Monday, March 31, 2014

The Playoffs - The Schedule & The Rules

The one outcome that most associated with "Team Allen" didn't want to happen has happened. Brampton won and Tulsa lost their final game of the season which means Allen plays Brampton and Denver plays Tulsa in the opening round of the playoffs. If there is a silver lining in what will be a long and expensive trip to Brampton it is that many of the players will have friends and family attend the games since it is close to home.

Here is the first round schedule for all four series:

Opening Round – Series “A” (best-of-7)
Missouri Mavericks (1) vs. Arizona Sundogs (8)
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 4 – Arizona at Missouri, 7:05
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 6 – Arizona at Missouri, 6:10
Game 3 – Wed., Apr. 9 – Missouri at Arizona, 6:35
Game 4 – Fri., Apr.1 1– Missouri at Arizona, 7:05
*Game 5 – Sat., Apr. 12 – Missouri at Arizona, 7:05
*Game 6 – Tue., Apr. 15 – Arizona at Missouri, 7:05
*Game 7 – Wed., Apr. 16 – Arizona at Missouri, 7:05

Opening Round – Series “B” (best-of-7)
Denver Cutthroats (2) vs. Tulsa Oilers (7)
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 4 – Denver at Tulsa, 7:35
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 5 – Denver at Tulsa, 7:35
Game 3 – Wed., Apr. 9 – Tulsa at Denver, 7:00
Game 4 – Fri., Apr. 11 – Tulsa at Denver, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sat., Apr. 12 – Tulsa at Denver, 6:00
*Game 6 – Tue., Apr. 15 – Denver at Tulsa, 7:05
*Game 7 – Thu., Apr. 17 – Tulsa at Denver, 7:00

Opening Round – Series “C” (best-of-7)
Allen Americans (3) vs. Brampton Beast (6)
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 2 – Brampton at Allen, 7:05
Game 2 – Thu., Apr. 3 – Brampton at Allen, 6:05
Game 3 – Thu., Apr. 10 – Allen at Brampton, 7:00
Game 4 – Fri., Apr. 11 – Allen at Brampton, 7:30
*Game 5 – Sun., Apr. 13 – Allen at Brampton, 4:00
*Game 6 – Wed., Apr. 16 – Brampton at Allen, 7:05
*Game 7 – Thu., Apr. 17 – Brampton at Allen, 7:05

Opening Round – Series “D” (best-of-7)

Rapid City Rush (4) vs. Quad City Mallards (5)
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 4 – Quad City at Rapid City, 7:05
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 5 – Quad City at Rapid City, 7:05
Game 3 – Wed., Apr. 9 – Rapid City at Quad City, 7:05
Game 4 – Fri., Apr. 11 – Rapid City at Quad City, 7:05
*Game 5 – Sat., Apr. 12 – Rapid City at Quad City, 7:05
*Game 6 – Tue., Apr. 15 – Quad City at Rapid City, 7:05
*Game 7 – Wed., Apr. 16 – Quad City at Rapid City, 7:05

*if necessary
**all times local**

When you look at the schedules some thing stand out:

- Three of the series are 2-3-2 with the higher seeded team starting at home but the Denver vs Tulsa series is a 2-3-1-1 with the first two games in Tulsa on Friday and Saturday. With this first round schedule you can see why Tulsa was not disappointed in losing to Denver 2-0 yesterday and dropping to the seventh seed. Ryan Menei, Todd Robinson, Ben Gordon and Shane Madalora did not play in the game for Tulsa and some of their other key players played sparingly. Certainly nothing wrong with this approach as I am sure most teams would have done the same thing given the circumstances.

- Despite being the third seed Allen will not get a weekend game in the first round even if the series goes seven games. This is caused by a scheduling conflict at the Allen Event Center (AEC) this coming weekend. The AEC will be hosting a gun show. It will be a difficult marketing job for the Allen sales force with limited time before the first playoff game (Wednesday), a 6:05 pm start on Thursday, and games six and seven, if necessary also being midweek.

- There is a full week between games two and three in the Allen vs. Brampton series. That is a long time between games even with the long distances that have to be traveled. I have heard the team will be taking the bus to Brampton rather than flying but have not confirmed that with any team official. The driving distance to Brampton is approximately 1400 miles. On the return trip to Allen from Brampton if games six and seven are necessary, the teams only have three days between games.


- A good part of the day today (Monday) will be spent putting together the playoff roster which is due to the league office by 3:00 pm central time. Meetings will take place with players and with doctors in an effort to put together the best roster possible.

- The rules on setting the playoff roster are a little bit complicated so will try cover the pertinent ones. The playoff roster can consist of:
19 active players
1 injured reserve player
2 amateur players
1 emergency back up goaltender

19 active players - this is the group of players from which you would pick the 18 players (sixteen skaters & two goalies) that play in each game. It means in theory you would have one healthy scratch player each game. It is possible depending on how quickly injured guys are healing this 19th player will be injured but on the active roster. There is no way to add players to the active roster once submitted today.

1 injured reserve player - this is a player that is on the roster but cannot play in the entire first series. It has to be a player that was on the inured reserve at the end of the season. Kale Kerbashian or Trevor Hendrikx could be candidates for this IR slot depending on what the doctors say about their injures when examined today. Remember, whoever is put on this playoff IR spot will not play in the first round of the playoffs. They can play in the second round but another player from the 19 active group would then have to be placed in the IR slot.

2 amateurs - in addition to the 20 professional players (19 active & 1 IR) on the playoff roster each team can have two amateurs on the playoff roster. These amateurs can be added anytime during the playoffs but there can only be two. Remember, this is not two amateur slots but two players. Once you name two players you can't add another amateur even if one of the two gets injured. Coach Martinson has already signed one of these players (Cain Franson) and is hoping to hold off in signing the second amateur until after the first round as a bigger pool will be available around April 14. If he gets bad news on injuries he may have to sign the second amateur sooner than planned.

1 emergency back up goalie - this is a goalie that the team can sign to play just only in case of injury. You can only have one of these during the entire playoffs and they do not have to be signed and put on the roster when it is submitted later today. You can sign the emergency back up goalie at anytime during the playoffs but are limited to only one player. Coach Martinson has told me he does have plans to sign an emergency back up goalie.

So there are the rules. Once all of the teams submit their rosters the CHL will make them available to all of the teams. This should happen on Tuesday. 

Courtesy CHL Memes

Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: Allen's first franchise playoff series in 2010 was a dramatic seven game series with the Laredo Bucks in which Allen came back after being down in games 3-2. Bruce Graham and Jordie Benn (now with the Dallas Stars) had goals in the seventh game victory.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Allen Secures 3rd Place, Martinson Comments, Klotz Sets PIM Record, Berube Jersey Brings $2000

A fitting end to the fifth anniversary regular season last night as the Allen Americans beat the Denver Cutthroats by five goals before 5555 at the Allen Event Center. The 6-1 victory was a dominating performance as Allen out shot Denver by a wide margin for the second straight night. Shots on goal were 49-21. Led by two goals each from Brian McMillin and Jonathan Lessard, a shorthanded goal from Jamie Schaafsma and an even strength goal from Anthony Maiani (assisted by McMillin & Lessard) the outcome was never in doubt as Allen took charge from the opening puck drop to the final whistle. With the victory Allen wrapped up third place in the final standings.


- Just like on Friday night there was a lot to like about the game tonight and the big difference is we got the win. The guys came out ready to play, had a lot of energy, were finishing checks and dominated a good hockey team.

- It was nice to have an entertaining game for the fans for the last game before the playoffs and it was also nice to see a big turnout for the game.  

- Now we just have to wait and see who we play in the first round of the playoffs. It will be either Brampton or Tulsa depending on the outcome of their games on Sunday. We have several players with doctor appointments on Monday and the outcome of those visits will determine our approach to the playoff roster. We can't go into the the playoffs with three or four injured guys on the roster.


- The three stars of the game were #1 Brian McMillin (2 goals 2 assists), #2 Jonathan Lessard (2 goals 1 assist) and #3 Jamie Schaafsma (1 goal 1 assist).

- Garrett Klotz had 17 minutes in penalties and ended the season with 257 minutes, breaking the single season record set just last year by Garrett Clarke of 223 minutes. And if you weren't at the game, you have to see his video to the tune of  "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus.

- Allen got the best of the special teams match up as they had two power play goals and had a third goal just as the player stepped out of the penalty box which shows as an even strength goal in the box score. Denver had one power play goal in four opportunities.

-  Allen's third place finish means they will take on the team that finishes sixth in the standings. The first round playoff opponent for Allen will be either Tulsa or Brampton depending on the outcome of their games today. They are currently tied for sixth & seventh place in the standings with 71 points. Brampton plays Rapid City (in Brampton) in a game that starts at 1:00 pm Central time. Tulsa plays Denver in Tulsa and that game starts at 4:05 pm Central time. Because Tulsa owns the tiebreaker against Brampton the only way Brampton can finish in sixth place is with a Brampton win and a Tulsa loss or a Tulsa loss in regulation and a Brampton loss in overtime.

- The playoff match ups that are already determined are Missouri (1) versus Arizona (8) and Rapid City (4) versus Quad City (5).

- Alex Lavoie played again for the Oklahoma City Barons (AHL) last night as they lost to the  Charlotte Checkers 3-2 in a shootout. Oklahoma City tied the score with six seconds remaining in the game with an extra attacker goal. Alex was on the ice when Oklahoma City tied the score. In the shootout Lavoie scored the only goal for Oklahoma City in a losing cause. The expectation is Lavoie will return to Allen for the playoffs but he is obviously impressing the coaching staff as they had him on the ice at the critical point in the game and he was selected for a shootout and was successful. The Barons play the Checkers again today (Sunday) and after that game a conversation will surely take place as to when Alex returns to Allen.

- With some great crowds last night around the league including 6542 in St. Charles the average attendance for the CHL has finally exceeded last year's average. With three games remaining in the 2013-2014 regular season the CHL attendance is averaging 3721 compared to 2012-2013 when the average attendance was 3706.

- The Allen American's red jerseys were auctioned off after the game last night. Winning bidders will receive their jerseys after the end of the playoffs. Captain Mike Berube's jersey went for whopping $2000. Here are the other results:
Yanakeff - $500
Klotz - $800
Pitton - $500
Bootland - $900
Tarasuk - $500
Graham - $500
Fox - $600
Tyler Ludwig - $600
Asuchak - $800
Ehrhardt - $500
Schaafsma - $700
Lukin - $700
McMillin - $700
Hendrikx - $500
Zion - $600
Lavoie - $1000
Rouleau - $500
Trevor Ludwig - $600
Kerbashian - $700
Tetrault - $900
Maiani - $600
Lessard - $700
Hanson - $500

- Congratulations to Mark and Mary Costello on their on ice wedding during the first intermission last night. It was hockey themed from beginning to end. I even saw the drink tickets for the reception at Kelly's after the game were in the form of the ticket vouchers the Americans use. Job well done by all! 

Courtesy CHL Memes

Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: The last five Presidents' Cup champions and playoff MVP's:
2013 - Allen Americans  MVP: Brian McMillin
2012 - Fort Wayne Komets  MVP: Mike Vaskivuo
2011 - Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs  MVP: Jeff Kyrzakos
2010 - Rapid City Rush  MVP: Les Reaney
2009 - Texas Brahmas  MVP: Jason Deitsch

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Martinson Post Game Comments, Amateur Forward Coming, Playoff Tiebreaker Stats

A lot went well for the Allen Americans last night as they doubled up Denver in shots on goal with an impressive 50 shots to the Cutthroats 25 and they won the special teams battle scoring a power play goal while holding Denver scoreless on the power play. A couple of odd man rushes spelled doom for the Americans as Denver scored with less than four minutes remaining in the game and despite a valiant effort by Allen with an empty net extra attacker they could not get the goal to tie the game and Denver won 3-2 before a smaller than average Friday night crowd of 4152 at the Allen Event Center.  The loss gives Denver second place in the standings but still leaves Allen something to fight for as with a win tonight (Saturday) in the rematch with Denver the Americans would assure themselves of third place in the standings.


- Other than the outcome I liked a lot of what I saw tonight. I think what hurt us is their goalie saw too many of the 50 shots we had. Toward the end of the game I thought we paid the price to get in front of the net but we just couldn't get the puck to go in the net. We had a ton of puck possession but we allowed two Denver goals on odd man rushes. It is so disappointing to out play a team especially as we did in the first period when we had a 14-4 shot advantage. Then we make a mistake as the defenseman steps up in the slot where we already have a forward which leads to a two on one and we let them have a cross ice pass and they put the puck in the net. You don't want to give a two on one break to Gale and Bembridge.

- I obviously didn't like Denver's last goal. On the second goal we got beat one on one coming out of the corner and it wasn't a real hard shot. Our offense wasn't good enough to overcome those mistakes.

- Tomorrow night we have to get in front of the goalie and make sure he doesn't see the majority of the shots. Janakeff only needs one shift per game but I might start him tomorrow night. I haven't made that decision yet but we will talk about it and give it some thought.

- Lavoie should return for the playoffs. Oklahoma City will be signing some junior players and college players as they become available after their playoffs. It would have been nice to have Alex tonight as he is our leading scorer but with 50 shots we weren't having trouble generating shots. We had enough offense to win tonight without Lavoie.

- It is disappointing as we were in position to win the game and get second place but obviously that didn't happen so now we have to go out and build on the positive things from tonight like the shots and puck possession. I don't want to go into the playoffs having lost our last three games so we want to get the win tomorrow night.

- I thought there were a couple of major penalties at the end of the game, both against McMillin, that were not called and I will ask the league to review them.

- I have an amateur player flying in Sunday that is a three time close to thirty goal scorer in the Western Hockey League and he should help in the playoffs. (Based on information put out by agent Darryl Wolski on social media overnight, the amateur player is Cain Franson, who just finished his junior career with the Vancouver Giants. Franson is a 6' 2"  183 pound left wing who shoots left. He has scored 27, 29 & 30 goals the last three years in Vancouver. He has a brother, Cody, who is a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs).

- Jon Zion skated this morning at the pregame skate and he is getting closer. If this was a game seven he would have probably played. I think he will be ready to go Wednesday and I think we will use him if he is ready. I haven't decided how many defensemen (six or seven) will be on the playoff roster.

- We will have 19 players on the playoff roster plus one on injured reserve plus the amateur we are bringing in. It doesn't mean all 19 players on the roster will be healthy. We can't afford to have three injured players on our roster and play short. So we will have some decisions to make once we get through the game tomorrow night and we see how our injured players (Zion, Kerbashain, & Hendrikx) are progressing.


- With a goal last night and Alex Lavoie with Oklahoma City the team leader in points is now Spencer Asuchak. Really impressive that the team's two leading scorers are the two rookies.

- Tyler Ludwig, who has had a 14 game and 8 game scoring streak this season, had an assist last night and now has a team leading six game scoring streak.

- Quite a shootout in Brampton last night as the Beast beat the Rush 3-2 with goalies Tim Boron and Kristofer Westblom combining to stop the first 25 attempts. The shootout went to the 13th round before Scott Howes finally scored to win the game. Howes has only played in 35 games for Brampton but has 25 goals including six game winning goals. Between his time in Allen last year and Bampton this year Scott has played in 57 games and scored 46 goals.

- Congratulations to Arizona goalie Andrew Engelage for being named the CHL's Most Outstanding Goaltender yesterday. It was the closest race of any of the major awards with Engelage earning 16 of the 41 votes on ballots returned beating out Missouri’s Shane Owen by just two votes.  Along with Engelage and Owen, Rapid City’s Tim Boron, Denver’s Kent Patterson and Quad City’s Ty Rimmer and were also finalists for the Scott Brower Award. 

- With just seven games remain to be played the CHL average attendance is still slightly trailing last years figures. It will be very close as to whether 2013-2014 exceeds the 2012-2013 attendance figures.

- If you noticed, the John Snowden "biting incident" did not lead to any further discipline by the CHL such as a suspension. If you examine the video closely you can see that Matt Stephenson was pushing his forearm into Snowden's head as he was laying on the ice and it was right over his mouth. Everyone involved in this incident agreed it was blown way out of proportion and there were contributing factors that led to the teeth marks on Stephenson's arm. I know John was embarrassed by the incident and it is important to let everyone know that "all parties" involved from both teams felt it was way over exaggerated.

- Tie breakers are certainly going to be a factor in the playoff seeding. All that is determined at this point is Missouri is #1 and Denver is #2. Remember the first tiebreaker is total number of wins not including shootout wins. Here are those numbers for teams still vying for postion:
Allen - 33 (Allen has 81 points with one game remaining)
Rapid City - 30 (Rapid City has 81 points with one game remaining)
Quad City - 29 (Quad City has 72 points with two games remaining)
Brampton - 29 (Brampton has 71 points with one game remaining)
Tulsa - 30 (Tulsa has 69 points with two games remaining)
Arizona - 27 (Arizona has 69 points with one game remaining)
What does this all mean?  Allen is in the drivers seat for the third seed with the tie breaker over Rapid City. Quad City with a one point lead and two games remaining is the favorite to finish fifth. Arizona loses tie breakers to Tulsa and Brampton so they are most likely the #8 seed and will take on Missouri in the first round. Tulsa with two games remaining and the tie breaker over Brampton has the best chance to move up. It will all be decided by Sunday night.

Courtesy CHL Memes

Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: Regardless of the outcome of the game tonight the Allen Americans will finish  the season with the fewest points in team history.
2009-2010:  89 points
2010-2011:  97 points
2011-2012:  87 points
2012-2013:  87 points
2013-2014:  81 points (one game remaining)

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Hockey Love Story & On-Ice Wedding

Mark and Mary - A Hockey Love Story

Tomorrow night (Saturday) long time Allen Americans fans Mark Costello and Mary Rose Simonetti will be getting married in an on ice ceremony performed during the first intermission with Americans players, Ice Angels and staff playing a part in their special night. I first met Mark through this blog as we share a passion not only for the Allen Americans but also number crunching and statistics surrounding the team and the league. He has provided information used in the blog on several occasions and his spreadsheets are full of  data not to be found elsewhere. When I heard about the upcoming wedding I asked Mark to share with me the Mark and Mary story and he graciously agreed to do so. It is a story of a hockey love affair but it is also a great trip down memory lane. Hope you enjoy. If you see Mark and Mary tonight in the concourse of the AEC be sure to wish them good luck for the big day tomorrow.

A Hockey Love Story
On November 6, 2009, the Americans were finishing a seven game road trip to start their inaugural season and awaiting the completion of the brand new Allen Event Center. That night the newest team in the CHL was improving their road trip record to 5-2 by earning a 6-5 win against a tough Corpus Christi Ice Rays team that featured great CHL players like Chad Woolard, RG Flath, Chad Costello, Chris Richards, Justin Quenville, who would later coach the Ice Rays, and a young Ryan Garbutt, who now plays hockey at the big arena in downtown Dallas.
That night was also the grand opening of the Allen Event Center with a concert performance by country music legend Reba McEntire. In the concourse was a table manned by a lonely Allen Americans staffer who sat awaiting the chance to talk to potential hockey fans about the new team and maybe even sell a season ticket or two, he was watching hundreds of concertgoers walk by without even giving him a look. In attendance that night were two die hard hockey fans who approached the table, they were on one of their first dates and on the threshold of a hockey love affair.
Mary was a Plano hockey mom who had moved from central Louisiana in the early 80’s, her son had gravitated from street hockey to ice hockey years before. She chauffeured Nick and his teammates to countless practices before dawn and on road trips, championed fundraisers, sat on the private boards that make junior and varsity high school hockey happen with no help from the UIL and spent way too much time in the laundry room with the dreaded gear bags of sweaty uniforms, pads and gloves, the smell of which would make a lesser woman cringe. As all hockey moms, she endured all for the joy of sitting in the stands cheering her son’s play between the pipes for the Plano East Panthers for a couple years before he even got to senior high school and thereafter until graduation.
Mark was an old pond hockey player from Michigan City, Indiana on the shore of Lake Michigan, an hour from Chicago Stadium where he attended Blackhawks games cheering hockey legends like Stan Makita, Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito and Keith Magnuson. Mark moved to Plano in 1979 and made the weekend trips to Fair Park and the Fort Worth Coliseum to watch the two biggest rivals of the old CHL, the Dallas Blackhawks and the Fort Worth Texans. On many nights there were as many fights in the stands as on the ice and there were a lot of fights on the ice. Old school hockey, without helmets. The old CHL died in ’84 and the new CHL came to life in ’92. The Dallas Freeze floundered in the 6 team league and quietly faded to memory when the Stars came to town.
The night after the concert, the Ice Rays visited the AEC for the first hockey game. The Rays were not happy about the upstart Americans beating them the night before in Corpus, so they came to Allen and spoiled the home debut in front of 5,800 fans with an impressive 4-1 win in a penalty-laden game that included four game misconducts and 106 total penalty minutes. The lone Allen goal coming from Justin Bowers, assisted by Nino Musitelli and Tyler Wooddisee. By the end of the game, Mark and Mary had fallen in love- not with each other or hockey; that had already happened. They fell in love with a team.
Season one was special. Mark and Mary sat in section 117 and cheered their favorite players, Brandon Straub and Nino Musitelli, and watched a fledgling team carry the season near the top of the standings, second to only the Odessa Jackalopes who were led by the 97 points of Sebastien Thinel. Musitelli and goalie Chris Whitley caught fire during the playoff run and along with Brandon Straub, Jordie Benn, Bruce Graham, Jarret Lukin and a late season addition of Colton Yellow-Horn dispatched the Laredo Bucks and then the tough Odessa Jackalopes in the Conference Finals. The Rapid City Rush probably thought they had it made when Odessa went down, but they didn’t count on the fight the Americans would put up. The playoffs ended in a double overtime game 6. There was no joy in the outcome, but immense pride in the how well the young team has played against the best teams the CHL had to offer. Over the course of the season, Mark and Mary got to know the players and it was with sadness that some departed to pursue their careers elsewhere. But new players joined the team and all became family. Teams also came and went- life in the minor leagues. But game after game, the hockey couple watched, and cheered and as fans do, felt joy of victory the agony of defeat.
The next season, the Mark and Mary became engaged. A celebratory road trip to Bossier ensued. Midway through the season a cross-ice pass whizzed between them in Section 117, Row F and slammed into the empty seat behind them. With jaws dropped and eyes wide open, they decided that maybe it was time to move down a couple rows, you know, below the top of the glass. The following season they made the move to the glass.
The fourth season arrived with a new coach and new players. Fall is to hockey what spring is to baseball. Hope springs eternal as the Americans embarked on their 4th campaign to win the game that matters the very most- the last one. Elation does not reflect what they and their fellow 6000 fans felt when Todd Robinson scored that magic goal in overtime of game seven. All of the missed opportunities, heartbreaking losses, and frustrating losses of previous seasons faded away. The dream had come true and the last game of the year had been won. What would next season bring. Few back-to-back championship are won in the minor leagues. The nature of the minor leagues makes it difficult and it hasn’t been done in 12 years in the new CHL. After four years of being engaged, Mark & Mary were frequently asked when they would tie the knot. With three of their combined five children still in high school, the busy schedules just didn’t seem to offer a good time to do so. Their friend, Shonda Hardy, who became the wedding planner, suggested that since they were at every home game, maybe they should get married at a hockey game. Everyone laughed, but the suggestion seemed to live on. It was suggested to the front office and the organization enthusiastically began preparations. It would be a first for the team and the AEC. To many of their friends, it sounded crazy, but to Mark & Mary it all makes perfect sense.
After four years of engagement, five memorable seasons of Americans hockey, and numerous friendships forged with the camaraderie that is part of being hockey fans, Mark and Mary will be married during the first intermission of the final regular season game on Saturday with their favorite team and thousands of their friends and fellow Americans fans looking on. The hockey love affair is in full bloom. As for the honeymoon, that will have to wait; there’s playoffs to follow the wedding.
Mark and Mary are well aware of hockey superstition and what you should and more importantly should never say, like a prediction during a game when no one has scored yet on your goalie. The same holds true for playoff runs and a suggestion of the outcome, but Mark and Mary, like all good hockey fans, know anything can happen in the playoffs. Their suggestion: just Rock Your Red.

Denver vs Allen Preview, Coach of the Year, CHL Memes, & Did You Know

- The final weekend of the regular season has arrived and despite all of the ups and downs and many injuries the season has really gone by fast. When the schedule was first announced many thought the last two games of the season against Denver would be meaningful and has that proven to be the truth. Two games between the second and third place teams to determine who will end up in second place in the standings. The task for Allen to finish in second place is easier said than done. Win both games this weekend and win both in regulation time. There is a scenario where Allen could win one game in regulation and one in overtime and still finish in second place but that would require Denver to lose their final game of the season on Sunday in regulation to Tulsa so let's stick with win the two games with Denver in regulation time and second place belongs to Allen.

- Winning two games against Denver in regulation is a tall task as these teams have played five times this year and Denver has won three of the five. Interestingly, three of the five games have gone to overtime or shootout.
 PAST RESULTS                         
     11/01/13    Denver 2 at Allen  3 SO  
     01/10/14    Denver 4 at Allen  3 OT  
     01/11/14    Denver 0 at Allen  5     
     02/17/14    Allen  3 at Denver 5     
     03/16/14    Allen  3 at Denver 4 SO 

-Both teams come into the game tonight having lost their last game but Denver has not played since last Saturday (4-2 loss in Arizona) while Allen played on Wednesday (2-1 loss at home to Quad City). Here are the team comparisons:
                                  Allen Americans            Denver Cutthroats  
RESULT OF LAST GAME               LOSS  1-2 vs QDC           LOSS  2-4 vs ARZ   
GAMES PLAYED                      64                         63                 
RECORD                            38-21-5                    36-16-11           
POINTS                            81                         83                 
HOME RECORD                       19-9-3                     22-6-5             
AWAY RECORD                       19-12-2                    14-10-6            
SHO RECORD                        5-4                        4-7                
LAST 10 GAMES                     7-2-1                      8-1-1              
LAST 5 GAMES                      4-1-0                      3-1-1              
OCTOBER                           5-0-1                      5-0-0              
NOVEMBER                          7-6-0                      5-6-3              
DECEMBER                          5-4-1                      4-3-3              
JANUARY                           8-1-2                      6-3-3              
FEBRUARY                          5-7-0                      6-3-1              
MARCH                             8-3-1                      10-1-1                           
SCORING FIRST                     23-6-3                     28-5-8             
LEADING AFTER 1ST                 18-6-0                     24-2-6             
LEADING AFTER 2ND                 23-2-3                     24-0-2             
TIED AFTER 1ST                    10-5-3                     8-6-2              
TIED AFTER 2ND                    11-4-2                     7-6-7              
TRAILING AFTER 1ST                10-10-2                    4-8-3              
TRAILING AFTER 2ND                4-15-0                     5-10-2             
WHEN OUTSHOOTING OPPONENT         18-12-1                    15-14-3            
1 - GOAL GAMES                    15-4-5                     15-3-11            
GOALS FOR PER GAME                3.77                       3.30               
GOALS AGAINST PER GAME            3.28                       2.95               
SHOTS FOR PER GAME                33.58                      33.83              
SHOTS AGAINST PER GAME            32.75                      34.10              
POWER PLAY RECORD                 67 - 329   20.4%           64 - 307   20.8%   
PENALTY KILLING RECORD            60 - 334   82.0%           48 - 304   84.2%   
SH GOALS FOR                      10                         10                 
SH GOALS AGAINST                  9                          9                  
PIM AVERAGE                       22.13                      17.49 

- A couple of comparisons to note include the fact that both of these teams have been playing great hockey with similar records in their last 10 games as Denver is 8-1-1 and Allen is 7-2-1. They both have outstanding records when scoring the first goal (Denver 28-5-8 & Allen 23-6-3) and they are both almost unbeatable if they have a lead after the second period (Denver 24-0-2 and Allen 23-2-3).

- A player to keep an eye on tonight is Greger Hanson who is the top scorer for Allen against the Cutthroats. Despite only playing in three of the five previous games against Denver he leads the team in scoring with six points (4 goals 2 assists).

- Denver has the top two scorers in the league in Garett Bembridge (101 points) and Troy Schwab (94 points). In addition, AJ Gale will be back in the line up as he was just activated from injured reserve yesterday. Gale has thirty three points (14 goals 19 assists) in just twenty two games for Denver as he spent much of the season in the AHL. With the ability to have last change at home Allen will be able to match up against these top scorers the way they want and can hopefully stop them from controlling the game.

- As is usually the case special teams will be a key in the game. Denver has the statistical advantage on both the power play (Denver #2 & Allen #3) and the penalty kill (Denver #3 & Allen #7). The Allen penalty kill has been struggling lately (72%) and will have to improve if Allen is going to win.

- For those that like to follow such things the referee for the game tonight is scheduled to be Zak Blazic and the linesmen are Mike Sarter and Chase McGee.

-  Daniel Barnes was waived by the Americans yesterday but he lives in Allen so can be brought back on a moments notice if he is needed. Jon Zion has been out of the line up but may return tonight. A final decision won't be made if he is ready to go until after the pregame skate this morning.

- If the playoffs started today:
Missouri (1) vs Arizona (8)
Denver (2) vs Tulsa (7)
Allen (3) vs Brampton (6)
Rapid City (4) vs Quad City (5)

- Congratulations to Denver Cutthroat coach Derek Armstrong who was named CHL Coach of the Year yesterday. This is part of the end of year awards not to be confused with the "Best of the Best awards that were announced early which Quad City coach Terry Ruskowski won. Ruskowski finished second in the year end voting and Scott Hillman of Governor's Cup champ Missouri finished third in the voting.
Here is a recap on the other year-end awards announced so far:
Athletic Trainer of the Year went to Stuart Nichols of Tulsa and the Gunner Garrett Equipment Manager of the Year is Kacee Coberly of Allen.
Named to the All-Rookie Team were forwards Vincent Arseneau of Denver, Alex Lavoie of Allen, Adam Pleskach of Tulsa, defensemen Lee Moffie of Denver and Henrik Odegaard of Missouri, and goalie Ty Rimmer of Quad City.

Named to the All-CHL Team were forwards Garett Bembridge of Denver, Ben Gordon of Tulsa, Troy Schwab of Denver, defensemen Tyler Ludwig of Allen, Matt Stephenson of Missouri and goaltender Shane Owen of Missouri.

CHL Man of the Year (for off-ice community involvement) went to Brampton's Calin Wild.
Named Rookie of the Year was forward Alex Lavoie of Allen, while Americans teammate Tyler Ludwig was named Most Outstanding Defenseman.

Courtesy CHL Memes
Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: The Allen Americans have more points than any other team in the CHL over the last five years, have won the Governor's Cup twice (regular season championship), won the Presidents' Cup last year and finished second in their first year and have never had a coach finish in the top three in the Coach of the Year balloting.

This afternoon I will be posting a story about the on-ice wedding that will take place at the game tomorrow (Saturday). It is called "A Hockey Love Story" so check back later today.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Quest for 2nd Hits a Snag, Martinson Post Game Comments, Lavoie & Ludwig Honored, Playoffs

The Allen Americans quest for second place hit a snag last night as an inspired Quad City Mallards team shut down the Allen offense, scored a power play goal with three minutes left in the game and came away with a 2-1 victory before a crowd of 3801 at the Allen Event Center. Mallard coach Terry Ruskowski, who became a grandfather on Tuesday and may be named CHL Coach of the Year today had this to say, "That was nice, all of a sudden we started playing hard ... when you work hard good things happen." Coming into the game Quad City had lost seven of eight games and winning goalie, Thomas Heemskerk, had lost his last nine starts. The win gives Quad City (70 points), a three point lead over Tulsa, Brampton & Arizona who are all tied for the last three playoff seedings with 67 points.


- The difference in the game tonight was special teams. We got only one power play goal in seven attempts and they got the power play with three minutes remaining in the game and that was the difference. Their first goal was technically not a power play goal but it came just after the power play ended.

- I thought the team was flat and had no jump tonight. It looked to me like they were still serving drinks like they did on Monday at the celebrity waiter night for charity.

- I never expected we would come out and score only one goal tonight the way we have been playing. (Allen has averaged over 5 goals per game recently). We started out getting the edge in shots but we just didn't have the jump we normally have and that is a bit frustrating.

- I am not sure what causes a game like tonight where we don't have much energy. We had a pretty easy practice yesterday but I didn't like the way some guys looked at practice. I don't think we were prepared to play our "A" game tonight and it came back to bite us.

- We are no longer in control of our own destiny but we can still finish second and we have to be ready to play on Friday against Denver.

- I feel good about the team going into the playoffs. Tonight we were better defensively until the end of the game. It is unusual for us the have a night where we play well defensively but then we don't score. I like our team in the playoffs but we sure fell short tonight.

- Bootland hasn't skated much recently so he will get better, we will have to see if Zion can play this weekend but not sure at this point. Alex Lavoie will not play against Denver but he could return for the playoffs.

- I thought Yanakeff played good in goal. We liked the way he looked in practice and he was strong in the game. He certainly didn't hurt us. Normally if our goalie has us within one goal in the third period we are going to win the game. It just didn't happen tonight. Pitton will start the game on Friday but Yanakeff will step into the game at some point to get qualified for the playoffs. The CHL rules say he just has to be suited up but I am not taking any chances so at some point Yanakeff will get into the game on Friday and Saturday.

- The team will get together tomorrow morning at 10:00 am and assess the situation. We will have some guys skate but for most of the team we will probably rest tomorrow. We will have a few guys on the ice and we will see how many shots Pitton wants. If we do decide to skate with the entire team it will be for only about twenty minutes.

- The playoff roster is due to the league office by 3:00 pm on Monday. There are a lot of factors that go into the makeup of the playoff roster. You can't have a bunch of injured guys sitting on your playoff roster. I am going to look at who is healthy, decide on whether we want to go with eight defensemen from our regular roster and then go with two forwards as our amateurs or whether we go with one forward and one defenseman. One of the considerations is who is available for the amateur slots. I would prefer to wait on adding the amateurs until a little later but our health situation may force me to add them sooner.

- Another concern of mine going into the playoffs is our penalty killers. Kerbashian is a penalty killer and with him out we may not have enough penalty killers up front. The penalty kill has not been great lately. I have tried some different guys up front and we have struggled recently.

- Steve Tarasuk made some good plays with the puck. I think he is going to help us. He hasn't skated much in the last couple of weeks so he will get better. He is heads up, finds people and makes good passes and he can move his feet. It is always harder to add defenseman this time of year when you are looking at amateurs as experience really helps on the blue line.  Tarasuk gives us that experience.


- Coach Martinson mentioned his concern with the penalty kill going into the playoffs and the statistics show what is is talking about. Over the last six games the Americans have allowed seven power play goals and their penalty kill percentage is only 72% (7-25). The Allen power play on the other hand has been excellent up until last night when the power play was only 1-7. In the five game prior to last night the power play was scoring at a blistering rate of 32% (8-25).

- Jamie Schaafsma joined the 20 goal club last night and Allen now has six players with at least 20 goals this season which ties the franchise record.

- Congratulations to Alex Lavoie CHL Rookie of the Year and Tyler Ludwig CHL Most Outstanding Defenseman of the Year. They were both named yesterday and are the first Allen players to win the award. There are so many awards handed out this time of year that it is sometimes confusing when you see all of the press releases but the most prestigious of all of the awards are the year end awards voted on by the coaches, communication departments, and the media. To win two of these individual awards for players along with Kacee Coberly winning the Equipment Manager of the Year is really special for the Allen franchise. Job well done!

- Playoff seeding is still three games away and the standings could not be closer. Allen, Rapid City and Denver all have a chance to finish second and Tulsa, Brampton, & Arizona are all tied for the 6th, 7th, & 8th spots with 67 points. But, if the playoffs started today:
Missouri (1) vs Arizona (8)
Denver (2) vs Brampton (7)
Allen (3) vs Tulsa (6)
Rapid City (4) vs Quad City (5)

Courtey CHL Memes

Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW:  Tyler Ludwig is the first Allen player to win "Most Outstanding Defenseman" while playing for Allen but teammate Daniel Tetrault won the award in 2001-2002 while playing for the Austin Ice Bats.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Missouri Wins Governor's Cup, Lavoie Wins ROY, New Players Yanakeff & Tarasuk, , Playoff Tiebreakers

- The first order of business this morning is congratulating the Missouri fans and team for winning the regular season championship Governor's Cup last night by beating the St. Charles Chill 8-0. It was a goal set by coach Scott Hillman at the beginning of the year after the Mavericks were ousted in the seventh game of playoffs on opponents ice in prior years. It is a great accomplishment for Missouri but certainly no guarantee in the race for the Presidents' Cup. In seven of the last eight years the winner of the Governor's Cup did not win the Presidents' Cup. The exception was last year when the Allen Americans won both trophies.

- Congratulations to Alex Lavoie as to nobody's surprise Alex was named CHL Rookie of the Year today. It was the most lopsided vote in any of the voting categories this season with Lavoie earning 63% of the vote. It could be a big day for the Americans as the Best Defenseman award will be announced this afternoon and Tyler Ludwig is a finalist for that award. Alex is still on loan to Oklahoma City and will not play tonight.

- Darryl Bootland will return to the lineup tonight

- Two new players will be in uniform for the game tonight. The new backup goalie is Willie (Wil) Yanakeff who practiced with the team yesterday and just finished his collegiate career at Michigan State University. The other player, a defenseman, just arrived last night and was at the pregame skate this morning and expected to play tonight is Steve Tarasuk. He started the year with the San Francisco Bulls (ECHL) but that team folded midseason. He then signed with the Ontario Reign (ECHL) and played fourteen games with them before being traded to the Evansville Iceman (ECHL). Rather than reporting to Evansville, Tarasuk signed with Allen for the playoffs. Steve made the ECHL all-star team in 2010-2011. Tarasuk has plenty of connections with the Allen Americans both past and present. He played with Kale Kerbashian in juniors (2008-2009 London Knights), he played for Darryl Bootland's brother and with Brian McMillin in Kalamazoo (2010-2011), he played with Mike Montgomery and Spencer Asuchak in Ontario (2011-2012), he played with former American's defensemen Scott Langdon and Dylan King earlier this year in San Francisco and he was just traded by the Ontario Reign where he played with another former Allen defenseman, Matt Register. He skates with Bryan Pitton in the summer. As they always say, hockey is indeed a small world. Here is info on Yanakeff & Tarasuk courtesy of Hockeydb:

Willie Yanakeff

Goalie -- shoots R
Born Apr 30 1992 -- Jerome, MI
[21 yrs. ago]
Height 6.02 -- Weight 185
RS Scoring RS Goalie Stats PO Scoring
Season Team Lge GP A PIM Min GA EN SO GAA W L T Svs Pct GP A PIM
2008-09 USNTDP Under-18 Team NAHL 17 1 4 1030 36 0 3 2.10 11 4 2 394 0.916

2009-10 Sioux City Musketeers USHL 12 0 0 613 33 0 0 3.23 5 4 0 259 0.887 ---
2009-10 Waterloo Black Hawks USHL 10 0 0 528 30 0 2 3.41 5 5 0 205 0.872 ---
2010-11 Michigan State University CCHA 14 0 2 794 28 0 2 2.11 6 5 1 353 0.927

2011-12 Michigan State University CCHA 23 1 2 1365 57 0 0 2.50 13 9 1 672 0.922

2012-13 Michigan State University CCHA 15 0 0 864 44 0 1 3.06 5 8 1 413 0.904

2013-14 Michigan State University Big-10 6 0 0 302 14 0 1 2.77 2 3 0 142 0.910  

Steven Tarasuk

Defense -- shoots R
Born Nov 1 1989 -- Thornhill, ONT
[24 yrs. ago]
Height 5.10 -- Weight 165
Regular Season Playoffs
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/- GP G A Pts PIM
2004-05 Milton Icehawks OPJHL 1 0 0 0 0  

2005-06 Markham Waxers OPJHL 43 2 21 23 56  

2006-07 Kitchener Rangers OHL 59 0 6 6 43 16 8 0 2 2 0
2007-08 Kitchener Rangers OHL 37 3 17 20 23 24 ----------
2007-08 London Knights OHL 30 3 14 17 25 5 5 1 2 3 4
2008-09 London Knights OHL 59 3 17 20 60 23 14 0 3 3 8
2009-10 London Knights OHL 67 19 48 67 59 35 12 1 9 10 14
2009-10 Utah Grizzlies ECHL ------------ 2 0 0 0 4
2010-11 Kalamazoo Wings ECHL 65 4 21 25 53 -3 4 0 3 3 0
2010-11 Bridgeport Sound Tigers AHL 3 0 1 1 0 -1 ----------
2011-12 Ontario Reign ECHL 58 7 25 32 61 7 ----------
2011-12 Idaho Steelheads ECHL 12 1 5 6 4 010 0 4 4 12
2012-13 Lausitzer Foxes 2.GBun 43 10 22 32 44  

2013-14 San Francisco Bulls* ECHL 37 3 12 15 9 -9

2013-14 Worcester Sharks* AHL Statistics Unavailable

2013-14 Ontario Reign* ECHL 14 1 4 5 6 -7

- Thought it would be a good time to talk about tiebreakers for playoff seeding since the standings are so close it is almost certain there will be some ties. Should two or more teams be tied in points for any seeding issue throughout the playoffs, the following tiebreakers will be used:
1. Most Wins (not including shootout wins)
2. Head to Head Record
3. Goals For/Against Differential
 With three games remaining Allen (33 wins) has the tiebreaker over Rapid City (30 wins) and Denver (32 wins).

- As mentioned yesterday Quad City comes to Allen shorthanded due to injury and call ups. They will be missing several of their best players. Their backup goalie will be Eric Levine who was just waived by Allen. The Mallards and Americans have played three times so far this year with Allen holding the edge 2-1. They split two games in Quad City in early February by identical scores of 5-2 and Allen defeated Quad City 6-2 in their only meeting in Allen on February 23rd. Here is the team by team comparison:
                                  Allen Americans            Quad City Mallards  
RESULT OF LAST GAME               WIN  5-4 vs WIC            LOSS  1-3 vs MIZ    
GAMES PLAYED                      63                         62                  
RECORD                            38-20-5                    29-23-10            
POINTS                            81                         68                  
HOME RECORD                       19-8-3                     18-11-3             
AWAY RECORD                       19-12-2                    11-12-7             
SHO RECORD                        5-4                        2-7                 
LAST 10 GAMES                     7-2-1                      3-5-2               
LAST 5 GAMES                      4-0-1                      1-3-1               
OCTOBER                           5-0-1                      1-1-1               
NOVEMBER                          7-6-0                      6-2-3               
DECEMBER                          5-4-1                      8-3-1               
JANUARY                           8-1-2                      4-3-3               
FEBRUARY                          5-7-0                      7-7-0               
MARCH                             8-2-1                      3-7-2                             
SCORING FIRST                     23-6-3                     21-6-6              
LEADING AFTER 1ST                 18-6-0                     11-3-3              
LEADING AFTER 2ND                 23-2-3                     18-2-2              
TIED AFTER 1ST                    10-4-3                     14-9-4              
TIED AFTER 2ND                    11-4-2                     7-3-3               
TRAILING AFTER 1ST                10-10-2                    4-11-3              
TRAILING AFTER 2ND                4-14-0                     4-18-5              
WHEN OUTSHOOTING OPPONENT         18-11-1                    15-12-4             
1 - GOAL GAMES                    15-3-5                     10-9-10             
GOALS FOR PER GAME                3.81                       3.23                
GOALS AGAINST PER GAME            3.30                       3.08                
SHOTS FOR PER GAME                33.56                      31.56               
SHOTS AGAINST PER GAME            32.89                      30.45               
POWER PLAY RECORD                 66 - 322   20.5%           41 - 301   13.6%    
PENALTY KILLING RECORD            59 - 329   82.1%           38 - 235   83.8%    
SH GOALS FOR                      10                         10                  
SH GOALS AGAINST                  9                          9                   
PIM AVERAGE                       22.29                      14.05               

Allen                 68   87   79   6   240    
Opponents             63   61   79   5   208    
Quad City             56   65   76   3   200    
Opponents             54   74   53   10  191 

- In the St. Charles Chill's 8-0 loss last night against Missouri, former Allen player John Snowden got in a fight with Maverick defenseman Matt Stephenson and was ejected from the game for biting. John will take a lot of grief and ridicule over this incident but you can tell from watching him play in Allen last weekend and his actions last night that he is giving it everything he has in a situation where it would be easy to stop playing. I for one, admire John's passion. Not the best way to display your passion and he will surely pay the price but it has been a long frustrating season for the Chill.

- With some great late season crowds the CHL average attendance is about to exceed last year's average of 3706. Missouri drew 5618 last night to raise the league wide average for this season to 3701 with 15 games remaining.

Courtesy CHL Memes

Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: The Missouri Mavericks won the regular season championship (Governor's Cup) for the first time in franchise history last night and with three games remaining they have already scored more points (90) than any team in their franchise history.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Roster Changes, Awards Announced, The Story of Rush Captain Wray Retiring, 20 Goal Scorers Record Possible

- The quest for second place continues tomorrow night (Wednesday) against the Quad City Mallards. In addition to the importance of winning the game to set up the showdown with the second place Denver Cutthroats on Friday and Saturday it is also the last game where new players can qualify for the playoff roster. In order to be on the playoff roster a player must play in at least three regular season games so there will definitely be new players in the lineup tomorrow night.

- Allen made several roster moves yesterday by waiving Daniel Barnes and rookie goaltender Eric Levine, placing Phil Fox on season ending injured reserve, and Kale Kerbashian on fourteen day injured reserve. Trevor Hendrikx is also on 30 day injured reserve. At a minimum there will be a new goalie and defensman in the game tomorrow night. Would expect the signing announcements will be made today.

- Quad City comes to Allen shorthanded for a few different reasons. The following was published in the Quad City Times yesterday:
The Quad-City Mallards are limping into the playoffs, and after a barrage of bad news this weekend, might be on their last legs.
First, the Mallards lost leading scorer Jeff Lee to a lower body injury on the first shift of the team's 3-1 loss to the Missouri Mavericks on Sunday. Coach Terry Ruskowski said Monday that he still had no indication as to the severity of the injury or how long Lee would be out.
Second, the Mallards found out that the player they'd been counting on to give them a late-season boost, Aaron Lee, Jeff's brother, would not be able to join the team after his European team, the Tilburg Trappers, lost in overtime of game five of the Dutch Eredivisie finals.
Third, the Mallards lost two players to the American Hockey League. Defenseman Nicholas Rioux was called up to the Mallards' affiliate, the Iowa Wild, and goalie Ty Rimmer — who was a unanimous selection to the CHL's all-rookie team Monday — was called up to the Oklahoma City Barons.

- In  a strange coincidence Quad City goalie Ty Rimmer and Allen center Alex Lavoie will be teammates tonight in Oklahoma City (AHL) and could play against each other tomorrow night in Allen. Probably won't happen but it is possible if both players are released back to their respective CHL clubs after Oklahoma City plays San Antonio tonight.

- The CHL All-Rookie team was announced yesterday and I have already had my say on the omission of Spencer Asuchak from this team. It is difficult for me to see how he could be overlooked as he has played in every game (63) for his team this year, is second on the Americans in scoring, third in scoring among CHL rookies, first in the CHL in shorthanded goals, he kills penalties, often plays against the opponents top line and is a tireless worker who never takes a shift off. Maybe the CHL should consider having more than five players on the team in situations like this. With that said, congrats to Alex Lavoie  and all of the players named yesterday:
2013-2014 All-Rookie Team
F: Vincent Arseneau, Denver Cutthroats
F: Alex Lavoie, Allen Americans
F: Adam Pleskach, Tulsa Oilers
D: Lee Moffie, Denver Cutthroats
D: Henrik Odegaard, Missouri Mavericks
G: Ty Rimmer, Quad City Mallards 

- The All-CHL team was also announced yesterday and congratulations to Tyler Ludwig for being named to the team for the second consecutive year. There are a lot of deserving players left off of this list but it is a great group. Here is the list:
2013-2014 All-CHL Team
F: Garett Bembridge, Denver Cutthroats
F: Ben Gordon, Tulsa Oilers
F: Troy Schwab, Denver Cutthroats
D: Tyler Ludwig, Allen Americans
D: Matt Stephenson, Missouri Mavericks
G: Shane Owen, Missouri Mavericks

- Rapid City Rush long time captain Scott Wray will be retiring after this season and move his skills to the coaches bench. His wife, Shanna, has written a blog for several years and has done some very humorous stories over the years and I am a big fan. Yesterday she posted a story about this time in their life and all of the emotions involved. Her willingness to share her story, on her terms and with such openness is to be admired. No, it is not humorous like many of her posts, but it is a very personal story of her journey and she should be commended for sharing it with all of us. Go to her web site at and read her story, "On the Other Side of the Bench."

Courtesy CHL Memes

Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: The Americans now have five players with 20 goals and with Jamie Schaafsma at 19 and Darryl Bootland at 18, Allen could set the record for most 20 goal scorers in a season which is six set in 2010-2011. Here are 20 goal scorers by season:

2013-2014 - Lessard (26), Lavoie (25), Asuchak (20), Ludwig (20), Hanson (20)
2012-2013 - Schaafsma (24), Bootland (22), Howes (21)
2011-2012 - Graham (26), Yellow Horn (24), McKenzie (20)
2010-2011 - Graham (34), Musitelli (34), Yellow Horn (33), Lukin (21), Bonk (20), Blackwater (20)
2009-2010 - Graham (31), Bowers (23), Musitelli (23)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Shootout Success, Martinson Post Game Comments, Jersey Auction Results, Today's Year End Awards

The headline on the game with Wichita yesterday is Allen wins 5-4 in a shootout to move into third place in the standings and eliminate Wichita from the playoffs before 8203 fans at the Intrust Bank Arena. But the real story of the game was how Allen had a 4-2 lead on goals by Maiani, McMillin, and two by Lessard only to have the Thunder score twice with an extra attacker in the last 40 seconds of the game. The first extra attacker goal came with Ross Rouleau laying on the ice after being high sticked right in front of the referee who made no call. When Dallas Ehrhardt, the quietest guy on the team who is not a complainer, questioned why he did not call the high sticking, the referee chose to give Dallas an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It was the only penalty the referee called in the last 25 minutes of the game. With the six on four extra attacker Wichita scored with eight seconds remaining in the game to force overtime. The game went to a shootout with Tyler Ludwig getting the game winner. Despite the win, it was disappointing to see the referee have such a big influence on the outcome of the game in the last minute of play.


- Had the chance to spend about fifteen minutes on the phone with coach Martinson after the game and to be honest it was difficult to get him to talk about anything other than the officiating. In an effort to save him some money by being fined by the CHL I will not share most of what he had to say. He was not happy with how the first period situation with Erick Lizon was handled and was livid about what transpired in the last minute of regulation.

- The positives in the game far outweighed the negatives. We played with a lot of speed and were in total control of the game until the last 40 seconds when the referee took control.  It was good to get the two points tonight and move into third place in the standings. We now have a chance to finish in second place in the standings and the outcome is in our hands. If we win out we will finish second.

- Wichita had a big shot advantage in the third period (19-3) but most of the shots were from the perimeter. We made the decision to stay back and not have an aggressive forecheck. I also told the guys to avoid hits as we can't afford any more injuries and with the history with Wichita and the fact they are not making the playoffs I didn't want any confrontations.

-  Kale Kerbashian hurt his hand and will have it X-rayed when we get home. Until that happens we won't know how long he will be out.

- Garrett Klotz hit Lizon with some big, hard punches in retaliation for Lizon jumping Daniel Barnes. Barnes did a good job of filling in for our injured players and he came close to scoring several times. Barnes lives locally, his regular job has him on the ice and he trains so he has been a great asset for us when we need a player.

- With all of the injuries and in an effort to get in the best position for the playoffs there will be roster changes Monday & Tuesday. Stay tuned.


- The shootout last night was the best performance of the year by the Americans in  a shootout. After Greger Hanson missed in the first round Bruce Graham, Tyler Ludwig, and Spencer Asuchak all scored and  Bryan Pitton stopped three of four Thunder shooters to secure the victory. Tyler Ludwig got the game winner and has the best shootout percentage on the team at 60% (3-5). It was also nice to see Spencer Asuchak score when Coach Martinson rewarded him for his recent great play by giving him his first shootout opportunity.

- Tyler Ludwig's game winning goal was his 20th of the season. Every goal he scores sets a new record for goals scored by a defenseman. The goal was his 52nd point which breaks the single season scoring record for defensemen of 51 that Tyler set last year.

- Allen only had one power play opportunity in the game and Jonathan Lessard scored his first goal on that power play.

- The top line of Graham, Hanson and Schaafsma were held scoreless so all three of them had scoring streaks snapped. Spencer Asuchak now has the team leading six game scoring streak and has fifteeen points (7 goals 8 assists) in the last six games.

- Jonathan Lessard with two goals was named the games #1 star and Brian McMillin (1 goal 2 assists) was the #3 star.

- With the Wichita loss the playoffs have been set and now only the seedings remain to be determined. If the playoffs started today:
Missouri (1) vs Arizona (8)
Denver (2) vs Brampton (7)
Allen (3) vs Tulsa (6)
Rapid City (4) vs Quad City (5)

- The year end awards announcements continue today as the CHL will announce the All-CHL Team and the CHL All-Rookie Team. At a minimum Lavoie & Asuchak should be on the All-rookie Team and Tyler Ludwig on the All-CHL team.

- Had someone ask about the specialty military jersey auction that took place after the game on Saturday. I have said many times the support that fans give to these auctions never ceases to amaze me. And it is a handful of fans that deserve the most recognition as they buy jerseys over and over again.  Here is what the jerseys went for. Thanks to super fan Leonard for recording this information for me:

McMillin - $600
Rouleau - $400
Lukin - $500
Klotz - $600
Pitton - $600
Maiani - $800
Berube - $900
Kerbashian - $700
Tyler Ludwig - $800
Ehrhardt - $600
Trevor Ludwig - $700
Schaafsma - $1000
Hanson - $700
Hendrikx - $600
Lessard - $600
Asuchak - $700
Fox - $500
Graham - $700
Barnes - $400
Levine - $400
Bootland - $1200
Zion - $700
Matvichuk - $500
Lavoie - $800

Courtesy of CHL Memes

Courtesy of CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: The Allen Americans record in their last fifteen games is 12-2-1.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Coaches Comments, Bootland Out, Lavoie May Not Play, A Great Hockey Story, A Fan Visits the Radio Booth, Milestones

-  It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty but the Allen Americans stayed on course last night in their pursuit of second place in the CHL standings with a 5-4 win over the St. Charles Chill before a nice crowd of 4924 at the Allen Event Center. Eric Levine got the start but was replaced by Bryan Pitton after the first period with the Americans trailing 2-0. The goals certainly weren't Levine's fault but there has been a pattern of the puck ending up in the back of the net whenever the team makes a mistake in front of him. Allen made a nice comeback in the second period on goals by Anthony Maiani and Spencer Asuchak only to have the Chill take the lead 3-2 on the first shift after the Americans had scored the tying goal. In the third period Allen got three unanswered goals by Hanson, Graham, and Schaafsma to take a 5-3 lead and seemed to have the game in hand but St. Charles scored a power play goal with less than five minutes remaining in the game. The Chill pulled their goalie and made the last minute exciting but Allen held on for the 5-4 victory. It was Military Appreciation Night so after the game the specialty jerseys the team wore were auctioned off for charity and then the team boarded the bus at around midnight and headed for Wichita where they will play the Thunder this afternoon (Sunday) with a 5:05 pm puck drop.


 I had a chance to talk to the coaches briefly after the game to get their comments:

- It is difficult to play the last place team like the Chill after we beat them 7-2 last night (Friday). Games after easy wins like we had on Friday are always hard games to play.

- We didn't work hard enough to get in the right areas. We kept trying to make the fancy plays rather than playing our style of hockey.

-We had 47 shots which is more than enough to win the game but we weren't pleased giving up 26 shots in the first two periods.

- St. Charles has some skilled guys so if you put them on the power play they can hurt you and we saw that tonight as they got two power play goals.

- We have our destiny in our own hands and the game in Wichita tomorrow (Sunday) is a key game. It is the game in hand we have over Denver and Rapid City. If we can pick up two points against the Thunder we will come home in third place and only trail Denver for second place by two points.

- We will go to Wichita with the same line up as we had tonight.  There was some hope Bootland might be ready by Sunday but he will not make the trip. Alex Lavoie may not be joining us in Wichita. Oklahoma City may want to keep him for their next game which is Tuesday. If they do want him to play Tuesday I am not sure if he will play for us on Sunday.


- As mentioned by the coaches the game today in Wichita is the game in hand Allen has over Rapid City and Denver so while they sit idle the Americans have an opportunity to gain two points on both of them. With a win today the standings would be Denver (83 points), Allen (81 points) & Rapid City (80 points).

- The schedule for the final three games of the season favors Allen over Denver and Rapid City. Allen is at home for their last three games and plays Quad City on Wednesday and then Denver Friday & Saturday. Rapid plays their final three games in Brampton (Thursday, Friday & Sunday). Denver plays in Allen on Friday and Saturday and finishes up the season in Tulsa on Sunday.

- Some hot streaks continued last night including Spencer Asuchak's who scored in his fifth straight game, got his 20th goal of the season and has now scored seven goals in the last five games. Greger Hanson also got his 20th goal of the season as he extended his scoring streak to ten games. Hanson has twenty points (8 goals 12 assists) in the last ten games.

- Bruce Graham by his own admission was not in as good as shape as normal when he started playing three weeks ago. You could never tell it by his point production. Bruce has played in eleven games and has failed to score in only one game. He has twenty one points (6 goals 15 assists) in those eleven games.

- With a goal and an assist Jamie Schaafsma extended his scoring streak to seven games. Jamie has 19 goals on the season and has scored six goals in the last seven games. 

- If the playoffs started today:
Missouri (1) vs Tulsa (8)
Denver (2) vs Arizona (7)
Rapid City (3) vs Brampton (6)
Allen (4) vs Quad City (5)

- Allen season ticket holders who renew for next year are entered into a drawing and every Friday in the month of March three lucky season ticket holders win a nice prize. Super fan, Amanda Brown was one of the prize winners and her prize was to spend a period in the radio booth with Tommy Daniels. Amanda was kind enough to share her experience:

Friday night, thanks to a prize won by renewing my season tickets, I had the unique opportunity to sit up in the broadcast booth with the illustrious Tommy Daniels and Maurice Fitzgerald…and it was an absolute blast! First of all, for those of you not aware, Tommy sits high up in the sky during games. In fact, you can only get there by walking across the roof! So, as you can imagine, the view was spectacular; it allows Tommy to see every nuance of the game play happening below. Upon arrival in the booth, I was quickly handed a headset, buttons and dials were adjusted, and we were off. I was a little apprehensive initially, because the commentating is so fast-paced and I wasn’t sure when or if I should say anything. However, Tommy did a great job of including me in the process, asking me questions ranging from what I thought of the game to discussions about particular players, even asking what one thing I would change about this season if I could (my answer was “injuries,” an answer that I’m sure would draw a lot of agreement from among the fans). Tommy provides a great mix of real-time game commentary rounded out by personal player stories and I quickly started to feel comfortable with the rhythm of how they handle things up there. If there is a downside to the experience in the booth, it’s probably that, when the Americans score, you can’t jump up and down and yell like you normally would downstairs. However, that doesn’t mean that there is no excitement up there when it happens. I was fortunate to be up in the booth when we scored two goals, so I had the experience, not once, but twice, of hearing Tommy’s famous “GOOOOOAAAALLLLL!!!” celebration. The most surprising revelation from my time peeking behind the curtain of this process is that while Tommy is offering fast-paced, play-by-play action, he is usually doing three or four other things at the same time. He doesn’t miss a beat while playing sound clips, making notes or cutting audio to save for later. As I told him last night, the fans have always felt he was the best broadcaster in the league, but seeing the process actually happen brought that award to an entirely new level for me. Overall, I had an amazing time and those twenty minutes flew by. I got to see a side of the Americans’ operations that very few get to see, I had a great view and I got to live out every sports fan’s fantasy of broadcasting with one of the greats. So, to the fans, I hope I represented you well and, to the Americans, thank you for letting me be a small part of last night’s game.

- Alex Lavoie had no points last night in his second game with Oklahoma City after getting a goal on Friday. For the weekend Alex had the one goal, was a plus one, and had three shots on goal.

- Aaron Dell made 37 saves and got his first AHL victory last night giving up only one goal as Abbotsford beat Hamilton 5-1.  Dell has played in six games for Abbotsford and has a GAA of 2.29 and a save percentage of .922.

- The Toronto Star recently published a long feature article written by Paul Hunter titled, "The Brampton Beast, Life in Hockey's Wilderness." This is an outstanding article about life on the road, life playing minor pro hockey, bus rides and coaching in the CHL just to name a few of the topics covered.  Paul and photographer Jim Rankin accompanied the team on a road trip to Quad City so there are some great pictures to go along with the story. I will post a few snippets below but I strongly encourage anyone who hasn't read this story to go to or Google the title and take a look. I guarantee you if you are a CHL hockey fan you will enjoy this story. Below are just a few pieces of the article to wet your appetite.

- Two levels below the NHL and a world away from its glamour, the members of the Central Hockey League's Brampton Beast ply their trade for a modest salary. While some players hang on to faint NHL dreams, for many, getting paid to play the game they love is their fantasy come true. The Star travelled with the Beast on a recent bus trip to Moline, Ill., to find out what life is like for minor-pro hockey players on the road and what drives the players to stay in the game.

- Curtained off in the darkened, windowless steel chamber, it is impossible to know exactly what is happening outside. Or where outside even is at this particular moment. But these hockey players instinctively understand it is the middle of the night and they are driving through a raging snowstorm.
They’ve logged enough miles on buses like this to immediately sense when something is amiss. Lying on a hard bunk, a few feet above the road, rumbling along in a 15-year-old coach, they can read every nuance of the pavement.

- The Beast is an expansion team in the Central Hockey League, a 10-team AA loop a level below the American Hockey League. Brampton is the only franchise in Canada. While it is two steps away from the NHL, a $12,000-a-week salary cap puts it in another world. That’s $12,000 per team, not per player.  They are either prospects trying to move up, older players trying to navigate out of hockey or somewhere in the middle, guys in their late 20s or early 30s attempting to wring a few more years out of a game that, despite the hardships at the minor-pro level, is difficult to give up. If there is a common thread amongst the players it is that they love the game and often see hockey the way Canadians tend to romanticize it, a higher calling in which they are privileged to partake.

- The Beast bus was oddly quiet as it chugged along the 401 with 18 players, two coaches, two journalists, an equipment manager, an athletic therapist and a play-by-play announcer who will broadcast the games on the Internet. It sleeps 25 so everyone has a bed. Most of the players cocoon in their bunks with their tablets, smartphones or laptops.
“Back in the day, bus trips were more lively,” says head coach Mark DeSantis, 42, a former defenceman who had a 16-year playing career in the minor pro ranks.
“We didn’t have all these gadgets.”

- Scott Howes grew up just south of hardscrabble Regent Park playing at Moss Park Arena in what may be the only free house league in North America. He once went to a Single-A tryout in sweatpants. His parents struggled financially to keep him and his brother in the game. He got lots of help along the way. He hasn’t reached the heights of Glen Metropolit or Trevor Daley — who also came out of Moss Park and made it to the NHL — but he appreciates everything hockey has given him. “I didn’t come from a whole lot and I’ve seen a lot of places now,” he says.
At the end of the season, Howes will likely look again at opportunities in Europe. He started this season in Slovenia but it wasn’t a good fit.
The money will be tempting. This season, if he’d stayed in Europe, he would have been paid 30,000 euros (about $45,000 Cdn.), which is at the low end of the salary structure. The money isn’t taxed, and European players are provided with free housing and a car. He figured on spending between 8,000 to 10,000 euros so that meant he’d pocket about 20,000 euros, or about $30,000.
In the American League – and Howes has played at that level – he says he made $40,000 or $45,000 (U.S.) but a player there has to pay for his own housing and he is taxed. He figures he was able to keep between $10,000 and $15,000 (Cdn.) a season in the AHL.
With the Beast he earns $1,000 a week and has a housing allowance, which can be as much as $700 a month for a married player like Howes.

-  That $12,000 salary cap is divided among 19 players; 18 can dress for a game. Teams could spend as little as $8,400 a week, according to the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Due to the time commitment, it is virtually impossible for players to hold part-time jobs, though some do work in the summer. Teams play a 66-game schedule and practice most days when there is no game or travel scheduled.
The highest paid player in the league makes $1,500 a week. Most earn about $600.
The minimum salary is $345 a week for rookies with less than 25 games of pro experience. For a player with more than 25 games, that minimum jumps to $390. On the road, players receive a per diem of $31 (U.S.), broken down as $6 for breakfast, $9 for lunch and $16 for dinner.

-  Six years ago, Grant Rollheiser and James Reimer were goaltending teammates at a Maple Leafs prospect camp. Rollheiser had been drafted 158th overall by Toronto in 2008. Reimer arrived two years earlier, the 99th player selected that year.
Now, if it weren’t for a building in the way, Rollheiser could see the Air Canada Centre, where Reimer plies his trade for the Toronto Maple Leafs, from the 27th-floor Mississauga condo unit he shares with rookie Beast defencemen Darrigo and Dan Milan. Milan is the only American on the club and the only player assigned to the team by Tampa.
Reimer earns $1.8 million a season, Rollheiser about 1 per cent of that.

- Coach DeSantis has the seen-it-all wisdom expected from someone who spent 16 years on 16 teams in five leagues. But through it all, he has never lost his passion for hockey or compassion for people who play it. The coach believes in character above talent, talking to someone face-to-face rather than by text, getting to the office shortly after 5 a.m., inspirational quotes written large on the dressing room walls, the necessity of winning battles along the boards and the power of connections made through the game.
Most of all, he believes in being honest with his players. The memory of each time he felt misled as a player now informs him as a coach. A Brampton native, he was never drafted into the NHL, but he had such an outstanding final year in junior with the Newmarket Royals that he signed a pro contract with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, then an NHL expansion team.
What happened with the Mighty Ducks still rankles.
Three years he went to Anaheim’s training camp, including after one summer in which the team directed him to stay in California to work out.
“And I never got an exhibition game. That stung,” he says. “How do you know what I can or can’t do if you don’t put me in an exhibition game?”

- Coaches at the Central Hockey League level typically earn between $50,000 and $110,000. DeSantis, who debuted as a head coach last season with the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Fayetteville (N.C.) FireAntz, concedes he is at the low end of that scale. He and his wife have moved into the family home — the one he left as a 17-year-old to play junior — to live with his mother.
His big-league dreams, never fulfilled as a player, now burn within as a coach.
“I didn’t make it as a player,” he says. “I was close. I signed an NHL contract. Not a lot of players can say that in their life.
“But now it’s like you’re a rookie again. Your dream, your goal is to get to the NHL. There’s baby steps along the way.”

- Sometime after midnight, Shawn (Stixy) Smith, the equipment manager, pushes a few bags of chips out of the way on his bottom bunk and slips under a blanket. A few inches from his head are the feet of the team’s therapist, Tara Gilliland-Smith, resting in the next bed towards the back.
The two have one of the more unique relationships in pro sports. They are husband and wife, possibly the only couple performing those roles together in the pros.
They’ve been married almost 10 years, usually working together, after meeting at a hockey camp in Guelph, and they are raising two young children. They live at Gilliland-Smith’s parents’ home in Mississauga, and her folks help with the babysitting. “If you’re doing this job, you get used to being the only woman,” says Gilliland-Smith, 38. “It’s nice when you stop at a truck stop. For once you don’t have the bathroom lineup, the men do.”

Courtesy CHL Memes

Courtey CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: The definition of a veteran in the CHL is a player that has played in more than 300 regular season professional games. Captain Mike Berube plays in his 301st game today against Wichita.