ECHL: Allen Americans Vs. Idaho Steelheads Mountain Division Semifinals

Lisa Jordan/Idahonews.com

The Allen Americans and Idaho Steelheads met Monday night for the first game in their round one series of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. In warm-up, both teams looked focused and ready, with not a lot of chirps or interactions between players. Once they took to the ice, the Americans took the lead in the first 2-1, with the Steelheads tying it at 8:15 in the second period. The Americans took back the lead by time hit 15 minutes in the second period, but in the last three minutes, the Steelheads came back and scored twice tying it. Both teams scored a goal during the third period, sending the teams to Overtime, where the Steelheads won 6-5.

The three Stars of the game:
1. IDH – Mark Rassell
2. IDH – Patrick Kudla
3. IDH – Jordan Kawaguchi

Going into the series, the Steelheads were the favored team to win based on their regular-season record; they finished the season with a 48-20-2 record. Their top seven forwards combined for 168 goals and 199 assists, and their top four defenders combined for 33 goals and 132 assists. The Steelheads saw four power plays during the first game and could only capitalize on two. Their regular season statistics indicate that this is on par with them. However, this could be where they can score the most on the Americans during this series. Especially since the Americans finished the regular season with the second-highest penalty minutes in the league, sitting at 1211. This game’s four penalties on Allen show that they aren’t looking to change their ways; therefore, the Steelheads should put more pressure on those areas where the Americans tend to slip up. 

Allen shouldn’t be counted out or considered the underdog in this series. They are coming into the series with a 33-35-3 record and a reputation as one of the most physical teams in the league. This physicality sets the team up to have as many penalty minutes as they do; they push harder. Their top seven Forwards have a combined 122 goals and 174 assists for the regular season. With this team being more physical and willing to take more chances, it really gives them the edge to win this next game. They have seen how the Steelheads rally back, and they have seen where they are weak. Allen, overall, had more players with three or more shots on goal than Idaho did. If those shots can be dialed in more, they are looking at dominating this series. 

Both teams have areas they could work on, but they are pretty evenly matched coming out of the first game for shot and save percentages. The number of falling players in the first game of this series was a little comical, but with the pushing and shoving that was going on, it was understandable. Watching these two teams take on each other in that first game lets us know this is playoff hockey and that only some series are won in four. If they continue on with the way they are, there is a likely possibility we will see more overtime in this series than we have any other time in this playoff so far.

Penalties are where this is really going to make game two interesting. Both teams had their share of what they called, the most severe being Idaho’s Matt Registers high-sticking, which was a four-minute double minor, but Allen had the most with four. Of those four, two were for hooking, a penalty that can be avoided. This is where Allen needs to be the most attentive. Idaho finished the regular season with a Power Play Percentage of 29 compared to Allen’s 20. Even if they are evenly powered on the Power Kills, the PP is where it will count.

If Players can remain healthy and the goalies are on top of their game, the possibility for each team is unreal. This is going to be a great game that is going to come down to shots, penalties, and power plays on Wednesday, and the puck drops at 7:10 MDT

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Stephanie DeLaFleur

Beat Writer covering the ECHL Savannah Ghost Pirates, NHL Vegas Golden Knights and AHL Henderson Silver Knights. Follow me on X @StephiDelafleur

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