Friday, March 14, 2014

Game Day, Lineup Changes, Playoff Roster, Asuchak Case for ROY Finalist, Doyle Signs SPHL, Beer Lawsuit

- It is Friday, it is game day and it is crunch time as the Allen Americans begin the final two weeks of the regular season with three games in three days against the two teams (Rapid City & Denver) they need to beat if they have any hope of finishing in second place in the CHL standings. Tonight (Friday) and tomorrow the Americans take on the Rapid City Rush. While both teams have some key injuries they both will have some new guys in the lineup. For Allen, Darryl Bootland and Dallas Ehrhardt will be activated from the injured reserve and will play tonight. Bootland has not played since February 8th and Ehrhardt has not played since February 21st. Rapid City will welcome Ben Power, who was waived by Allen on Monday, to their line up.

- Rapid City has the worst special teams in the CHL, ranking dead last in both power play percentage and penalty kill percentage. Allen needs to take advantage of this if they are going to win the game. When it comes to even strength play the Rush are the best in the league. Plus/Minus is one indicator of even strength play and Rapid City is an unbelievable +258 which is over twice what any other team in the league is at. Allen's plus/minus is +59.

- Another key to the game is getting off to a fast start as Rapid City is the master of the quick start and when scoring the first goal the Rush have a record of 23-5-1. When leading after the first period Rapid City has a record of 17-1-0 and when leading after the second period the Rush are 21-0-0. The bottom line is Rapid City is not the type of team that allows teams to come from behind and defeat them. Getting an early lead tonight will very important for Allen.

- Rapid City's season this year is similar to Allen's championship season last year. The Rush got off to an excellent start at the beginning of the year, went through a slump in the middle of the season including one point when they were 1-9, and have turned things around toward the end of the season. The Rush have won eight of their last eleven games. With a great goaltender in Tim Boron if the Rush can just be mediocre rather than awful on special teams they are built to go a long way in the playoffs.

- Here is the team by team comparison:
                                  Rapid City                 Allen Americans   
RESULT OF LAST GAME               OTL  4-5 vs MIZ            WIN  6-4 vs STC   
GAMES PLAYED                      58                         56                
RECORD                            36-20-2                    32-20-4           
POINTS                            74                         68                
HOME RECORD                       19-9-0                     16-8-3            
AWAY RECORD                       17-11-2                    16-12-1           
SHO RECORD                        8-2                        4-3               
LAST 10 GAMES                     7-2-1                      6-4-0             
LAST 5 GAMES                      4-0-1                      3-2-0             
OCTOBER                           5-0-0                      5-0-1             
NOVEMBER                          9-2-0                      7-6-0             
DECEMBER                          8-3-0                      5-4-1             
JANUARY                           5-7-0                      8-1-2             
FEBRUARY                          5-6-1                      5-7-0             
MARCH                             4-2-1                      2-2-0                          
SCORING FIRST                     23-5-1                     18-6-3            
LEADING AFTER 1ST                 17-1-0                     13-6-0            
LEADING AFTER 2ND                 21-0-0                     19-2-3            
TIED AFTER 1ST                    11-5-1                     10-4-3            
TIED AFTER 2ND                    11-4-1                     10-4-1            
TRAILING AFTER 1ST                8-14-1                     9-10-1            
TRAILING AFTER 2ND                4-16-1                     3-14-0            
WHEN OUTSHOOTING OPPONENT         25-16-2                    15-11-1           
1 - GOAL GAMES                    17-8-2                     13-3-4            
GOALS FOR PER GAME                3.34                       3.63              
GOALS AGAINST PER GAME            2.79                       3.29              
SHOTS FOR PER GAME                34.48                      33.04             
SHOTS AGAINST PER GAME            29.16                      32.46             
POWER PLAY RECORD                 34 - 266   12.8%           53 - 284   18.7%  
PENALTY KILLING RECORD            63 - 245   74.3%           52 - 298   82.6%  
SH GOALS FOR                      6                          9                 
SH GOALS AGAINST                  4                          8                 
PIM AVERAGE                       16.84                      23.14             

Rapid City            46   68   70   10  194    
Opponents             57   55   48   2   162    
Allen                 57   77   64   5   203    
Opponents             58   55   67   4   184    


- Looking forward to the playoffs the current roster has 22 players with only 20 spots available for the playoffs. Anyone the team brings in now will take a playoff spot. From everything talked about recently it seems the coaches are happy with the skill players on the roster but are still looking for a defense first defensemen, most likely a player returning from Europe. The next two weeks is the time current players need to step up and take the lead, finish their checks, make good decisions, and be hard to play against. At least three players on the current roster will not make the playoff roster so the next two weeks will be very important in determining who stays and who goes.

- The CHL announced the finalists for several year end awards yesterday including league MVP, Outstanding Goaltender, Outstanding Defenseman, and Rookie of the Year. Congratulations are in order for Tyler Ludwig who is a finalist for Outstanding Defenseman and Alex Lavoie who is a finalist for Rookie of the Year.

- You may wonder how the finalists are determined. After a nomination period by CHL teams, the league front office determined the five finalists for each award.  Balloting will take place among CHL Head Coaches, team Communications Departments and select media members in CHL markets to determine the winners. I am lucky enough to be one of the media members asked to vote to determine the winners. While I am not aware of the criteria the CHL office uses to determine the five finalists, for some reason Spencer Asuchak was left off the list. I say this because Spencer Asuchak clearly deserves to be a finalist for rookie of the year. With Alex Lavoie the odds on favorite to win the award with more points than any CHL rookie has scored since Allen joined the league in 2009, Asuchak was left off the list. Spencer is tied for third in rookie scoring and leads the entire CHL in shorthanded goals. To go along with his offensive skills he is a great two way player, finishes checks, never takes a shift off, kills penalties and often plays against the opposing teams top players. To top it off he has not missed a game all year. Certainly he is deserving!

- Here are the Award Finalists:
MVP Finalists
Garett Bembridge, Denver
Ben Gordon, Tulsa
Jesse Schultz, Rapid City
Troy Schwab, Denver
Sebastien Thinel, Missouri

Most Outstanding Goalie Finalists
Tim Boron, Rapid City
Andrew Engelage, Arizona
Shane Owen, Missouri
Kent Patterson, Denver
Ty Rimmer, Quad City
Most Outstanding Defenseman Finalists
Tyler Ludwig, Allen
Andrew Martens, Wichita
Nicholas Rioux, Quad City
Matt Stephenson, Missouri
Riley Weselowski, Rapid City

Rookie of the Year Finalists
Vincent Arseneau, Denver
Thomas Frazee, Quad City
Brett Kostolansky, Rapid City
Alex Lavoie, Allen
Adam Pleskach, Tulsa

- The Missouri Mavericks won in Brampton last night (3-2) for their six straight win. Missouri is slowing tightening their grip on the Governor's Cup and now have a six point lead over second place Rapid City & Denver with nine games to play.

- Chris Doyle who was a member of Allen's championship team last year signed a three game tryout contract yesterday with the Fayetteville FireAntz (SPHL) and played his first game last night as Fayetteville defeated Knoxville 4-2. Doyle's signing was overshadowed by another important signing in the SPHL yesterday as Canadian Women's Olympic gold medal winning goalie, Shannon Szabados signed with Columbus.

- One of the regular posters on, MavsFanJoe, was kind enough to share some attendance figures comparing last year to this year. Here is the average attendance for each team in the CHL for this year and the percent change form last year.
 ALN: 4,414 average; UP 1.5%
ARZ:  2,451 average; down 3.3%
BRM: 2,211 average; no data
DEN: 1,632 average; down 44.1%
MIZ:  5,476 average; down 0.8%
QDC: 3,729 average; UP 26.4%
RPD: 4,469 average; down 4.3%
STC:  2,386 average; no data
TUL:  4,838 average; UP 18.9%
WIC:  4,906 average; down 8.6%

- I am sure most of you have seen this by now but just in case you haven't:
Fans of a minor-league hockey team believed that the price of beer at the arena was a rip-off. But unlike other sporting enthusiasts who might feel the same way, they actually conducted an investigation and confirmed what they thought. Now, the president of the arena has issued an apology as other fans file a lawsuit.
Heath Forsey and Gwen Gibbs cheer on the Idaho Steelheads, the ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars. The Steelheads play at Centurylink Arena in Boise. Inside of the venue, small 16-ounce beers cost $4 and large 20-ounce brews cost $7.
But in a video posted by Forsey and Gibbs to YouTube on Sunday, the same amount of beer in a large cup fits in to a small one. The difference in the cups is in their shape, not size.
On Monday, the lead story in Boise made international headlines. Eric Trapp, President of the Steelheads and Centurylink Arena, took to Facebook to explain the situation and the venue’s remedy.
“It was recently brought to our attention that the amount of beer that fits in our large (20-oz) cups also fits in our regular (16-oz) cups,” Trapp said on The Steelheads’ official Facebook page. “The differentiation in the size of the two cups is too small. To correct that problem, we’re purchasing new cups for the large beers that will hold 24 ounces, instead of 20, for the remainder of this season to provide better value to our fans.”
It is a better value than the previous non-deal, but the numbers still do not work in favor of the larger cups. Large beers will now cost 29 cents per ounce, as opposed to a quarter in the smaller cylinders.
While Forsey and Gibbs are happy with the arena’s decision, others are not appeased. Brady Peck, Michele Bonds and William and Brittany Graham filed a lawsuit against Block 22 LLC two days after the video posted. Block 22 LLC operates Centurylink Arena along with the hockey team and The Grove Hotel in downtown Boise. The plaintiffs are seeking $10,000 in damages.

- The Denver long road trip has come to an end as they are now home. Here is the blog post as they were headed back to Denver. The way the team is playing and the superstitions that surround hockey teams this blog may have to continue as long as Denver keeps winning.

This morning was pretty uneventful, which is almost always good. The only highlight was having a chiropractor stop by. Most of us got some needed adjustments. Many of the players had Chipotle for lunch, while Rusty and I went with Quad City’s training staff to HuHot Mongolian Grill.
On our way back to the rink
The boys went through their normal pregame routines, and then it was game time. It was an exciting and intense game. I expect Friday and Saturday to be much of the same. After the game, it seemed like a race to see who could get packed quicker. We probably left 15-20 minutes before Quad, so both teams will be arriving about the same time tomorrow at the Coliseum. 
Our training room
We are on the bus again, finally on our way back to Denver. The team is in good spirits, as we’ve won our fourth road game in a row, and sixth overall. It was one of our best games of the year, a full sixty minutes and what Army would call a game of great “structure.”            
As I write, it is shortly after midnight and we should be passing through Des Moines in about an hour, so we have a good ways to go. Typically, when on the road, the home team provides the away team with a restaurant they can order from and have the food brought to the arena for after the game (we use Jake’s). Some are really good, like Quad City (TGI Friday’s), some are awful, like Missouri and St. Charles (Jimmy John’s), and some we don’t even order, like Allen (we all stop at In N Out across the street). So, after the game most of the guy’s got TGIs. 

Anyway, in case guys haven’t had enough, we stopped at the Love’s Travel stop to get some more munchies. We also took the opportunity to get some cheap movies. The staff got Runner Runner, which is playing now, and the Snake Pit has The Girl Next Door on.
Movie time in the snake pit
The plan is to stop for breakfast in the morning in eastern Colorado, then get back to the Coliseum. Once there, we’ll unpack everything from the road and get everything back together for the weekend.

DID YOU KNOW: From the time he was six, Wayne Gretzky played in many leagues above his age. He scored only one goal in his first year, when he was playing with ten-year-olds, but each season his skills increased dramatically and he soon set scoring records that seemed preposterous, notably a 378-goal season in his last year in pee wee.

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