ALLEN, Texas – The scoreboard showed the Allen Americans lost 4-3 to Fort Wayne. The score doesn’t do a very good job of telling the story of what happened in the game.
The 3919 fans at the Memorial Coliseum saw Allen score first (Les Lancaster) just 77 seconds after the opening puck drop. The lead didn’t last long as the Komets scored four unanswered to take a 4-1 lead after the first period as the Allen defense broke down time and time again.
It was another uncharacteristic period for the Americans who have allowed a total of seven goals in just two periods (last period of game two and first period of game three). The total goals allowed by Allen in the other 16 periods they have played in the playoffs this season is nine. The two bad periods led to two defeats and have put the Americans in a deep hole. Trailing 2-1 in the best of five series they will have to win tonight and tomorrow night in Fort Wayne to advance.
To their credit, the Americans never gave up in the game and for a while, it looked like Allen might flip the script on the Komets and come back from the 4-1 deficit. Allen played solid defense the final two periods and with the help of goalie C.J. Motte held Fort Wayne scoreless. Tyler Sheehy cut the score to 4-2 with the only goal of the second period. When Lancaster scored his second goal of the game on the power play early in the third period (2:43,) it looked like the comeback was on. The Americans had a great opportunity to tie the game with a late power-play including some 6-on-4 time after pulling the goalie. Allen struggled getting organized on the power play and Fort Wayne did an excellent job killing the crucial penalty.
All the cliches apply tonight, “win or go home,” “do-or-die,” “backs against the wall,” “last chance, one last shot, last stand,” pick your favorite. Despite the two bad periods in the last two games when they were outscored 7-1, the Americans won the other four periods 6-1 and outscored Fort Wayne in all but one which was scoreless. The final two periods last night showed what Allen can do and that is the mindset they need to take into game four.
Allen has scored first in every game in this series but doesn’t have much to show for it with a 1-2 record. The team that scores first wins close to 80% of the time and stats have a way of regressing to the mean. You have to like Allen’s chances if they get the first goal again tonight.
Both teams had a power-play goal last night and they were key to the game. Fort Wayne converted on its only power play of the game. It was an ill-advised retaliation penalty early in the game that allowed the Komets to tie the score 1-1. Allen was 1-4 on the power play as Lancaster scored early in the third period to cut the Fort Wayne lead to 4-3. Special teams played a key role last night and there is no doubt they will again tonight.
“We have played two bad periods in this series and it has cost us two games. We have outplayed/outscored them in seven of nine periods.”
“We talk all the time about not trying to make a play that isn’t there. We had several goals scored in the bad two periods when we turned back into our offensive zone trying to make a play. I always use the football analogy of sometimes you just have to punt and get the puck out of the zone.”
“I told the team after the game Fort Wayne is up one game in the series, that is it. All we have to do is even the series and the way we played in the final two periods will get it done.”
“We have tweaked the power play for the game tonight.”
“C.J. Motte will get the start tonight and Jake Paterson will start in game five. I liked the way Motte played after the first period and held us in the game.”
“Sam Laberge and Dyson Stevenson will be game-time decisions but could both be in the lineup tonight.”
South Carolina, who was the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and the seventh-ranked team in the ECHL during the regular season advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals last night with a 2-1 win at home over Greenville. The Stingrays won the series 3-1. They have played all of their playoff games in a practice rink that holds just 550 fans.
It is already determined the final series will start in the Stingrays practice facility (Carolina Ice Palace) whether they face Allen or Fort Wayne. The first two games will be on Friday (June 25) and Sunday (June 27). Allen or Fort Wayne will get the last three games of the best of five series at home.
My final thought for today is something I have said before. Tonight could be the last game of the season, though I personally think it will not. Allen has enough talent to win every night and has a history of winning must-win games. Win or lose, have fun watching the game tonight. It has been a tough season with all of the pandemic issues but Allen played all 72 regular-season games and once again has made a deep playoff run. There are only three teams still playing hockey in the ECHL. The Americans have provided much-needed entertainment when it was needed most.
Be thankful Steve Martinson will be back next season and reflect on what I believe will go down as the best of his nine seasons in Allen as a general manager, whether the Americans win or lose tonight. Martinson had to deal with losing two affiliations and had to basically rebuild the team when he lost nine players in one week including five in one day when San Jose pulled its players. Trades, free agents, college players, talking to AHL teams, talking to players sitting at home, Martinson left no stone unturned. Martinson’s ability to recruit is unparalleled.
Did You Know?
Rookies have played a big role in Allen this season. It is hard to believe but 50% (26) of the record 52 players that played in Allen this season were rookies. Here is the ECHL Stats post from today that highlights leading ECHL rookies in the playoffs:
Rookies playing a big role in the Kelly Cup playoffs. The rookie leaders:
Points (8) & Assists (7)
Steven Harper, Fort Wayne
Brett Neumann, Allen
Shooting % (60%)
Oliver Cooper, Fort Wayne
Ben Finkelstein, Greenville
Sam Ruopp, Allen
— ECHL Stats (@EchlStats) June 22, 2021
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