We’ve all heard the punch line: I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out.
In front of an amazing crowd of 5,333, Allen came out just as if it were scripted by the Hockey Gods; flat and uninspired in game one, in game two the Americans came out and dictated play and hit anyone who got in their way.
In the end, Allen would win the fight-filled game, 5-2 and even their Ray Miron President’s Cup series with the Wichita Thunder, one game apiece.
After a couple of minors to both teams that resulted in abbreviated power plays, Allen got on the board first when Chris Doyle took a pass from Darryl Bootland and from the high slot, sent a slapper toward the net which was deflected by the defenseman’s stick and over the blocker shoulder of Torrie Jung.
Allen found themselves down a man when Bootland tried to stick up for Jamie Schaafsma who was hurt and had to go back to the locker room. Darryl was the only penalty as Wichita tried to play the psychological game with Allen. In what easily could have been considered a must kill for the Americans, Allen answered the call and never really gave the Thunder much of an opportunity.
The second period started off with much more hitting as each team tried to set the physical level. At the 5:52 mark, it appeared as if the tide may have turned in Wichita’s favor as Trevor Hendrikx was called for a trip. When the official was explaining his call to Allen head coach, Steve Martinson, the coach was assessed a two-minute misconduct which meant Allen would have a full two-minute 3-on-5 penalty kill.
Not only did the American’s kill off the 3-on-5, but they sent the Thunder down to their end on several occasions.
Wichita did get on the board at 10:03 when RG Flath knocked in a rebound which tied the game up at one. For a fleeting moment, you could feel a concern come over the Allen faithful…but only a fleeting moment. American’s goalie, Aaron Dell, showed the hockey world why he was named the CHL goaltender of the year. He was calm and collected in his crease, even when the bodies started falling around him. When asked to make saves, he made the hard ones look easy and the easy ones look spectacular. There is no doubt that Dell saved his best game of the year for the most important game of the season.
In a sign of things to come, Kale Kerbashian gave Allen the lead back with assists from Bootland and Anthony Maiani at 13:06. Bootland ended up going to the net hard to find any rebounds that may elude Jung. Darryl crashed a little too hard and after the puck had entered the net, Bootland was whistled for goaltender interference as he made no attempt to avoid Jung. It was, what had to have been, the only time I’ve seen an allowed goal and goalie interference in the same play. Bottom line, tonight was one of the best officiated games I’ve seen from the CHL all year. Were there mistakes? Absolutely. Were they critical to the outcome of the game? Not even close. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you the names of the officials…which is the way it should be.
During the Thunder power play that came from Bootland’s interference call, Jason Deitsch made a slick move to avoid the offsides as he pulled the puck back over the blue line in time for Brian McMillan to clear the zone. The Captain took the puck back in short handed and fed the puck to McMillan who fired the puck at Torrie Jung who made the initial stop. The rebound came right back out to Brian’s stick and he lifted it above the sprawled out Thunder net minder to give Allen a two-goal lead.
Allen wasn’t done yet. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Kale Kerbashian. Honestly, he’s slicker with the puck on his stick than Mike Ribeiro was during his time with the Dallas Stars. As if his goal earlier in the period wasn’t proof positive, at 17:09 of the 2nd, Kale made a perfect pass through the Wichita crease and with one flick of the wrist, Todd Robinson gave Allen a 4-1 lead which would ultimately be the end of Torrie Jung’s evening.
In fact, that was pretty much the end of the hockey game as it became a slugfest for most of the 3rd period. In fact, there was a total of 136 PIMS handed out, including 6 fighting majors and a match penalty being given to Wichita’s, Nathan Lutz, as he continued to fight Deitsch even after he fell to the ice. Even the benches got into the melee. Thunder’s head coach, Kevin McClelland could be seen yelling at American’s head coach, Steve Martinson who was laughing hysterically. At one point, McClelland gestured with his arms over his head toward Martinson to insinuate that Allen was instigating fights and “turtling.” Marty responded by removing his jacket and flexing his arms toward the Thunder bench.
In the end, the Americans were able to coast to a 5-2 victory over Wichita as Kerbashian and Lutz added goals in the penalty-ridden 3rd period. Aaron Dell gave way to Steve Silverthorn in what had to be one of the best coaching decisions Martinson has had all season as there was no reason to have Dell on the ice while bodies were flying around like paper airplanes. The 8 skaters and two goalies who remained in the playing area celebrated the win and the other remaining 10 players who had been sent to the locker room had an early start to packing their gear as the series now heads north to Kansas for games 3 and 4, to be played on Saturday and Sunday.
One of the American’s primary sponsors, Joe from Solutions Auto and I were speaking during the 2nd intermission. We talked about the play of McMillan and Kerbashian. Without these two guys, this road that Allen has travelled this season would have been a lot tougher. Brian and Kale are grinders who aren’t looking forward to what lays ahead in terms of “AHL” or even the next game. They are in the moment, enjoying every minute of every shift and doing what they need to get their teammates better. It’s easy to look at the score sheet and notice that folks like Jarret Lukin and Deitsch aren’t lighting up the goal lamp like most would expect. But if a team is going to have post season success, you have to have contributions from your role players. It’s your snipers that got you to the 2nd season in the first place.
And like Joe said, “This battle is just beginning.”