Seems like a long time since Allen had a game but starting this weekend there will be a familiar foe at the Allen Event Center (AEC) in the Tulsa Oilers. In the next month Allen will play fourteen games and and half of them will be against Tulsa. Between now and the 29th of December, Allen will play 23 games and 11 will be against Tulsa. The Americans should be inspired to do well on Saturday and Sunday against Tulsa, after all the Oilers currently lead the ECHL Central Division (tied with Rapid City) and the opening night 9-6 thumping Tulsa put on Allen should provide plenty of motivation.
- Allen and Tulsa are very similar teams when you look at statistics in that they have excellent offensive weapons both up front and on defense but they have struggled defensively thus far. They also are two of the most penalized teams in the league. Here are a few statistics to illustrate these points.
- They are both high scoring with Allen ranked #2 in the ECHL at 4.25 goals per game and Tulsa ranked #3 in the ECHL at 4.17 goals per game.
- When it comes to goals allowed they are both at the other end of the spectrum as Allen is ranked #26 with 4.25 goals allowed per game while Tulsa is ranked #25 with 4.00 goals allowed per game.
- Special team will play a very important role in the two games this weekend as both teams take a lot of penalties. Allen averages 23.00 penalty minutes per game which ranks them #3 in the ECHL and Tulsa averages 22.83 minutes per game ranking them #4 in the league.
- Both teams do well on the power play and struggle on the penalty kill. Allen has the #1 ranked power play in the ECHL at 30% while Tulsa is #10 at 21.7%. The penalty kill is just the opposite as Allen has the #23 ranked penalty kill at only 77.3% while Tulsa is ranked #25 at 73.3%.
- Bottom line is whatever team wins the special teams battle will most likely win the games. Should be lots of opportunity for both teams to excel. Look for Allen to have some new faces on special teams as well as some players getting more time. Players you might look for are Spencer Asuchak, Austin Smith, and Justin Baker on the power play and Asuchak and Ian Schultz on the penalty kill. The penalty kill is where you should see improvement as Allen has never had a penalty kill percentage below 82% in the history of the team. In 2012-2013 the Americans had the best penalty kill percentage in the CHL at 85.67%.
- Another key for Allen is to get off to a fast start. They have scored 17 goals in four games but only three in the first period. Allen has scored nine of their seventeen goals in the second period which has been the weakest period for Tulsa as they give up over half of their goals (12 of 23 for the season) in the the second period.
- Tulsa's offensive firepower is evident by having three players who lead the league in offensive categories even though they have only played six games thus far. Scott Macaulay leads all ECHL defensemen in scoring with nine points (2 goals, 7 assists), Adam Pleskach leads the ECHL in goals with eight, and Jon Booras leads the ECHL in assists with nine.
- The addition of Spencer Asuchak and Austin Smith to the Allen lineup will add to what was already a potent offensive team. It is almost certain lines will be mixed during the game but how is this for the possibility of three great scoring lines that can also defend.
- Spencer Asuchak will be wearing his familiar #26 jersey and Austin Smith will be wearing #16.
- With the eyes of the top players in Europe looking at the ECHL standings and thinking about where they might play when they return from Europe it is important for teams to get off to a good start. After all, the players in Europe want to come back to winning teams that have a chance to go deep in the playoffs. It is still early in the season but winning these two home games against Tulsa would vault Allen toward the top of the Central Division standings. Win twice and Allen will leapfrog Tulsa in the standings (Allen 8 points, Tulsa 7 points). Lose twice and all of a sudden there is a big gap in points (Tulsa 11 points, Allen 4 points). A split will leave Tulsa with nine points and Allen with six.
- Allen will be without Garrett Clarke who is serving a four game suspension and Jesse Messier who is on 21 day IR. Trevor Ludwig is eligible to come off 21 day IR and assume he will be back in the line up as the sixth defenseman. With five veterans on the team and Trevor being one of them, as he goes back in the line up one of the other veterans will have to come out of the lineup. I assume that will be Devin Di Diomete who was placed on reserve November 3rd.
- Aaron Dell is expected to start in goal for the game on Saturday after Riley Gill got the two starts in Rapid City last weekend. It should be a totally different game from the home opener against Tulsa when Dell got little defensive support in front of him.
- Finally a reminder of what has been mentioned many times before on this blog and that is that the roster as it exists today will change as Steve Martinson makes decisions on what he needs to do to get the team to the next level. With so many higher cost players on the team it is important that they carry the load for the team. The one thing that is certain is there will be change. It may be today, tomorrow, next week or next month but it is a guarantee Martinson will not stand pat unless or until he is on the top of the standings and even then he would try and improve his team. Stay loose and stay tuned!
DID YOU KNOW: Last year Allen played Tulsa eleven times and won seven of the games.