With the Allen Americans hoisting of the CHL’s Ray Miron Presidents Cup, the Lone Star State is once again home to a hockey champion. The Texas Stars have an opportunity to make it two as they continue in their quest to claim the AHL’s Calder Cup.
After taking care business against the Brampton Beast in round one and the Quad City Mallards in the Semi-Finals, Allen faced off against the Denver Cutthroats in the Championship Series. The Cutthroats pulled out a 5-4 win in game one. However, Allen came storming back to take the next four games and claim their back to back crown.
The Americans grabbed a double overtime 5-4 win in game two thanks to a three point night from Jamie Schaafsma just before the two minute mark of the second extra period. Bryan Pitton made 47 saves in the win. With the series moving back to North Texas, Allen rewarded the hometown fans with a 3-1 win. Greger Hansen had the game winner at 14:13 of the third period while Pitton turned aside 28 of 29 shots faced. The series saw free hockey again in game four as the teams were deadlocked at 3-3 when regulation expired. On this night it was Johnathan Lessard who potted the game winner for his second goal and third point of the contest setting up a decisive game five. Pitton was active once again facing 47 shots on the night. With the prospect of closing out Denver in front of the local faithful, Allen went into the first intermission trailing 1-0. Whatever Head Coach Steve Martinson said in the locker room worked as the Americans dominated the second. Allen tallied four times in the middle frame to take a commanding three goal lead on their way to a 5-2 win. Kale Kerbashian was the offensive catalyst with two goals and an assist. For the second time in the series, Pitton faced 47 shots on goal.
Schaafsma led the Americans in scoring during the post season with 10G – 10A in 17 games played. Tyler Ludwig pitched in 13 points from the blueline on 3G – 10A to lead all defensemen in playoff scoring. Pitton ended up with the second best goals against average and save percentage in the playoffs at 2.20 and .9310 while compiling a 12 – 5 – 1 record.
In the AHL, the Texas Stars are locked in a Western Conference Semi-Finals match with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Texas leads the series 2-1 after winning the first two games at home and then allowing the Griffins back into the series with a loss in Michigan.
The Stars handed Grand Rapids a 5-2 defeat to open the series in Cedar Park. Dustin Jeffery had two goals to lead the offensive attack while Jack Campbell made 23 saves for the win. Christopher Nilstorp got the call between the pipes in game two and promptly pitched a 4-0 shutout, stopping all 30 shots faced. Justin Dowling and Brendan Ranford had two goals apiece to support Nilstorp’s efforts. Ranford’s game winner came with just 45 seconds to go in the first period.
Grand Rapids was obviously happy to see home ice for game three. They came out and built a five goal lead by the 16:07 mark of the second period then cruised to a 5-2 win on the back of a Tomas Jurco hat trick. The Stars were not without scoring chances as both Matej Stransky and Maxime Fortunus rang shots off the post in the first while Scott Glennie had a second period goal waived off for goalie interference. Mike Hedden and Ranford finally put Texas on the board with two goals early in the third, but could pull no closer.
Games four and five are scheduled for May 14 and 16 at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. Games six and seven if necessary will be back in the Lone Star State at the Cedar Park Center on May 18 and 19.
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The game three loss to the Griffins was the Stars first loss of the 2014 playoffs.
Brendan Ranford has goals in five straight playoff games and points in six straight. Ranford is tied for the league lead in playoff goals scored.
Tomas Jurco is tied for third in the league in playoff goals scored with 5.
Travis Morin has points in six straight and assists in five straight. Morin is tied for the league lead in playoff points.
Teemu Pulkkinen is tied for third in league for playoff points with eight.
This series is the first meeting between the Stars and Griffins in the playoffs. However, they have played 24 times during the regular season with the Stars holding an 11 – 12 – 1 record in those games.
This is a series of champions. Texas won the AHL 2013/14 regular season championship while the Griffins are the defending AHL Calder Cup Champions.
In the post season both the Stars and Griffins have a 20.0% power play to tie for sixth in the league. Texas has converted six of 30 opportunities with Grand Rapids coming in at seven of 35. It is on the penalty kill where the Stars special teams hold the edge. Texas has allowed only two goals on 21 penalty kills for a 90.5%. The Griffins on the other hand are 10th in the league allowing six goals on 30 penalty kills.
Texas has 74 post season PIMs and Grand Rapids has 108.