It has been six years since the AHL has seen a repeat champion, the NHL hasn’t seen one in 18 seasons and the ECHL hadn’t had a back-to-back champion in more than two decades. The Allen Americans changed the latter Thursday night, though.
The Americans captured the Kelly Cup in Game 6 of the ECHL final Thursday with a victory over the Wheeling Nailers. Coincidentally, the final score, 4-2, was the same margin of victory the San Jose Sharks, the Americans’ NHL affiliate, had over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Nailers’ parent club. But while San Jose’s win was to stave off defeat, Allen’s one was one to do what few teams are ever able to accomplish: back-to-back titles.
The consecutive championships are literally only half the story, though. With the Kelly Cup victory this season, the Americans franchise has now captured four straight minor league titles. Allen won their first championship, a President’s Cup, in 2013 while a member of the Central League. The following season, the Americans repeated as champions, which was followed by their departure to the ECHL. And now with back-to-back Kelly Cups, Allen, which was founded in 2009, has won league titles in half of their seasons as a franchise.
Allen’s 2015 title didn’t come easy, though one would assume at this point the Americans have gotten the hang of this whole playoff thing. In the first round, Allen narrowly edged the Idaho Steelheads in a seven-game set before getting by the Western Conference’s top-seeded Missouri Mavericks in the second round. In the conference final, the Americans ousted the second-ranked Fort Wayne Comets before downing the Nailers in the final.
"It never gets old," said Chad Costello, who was named the playoff MVP, in a release. "We have an amazing group of guys who all share this award. Steve Martinson is an unbelievable coach who just keeps on winning."
Costello’s performance made him the first player to win the regular season and post-season MVP awards in ECHL history. There was no reason to doubt Costello would be the MVP, either, as he continues to be the most prolific scorer in the ECHL.
Costello already had the 2010-11 MVP award and 2014-15 Kelly Cup on his resume before the 2015-16 season began, but the 29-year-old was in rare form this past season. In 72 games, Costello scored 24 goals and 103 points before adding seven goals and 36 points in the playoffs. He set playoff records with 10 assists in the six-game final and his 29 assists are the most ever in an ECHL post-season. Costello’s 36 points are good for the second-best playoff performance in ECHL history.
Incredibly, this season was actually a step “back” for Costello. Last season, between the regular and post-season, he notched 50 goals and 153 points in 97 games.
Winning consecutive ECHL championships makes the Americans the first team to do so since the Toledo Storm did so in 1993 and 1994, and it makes Allen only the third team to capture consecutive titles. The other club to do so was the Hampton Roads Admirals in 1991 and 1992. However, the Americans are the first team to win consecutive titles during the Kelly Cup-era, which began in 1997.
(Image via ECHL/Twitter)