You mention “game 7” to a sports fan and just about everyone will hearken back to a dream they once had, be it “bottom of the ninth, two out and down by one run and a runner on 2nd” or the “one who takes a no-look pass from behind the net and knocks in a one-timer for the Stanley Cup.” Whatever the dream, everyone has envisioned themselves in a game 7. That’s where the Allen Americans and Missouri Mavericks found themselves on Tuesday night, in front of over 4800 raucous red-clad fans.
Two hours and 27 minutes later, all 4800 were on their feet, shaking the Allen Event Center as Allen avenged one of their worst games in recent memory by defeating the Mavericks, 7-3 and set up a match-up with the Wichita Thunder for the Ray Miron Cup Finals.
After failing to close out the semi-finals in Missouri last Saturday by giving up a goal in the last 30 seconds of play and then into overtime then coming back to Allen for game 6 and being absolutely decimated in all facets of the game, the Americans knew they had one choice and that was to come out firing.
They didn’t have to wait long, as Brian McMillian knocked in a redirect past Mavs goaltender, Mike Clemente at 1:52 thanks to the puck movement from captain, Jason Deitsch and Jamie Schaafsma. From there, Allen continued to build on the arena energy and the smothering attack that this team was built on. Missouri could never get anything set up. As soon as a Missouri skater would bring the puck up ice, they would be met by no less than 2 red jerseys, and if they did get a pass off, the other three skaters for Allen plugged up the passing lanes to perfection to allow clean zone clears.
Missouri came close at 6:37 when from a tight angle, the puck was thrown on net and it ended up past American’s netminder, Aaron Dell, but bounced safely out thanks to the crossbar. The resulting bounce found the tape of Trevor Ludwig who made some slick moves to take the puck coast-to-coast but his shot was ultimately pushed aside by Clemente to keep the deficit to one goal.
One area that saw perhaps the greatest improvement was Allen’s puck movement. They held on to the puck with minimal turnovers and were very deliberate with their passes as opposed to the “SportsCenter-esque” passes they attempted on Monday night.
The level of excitement swelled in the opening moments of the 2nd period when Allen found themselves on a 3-on-1 break away, but the Mavs defenseman played the move as perfectly as one could hope as he stayed on his skates, but laid his stick on the ice flush and broke up the pass which would have been deposited into a wide open net. However, at the 2:53 mark, the Americans would see their textbook style of play pay off as one of the uglier goals would put Allen up by 2. From the point, Schaffsma took a cross-ice feed from defenseman, Mike Berube and fired it at Clemente. What Missouri didn’t plan on was Deitsch, who was crashing the net, would be shoved into the Mav’s netminder and Clemente, Deitsch and the defenseman all fell into the goal just as the puck bounced off the back of the Allen captain. Missouri protested the goal as they felt it was goalie interference, but replay clearly showed Deitsch being pushed into the Missouri net.
Perhaps the biggest concern of the night for Allen came at the 3:07 mark when in the corner, Darryl Bootland was hit from behind by Jason Shaw and his face slammed into the apron. Bootland was face down on the ice for several minutes. For whatever reason, however, the official, Brent Coulombe, only called a two-minute interference call on Shaw. Had Coulombe actually paid attention to the play and the result, Shaw would have been assessed no less than a major penalty, but as Bootland was helped off the ice and the blood was scrapped of the ice, Coulombe wouldn’t even turn to look at the corner.
Allen would kill off the penalty, however, 30 seconds later, Kellan Tochkin pushed a loose puck under Dell to cut the lead back to one. The crowd would have reason to cheer as a few minutes after the incident, Darryl Bootland returned to the ice. He didn’t even make his way to the bench as he lined up for the ensuing faceoff.
Immediately, the puck was controlled by Allen but called for offsides. Thanks to the stoppage, Bootland took advantage of the pause to express his displeasure with Shaw as he got into his face. Looking as if he gives up 6-8 inches of height to Bootland, Shaw simply turtled himself into his teammates with a sly smile on his face. Eventually, Bootland would get called for a roughing penalty as he looked to avenge the new marks on his face. Not able to find a partner, Darryl would be escorted to the penalty box to cool off.
The play would go back and forth until Corbin Baldwin found Kale Kerbashian who practically undressed Clemente with 3 sick moves of the stick and lifted the puck over the out-of-position goalie to give Allen their 2-goal lead back at the 15:28 mark.
Missouri and Allen would trade power play goals within 40 seconds of each other as the period ended with Allen clinging to their 2-goal lead and you could tell that Missouri was starting to realize their season was about to come to a crashing halt.
Todd Robinson and McMillan would score their 2nd goals of the night in the final period, book-ending goals from Jim McKenzie and Colt King for Missouri. The Americans would fend off an extra-attacker for 5:20 to finish off the Mavericks, 4 games to 3.
Allen will open up the CHL Ray Miron Cup Finals against Wichita on Tuesday, April 30th at the Allen Event Center followed by game 2 on Thursday, May 2nd. The series will move to Wichita for games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Sunday, May 4th and 5th. If necessary, Allen will host game 5 on Tuesday, May 7th. Game six, if required will head back to Wichita on Friday, May 10th with game 7 coming in Allen on Saturday, May 11th.