It’s one thing to come into a new league at the last minute and be successful to the next change. It’s a completely different thing to come into a league, be successful, appear to be solidly dominant during the playoffs, and then win a championship in the process. However, the Allen Americans did just that and took home their third championship in as many years with a 6-1 win in Game 7 over the South Carolina Stingrays to claim the Kelly Cup.
Granted, towards the end– you could see either fatigue or competition start to get to the Americans. The Ontario Reign seemed to give them some trouble in the Conference Finals and the Stingrays gave them all they could; but even through it all– the Americans were able to bear down and push through their adversity to win the title.
When you look at how the Americans did it, the scoring and heroics came from different sources. Gregor Hanson won the MVP of the playoffs for his stellar offensive output (12g, 17a), which continued from his consistent performance during the season. Chad Costello was dominant during the regular season, but did slow up his torrid pace in the playoffs with only 28 points in 25 games (9g, 19a), while Gary Steffes was very silent in the playoffs after having a solid regular season. Coach Steve Martinson had a goalie carousel for a decent amount of the playoffs with Riley Gill finally winning out as his go-to guy; despite Joel Rumpel playing solid in his time on the ice and was helpful to the Americans performance.
The one thing that did seem interesting is the fact that after getting out of the Central Division, the Americans were able to see the true talent of the ECHL– though it was deep in the playoffs and fatigue was able to set in. That said, Coach Martinson was right when he said to me this was a team geared up and ready to take over the ECHL— which what they did. It also helped that guys like Spencer Asuchak came back to the line-up and Chris Crane was able to step-up and contribute as he was able to do.
For the next act, the Americans are going to have a nice task to get through the entire ECHL. No one will sleep in them (if they even did before) and they’ll be hard-pressed to retain players in the ECHL since you can assume that Costello and Asuchak will be highly looked at for AHL gig. Lucky for the Americans is that they’ll be a prime destination for players coming into the ECHL or for free agents looking for a solid place to play. So, if the San Jose Sharks do call a lot of guys to play on the Barracuda– the cupboard should be restocked pretty quickly by Martinson.
To have a team that has won three championships in three years– the fan base has been treated to some great things from this team and they turned out in a big way in Game 7 in order to make sure the Americans had the home-ice advantage. They have been treated to some great hockey and really haven’t known much of losing– which could be a good thing for them or a bad thing if it should happen in the next season or two. It doesn’t look like it would happen or that the organization would let it happen– but it’s always a case of injury or bad luck that could derail this dynasty of a team that Allen has right now.
When all is said and done with this era of hockey in Texas, the Allen Americans are going to be on the top of the list for what they have given to the minor league hockey community and help contribute to hockey gaining popularity in a region that’s primed for the picking when it comes to harvesting new talent for USA Hockey in the future.