Following the Dallas Stars heartbreaking loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, I started to think about some of the more painful moments in the history of the Allen Americans. As fans we have been so fortunate to experience the immense levels of success that the team has experienced over the past 11 seasons, but that success has not come without some heartache.
For this piece, let’s jump back to the Spring of 2010. The Americans had just wrapped up their inaugural regular season with an outstanding record of 42-17-5. Players such as Bruce Graham, Nino Musitelli, Justin Bowers and Colton Yellow Horn had quickly become fan favorites with their offensive prowess. While goaltender Chris Whitley, was awing fans with miraculous saves night in and night out between the pipes. Allen would head into the Ray Miron President’s Cup Playoffs as the Southern Conference’s #2 seed, facing-off against the Laredo Bucks in the opening round. After dropping three of the first five games, the Americans returned home to the Allen Event Center for Game 6 but staved off elimination with a dramatic win to force a winner take all Game 7. Allen would then emerge victorious in Game 7 to complete the comeback and eliminate the Bucks.
The win over the Bucks earned the Americans a trip to the Jack Shack in Odessa and a matchup with the heavily-favored Jackalopes. Allen showed that they were up to the challenge by taking a dominant 3-1 series lead to start the series, before Odessa rebounded and forced a Game 7 with back to back wins in Games 5 and 6. Having already won a Game 7 earlier in the previous round, Allen would again display a killer instinct with their season on the line, knocking out the Jackalopes with a crisp 4-2 victory. The win secured a Southern Conference Championship and a trip to the Ray Miron President’s Cup Final for the Americans, where they would face-off against the Rapid City Rush.
Allen kicked off the Final in style with a win in Game 1 to take a 1-0 series lead and were seconds away from taking a 2-0 series lead in Game 2, before the Rush scored late to tie the game and eventually even up the series with a goal in overtime. Even with the loss, the series was tied at one apiece with the next three games taking place in the friendly confines of the Allen Event Center. Everything was looking good for the Allen Americans heading into Game 3 and things would look even better following the game, with Allen taking a 2-1 series lead after a 5-2 win. A championship was now only two wins away, but unfortunately the next two contests saw the Americans fall to the Rush 4-2 and 7-2, respectively.
Following the disappointing losses in Games 4 and 5, Allen would return to Rapid City with their backs against the wall for Game 6. The desperation was evident from the opening face-off with the Americans striking for the three goals in the games first twenty minutes. A Game 7 was looking certain, as Allen was skating like the team that had shown resilience in the earlier rounds against Laredo and Odessa. Rapid City would cut into the lead 12:02 in the middle frame, but things were still looking good with the Americans taking a two goal lead into the third period. The final frame in regulation saw the Americans keep the Rush off the scoreboard for close to fifteen minutes before Rapid’s Blaine Jarvis pulled the Rush to within one at the 14:54 mark. The Jarvis goal energized Rapid City with the ice becoming heavily tilted towards Allen’s net. Unfortunately, the Rush would find the equalizer with 3:06 remaining in regulation, fully erasing what was once a three goal lead and sending the game into overtime.
The first overtime saw both teams exchange numerous chances, with a combined twenty-five shots in the frame. Despite all of the opportunities, neither team was able to find the back of the net and the game would go into a second overtime. The Rush took control in the second overtime, dominating possession and firing multiple high danger scoring chances at Chris Whitley. Whitley remained heroic, turning aside shot after shot until an innocent looking pass to the front off the net was deflected off a player and into the back of the net with just thirty-two seconds remaining in the overtime.
I remember sitting there stunned and in silence for several moments following that heartbreaking goal. What had seemed like a sure thing just a few hours earlier was suddenly gone, as there would now be no Game 7 and no opportunity to bring the President’s Cup to Allen. The Americans had come so close but within a matter of seconds the dream of capping off an historic inaugural season with a title was done. Overtime hockey giveth, and overtime hockey taketh away.
So why talk about this today? I truly believe that these types of losses and heart-breaking moments made the future championship wins even more special. With the double OT loss to the Rush and even the following year’s heartache to the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs in the Berry Conference Final, the Americans 2012-13 President’s Cup championship win was made even greater and more meaningful to those who had witnessed the goal on that late May night that ended the magical run in the Spring of 2010.
Sometimes we just have to go through the bad, to get to the good.
- Brandon Cox