(1C) Allen Americans vs. (2C) Rapid City Rush
It’s not as if the Allen Americans needed more of a rest, but this is a team who hasn’t played since last Tuesday. Whether or not the 10-day rest will prove to put rush on this usually well-oiled machine remains to be seen. The Rapid City Rush, however, played Game Seven on Wednesday– but have also played the Americans fairly close, despite only winning four of the 12 match-ups this season.
There’s an embarrassment of riches for the Americans, especially with the return of Spencer Asuchak— who came back from the AHL to put up three goals and eight points in five games. When you add Asuchak to Chad Costello and Gary Steffes‘ already potent offense– the Americans look like they will be the offensive spark that is usually unseen in most playoff series. Gregor Hansen has been solid on both sides of the puck for the Americans, with defenseman Konrad Abeltshauser being the main contributor for the blue-liners. One interesting thing is how Joel Rumpel has replaced Riley Gill as the netminder of record, which could continue into this round for Steve Martinson‘s squad, but to have Gill as a back-up will be a nice bonus for an Americans squad who looks as solid as any team has been in the ECHL.
Rapid City will probably live and die by the play of Danny Battochio in net. He was solid against an underrated Quad City squad, but will be really tested in this match-up with the high octane Allen team. With not a lot of goal contributions, the Rush will need to shut down the Americans early and often. The responsibilities will fall on the shoulders of Michael Young and Dallas Ehrhardt to help Battochio, while Cody Ferriero and Winston Day Chief will need to help wake up Jesse Schultz to provide the offense for the Rush.
(2P) Ontario Reign vs. (4P) Utah Grizzlies
After a big upset, the Grizzlies are in the Division Finals against a team in the Reign that they match-up well against. With the Reign being pushed to seven games against the Colorado Eagles, it could be a good sign for the Grizzlies to play a team that was worn down a bit in the first round. That said, the Reign have been scoring at an impressive clip. However, it will be a match-up of the Grizzlies top penalty kill unit in the playoffs and the Reign’s second overall power play unit.
The offense has been spread around a bit amongst the trio of Judd Blackwater, Matt Register, and Matt White; but haven’t gotten the too much other goal-scoring help. With Garry Nunn still waiting to break-out, the Reign seem set to provide a lot of offense. However, the Reign have not been good on the penalty kill and were the most penalized team in the playoffs with 36 called against them that resulted in power plays, which resulted in eight power play goals against. At full-strength, the Reign have been solid– especially on defense with rookies Alex Roach and Dennis Brown holding down the defensive side. The combo of Jussi Olkinuora and Joe Cannata will need to be much better, especially if they have to get into a platoon situation.
The Grizzlies have not lost in regulation this playoffs, which shows how much of a tough out they will be. More over than that, they have been a solid offensive team, getting a lot out of Ryan Hayes and Danick Paquette, who have combined for nine goals in the first round. Even the likes of Mathieu Aubin and Alex Krushelnyski have produced a lot, but overshadowed by Hayes and Paquette. It could be a little alarming that the blue-line hasn’t contributed much, but they have been steadfast in their own end. Yet, it’ll come down to Igor Bobkov, who has been solid down the stretch, in order to keep the Grizzlies season alive. Bobkov didn’t fare great against the Reign, only winning two of six appearances– yet, his 9-2-2 record in the last 13 games coupled with the Grizzlies offensive output should be enough to push them to the Conference Finals.