Allen, Texas – It took a third-period comeback from a 3-1 deficit and two overtimes, but the resilient Allen Americans dispatched Utah on Friday.
The Americans beat the Grizzlies 4-3 to sweep the series 3-0 and become the first team in the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs to advance to the second round. Allen awaits the winner of the Wichita vs Fort Wayne series in which the Komets lead 2-1 with game four tonight. The Americans have announced the Western Conference Finals will open in Allen next Friday and Saturday, June 18-19.
Allen got the fast start it was hoping for when Sam Laberge scored just 63 seconds after the opening puck drop. The lead was short-lived, however, as Utah struck back with three unanswered goals to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. With a two-goal lead after the first period, the odds were in Utah’s favor. The Grizzlies were 8-1-0-0 during the regular season when leading after the first period. Allen was 3-8-0-0 when trailing after the first period.
There was no scoring in the second period, but the Americans outshot Utah 10-5 and had the better chances. The stats were even bleaker since Utah had the 3-1 lead at the second intermission. The Grizzlies had a record of 13-1-1-1 during the regular season when leading after the second period at home. Allen was 2-12-0-0 when trailing after the second period on the road.
Allen would end up defying the odds, which should come as no surprise given their having persevered time and time again this season.
The Americans know if they keep grinding good things will happen. You can tell they have that attitude they are never out of a game. You don’t win nine straight games without gaining a lot of confidence.
It was fitting the way the game played out in the third period and overtime. Josh Lammon, who is the best defensive forward on the team and led the Americans in plus/minus (+20) during the regular season, sparked the comeback. He has plenty of offense to go with his defensive skill and scored his 13th goal of the season at the 9:03 mark of the third period. Next up was Brett Neumann, who had the game-winning goal in the first two games of the series, as he tied the score with less than five minutes remaining in the game. Over the last month, Neumann has scored an average of .53 goals per game with eight goals in 15 games including three goals in three games in the playoffs.
Allen was clearly the better team in the final period and overtime. The Americans outshot Utah 11-5 in the third period and 12-5 in the first overtime period. The most fitting goal of all came at the 7:27 mark of the second overtime when Les Lancaster, who earlier in the day was announced as the ECHL MVP runner-up, took a great pass from Corey Mackin, beat two defenders, and buried the puck from the slot.
Allen now moves on to the “final four” as the only ECHL team to sweep a first-round series.
As you might imagine with a first-round sweep, Allen is all over the top of the ECHL playoff stats sheet. Mackin is the points leader and assist leader with four assists and Neumann leads in goals (4).
There is a three-way tie for top-scoring defensemen in the playoffs with three points. Matt Register and Les Lancaster are two of the three.
Jake Paterson is 2-0 with a .929 save percentage. C.J. Motte is 1-0 with a .931 save percentage.
The goal scorers for Allen were Sam Laberge (1), Josh Lammon (1), Neumann (3), and Lancaster (1).
“It was a great comeback win for the team last night. Anytime you play that long and put out that much effort you want to come out on top,” Americans head coach Steve Martinson said.
Other comments from Martinson…
“I think our depth kicked in late in the game and through the overtime periods. I thought we had more energy in overtime and the shots reflected that.”
“Sweeping the series provides several benefits. The players can get some rest, injured players have time to heal and we will have some time to practice after not practicing much in the last month.”
“We will get home this afternoon and give the players the day off tomorrow. We will then practice Monday thru Thursday with lighter practices later in the week.
“We have had to rely on video rather than practice time to work on improvements. Being able to have practice will allow us to work on the power play and other system issues.”
With Allen moving on to the second round the other three series will be in action tonight. South Carolina is at Florida with the series tied 1-1. Indy is at Greenville with the Swamp Rabbits leading the series 2-1. Wichita is at Fort Wayne with the Komets leading the series 2-1.
Did You Know…
This is Steve Martinson’s seventh trip to the playoffs in nine seasons since becoming the coach in Allen. Last season, Allen had the best record in the Western Conference and was first overall much of the season but no playoffs were held when the season was canceled. In his previous six trips to the playoffs, Martinson won the championship four times. With the series win last night, Martinson has now coached in 18 playoff series as the Allen head coach and has a record of 16-2.
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