Americans Looking for the Trifecta
The Allen Americans hockey club is seeking to join one of the exclusive clubs in all of professional sports. Flashback one year, as the Americans were celebrating their second straight CHL title by defeating the Denver Cutthroats to bring home another President’s Cup. A lot has happened since that moment. Let’s recap…
Just weeks before the 2014-15 season was set to begin and the Americans were ready to defend their CHL title, the league was absorbed into the much larger ECHL. The seven remaining teams from the CHL would stay together to form the Central Division of the ECHL and become one of four divisions in the newly boosted league of now 28 clubs. Schedules had to be slightly altered to allow for a few games for each former CHL team to face a few teams from the already established ECHL to mix in to the previously finalized schedule. Confusing, I know…but it brought about a new era and a new goal for the Allen Americans…could they succeed in the much bigger and more accomplished ECHL? They were ready to find out.
In case you’ve missed it, the Americans have been playing a championship brand of hockey at the AA level on the ice at Allen Event Center for the past six seasons now. A trip to the finals in their first season of existence back in 2009-10, with a disappointing loss to the Rapid City Rush in six games. Success started early with this franchise and has continued year after year.
Head Coach and General Manager, Steve Martinson, has led this franchise to the back to back CHL championships the past two seasons, and has his team poised to clash for a third straight title in their new league. The “E” (ECHL) has always been considered an elite AA league and would prove to be a steep test for the former CHL teams to find success. The Americans have found it and have made some significant marks along the way.
Forward, Chad Costello won the ECHL scoring title with 125 points on the season (41 goals, 84 assists), which is 42 points better than the runner up in that category. Costello also added the CHL Sportsmanship Award to his resume for his conduct on the ice and high level of play. He also finished second in MVP voting, behind only the South Carolina Stingray goaltender, Jeff Jakaitis. Costello is just one of several Americans players on this roster with ECHL experience, as well as AHL (AAA) experience under their belts. That experience, combined with Americans veteran players from the CHL titles, like the Ludwig twins, Tyler and Trevor, sons of former Dallas Star, Craig Ludwig and team captain, Jamie Schaafsma, are leading this team through the choppy waters of the playoffs again this season. The Americans finished with the 2nd most points in the entire league, only behind Toledo by a single point, which gives them home ice advantage throughout the playoffs until they reach the finals, if Toledo makes it that far as well.
The Americans have disposed of Tulsa in the first round in five games, and finished off Rapid City in 5 games to win the Central Division title…so in essence, they have won the “CHL” for the third straight season unofficially. But they have bigger fish to fry. Their next test is in the Western Conference Finals against the Ontario Reign. The Americans faced the Reign in southern California earlier in the season and split the 2-game series on their ice. This will be Ontario’s first visit to Allen.
Back to that aforementioned, exclusive club…the Americans are seeking a third consecutive championship. Something that no pro team in DFW has been able to accomplish…not the Cowboys, not the Sidekicks, not the Mavs or Rangers…You have to go back to the Ft Worth Panthers (Cats) back in the 20’s for three-or-more consecutive championships in this area…and again from 2005-2007, the Cats in the Independent League found success. But the Americans are carving a legacy of their own, out of ice. It’s been said that repeating is the hardest thing to do in sports, well doing it a third time must seem impossible. Allen has found themselves on the doorstep of greatness once again. Hoping to kick that door down and come away with a 3rd consecutive title, this time in the ECHL as an affiliate of the San Jose Sharks of the NHL. It takes 16 games to win a championship in these playoffs, and the Americans have 8 down and 8 to go to reach that goal. If they do, they can hoist the Kelly Cup as the champions of the ECHL. First things first though, as Coach Martinson keeps them focused on the task at hand…and that is playing hockey the Americans way and winning any way they know how.
The Western Conference Finals begin in Allen on Sunday, May 17th at 4:05 pm for Game 1 and on Monday, May 18th at 7:05 pm for Game 2, before the series heads to southern California for games 3, 4 and 5, if necessary. The winner of this series will take on the winner in the East between Toledo and South Carolina to move on to the Kelly Cup championship.
Americans fans are rabid this time of year and they are “always livin’ in the red”, as their goal anthem goes. There’s nothing quite like playoff hockey, at any level. It’s just nice to see hockey still being played in DFW this late in the year. Who knows…something special may be waiting for these boys as a reward for a season of hard work.