Sunday, January 4, 2015

Allen vs Wichita Preview, Clarke Suspended Indefinitely, Cain Franson Breaks Jaw, All-Star Announcement

The game this afternoon (Sunday 4:05) between Allen and Wichita will be an important gauge for the Americans for several reasons. First and foremost is the fact that they have lost three straight games to the Thunder including their last two meetings at the Allen Event Center (AEC). Allen has a losing record against Wichita having won their first two meetings early in the season before losing the last three. The Thunder arrive in Allen as the hottest team in the ECHL. They have not lost in regulation in eight games. They are 7-1 in their last eight games with the only loss being in a shootout. One advantage in Allen's favor is the fact that they were idle yesterday sleeping in their own beds while Wichita played at home last night (defeated Quad City 3-2) and had to travel the 360 miles to Allen after the game through what might have been dicey weather in Kansas.

- Wichita's formula for success in their three consecutive wins against Allen has been finding a way to stymie the top line and turn the games into low scoring affairs. Allen scores over four goals a game on average but is averaging just over one goal per game the last three times they have played Wichita. Allen has been held to one goal only twice all year, both against Wichita. The top line (Combs, Costello, Schultz) has been held scoreless only twice all year, both against Wichita. Wichita is one of the lower scoring teams in the ECHL at 2.81 goals per game but that has been enough to defeat Allen. A key to the game will be getting production from the top line or having the other lines step up. It is going to take more than one or two goals to win the game.

- With Aaron Dell recovering from the flu look for Riley Gill to get the start in goal this afternoon.

- Garrett Clarke will not play this afternoon as he has been suspended indefinitely by the league. He has a hearing tomorrow (Monday) so there will be no decision on the length of his suspension until after the hearing.


Record: Allen (21-5-1-2) - Wichita (16-10-1-4)
Winning Percentage: Allen (.776) - Wichita (.597)
Average Goals Scored: Allen (4.34) - Wichita (2.81)
Average Goals Allowed: Allen (2.69) - Wichita (2.71)
Power Play Percentage: Allen (15.6% at home) - Wichita (13.1% on the road)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen (84.25% at home) - Wichita (82.3% on the road)
Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen (23.28) - Wichita (19.52)
Team Plus/Minus: Allen (+187) - Wichita (-13)
Goal Differential: (Allen (+48) - Wichita (+3)

- If the game comes down to a shootout you would think Allen would have the advantage with all of the high scoring skill players they have combined with the fact that Wichita is 1-4 in shootouts. However, Wichita's only shootout win was against Allen and the Americans are only 1-2 in shootout games.

- Special teams have not been a big factor in the last three games between these two teams as they both have only one power play goal (Allen 1-14 & Wichita 1-13). However, the Allen penalty kill has been struggling lately (75%) so it would be wise for the Americans to stay out of the penalty box.


- After games played last night Allen (45 points) has an eight point lead in the standings over Wichita and Quad City who are tied for second place (37 points). Allen has played 29 games, Wichita 31 games, and Quad City 33 games.

- With the ECHL All-Star game just over two weeks away (January 21st) you can expect to hear the announcement on coaches, players and reserves sometime this coming week as those selected will have to make plans to attend. The coaches for the game are based on winning percentage with the head coach being the coach with the best winning percentage in the league. That will be Florida Everblades coach Greg Poss with a .810 win percentage. The assistant coach is the coach from the other conference with the highest winning percentage. That will be Allen coach Steve Martinson as no team in the Western Conference can catch his .776 win percentage.

- The All-Star game pits a group of All-Stars (21 on the team) against the host team which is the Orlando Solar Bears. The starting line up is determined in voting by coaches, team captains, broadcasters, media relations directors and media members. Coaches also submit a separate line up (goalie, two defensemen, three forwards) who they feel are the top prospects at their respective positions and this voting by the coaches is used to determine the balance of the roster. The All-Star game is intended to showcase the younger prospects in the ECHL.  So other than the starting line up don't look for established stars on the team. At the last All-Star game (2013) only two of the leagues top ten scorers made the All-Star team. If you want more details go to the story posted on December 15 (you can find it in the archives on the right), "The ECHL All-Star Game - The Who, What, Why, Where and When."

- You could make an argument for a lot of the Allen players to make the All-Star game but with only six starting spots in a league of 28 teams it will be difficult for any one team to get more than one starter. You would think Jack Combs would be a lock so the real question is will Allen get a second starter on the team. When it comes to the reserves for the All-Star team rookie Justin Baker might have a shot at being selected. He is second in the ECHL in scoring by rookie defensemen with  20 points and is fourth among all ECHL rookies in plus/minus with +15.

- Traded messages with Cain Franson yesterday after seeing he had been hurt. Cain was a member of the championship team last year who came in as an amateur and played eight games in the playoffs. Rather than turn professional this year Cain opted to go to college and is attending the University of Calgary where he is a member of the hockey team. In practice on Wednesday (New Years Eve) Cain took a puck to the face during a power play drill and broke his jaw. He had surgery Friday and expects to be out six to eight weeks. The real irony is the teammate that shot the puck that hit Cain in the face, Spencer Edwards, was also an amateur for the Allen Americans. Spencer played two games for Allen at the end of the 2011-2012 season before getting hurt. Everyone in Allen wishes Cain better luck in 2015 and hopes for a speedy recovery.

-  It is good see Jarret Lukin is back in the line up for the Evansville IceMen after battling a couple of injuries during December. Jarret had two assists last night in a losing cause. Lukin is an alternate captain for Evansville who will have a new coach (Al Sims) take over this week. Hope for Jarret and the other former Americans on the team Evansville can get things turned around.

- If you look at attendance for the seven former CHL teams, the same teams that drew well in the CHL (Missouri, Tulsa & Wichita) are doing the same in the ECHL but if you look at percentage increase or decrease from last year to this year you get a different picture about what is happening with the seven former CHL teams. There is a web site that tracks this for all hockey leagues ( Here is percent increase or decrease in attendance for each of the seven former CHL teams. This data includes games completed through Friday (January 2).

+16.26% - Quad City
+4.32%   - Brampton
+0.75%   - Tulsa
-2.64%    - Wichita
-3.86%    - Missouri
-4.62%    - Allen
-14.39%   - Rapid City

DID YOU KNOW:  Allen has only one loss all season to a team other than Tulsa and Wichita and that was a loss in Rapid City on November 1st. Allen has lost to Tulsa four times and Wichita three times.

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