Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Allen vs Ontario Game Preview, Stats, Remembering Reign's Blackwater & Register in Allen & More

It is game day for the Allen Americans as they play the Ontario Reign tonight and tomorrow night in sunny southern California. The games will be unique for many different reason and here a few of them.

- The only chance Allen has to play a team in the Pacific Division unless they meet in the semifinals of the Kelly Cup playoffs.

- Playing the team ranked #1 in the ECHL with an average attendance of 7467 which is larger than the capacity (6275) of the Allen Event Center (AEC). Ontario plays in the Citizens Business Bank Arena with a capacity of 9736.

- It will be nice weather in Allen with a high of 73 today and 63 tomorrow but nicer in Ontario. In Ontario it will be clear with a high of 82 today and 84 tomorrow.

- Game time in Allen will be 9:00 pm. (7:00 PM PST).

- The most exciting news in Ontario and reason for a press conference tomorrow before the game with Allen has nothing to do with the ECHL. It is to unveil the Ontario Reign's new logo and colors for the 2015-2016, when the team will play its inaugural season in the American Hockey League (AHL) as an affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings.

- The only time all regular season the team will fly on a road trip.


- Allen and Ontario are two of the best teams in the Western Conference with Allen leading the Central Division with 68 points and Ontario in second place in the Pacific Division with 61 points. Allen has won seven of the last ten games they have played while the Reign have won six of ten.

- There are two players on the Ontario roster that have played for Allen and they both have memorable stories in Allen:
Judd Blackwater - Judd played in Allen for the 2010-2011 season and was known as an elusive forward who could put the puck in the net. A teammate described him as a guy that could stick handle his way out of a telephone booth. Judd had 49 points (20 goals 29 assists) in just 49 games. Blackwater is best remembered for what some have described as one of the best KO fights ever in terms of dominance, entertainment, and originality. Judd was known as a guy that didn't fight often (he had only two fights that year) but handled himself well when he dropped the gloves. On a team that had Kip Brennan as the enforcer Judd Blackwater vs Jim Jorgensen is the fight everyone remembers. Whether you have never seen it or watched it 100 times you will enjoy the fight as well as the classic call by Tommy Daniels.

Matt Register - Matt was playing in a men's league (Sylvan Lake Admirals) back home in Alberta when he was signed to his first pro contract by the Allen Americans part way through the 2011-2012 season. Pretty sure it was coach/advisor Bill McDonald who was responsible for finding Matt. I will always remember Bill telling me Matt was a good sized kid (6'2" 205) who could move the puck and score (when he signed he had 24 points in 18 games in Sylvan Lake as a defenseman) but he was so "green" they didn't know what they had. Bill used to say, "Matt is still used to driving to the rink with all of his equipment on, that is how little experience he has." Now everyone knows what Allen had at the time. Matt has developed into an all-star defenseman for the Reign and was selected as the ECHL's "Defenseman of the Year" last season with 44 points (14 goals 30 assists) and was a +21. He has six games in the AHL this year with the Chicago Wolves where he had four assists in the six games.

Both Blackwater and Register are impact players for Ontario that would like nothing more than to do well against their old team. Best keep an eye on these guys.

- Here is a statistical comparison of Allen and Ontario:

Points: Allen (68) - Ontario (61)
Goals For: Allen (183) - Ontario (145)
Goals Allowed: Allen (113) - Ontario (119)
Goal Differential: Allen (+70) - Ontario (+26)
Team Plus/Minus: Allen (+233) - Ontario (+146)

Allen is ranked #1 in league standings. Ontario is ranked #7.
Allen is #1 in average goals scored per game (4.26). Ontario is #11 (3.09).
Allen is ranked #2 in average goals allowed (2.63). Ontario is #1 (2.53).

- When two good teams play each other special teams is usually a factor. Allen has a better overall power play and penalty kill than Ontario and when you look at home and road stats the Americans have an even bigger advantage.  At home Ontario is ranked #14 (18.8%) on the power play and #7 (87.5%) on the penalty kill. On the road Allen is #1 (23.5%) on the power play and #1 (91.8%) on the penalty kill.

- Keep an eye on who scores the first goal as it will be important for Allen to get off to a good start. Ontario is almost unbeatable if they score the first goal as they have record if 21-2-0-2 when scoring first.

- Both Allen and Ontario have been most productive in the second period. Here are goals scored by period:
Allen:    46 - 77 - 58
Ontario: 45 - 60 - 35
The only negative goal differential for either of these teams is Ontario in the third period as they have scored 35 goals but allowed 40 goals in the third.

- Goalie play may turn out to be the key difference in the game with Ontario having lost their top two goalies recently. Jussi Olkinuora who had played in 27 games (.916 save percentage) was reassigned to St. John's (AHL) the end of January and on Saturday Ontario lost all-star goalie Joe Cannata to injury and placed him on the 21 day IR.  Cannata has played in 19 games and has the ECHL's lowest GAA (2.13). Yesterday, Ontario picked up goalie Daniel Spence in a trade with Colorado. Spence is a 27 year old rookie who has played in just three ECHL games with a GAA of 2.94 and save percentage of .889. With Riley Gill in goal for Allen (the winningest goalie in the ECHL this year) it should be an advantage.

- Spencer Asuchak will be back in the line up for Allen but the Americans will be missing Rylan Schwartz who was recalled by Worcester and Jesse Messier who did not make the trip.

- With the late All-Star break and the bad travel the last week the Americans have not skated on six of the last ten days. They should be well rested! For Ontario on the other hand it will be their fourth game in five days.

DID YOU KNOW: The year after Colton Yellow Horn left the Allen Americans (2012-2013) he played for the Ontario Reign and was leading the ECHL in goals scored until he got called up to the Manchester Monarchs (AHL) for 28 games. Even though he only played in 48 games (out of 72) for Ontario that year he had 36 goals and finished second in the ECHL in goals scored, just two behind the league leader who had 38 goals in 69 games.

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