It was a hard-fought game in a hard-fought series featuring two outstanding goaltenders. The Allen Americans beat the Kansas City Mavericks 2-1 last night to win the series 4-2 and advance to the division finals where they will take on the Idaho Steelheads. Building availability once again will dictate the series against Idaho. The good news is the Americans start at home (Friday and Saturday) even though they are the lower seed. The bad news is this series will be a very unusual 2-4-1 series.
– Once again Allen got of to a good start scoring the first goal of the game at the 14:09 mark of the opening period. Stefan Fournier did what he does best, taking the puck to the net from behind the goal. Allen took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission thanks to some stellar goaltending by Kevin Mandolese who stopped three breakaways.
– There was no scoring in the second period, but there were plenty of chances. After two periods the teams had combined for 51 shots and just one goal. The combined save percentage for Mandolese and Shane Starrett was an eye popping .980.
– Allen would score what would become the eventual game winner 86 seconds into the third period. It was one of those get the puck to the net with guys in front type of goals. Dalton Skelly took the shot with Combs and Novak parked at the net. Novak put in the rebound to give Allen a 2-0 lead. The goal proved to be critical as Kansas City scored less than a minute later on a controversial goal that appeared to be kicked in. After a six-minute review the referee called it a good goal.
– It was a struggle down the stretch for the Americans as they did not have a shot on goal the last eight minutes of the game. Kansas City pulled the goalie with 2:10 remaining in the game and the puck never left Allen’s zone, thanks to five straight faceoff wins by the Mavericks. Allen was tenacious on defense with bodies flying all over the place blocking shots and clearing guys from the front of the net. And when needed Mandolese came to the rescue. It was the longest 2:10 in memory.
– Goalie Kevin Mandolese was clearly the MVP of the first round series. After stopping 40 of 41 shots last night his GAA is 1.82 and his save percentage is .944. He is also #2 in minutes played at 196. With the Idaho series games somewhat spread out (Friday, Saturday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, Wednesday) expect to see a lot of Mandolese in the series.
– It is difficult to put this series win in perspective. Allen has had many exciting series wins over the years on the way to four championships, but this series may have been the most exciting opening round win ever. Six one goal games and who would believe when Allen’s offense was putting up five goals per game at the end of the regular season the Americans would win the first round of the playoffs by scores of 3-2, 1-0, 4-3 and 2-1. This has been a special team.
– Here are the video highlights and the game recap from the Allen Americans:
- Video highlights: https://www.echl.com/en/video/2023/5/kansas-city-mavericks-vs-allen-americans—may-1-2023-UnQfL5xS
- Game recap: https://allenamericans.com/media/moving-on/
– Allen fans can only hope beating rival Kansas City turns out as it has in the past. The Mavericks have never beaten the Americans in the playoffs. Here is the history:
- 2013 – Allen beat the Mavericks 4-3 on the way to its first championship
- 2016 – Allen beat Kansas City 4-2 on the way to its second Kelly Cup. That was the year the Mavericks won the Brabham Cup with 109 regular season points.
- 2023 – Allen beat Kansas City 4-2 on the way to ????
– Idaho advanced last night after a hard-fought series with Utah. The Steelheads lost the first two games of the series at home and then won four straight overtime games. Allen struggled against Idaho in the regular season (0-8-0-0) but this is a vastly different team right now.
– Six teams have now qualified for the second round of the playoffs (Newfoundland, Reading, Florida, Toledo, Idaho and Allen). Five of the six teams were the higher seed. The one exception was in the South Division where #4 seed Florida beat #1 seed South Carolina. The higher seeds are leading in the two remaining series with games six tonight. #1 seed Cincinnati is at home against #4 seed Fort Wayne. The Cyclones lead in the series 3-2. #2 seed Jacksonville is at home against the #3 seed Greenville. Jacksonville leads the series 3-2. If either series goes to a seventh game it will be tomorrow night.
– The ECHL sets completion dates for each round of the playoffs. The second round must be completed by May 17. If the Allen vs Idaho goes to seven games the seventh game will be played in Allen on May 17.
– I am always hesitant to talk about coach Costello because he constantly tells me he wants the focus on the players. I couldn’t help but notice all that was happening as I sat in his office after the game. There were pats on the back and celebratory hugs from players, former players and staff. That was combined with dealing with player issues, family time, watching the Idaho vs Utah game, and talking about preparation for the upcoming series. I couldn’t help but think what an amazing accomplishment it has been for Chad from being plucked out of the locker room, learning the general manager part of the job, dealing with so many obstacles on and off the ice you could write a book and making it to the final eight of the Kelly Cup playoffs. It was obvious to me there was a lot of reflection going on by Chad in between the helter-skelter of the moment. Chad always says how proud he is of his team and how much he loves them. I just hope he realizes how proud everyone is of him and how much he is loved. He has proven a lot of things to a lot of people in a very short period of time. And it is very clear if you spend time with Costello, this first round playoff win is not the end, it is just the beginning.
DID YOU KNOW: Most playoff points by an ECHL defenseman in a single season since 2011-12:30: Charles-Edouard D’Astous, Utah, 202225: Ben Finkelstein, Newfoundland, 202224: *Matt Register, Colorado, 201723: Mathew Maione, Wheeling, 201621: *Eric Roy, Allen, 2016*Won Kelly Cup