Friday, April 3, 2015

Allen vs Brampton Game Preview, Abeltshauser Honored, Steffes Strives for 50, Playoff Race

It is game day in Allen as the Allen Americans take on the Brampton Beast in a match up between the best and the worst teams in the Central Division. By almost any measure the Americans should win this game handily. After all, Brampton is in last place by a wide margin and can't escape the cellar even if they win all of their remaining games. That may have been what Quad City, who is battling for a playoff spot, thought on Wednesday when Brampton visited Quad City and came away with a 6-5 victory. Or maybe that is what Allen was thinking the last time Brampton visited the Allen Event Center when the Beast won 6-5 in overtime. The point being is tonight's game is important for Allen if they are to get first place in the Western Conference while Brampton will be playing for pride and playing loose.

The game tonight will pit the the team ranked #3 in the ECHL standings (Allen has 98 points) against the team that is #25 in the ECHL standings (Brampton has 47 points).  It will be the seventh and final meeting between these two teams this year. Allen won the first five games by scores of 9-2, 4-1, 6-0 (in Allen) and 5-2, 5-1 in Brampton before the Beast came away with a 6-5 OT win the last time they played which was February 28 in Allen.

- A statistical comparison of Allen and Brampton shows a huge advantage for Allen. Here are a few examples:

Points: Allen (98) - Brampton (47)
Winning Percentage: Allen (.721) - Brampton (.356)
Goals For: Allen (271) - Brampton (174)
Goals Allowed: Allen (197) - Brampton (272)
Goal Differential: Allen (+74) - Brampton (-98)
Team Plus/Minus: Allen (+252) - Brampton (-453)
Allen is #1 in average goals scored per game (3.99). Brampton is #25 (2.64).
Allen is ranked #10 in average goals allowed (2.90). Brampton is #27 (4.12).

- Special teams will most likely be a key to the game especially with Allen leading the league in average penalty minutes per game (22.69). Allen has a better overall power play (#3 in the ECHL) and penalty kill (#3 in the ECHL) than Brampton who is ranked #20 on the power play and #26 on the penalty kill. However, if you look at home and road stats the Americans advantage is not as great. At home Allen is ranked #9 (19.3%) on the power play and #6 (86.1%) on the penalty kill. On the road Brampton is #20 (15.2%) on the power play and #17 (80.3%) on the penalty kill. Advantage Allen.

- As is often said, on paper it looks like Allen should win this game rather easily but the game isn't played on paper. Coach Martinson met with the players yesterday to once again go over video of the defensive breakdowns that have been causing so many odd man rushes recently. Defense is more about hard work and "want" than it is about skill. To win tonight the Americans need to get back to the basics of being aggressive without cheating, finish checks, avoid odd man rushes, get the puck in deep, avoid blue line turnovers, be more concerned about winning the game than scoring points and stay out of the penalty box. Easier said than done.

- The on ice officials scheduled for the game are referee Micheal McCreary (#7) and linesmen Brian Bull & Alex Black.


- Congrats to Konrad Abeltshauser who was announced yesterday as the Community Service award winner for the Worcester Sharks. He was also selected for this award last year as a rookie. It is obvious Konrad goes above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to community service. Here is the press release Worcester issued about his selection:

Konrad Abeltshauser named Worcester Sharks 2014-15 IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year
Sharks defenseman has been nominated for the second straight season
Worcester, MA – The Worcester Sharks (@WorcesterSharks), proud American Hockey League affiliate of the San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) announced today that second year defenseman Konrad Abeltshauser has been named the team’s winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award for his outstanding contributions to the Worcester community during the 2014-15 season. The 22-year-old native of Bad Tolz, Germany has taken the initiative to go above and beyond in regards to community outreach and has once again established himself as a leader in the Worcester community.  Continuing his efforts from last season when he established “Konrad’s Korner”, this season Konrad purchased tickets for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central MA/MetroWest and personally met with the recipients after each Sunday home game. Abeltshauser helped organize this year’s 7th Annual “Give Moore for the Holidays” Toy Drive by rallying all of his teammates to participate. The team purchased $3000 worth of toys for the Rainbow Child Development Center and invited the recipients and their families to receive the gifts following the Sharks’ December 14 game. Earlier this season, Konrad was chosen to assist with “Project Playhouse”, a build for Habitat for Humanity. This program was created in order to help combat veterans who suffer from PTSD by constructing themed playhouses for their children. Directly after practice, Konrad gathered some teammates to aid in the construction process. Konrad helped paint, build the foundation, mount the roof and install solar panels of each house. Also the Worcester Sharks Man of the Year nominee during the 2013-14 season, he appeared in over 20 community events throughout central Massachusetts and leads by example when it comes to the Sharks’ community efforts. Abeltshauser was named the QMJHL's Humanitarian of the Year in 2013 for his community work with the Halifax Mooseheads. In recognition of his efforts, Konrad will be presented with an etched crystal trophy during an on-ice presentation prior to an upcoming Sharks home game. Abeltshauser is now one of 30 finalists for the AHL’s 2014-15 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, honoring the overall IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year and is looking to be the first Sharks player to win the award since Nick Petrecki during the 2011-12 season. The league award is named after the former Hershey Bears forward and AHL All-Star who died in 1997 following a 16-month battle with leukemia. The winner of the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award will be announced by the American Hockey League later this month.

- Had a question about Gary Steffes returning to Allen for the playoffs. The way Gary is playing in Milwaukee with three goals in five games (plus a disallowed goal) Coach Martinson is not planning on Gary coming back to Allen until Milwaukee has been eliminated from the playoffs. There are a lot a variables that come into play so you can never predict when Gary will return but the plan is he stays in Milwaukee until they are eliminated. Gary will be eligible to play for Allen no matter if he comes back before the playoffs or after they have already started. Steffes still has a good chance to reach 50 goals for the season which would be an amazing milestone for him. He is at 47 goals now with six games remaining for Milwaukee.
Gary Steffes wearing #15 celebrates his first goal for Milwaukee

- The Allen roster will continue to change over the next week as coach Martinson prepares for the playoffs. Yesterday defenseman Steven Tarasuk was waived. This next week should see several more players being added to the roster.

- South Carolina continues their outstanding play as they won again last night 2-1 in a fifteen round shootout. South Carolina is an amazing 25-1 since February 7th but is still in a battle with Reading for home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs in the East Division. South Carolina has a one point lead for second place but Reading has two games in hand.

-  In the Central Division playoff race three teams are in action tonight. Missouri is at Tulsa and Quad City at Rapid City. Wichita is idle. Here are the standings with games remaining:
79 points: Rapid City - Quad City (H), Quad City (H), Allen (A), Allen (A)
75 points: Quad City -  Rapid City (A), Rapid City (A), Tulsa (H)
73 points: Tulsa - Missouri (H), Missouri (H), Wichita (A), Wichita (A), Quad City (A)
70 points: Wichita - Brampton (H), Tulsa (H), Tulsa (H), Allen (H)

- Here is an interview the Allen Americans posted of an interview Tommy Daniels conducted with recently assigned goalie Joel Rumpel:

DID YOU KNOW: The Brampton Beast have one of the worst records in the ECHL but they are the only team in the ECHL that is undefeated in shootouts this season.

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