Just two nights after the Sharks’ AHL affiliate faced and successfully fought off elimination, their ECHL affiliate will attempt to do the same. The Allen Americans now trail the Colorado Eagles three games to none in their second round series after losing last night, and are a loss away from seeing a streak of four consecutive championships end.
Two of those championships pre-dated the Americans’ time in the ECHL as a Sharks affiliate, as the organization was still playing in the now-defunct CHL. The goaltender for the Americans’ first championship, of course, was current Sharks backup Aaron Dell.
Dell rejoined the Americans in the team’s first season as a Sharks affiliate in 2014-15, before quickly working his way up to the AHL and continuing his path to becoming the Sharks’ backup. Allen, though, just kept winning.
In their first two seasons as an ECHL, Allen won consecutive Kelly Cups, only the second team to do so since the league’s inception in 1988. This postseason, the Americans are vying to become the first team in professional hockey since the Montreal Canadiens’ dynasty of the 1950s.
As The Dallas Morning News’ Rick Gosselin noted in a column that is well worth your time, Allen’s had to win despite significant, year-over-year roster turnover, something Montreal never really had to deal with in the Original Six era:
But there's a difference between winning five titles in the NHL and winning five at the Double-A level. In the NHL, you can build a championship roster and keep it. And that's what Montreal did. There were 10 Canadiens who played on all five of those Stanley Cup champions, including seven of the Hall of Famers.
Allen doesn't have that luxury. Not a single player remains from the Allen team that won that first CHL title in 2013.
Only two players remain from the Allen team that won that second CHL title in 2014, forwards Spencer Asuchak and Greger Hanson. Only seven players remain from the team that won the first ECHL title in 2015. There are 13 players this season who weren't on the team that won the fourth consecutive title in 2016.
The Americans, though, are in the midst of the most significant adversity they’ve faced during their five-year run, as they stare down the end of their historic run. Standing in their way is a team that’s had their number all season.
The Colorado Eagles finished five points behind the Americans for first place in the Mountain Division, but won both of their matchups against Allen this season. In five wins against Allen over the regular season and playoffs, Colorado’s outscored their division rival 22-12.
In three playoff matchups, Colorado’s largely contained ECHL-leading scorer Chad Costello, who’s managed two points this series after scoring 122 in 72 regular season games. Eagles forward Alex Belzile has stolen the spotlight, torching the Americans’ defense for eight points in three games.
If Allen has any hope in this series, it’s the experience on their side. Head Coach Steve Martinson, who also serves as the team’s GM, has orchestrated comebacks down three games to one and three games to two in each of the last two seasons, respectively.
This will be his toughest task yet. The series wouldn’t return to Allen until the series’ sixth game, meaning the Americans will have to win two road games just to be in a position to force a winner-take-all seventh game.
If any team can pull it off though, it’d be the one that’s won four consecutive titles across two leagues. Their streak was always going to end at some point, but I wouldn’t bet against Allen to put off that ending for at least another night.