Sunday, February 22, 2015

Allen vs Tulsa Game Preview & Gary Steffes Talks Faith, Family & Hockey

It is game day in Allen as the Americans take on the Tulsa Oilers at 4:05 CST in the 6th annual Faith & Family game at the Allen Event Center. The game will include a special pre and post game meet-n-greet with Gary Steffes who in addition to playing professional hockey is the National Director of Campus Ministries for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).  A 2012-13 nominee for the CHL’s Man of the Year Award,  Gary works specifically with FCA Hockey, a group that travels the world sharing the gospel through hockey camps and clinics. Gary has been involved with FCA Hockey since 2010, spending the off season working in the Minneapolis area and traveling to events all over the US and the world.  He has traveled to Erzurum, Turkey twice and Torre Pellice, Italy to do events.

Here is a video of a speech Gary gave as the keynote speaker at a prayer breakfast when he was playing for Bakersfield last year. With today being the annual Faith & Family game I thought it would be a good day to post this video that I first saw when Gary signed in Allen last summer. In it he talks about his faith, his ministry with FCA and how his faith and hockey fit together. I encourage you to listen to the entire 18 minutes as Gary among other things explains how it makes sense that he has this strong faith but may just get a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist & fight) this afternoon. 


- After a steady diet of games against Tulsa early in the season (12 of Allen's first 27 games) it has been almost two months since these two teams have played each other. Allen is fresh off a great come from behind overtime win in Missouri Friday night. Tulsa has won four straight road games including a 7-4 win in Wichita last night. The Oilers traveled through the night (361 miles) to arrive in Allen and will have a short turnaround with the early (4:05) puck drop this afternoon.

- Allen has won eight of the previous twelve games against Tulsa but if you remember the series did not start out well for the Americans. Tulsa beat Allen 9-6 in the home opener and won two of the first three games in Allen. Since that time Allen is 7-2 against the Oilers.

- There are a lot of stats you can look at to compare these teams from Allen being 8-4 against Tulsa this year, to their records over the last ten games (Allen 5-3-1-1, Tulsa 6-4-0-0)  to the overall records (Allen 35-9-3-3, Tulsa 25-23-1-3).

- Here is an overall statistical comparison of Allen and Tulsa:

Points: Allen (76) - Tulsa (54)
Goals For: Allen (209) - Tulsa (184)
Goals Allowed: Allen (141) - Tulsa (187)
Goal Differential: Allen (+68) - Tulsa (-3)
Team Plus/Minus: Allen (+223) - Tulsa (-61)

Allen is ranked #1 in league standings. Tulsa is ranked #17.
Allen is #1 in average goals scored per game (4.18). Tulsa is #6 (3.54).
Allen is ranked #7 in average goals allowed (2.82). Tulsa is #25 (3.60).

- Special teams is almost always the key to victory and Allen has a big edge if you look at overall stats. Tulsa actually has better penalty kill and power play percentages on the road than they do at home so the difference is not so great when you look at home vs road special team stats. On the road Tulsa is ranked #14 on the power play at 16.8%. Allen has the #13 ranked power play at home at  18.2%. If you look at the penalty kill Allen is #5 in the ECHL at home (86.8%)% and Tulsa is #12 on the road at 83.2%.

- JP Anderson is expected to be in goal for the Americans starting his second game for Allen. Riley Gill will be the back up. Greger Hanson has returned from Oklahoma City (AHL) and will be back in the line up. One player will have to sit out as a healthy scratch.

- Players that score a point a game in hockey are like .300 hitters is baseball and are a definition of excellence. There will be six of these players on the ice today, three from each team. For Allen  Costello, Steffes, & Hanson and for Tulsa Jon Booras, Drew Fisher & Adam Pleskach. Obviously these are the players to keep an eye on today.

- If you didn't like the way the game was called Friday night when Allen played Missouri you may not like the way the game will be called today as the same referee (Stephen Thompson #27) has been assigned.


-  Allen's Riley Gill and Tulsa's Kevin Carr are are both workhorses for their teams. It is possible neither will play today with Gill getting a breather after playing in 13 consecutive games and Carr having played last night and then having a short turnaround for the game this afternoon. Gill leads the ECHL in wins with 25 and Carr leads the ECHL in shootout wins (5). Gill is #1 in minutes played (2205) and Carr is #2 (2187). In saves Carr is #1 (1020) and Gill is #2 (1010). It would be nice to see them go head to head but unlikely to happen today.

- Spencer Asuchak and Ian Schultz both played last night. Asuchak (Providence) lost 2-0 with Spencer being credited with two shots on goal. Schultz (Iowa) won 4-2. Ian had four shots and five penalty minutes (a fight) in the game. Schultz fought Rich Clune who finished fifth in penalty minutes in the NHL in 2012-2013 when he played for the Nashville Predators.

- With the results last night in the Central Division (Rapid City 4-3 over Missouri & Tulsa 7-4 over Wichita) it is looking more and more like the only race left to decide is which of four teams doesn't make the playoffs. Mathematically anything is possible as teams still have between 19 and 23 games left to play but it is becoming more and more apparent that Allen will win the division (they have a 20 point lead) and Brampton and Missouri will not make the playoffs. That leaves Quad City, Wichita, Rapid City, and Tulsa battling for three playoff spots. They are only separated by two points in the standings. It should be quite the battle coming down the stretch and it may come down to the last game of the season. Here are the opponents for the last game of the season for the four teams.
Rapid City at Allen (April 10)
Wichita at home vs Allen (April 11)
Quad City at home vs Tulsa (April 11)
Tulsa at Quad City (April 11)

DID YOU KNOW: March is a critical month in hockey as all leagues have their trade deadlines in March & the ECHL Recall/Assignment deadline is in March:
March 2 - NHL Trade Deadline (3:00 PM EST)
March 9 - AHL Trade Deadline (3:00 PM EST)
March 11 - ECHL Recall/Assignment Deadline (11:59 PM Local Time)
March 12 - ECHL Trade Deadline (3:00 PM EST)

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