Saturday, February 14, 2015

Allen vs Wichita Game Preview & Overseas Signing Deadline Tomorrow

- It is game day in Allen as the Americans take on the Wichita Thunder tonight at the Allen Event Center. For Allen it is the start of three games in three days and four games in five days with three of the next four games against Wichita. The Thunder started a three games in three days last night as they beat Missouri at home by a score of 5-4 after taking a 4-0 lead in the first period. The Thunder boarded the bus immediately after the game and drove overnight (361 miles) to get to Allen. It is a trip both teams will take tonight as they play again tomorrow (Sunday) in Wichita in a game that starts at 5:05 pm.

- Allen had a spirited practice yesterday after the trip to Ontario where they came away with a split. The good news is all players were practicing including Patrik Valcak who is coming back from an injury. With 20 players on the roster (not including Brian McMillin who is on injured reserve) two players will have to sit out. Valcak will be one of the players. Coach Martinson had not decided who would be the other player sitting out when we talked after practice yesterday. It is a nice problem to have when you can have healthy scratches.

-  Tonight will be the ninth of seventeen games between Allen and Wichita this season. Allen has won five of the eight games they have played thus far including the last three in a row when they have defeated the Thunder by scores of 3-2, 8-2 and 6-4. When Wichita was successful against Allen earlier in the season they made the games defensive, low scoring affairs. Wichita has won three times and the scores were 3-1, 2-1 in overtime, and 3-2 in a shootout.

- Here is a statistical comparison of Allen and Wichita:

Points: Allen (70) - Wichita (50)
Goals For: Allen (189) - Wichita (131)
Goals Allowed: Allen (120) - Wichita (142)
Goal Differential: Allen (+69) - Wichita (-11)
Team Plus/Minus: Allen (+217) - Wichita (-34)

Allen is ranked #1 in league standings. Wichita is ranked #15.
Allen is #1 in average goals scored per game (4.26). Wichita is #20 (2.85).
Allen is ranked #5 in average goals allowed (2.67). Wichita is #16 (3.09).

- Special teams is almost always the key to victory and Allen has the edge in this department. If you look at the head to head matchups in the eight games played this season Allen has gone 10-48 (20.8%) on the power play and 3-37 (91.9%) on the penalty kill.  More broadly at home Allen is ranked #12  (19.4%) on the power play and #6 (87.7%) on the penalty kill. On the road Wichita is #25 (11.2%) on the power play and #16 (81.1%) on the penalty kill.

- While these are two of the most penalized teams in the league with Wichita ranked #1 in average penalty minutes per game (22.59) and Allen ranked #3 (22.18) the head to head games have typically resulted in low penalty minute games for both teams. The one exception was the last time they played (January 17) in Allen when they combined for 98 penalty minutes.

- Allen has the best home record in the ECHL with a record of 19-4. Wichita has struggled on the road with a record of 10-15.

- Riley Gill will start in goal for the tenth consecutive game for Allen. Josh Trimberger will be the back up goalie.

- The top two lines for the Americans (at least to start out) should be Costello-Schultz-Asuchak and Hanson-Steffes-Schaafsma.

- It is Pucks N Paws Night tonight and heard there were over 50 dogs signed up as of a couple of days ago. Should be quite the scene with the dogs. The Americans will be wearing specialty jerseys which will be auctioned off right after the game with a portion of the proceeds going to the SPCA.


- It was good to see Brian McMillin taking in practice yesterday. He is off the crutches, still wearing a brace but working hard on his own and with a physical therapist on his rehab. It will still be several weeks before he can put on his skates for a cruise around the rink.

- Tomorrow (February 15) is one of the critical dates for the ECHL as it is the last day to sign players from overseas. If there are any players in Europe that wish to come back to the ECHL it will have to be done by 3:00 pm EST tomorrow. I don't keep in contact with Jack Combs but tracking his statistics since he signed in Sweden with Bjorkloven makes you wonder if he has any regrets in leaving Allen. He has been a healthy scratch in several games and according to he has played in just three games since joining Bjorkloven a month ago and has only one point (a goal).

- In other action last night in the Central Division, Brampton beat Rapid City in Rapid City by a score of 5-0. Brampton was led by Chad Painchaud who became the fourth player in the league to have four goals in a game this season. Jack Combs had four goals for Allen back in December against Quad City.

- Wichita played at home last night and beat Missouri 5-4 after getting a 4-0 lead by the 15:53 mark of the first period. Wichita was led by recently acquired center Justin Bernhardt who had two goals and an assist and was named the games #1 star. Bernhardt started the season playing in Germany and signed with the Thunder a couple of weeks ago. Bernhardt wears #14 and would be a player to keep an eye on in the game tonight. Congrats to the Thunder for a great win at home and having one of the bigger crowds in the ECHL this season of 10,490.

- In the third Central Division game last night Tulsa visited Quad City and came away with a 2-1 victory. With the win and the Rapid City loss to Brampton the Oilers jumped over the Rush and are back in the fourth and final playoff spot by one point.

- The teams in 2nd thru 5th place in the Central Division keep beating each other so the standings remain very close. Only five points separates #2 Quad City (52 points) and #5 Rapid City (47 points). Allen currently has an 18 point lead (70 points).

- Reading lost to Wheeling last night in overtime to snap their 12 game winning streak which is the longest winning streak in the ECHL in over five years.

DID YOU KNOW:  The 2012-2013 Kelly Cup (ECHL) and Ray Miron Presidents' Cup (CHL) playoff MVP award winners are both from Minnesota and play for the Allen Americans. Riley Gill (ECHL) & Brian McMillin (CHL).

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