The Central Hockey League Ray Miron President’s Cup defending champion Allen Americans are locked in an exhilarating struggle with the Denver Cutthroats.
In its 5th year of operation, the Americans – who were ranked 3rd in the regular season standings with 83 points — tied the series at a game apiece on Saturday, May 3 in Denver when right wing Jamie Schaafsma took a pass from defenseman Tyler Ludwig and slipped behind the defense for a breakaway goal early in the 2nd sudden death overtime period. Schaafsma netted his team-leading 8th goal of the playoffs, 2nd of the night and his 4th in the opening two games of the series when he slipped the puck behind Denver goalie Kent Patterson just beneath the crossbar.
Denver, a 2nd year franchise that finished in 2nd place with 87 points, won the opening game of the best-of-seven championship series, 5-4 on Friday, May 2 behind a scintillating four-goal performance by standout forward A.J. Gale.
Denver played most of Game 2 without forward Gale, who entered the match having tallied seven goals in his last two games. Gale was checked hard into the boards and was helped to the locker room with a lower body injury in the opening period. No penalty was called on the play. He was later taken to an area hospital, according to Denver coach Derek Armstrong, the 14-year NHL veteran who played center for the Islanders, Senators, Rangers, Kings, and Blues from 1993-2010.
“It was a huge loss for us,” the Cutthroats’ Troy Schwab. “In my opinion he’s the best player in the league.”
Later in the 1st period, Schaafsma scored to give Allen the lead, and left wing Jonathan Lessard netted his 6th of the postseason by beating Patterson high on his stick side for a 2-0 Americans lead.
Denver, which was ousted by Allen in five games during the opening round of the 2012-13 playoffs, cut the lead in half before end of 1st period on a goal by Robin Soudek.
The Cutthroats took the lead, 3-2 in the 2nd period on a wraparound by veteran Garett Bembridege and Schwab’s slap shot that beat goalie Bryan Pitton. Denver’s J.P. Chabot appeared to add to the lead on a power play later in the session, but the referee ruled he had kicked the puck into the net.
Allen defenseman Steve Tarasuk of Allen tied the score at 3-3 on his 1st goal of the post season with 12:41 left in regulation, but Daniel Barczuk put the Cutthroats back in front 4-3 later in the 3rd period.
Allen right wing and Denver university alum Anthony Maiani rescued Allen when he tied the score, 4-4 by lighting the lamp with only 1:14 left in regulation. Maiani’s 2nd goal in two games and 6th of the playoffs crossed the goal line as a Denver penalty was expiring and with goalie Pitton having been pulled for an extra attacker.
Forward Jonathan Zion of the Americans finished with three assists, while goalie Pitton won his 9th game of the postseason with 47 saves as Denver outshot Allen, 51-41.
Four Gale Goals Give Denver Opening Game Win.
Forward A.J. Gale scored four goals to help host Denver win the opening game of the series, 5-4 on Friday night. Gale potted his 3rd and 4th goals of the game in the 3rd period after Allen had rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game, 3-3 in the final minute of the 2nd period. Gale finished the match with seven goals in his last two games.
After Cam Reid and Gale (twice) had scored for the Cutthroats for a 3-0 lead early in Period 2, Lessard, Maiani and Schaafsma each lit the lamp behind Patterson in less than 12 minutes of the 2nd period. Schaafsma’s 2nd of the game cut Denver’s lead to 5-4 with just over six minutes left in regulation. Goalie Pitton made 28 saves in a losing effort.
Allen coach Steve Martinson, who with assistant coach Richard Matvichuk guided the Americans to their title last year, will have the final say in line matchups when the series shifts to Allen, Texas for Games 3, 4, and 5 at the Allen Event Center on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, respectively. Martin was a five-year NHL right wing from 1987-92 who skated for the Red Wings, Canadiens and Minnesota North Stars (currently the Dallas Stars). The Americans reached this year’s finals by defeating 6th seed and first-year franchise Brampton in five games, then came from behind to eliminate #5 seed Quad City in seven games.
Denver will host Games 6 and 7 on Wednesday, May 14th and Friday, May 16th,< respectively and as necessary. The Cutthroats, named for a species of trout that is prevalent in streams running through the Rocky Mountains, defeated #7 seed Tulsa and #8 seed Arizona to reach the Cup Finals.