOW: ECHL regular season top five teams have won 15 of the last 17 Kelly Cups. Here is regular season rank of remaining eight teams in the playoffs with regular season points in parenthesis. Odds heavily favor the top four on this list.1. Idaho (119 points)2. Cincinnati (103 points)3. Toledo (98 points)4. Newfoundland (98 points)6. Jacksonville (93 points)9. Reading (88 points)11. Florida (85 points)13. Allen (77 points)