Thursday, March 23, 2017

Allen Scores Two Shorties & Lose 3-2 in OT, Destined for #2 Seed, Makowski Suspension, Best Special Teams

Not sure where to start in describing the Allen Americans 3-2 overtime loss to Missouri last night before a crowd of 4432 at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. It was a strange game to say the least, let me count the ways.

- Allen trailed 2-0 in the first period and came back to tie the game before losing in overtime.


- Allen's only two goals were scored shorthanded. In the blog yesterday I talked about how the penalty kill unit was underappreciated and had been almost flawless over the last ten games with a penalty kill percentage of 93.9%. Last night they killed off all seven Missouri power plays including a five minute major to David Makowski that carried over to overtime. To top it off they contributed two shorthanded goals. The penalty kill unit has not allowed a goal in the last five games (0-27) and in the last 11 games are 3-56 for a penalty kill percentage of 94.6%.


- Allen out shot Missouri 35-28 but lost the game. In the last four wins by Allen over the Mavericks the Americans have been out shot. In eight of the 11 games these teams have played this season the team with the most shots has lost the game.


- At the beginning of overtime Allen killed the remaining 2:16 of the five minute major penalty to Makowski. Then they let a player that started the season in the SPHL and had two goals all year skate the length of the ice and score the game winner.


- Allen was assessed 11 penalties for 41 minutes, Missouri four for eight minutes. It was the most penalties (tied) the Americans had been assessed against Missouri in the 11 games this season. The Mavericks four penalties were the fewest (tied) they had been assessed against Allen. Allen was 0-2 on the power play while Missouri was 0-7.


- Goal scorers for Allen were Wade MacLeod (3) and Joel Chouinard (10). Both goals were shorthanded but scored in very different ways. MacLeod's goal was unassisted as he picked up an errant pass at the defensive blue line, skated the length of the ice and beat the goalie from the faceoff circle. Chouinard's shorty included three great plays. Gary Steffes stole the puck in the defensive zone and passed it to Dyson Stevenson who carried up the left side. Dyson took a look over his shoulder and saw Chouniard trailing the play and made a perfect spin around pass and Joel made a great shot high over the goalies glove. Outstanding plays by all three guys on that shorthanded goal. As I write this (4:30 am) Missouri has not posted the video highlights of the game which is par for the course. Maybe the highlights will be posted to ECHL Rewind later today.


- Here is the recap of the game from the Allen Americans: https://allenamericans.com/americans-earn-a-point-in-overtime-loss/


- Here is the press release from the Missouri Mavericks recapping the game: http://www.missourimavericks.com/news/index.html?article_id=824


- The team headed back to Allen right after the game (475 miles) and arrived home early this morning. They will play Tulsa on Friday and Saturday.


OTHER COMMENTS

- Allen's overtime loss last night was probably the death knell in their quest to win the Mountain Division. Colorado won again last night beating Rapid City 3-2 and now has a seven point lead. If Allen wins their remaining eight games the Eagles could go 4-2-1 in their remaining games and still win the division. That is not going to happen as Colorado has only lost two games in the last two months. The Eagles record since the end of January is 22-1-1-0.


- The first three seeds in the Mountain Division are not mathematically decided but the are realistically decided. Colorado is the #1 seed and will take on either Alaska, Missouri or Utah in the first round. It was a big win for Missouri over Allen last night as they kept their playoff hopes alive. The Mavericks trail Alaska by four points with nine games remaining.


- In the other division semi-final, #2 seed Allen will take on #3 seed Idaho. Allen is seven points behind Colorado and nine points ahead of Idaho so they will be the #2 seed. Idaho is nine points behind Allen and nine points ahead of Alaska so they are all locked in as the #3 seed.


- So Allen fans can get ready for a first round playoff rematch with the Idaho Steelheads. And it won't be an easy task. Many observers thought Idaho was as good as any team the Americans faced in the playoffs last season. Idaho is affiliated with the Dallas Stars (NHL) and Texas Stars (AHL) and neither team will make the playoffs. That means Idaho will be supplied with all of the AHL talent they want. Just yesterday three players off the Texas Stars roster were assigned to Idaho (goalie Landon Bow, defenseman Justin Hache, and center Mike McMurtry). Would assume they will remain in Idaho for the stretch run and the playoffs. Bow is a rookie goalie that has split time between the Texas Stars and Idaho. He has played 22 games with the Steelheads with a record of 15-5, GAA of 2.24 and save percentage of .929. Hache has 150 AHL games and McMurty 39 AHL games.


- Late in the third period last night David Makowski was given a game misconduct penalty for abuse of officials and if you watch the replay of the incident it is clear he put his hands on the linesman once he entered the penalty box for a boarding penalty. You can see David's arm reach out and make contact with the linesman. The rule cited by the referee (40.4) is titled Automatic Suspension - Category III  and talks about a player physically demeaning or threatening an official and applying physical force. The penalty for this infraction is not less than a three game suspension. The entire process includes a verbal and written report to the league by the referee, the possibility to request a Commissioner review, an expedited hearing process and a final decision by the Commissioner. The Americans should hear this morning about the suspension and will then decide if they want to request a Commissioner's review.


- So the Americans are destined to finish second in the division but that is no reason for concern for the playoffs. Allen won the championship in 2014 after finishing third during the regular season and last year they finished second in the regular season on the way to the Kelly Cup.



DID YOU KNOW: Special teams are critical in the playoffs and one way to measure specials teams is by adding power play and penalty kill percentages together. The magic number teams strive for is greater than 105% combined. Typically around 10% of NHL teams exceed 105% and it is considered exceptional. Here are the four ECHL teams with a combined power play and penalty kill percentage of greater than 105%. Wouldn't be a bad bet to take these four teams against the field for the Kelly Cup.

110.0% - Toledo Walleye
109.8% - Colorado Eagles
108.6% - Allen Americans
106.0% - Idaho Steelheads

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Allen vs Missouri Preview, Who's In, Who's Out, Reading President Resigns, McDonald's Jersey & Playoff Primer

The Allen Americans are in Missouri tonight to take on the Mavericks in a game that is very important for both teams for different reasons. Allen is battling Colorado for the top spot in the division. The Americans and Eagles are playing great hockey, tied for the best record in the league over the last ten games (8-1-1-0) and the Americans can't afford to lose. Meanwhile Missouri is battling with Utah and Alaska just to make the playoffs and can't afford to lose.


- In the battle for the top, Allen and Colorado have a combined streak 11-0-1-0. In the battle for the playoffs Missouri, Utah and Alaska have a combined streak of 0-7-2-1. Allen is six points behind Colorado in the race for #1. Missouri is six points behind Alaska in the race for a playoff spot.


- The bottom line is if Allen loses tonight their hopes of overtaking the Eagles will be pretty much gone. Since Colorado holds the tiebreaker over the Americans the Eagles could go 5-3 over their last eight games and still win the division.


- The task at hand for Allen is to concentrate on the game tonight rather than the playoff implications and that is exactly what they will do. A roster that was overflowing with players left Allen yesterday with no extra players available. Spencer Asuchak, Greger Hanson and Alex Schoenborn are all playing in the AHL and Bryan Moore was left home because of an injury. That is a lot of firepower that will not be in the lineup tonight.


- The good news for the Americans is there will be plenty of new firepower available to fill the void and eat up more ice time. Wade MacLeod will be starting his fifth game, Tyler Barnes his third and Alex Krushelnyski his first for Allen. Combined they have over 200 games of AHL experience and all three average around a point a game over their ECHL careers.


The game tonight will be the 11th of 13 meetings between Allen and Missouri during the regular season. The final two games will be at the Allen Event Center on March 29 & 30.


- Allen is 8-1-1-0 in the first 10 games these team have played this season but that dominance doesn't mean much at this point. Missouri has lost three games in a row and got embarrassed 5-0 by Quad City in their last outing. The question that remains for tonight is whether the Mavericks will play with the desperation needed to make the playoffs or like a team that already believes they will not make the playoffs.



- Here is how Allen and Missouri match up:

                                    ALLEN                              MISSOURI

Team Record:             41-17-3-2 (87 points)          28-26-3-5 (61 points)
Division Ranking:        2nd Mountain                     6th Mountain
Conference Ranking:  3rd Western                       10th Western
League Ranking:        3rd                                      20th
Last Game:                 4-2 Win (Wichita)               5-0 Loss (Quad City)
Goals For:                   252                                    199
Goals Against:            180                                     206
Power Play:                23.4% (63/269)                  14.9% (42/282)
Penalty Kill:                85.1% (45/302)                   83.8% (37/228)
Most PIM                    Mathers (238)                     Fox (109)
Leading Scorers:        Costello (31-78-109)           Fox (28-35-63)
                                   Hanson (33-38-71)              Nowick (21-24-45)



-  Here is how Allen and Missouri rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (20.22) - Missouri 14th (13.66)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 2nd (4.00) - Missouri 16th (3.21)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 2nd (2.86) - Missouri 16th (3.32)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 20th (31.60) - Missouri 15th (32.10)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 23rd (34.78) - Missouri 21st (34.00)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 4th (23.4%) - Missouri 22nd (14.9%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 2nd (85.1%) - Missouri 8th (83.8%)


- A fast start is always a good predictor of success for the Americans. They have the second best record in the league when scoring first (32-2-2-1). Another key to success is special teams and Allen has the advantage ranking #4 on the power play (23.4%) compared to Missouri at #22 (14.9%). Both teams are good on the penalty kill with Allen ranked #2 and Missouri #8 in the league.


- The Allen power play has been the best in the league since December scoring at close to a 30% clip. While the power play has gotten a lot of attention it has been the penalty kill that has shined recently, climbing to #2 in the league at 85.1%. In the last ten games the penalty kill unit has given up just three goals in 49 chances. The 3-49 translates to a penalty kill percentage of 93.9%. Every bit as impressive as a 30% power play. Job well done by the underappreciated penalty killers. 


- If you combine the stats for the ten games these teams have played this season, Allen leads in goals (36-22) but Missouri has the edge in shots (358-279). Allen has a big advantage on the power play as they have at least one power play goal in eight of the 10 games. The Americans are 9-44 (20.5%) on the power play while Missouri is 6-62 (9.7%).


- Allen and Missouri had some low penalty minute games earlier in the season but the recent games have seen 40, 60, 52 and 54 penalty minutes with lots of fisticuffs. Jake Doty has had fights with Mathers (2), Stevenson, Gunn and Brittain in the last three games. All three games were in Missouri and were entertaining for the home crowd but you have to question the tactic as that style of play works to Allen's advantage. Allen won all three games. It will be interesting to see if Missouri changes their approach tonight but if they want dance partners they will have plenty of choices. Would have to think a Mathers vs Doty rematch is likely.


- The referee scheduled for the game is Corey Chipperfield (#5) and the linesmen are Russ Coll (#40) and John Tallieu (#0).


OTHER COMMENTS

- Late last night the Reading Royals issued a press release announcing their team president, Drew Bell, has resigned effective immediately. This follows the recent announcement that Reading coach, Larry Courville, could not come to an agreement with the team even though he wanted to return. Courville will be leaving after the end of the season. Not sure what this all means but it is concerning if for no other reason than the team is doing very well on the ice and will make the playoffs for the eighth straight year. Reading won the Kelly Cup as recently as 2013. Having all of this turmoil during the season for a successful team is disheartening and rumors abound that others are leaving the front office as well. Not sure if whatever is going on in Reading will have any impact on re-signing Steve Martinson or front office changes in Allen but it does make you wonder. Stay tuned.


- When new Allen owner Jack Gulati met with season ticket holders before the game on Saturday he asked for help putting "butts in the seat" and at least one fan took him up on his request. Many of you know Mary Betz who I would describe as a super fan and that is an understatement. Mary posted the following on her Facebook page in an effort to reach out. Good job Mary!

Just a reminder - if you live in Allen, Frisco, Plano, McKinney, Fairview, or reasonably close to Allen, you have Championship Hockey in Allen. The Allen Americans are ECHL, just 2 levels away from NHL. We are affiliated with the San Jose Sharks (because someone a long time ago in the Dallas Stars franchise chose not to support Allen). We have won the championship the past consecutive 4 years. The Allen Event Center is easy to get to, free parking, and a whole lot of places to eat before and after the games. We are down to our final 6 home games before we officially start the "DRIVE FOR FIVE", as we pursue our 5th consecutive championship. Come be a part of history being made.....we are the winningest franchise in the DFW metroplex. See ya'll Friday at the game!


- Heard yesterday that April 1st will be McDonald's night at the Allen Americans as they take on the Tulsa Oilers. It will be a fitting day to bring back the famous McDonald's specialty jersey. The final design is not available yet but you can be assured it will look similar to this blast from the past as modeled by NHL goalie Aaron Dell.

Aaron Dell and the famous McDonald's specialty jersey


- First place Colorado is in action tonight at home against the last place Rapid City Rush. It is not as bleak as it might sound as Rapid City has won three of the last five game these teams have played including two in Colorado.


DID YOU KNOW: The first two rounds of the Kelly Cup playoffs will be played entirely within the division, with the division winner playing the fourth place finisher and the second place team meeting the third place team in the division semifinals. The winner of each series will meet in the division finals, leading to the conference finals and Kelly Cup finals. All series will be best of seven and there will be two referees for all playoff games.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Roster Changes, Hanson Loaned, Affiliate Playoff Assignments, Critical Dates, Year-End Awards

It is get away day for the Allen Americans which means practice this morning and a 475 mile ride on Big Red this afternoon, as the team heads for Missouri to take on the Mavericks Wednesday night (7:05 pm).

- The roster has been undergoing a lot of change over the last week. One day coach Martinson has too many players and the next not enough. The additions were Tyler Barnes and Alex Krushelnyski who had their first full practice with the team yesterday. Krushelnyski will be wearing #27. The subtractions were Spencer Asuchak who is on loan to the Providence Bruins (AHL) and Alex Schoenborn who was recalled by San Jose. Incidentally, someone asked if Alex's great play on Saurday (2 goals, 1 fight, #1 Star) was the reason he was recalled. He was actually aware prior to the game he was headed back to the Barracuda after the game.


-  Coach Martinson received a call yesterday afternoon and Greger Hanson is on his way to the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) on loan. Charlotte has several forwards out with injuries and needed some help. Not sure why they didn't call up a player from their affiliate (Florida Everblades) but it is another opportunity for Greger to play at the next level. Hanson is having a great year in Allen, leading the team in goals with 33. He is #4 in the ECHL in goals even though he has missed 11 games due to loans to the AHL. Here is the press release from Charlotte announcing Hanson's signing. http://gocheckers.com/articles/transactions/checkers-sign-greger-hanson-to-pto


-  Something that can have a big impact at playoff time is players being assigned by a team's NHL/AHL affiliates. In 2014 Reading was the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference and lost in the first round to the #8 seed (Fort Wayne) in five games because of the players the Komets got assigned for the playoffs. Riley Gill and Aaron Gens were on that Reading team. If an ECHL team's NHL or AHL affiliate doesn't make the playoffs it is more likely good players will be assigned. In order to be assigned, a player must have played at least five games in the ECHL during the regular season. I decided to take a look at the top four teams in the Mountain Division to see how this might play out for the playoffs. It is not good news for Allen Americans. As of today we know the San Jose Sharks and Barracuda will both make the playoffs and most likely have a deep run which is great. However Colorado, Idaho and Alaska all have NHL and AHL affiliates that are out of the playoffs at this time. Look for all of them to get players assigned for the playoffs. This may be one reason coach Martinson made deals to get Tyler Barnes and Alex Krushelnyski loaned to Allen.


- As the playoffs approach here are the critical dates to keep in mind. April 7 is the last day to place a player on waivers, April 10 (3:00 pm EDT) is the date playoff rosters are due and the playoffs start on April 12. The official end of the season for the ECHL is April 8 but Allen has to play a rescheduled game in Wichita on April 9.


- Colorado sure isn't making it easy for Allen to catch them in the standings. They won 5-3 in Utah last night to expand their lead over the Americans to six points. You have to give the Eagles credit as they played the last three games in Utah and won all of them. Colorado now heads home for three games, Rapid City on Wednesday and Utah on Friday and Saturday. The Eagles finish the season with five road games, three in Idaho and two in Rapid City.


- The balloting for the ECHL year end awards is currently underway and ballots are due back to the league office next week. The league will begin announcing the recipients the first week of April. You never know how the voting will go but you would expect the odds on favorite for MVP is Chad Costello. He will end the season with more points than any other player than himself (125 in 2014-15) in the last 20 years. He will win the scoring title by over 30 points which will be one of the top margins in league history. He certainly deserves the MVP again this season.


- I hope David Makowski gets consideration for Defenseman of the Year. He has clearly been the best defenseman in the league since joining the Americans in early December. David's average points per game (1.26) is far superior to any other defenseman. He is fourth in points (49), fourth in goals (15), first in power play assists (24), first in power play points (31) and fourth in power play goals (7) even though he has played 20 fewer games than the other top defensemen. If Makowski had started the season with Allen, based on his average points per game, he would have over 80 points and be second or third in the scoring race among all players. He certainly has my vote and hopefully others will take a hard look at the numbers and agree.


- I was struck by the number of Allen fans that attended the Stars vs Sharks game last night to support Aaron Dell. The Sharks lost 1-0 but Dell was great in goal and had a couple of highlight reel saves. Aaron's GAA is now 1.85 and his save percentage is .936. The sense of pride in Aaron's success is something that exudes from most Allen fans. 



DID YOU KNOW:  Players must play a minimum of five (5) regular season ECHL games to be eligible for inclusion on the playoff roster. Furthermore, players on two way AHL contracts must have appeared in five (5) AHL regular season games, however, at the discretion of the ECHL team, up to two (2) AHL two-way contracted players may be exempt from this requirement. Veteran players on a two-way AHL contract must have appeared in at least 10 AHL regular season games. There are no exemptions permitted for these players. 

 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Practice Update, Recapping the Changes in Allen, Schoenborn Recalled & Allen's Goal Scorers Club

After a day off to spend with the family, play golf, go fishing, run errands, play video games, take in March Madness or playoff hockey it is back to practice today for the Allen Americans as they prepare for a game against Missouri on Wednesday.

- So much has happened to this team in the last month on and off the ice I thought today would be a good day to do a bit of a recap of some of the changes and accomplishments. In my conversations with fans they have very different perceptions of change whether it is related to ownership, player roster, customer service, sales, marketing, promotions, team name and a myriad of other topics related to the Allen Americans. Change can be difficult even if it is positive change as reminded by some of these famous quotes about change:

"Any change, even change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts".....Arnold Bennett

"When you are finished changing, you are finished".....Benjamin Franklin

"The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress".....Charles Kettering

"Change before you have to".....Jack Welch

"Change is the law of life. And those that look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future".....John F. Kennedy

"Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to stay the same but get better".....Sydney J. Harris

"To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often".....

And on a lighter note - "Change is inevitable; except from a vending machine"..... Robert Gallagher


- The biggest change in several years for Allen fans took place less than one month ago when Jack Gulati, owner of the Reading Royals, bought the Allen Americans. Jack is a self made man that can best be described by the title of his book, "Serial Entrepreneur." Jack has taken Allen by storm with his enthusiasm and style. He is a hero for taking the risk and saving the franchise from tough times on many fronts. As with any change there are discomforts most notably concerning the coach and front office staff.


- Talk about potential for monumental change, Steve Martinson made it clear after the game on Friday he is not under contract after this season, is a free agent, and plans on testing the market by talking to other teams before he makes a decision on his future. Talk about resistance to change, fans rallied around Martinson and made their feelings known to Jack Gulati as he was greeting fans on the concourse or meeting with season ticket holders. The message was loud and clear, if you want to succeed you must find a way to retain Steve Martinson.


- Whenever roster changes take place there are always mixed feelings as fans see players they like leave and new ones arrive. Some of the change quotes above such as "to improve is to change" and "change before you have to" certainly apply to the moves coach Martinson has made in the last two weeks. Kale Kerbashian, Randy Cure and  Jake Marchment are gone and Wade MacLeod, Tyler Barnes and Alex Krushelnyski have arrived. Adding three ECHL all-stars to an already potent roster for the stretch run and playoffs is something only a Steve Martinson could pull off.


- Another change over the last month has been the quality of play by the Americans. They have won seven straight games including five road games in a row. Allen has been able to stay in the race for the top spot in the Mountain Division despite Colorado winning 17 straight games recently. Allen remains four points back of the Eagles as both teams have identical records over the last 10 games (8-1-1-0).


- One thing that hasn't changed is the leadership provided by the two oldest players on the team, Riley Gill and Chad Costello. Riley is having his best year since joining the Americans and arguable the best season in his pro career. Riley leads the league in GAA (2.15) and save percentage (.938). Riley has lost just one game in the last three months and that one loss was in overtime. Chad is doing what he does every year, leading the ECHL in scoring by some ridiculous amount. He has 109 points and a 30 point lead in the scoring race. Winning the scoring race by 20 points has only been done five times in ECHL history. Chad is about to make that six times in ECHL history and he will own three of the six. Chad won the scoring title by a record 45 points in 2014-15 and by 23 points last season.


OTHER COMMENTS

- Today will be the first full practice for newcomers Tyler Barnes and Alex Krushelnyski. The other roster change for today is that Alex Schoenborn has been recalled by San Jose and is headed back to the Barracuda. Allen has had a very light schedule over the last month but that is about to change. Practice days are important this time of year and they will become a premium because of the schedule. Allen will play three games each week for the remainder of the season.


- If you are on Colorado watch the Eagles have four games this week. They play in Utah tonight and then head home to play Rapid City on Wednesday and Utah on Friday and Saturday.


- It is always good to see former players do well. Jake Marchment is playing on the top line in Indy and has a goal in the last three games. Jake has five points in six games with the Fuel. Kale Kerbashian has eight points (2 goals 6 assists) in the four games he has played since joining the Wheeling Nailers. Two examples of how embracing change can lead to success. 


- If you are a veteran or know a veteran a reminder that I have free tickets available for the game on Saturday. Here is what you need to do if you are a veteran and are interested in free tickets for Military Appreciation Night which is Saturday March 25 (7:05 pm.) Send me an email at janssenfamily@msn.com with the following information:

1. Your name
2. Branch of Service - (in my case Army)
3. Dates of service - (in my case 1968-1970)
4. Where you Served - (in my case Vietnam)
5. How many tickets you need - (I can provide tickets for you, your spouse and children)
6. Let me know if you need wheelchair accessible seating

I will put your tickets at will call and you will have to provide photo id to pick them up. Let me know if you have any questions.
 



DID YOU KNOW: Most observers (players, fans, media) would agree the current Allen roster is the most skilled and has the most depth of any Steve Martinson team in Allen. Here is a list of players on the current roster in the 20, 30 and 40 goal club in a single season in the ECHL.

40 Goal Club: Chad Costello, Gary Steffes
30 Goal Club: Greger Hanson, Wade MacLeod, Tyler Barnes
20 Goal Club: Spencer Asuchak, Bryan Moore, Alex Krushelnyski

Zach Hall and David Makowski don't have a 20 goal season in the ECHL but both are scoring at a pace that would exceed 20 goals if they had played a full season in Allen this year. Makowski has 15 goals in 39 games and Hall has 10 goals in only 25 games.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Allen Wins 4-2, Game Recap, Gulati Meets Season Ticket Holders, Jersey Auction & Goalie Assists


It was a great night all around for the Allen Americans last night as they beat the Wichita Thunder 4-2 before the second largest crowd (5505) of the season at the Allen Event Center (AEC). The Americans won the game, clinched a playoff spot and matched their win total from all of last season (41 wins). They even overcame the specialty jersey jinx with the win. Job well done!

- As stated in the game preview the keys to the game were a good start, win on special teams and a commitment to defensive play. Mission accomplished. Allen jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period and carried that lead into the intermission. The Americans record when scoring first is now an impressive 32-2-2-1. Allen continued their special teams dominance over the Thunder. The Americans were 2-4 on the power play and are now ranked #3 in the ECHL at 23.4%. Allen's penalty kill unit gave up no goals on seven Wichita power play opportunities. The Allen penalty kill was perfect on the weekend (0-12) and is now ranked #2 in the league at 85.1%.


- Goal scorers for Allen were Alex Schoenborn (1 & 2), Gary Steffes (18) and Zach Hall (10). There is a great highlight package put together by the Americans and posted to ECHL Rewind. Video highlights of all the goals, the fights and some great saves are included. It was an outstanding night for the games #1 star, Alex Schoenborn, who had two goals and stuck up for a teammate in a one punch fight. Don't think it will be long before Schoenborn will be headed back to San Jose. The two goals that need several looks are the Steffes goal where Chad Costello once again gets a pass through a very small space right on Gary's stick. The other great goal was the Hall goal. Tyler Barnes started the play by winning a puck battle along the boards, Miles Liberati picked up the puck, carried it into the offensive zone and made a super pass to Zach Hall who was streaking toward the net. Here is the link to the highlights: http://www.echl.com/


- Here is the recap of the game from the Wichita Thunder: http://www.wichitathunder.com/news/press-release/third-period-haunts-thunder-in-loss-at-allen.html


- Here is the pregame interview with Tom Manning and coach Martinson:



- The players will get the day off today and return to practice on Monday. Alex Krushelnyski will practice on Monday for the first time since being loaned to Allen. The team will leave Tuesday afternoon for Missouri to take on the Mavericks Wednesday night. They then return home for games against Tulsa on Friday and Saturday.


OTHER COMMENTS

- Jack Gulati met with season ticket holders prior to the game and took numerous questions and comments from the group. The top of the list was the importance of retaining coach Martinson and Jack assured everyone that he heard their concerns and will be working on resigning Martinson. Jack also talked about expanding the sales and service staff to better accommodate the needs of season ticket holders and also put more "butts in the seats." There was a lot of discussion about how to improve sales through marketing and promotions and Jack welcomed input from anyone that had an idea. Suggestions ranged from improving the website to promoting ticket sales with youth hockey programs to improving name identification of the Allen Americans in the community.  It was clear to everyone that interacted with Jack Gulati this weekend that he is a different kind of owner who feels strongly about engaging with fans on an ongoing basis.

Jack Gulati addressing season ticket holders



- Allen made the playoffs for the eighth straight year with the win last night but that was barely a blip on the radar screen since the Americans' goals are so much higher than making the playoff. It is interesting that Allen has already matched their 41 wins from last season with nine games remaining to play. The Americans need two more points to equal the 89 points they finished with last season.


- The three teams at the top of the Mountain Division standings all won last night and the four at the bottom all lost. Alaska, Utah and Missouri are all fighting for the final playoff spot but keep losing. Here are the standings with games left in parentheses:

91 points - Colorado (9 games remaining)
87 points - Allen (9 games)
79 points - Idaho (9 games)
70 points - Alaska (9 games)
65 points - Utah (9 games)
64 points - Missouri (10 games)
54 points - Rapid City (9 games)


-  The San Jose Barracuda also clinched a playoff spot last night with a 3-1 win over Stockton. All three affiliated teams (Sharks, Barracuda, Americans) could make deep playoff runs.


- Here are the results of the specialty jersey auction from last night:

Dyson Stevenson


$1000 - Riley Gill
$950 -  Gary Steffes
$900 -  Greger Hanson
$900 -  Dyson Stevenson
$850 -  Chad Costello
$850 -  Jamie Murray
$800 -  Spencer Asuchak
$750 -  Wade MacLeod
$700 -  Derek Mathers
$700 -  Mike Gunn
$650 -  Tyler Barnes
$650 -  David Makowski
$650 -  Bryan Moore
$650 -  Alex Schoenborn
$600 -  Harrison Ruopp
$600 -  Joel Chouinard
$600 -  Zach Hall
$600 -  Tanner Eberle
$550 -  Aaron Gens
$550 -  Kale Kerbashian
$550 -  Miles Liberati
$500 -  Eric Roy
$400 -  Randy Cure
$400 -  Jonathan Martin
$400 -  Mike Brodzinski
$350 - Travis Brown


GAME PHOTOS

- My favorites from the game last night. All photos in the blog are courtesy of Dianne Webster.

Close call for Stevenson


Zach Hall points to Miles Liberati for the great pass on Hall's goal




The symmetry of the fall is intriguing

Great overhead shot




DID YOU KNOW: In the history of the Allen Americans franchise there have been five goalies that have had more than one assist in a season. Here is the list of most assists by a goalie in a season:

5 - Bryan Pitton (2013-14)
4 - Riley Gill (2014-15)
2 - Joel Rumpel (2015-16)
2 - Marco Cousineau (2011-12)
2 - Chris Whitley (2010-11)


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Shocker! Martinson to Test Coaching Market, Allen Beats Wichita 5-3, Martinson's Comments, Rematch Tonight

The biggest news coming out of the Allen Event Center (AEC) last night was not the Americans 5-3 victory over the Wichita Thunder. It was coach Steve Martinson's response to a question at his post game press conference/meeting with season ticket holders. When asked about his contract status going forward Martinson had this to say, "If I am going to move I need to consider my daughter is still playing hockey and my son will most likely be in juniors. I will probably wait until after the regular season is over, then talk to some other teams and make a decision about what is the best thing to do." I talked to coach Martinson after the press conference and he did verify he has been given permission to talk to other teams. He also mentioned he needs to make the decision about where his daughter will play hockey next year by the end of May.


- Coach Martinson's comments answered a few questions about his future at least in my mind. First, he is not under contract after this season and is a free agent and can go anywhere. Second, he plans on testing the market by talking to other teams before he makes a decision on his future. Third, and this is more an opinion than anything, Steve Martinson will return to Allen if he can get a long term contract that matches what he can get elsewhere. It looks like all the cards are on the table at this point. It is going to be a nervous few weeks for Allen fans until this is resolved.


-  Allen beat Wichita 5-3 last night in a game that both the coach or players felt was not their best effort. It is hard to complain when the Americans are on a six game win streak but they have fallen into some bad habits recently and that was evident again last night. Allen got off to a good start scoring two goals in the first period and took a 3-0 lead on a great set play off the faceoff just six seconds into the second period. The Americans let Wichita back in the game in the third period before scoring a couple of goals to put the game out of hand. The Americans were out shot 29-16 in the final two periods and 40-26 for the game.


- Third period breakdowns have happened in the last three games. This is out of character for Allen as they are by far the best third period team in the league. They have scored 99 of their 248 goals this season in the third period and allowed just 51 for a third period goal differential of +48. As a comparison, the Americans have scored 67 first period goals and allowed 63 for a goal differential of +4 and in the second period they have scored 74 goals and allowed 59 for a goal differential of +15.


- Goal scorers for Allen were Travis Brown (3), Derek Mathers (7), Joel Chouinard (9), Wade MacLeod (2) and Greger Hanson (33). All of the goals will be great to see again but pay particular attention to the Chouinard goal at the beginning of the second period as it was an interesting set play that relys on a faceoff win and a lot of moving parts. The Hanson goal will also be one to look at several times. Here is the link to ECHL Rewind: http://www.echl.com/


- Here is the game recap issued by the Allen Americans: https://allenamericans.com/americans-hold-off-wichita-5-3/


- Here is the game recap issued by the Wichita Thunder; http://www.wichitathunder.com/news/press-release/americans-pull-away-from-wichita-for-5-3-win1.html



STEVE MARTINSON'S POST GAME COMMENTS

- I am glad we won but I have been in better moods. I didn't like our second period and I didn't like our third period even more. We were up 3-0 and Gill would like to get a couple more shutouts and the defensive play wasn't there.

- I thought Tyler Barnes made some really good moves on the rush but I am sure he would like to have that breakaway back. He is going to be a really good player for us.

- The goal at the start of the second period was a set play. You have to win the draw to make it work. After we scored Dyson Stevenson looked at me and said you have been trying that play for three years, it is about time we scored. I just told him I had to have the right guys out there.

- With the roster we have now our options are really good to play any way we want to play. We have plenty of skill and also plenty of grit. We are in good shape going into the playoffs to play anyway we want to play. We will have three lines all capable of scoring that will also be tough to play against. 

- Bryan Moore will be okay. He has a minor injury so I will rest him tomorrow night.

- We have some players more concerned about scoring right now. That is their top priority rather than playing good defensively. That has cost us goals against in the last few games. What I need to do is create more power play units so the guys that are only thinking about scoring don't get as much power play time.

- Alex Krushelynski will be here Sunday and I will start out playing him with Moore. They are friends, played together last season in Utah and say they have good chemistry together. I have lots of line combination options I am thinking about.

- I thought we missed Asuchak tonight and his net front presence. It is a great opportunity for him but it his hard to replace a 6'5" player that can skate and play the front of the net like he does.

- We were good on the penalty kill (0-5) but a big part of our penalty kill was Gill especially in the second period.



GAME PREVIEW

- The rematch with Wichita takes place tonight and the Americans will be wearing specialty jerseys benefiting HopeKids of North Texas. If you noticed the jersey Jack Gulati was wearing last night when he dropped the puck, it was a preview of the specialty jersey the team will wear tonight. It was great to see Jack in the concourse greeting fans before the game. There were smiles, hugs and thank yous all around. How refreshing to see an owner interacting with the fans the way Jack Gulati does. It just makes you want to pull for him to be successful.

Jack Gulati wore tonight's specialty jersey for the ceremonial puck drop last night - photo by Dianne Webster


- Despite the third period problems last night Allen did a lot of things right that led to victory. They scored the first goal of the game and now have a record of 31-2-2-1 when scoring first. The Americans also took advantage of their superior special teams. Allen was 2-3 on the power play while Wichita was 0-5. If Allen can win the special teams battle tonight and make more of a commitment to defense they should win the game handily and avoid yet another specialty jersey night jinx.


- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Andrew Wilk (#24) and linesmen Erik Contino (#89) and Lucas Bisbee (#72). This is the exact same crew that worked the game last night.




OTHER COMMENTS

- Colorado beat Utah 5-2 last night so the Americans remains four points in back of the Eagles for the top spot in the Mountain Division with 10 games to play.


- Missouri lost 3-2 in Quad City last night and trail Utah by one point behind and Alaska by five points for the final playoff spot in the Mountain Division.


- Greger Hanson kept two scoring streaks alive last night. He has points in the last 11 games and has a goal in his last five home games.


- Chad Costello had two assists last night to raise his league leading point total to 108. Chad has a 31 point lead in the scoring race. He has at least one assist in his last seven games.



DID YOU KNOW: At the end of  November the Allen power play was ranked #26 in the ECHL at 7.8%. Since that time the Allen power play percentage is the best in the league at 29.3%. Allen has gone from #26 to #4 in the ECHL power play rankings and now has an overall power play percentage of 23.0%. 



Friday, March 17, 2017

Allen vs Wichita Preview, Opportunity to Meet New Owner Jack Gulati, Free Tickets for Veterans

The Allen Americans take on the Wichita Thunder tonight (7:05 pm) at the Allen Event Center (AEC). It will be the 11th of 14 games between these teams this season. They will play again at the AEC Saturday night.

- Wichita is out of the playoff picture, has just 18 wins, 40 points and has lost seven of their last 10 games. Over the last two seasons Allen has a record of 20-2-1-0 against the Thunder. It looks like a couple of easy wins for the Americans this weekend. Nothing could be further from the truth. The two regulation losses took place the last two times Allen played Wichita and the games weren't even close. On January 22 the Thunder beat Allen 5-1 in Wichita and on January 21 they shutout the Americans 4-0 in Allen. Take Wichita lightly at your own peril.


- The lineup will have a different look for the Americans tonight. Spencer Asuchak will not be playing for the first time all season after playing in 61 straight games. Allen will miss many aspects of his game but particularly his net front presence. Asuchak is on loan to the Providence Bruins (AHL). Wade MacLeod who was recently signed and has a goal and assist in his first two games, will be making his home debut. Tyler Barnes who just arrived in Allen after being loaned by the Rockford IceHogs is expected to be in the lineup tonight.


- If I have the math correct two players will be healthy scratches. Coach Martinson has two options. He can sit out two forwards or he can have Dyson Stevenson help out at defense and sit out one forward and one defenseman.



- Here are the current stats comparing Allen and Wichita:


                                     ALLEN                               WICHITA

Team Record               39-17-3-1 (83 points)             18-36-3-1 (40 points)
Division Ranking         2nd - Mountain                       6th - Central
Conference Ranking   3rd - Western                         13th - Western
League Ranking         4th                                           25th
Last Game                  5-3 Win (Indy)                         2-1 OT Win (Missouri)
Goals For                    243                                         157
Goals Against             175                                          225
Power Play                 22.5% (59/262)                       15.8% (35-222)
Penalty Kill                  84.5% (45/290)                       81.1% (47/249)
Most PIM                    Mathers (238)                          Melindy (180)
Leading Scorers:        Costello (31-75-106)                DeBlouw (13-21-33)
                                   Hanson (32-38-70)                   Marcotte (12 -18-30)          



-  Here is how Allen and Wichita rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (20.20) - Wichita 2nd (17.90)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 2nd (3.98) - Wichita 25th (2.71)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 2nd (2.87) - Wichita 25th (3.88)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 19th (31.70) - Wichita 13th (32.22)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 22nd (34.72) - Wichita 26th (35.71)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 4th (22.5%) - Wichita 18th (15.8%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 4th (84.5%) - Wichita 20th (81.1%)




- A couple of interesting things to note from the stats above. Allen has a big advantage as they score over a goal a game more than Wichita and allow over a goal a game less than the Thunder. But if you look at shots for and against the teams are very close. That tells you Allen has a much better shooting percentage than Wichita (12.5% vs 8.4%) and much better goaltending (GAA 2.81 vs 3.83).


- Allen needs to capitalize on the clear advantage they have on special teams. In the two losses against Wichita at the end of January, Allen went 0-7 on the power play while the Thunder was 2-10. If you look at all 10 previous games Allen is 11-46 (23.9%) while Wichita is 7-56 (12.5%). It has been feast or famine for Allen on the power play against Wichita. They have had multiple power play goals four times (three goals twice) but have had no power play goals in five of the 10 games.


- In the 10 head to head games this season Allen has outscored Wichita 42-22, but the Thunder has out shot the Americans 384-324.


- There is little doubt Allen should win both games this weekend if you look at the talent on the team, the stats and the record against Wichita. But the team needs to resist trying to do too much in front of the home crowd and new owner who will be at both games. It is a broken record but it is the key to success. Be aggressive but don't cheat on offense. Don't try and make plays that aren't there. If you don't have a play dump the puck in and forecheck. Remember it is more important to win the game than score. Finish your checks and avoid stick penalties especially in the offensive zone. With the high powered offense on the ice tonight it will be a commitment to defense that is key. I guess that is enough cliches for one game.
   

- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Andrew Wilk (#24) and linesmen Erik Contino (#89) and Lucas Bisbee (#72).


OTHER COMMENTS

- New owner Jack Gulati is in town and will be very visible to all fans at both games this weekend. You will see him in the concourse wearing his #5 Allen Americans jersey and he really does want to meet with as many fans as possible and listen to whatever is on your mind. If you are a season ticket holder or sponsor there will be a casual meet and greet with Jack before the game on Saturday (March 18). If you are a season ticket holder or sponsor and didn't receive the email with the details all you need to know is the meet and greet with Jack will be from 5:00 - 6:00 pm on Saturday in the season ticket holder lounge. You need to enter through the south doors.

Fans will have a chance to meet Jack Gulati on Friday & Saturday

- I have heard from many fans sharing what they plan to talk to Jack about, asking me to share their concerns or asking what I thought they should say. My advice is for everyone to share whatever is on your mind but make sure to take the time and do it. I know from observing Jack before and after the press conference announcing the sale of the team he is in his element when talking to fans and truly wants to engage with them. If you want to know what is on my list to talk to him about it includes the following four items. First and foremost is thanking Jack (again) for taking the risk and buying the team as he is a hero for stepping up under difficult circumstances. Second, I want Jack to know Steve Martinson is not only the face of the franchise but it's heart and soul and if Jack wants more butts in the seats a long term contract for the coach is essential. Third, I want to share some marketing and promotion ideas that might help attendance. Finally, I want to talk to Jack about the possibility of a name change for the team. I started thinking about this when Missouri recently made their announcement that next season they will be the Kansas City Mavericks. This topic has come up  numerous times over the years and the rationale for Missouri making the change certainly applies to Allen. I love the current name but the question to ask is would a broader and more recognizable name attract more fans. If a change is made, now is the prefect timing with a new owner in place. So you have what is on my mind. My encouragement to everyone is to take the time to introduce yourself and share whatever is on your mind. It is not very often you get the chance to talk directly to the decision maker of a sports franchise so take advantage and you could impact what happens going forward in Allen.


- I mentioned on Wednesday the Allen Americans have long supported veterans through their "Seats for Soldiers" program. This year I asked if I could expand the program that has allowed me to offer free tickets to the many veterans that live at Heritage Ranch (where I reside) from World War II, Korea and Vietnam and offer free tickets to veterans that read Allen Americans Blog. The team has graciously agreed to give it a try. Here is what you need to do if you are a veteran and are interested in free tickets for Military Appreciation Night which is Saturday March 25 (7:05 pm.) Send me an email at janssenfamily@msn.com with the following information:

1. Your name
2. Branch of Service - (in my case Army)
3. Dates of service - (in my case 1968-1970)
4. Where you Served - (in my case Vietnam)
5. How many tickets you need - (I can provide tickets for you, your spouse and children)
6. Let me know if you need wheelchair accessible seating

I will put your tickets at will call and you will have to provide photo id to pick them up. Let me know if you have any questions.


- Happy birthday to Harrison Ruopp who is celebrating his 24th birthday today. 


- Congrats to LaJean Bilbrey and Micheal Moriarty who won the drawing for free tickets for the games this weekend. For those that didn't win there will be more opportunities so please keep entering.


DID YOU KNOW:  Steve Martinson has won 10 championships in 20 years of coaching but never planned to coach after ending his playing career. He was working as a financial advisor and was talked into coaching. He won a championship in his first season with a record of 49-7-2 for a win percentage of .862. The rest is history. It is interesting the highest win percentage in his coaching career came in his first year as coach.