There was plenty of hockey talk while spending time in the Amazon rain forest as I met Jim Nelson, a fellow Minnesotan who now lives in Florida. Jim played high school hockey in the northern Minnesota town of Thief River Falls. The Thief River Falls Prowlers were a hockey powerhouse in 1950's making it to the state tournament five times in the decade and winning the state championship in 1954 and 1956. Jim was a defenseman for the Prowlers in the late 50's. Jim learned way more than he wanted to about the Allen Americans but we had some great conversations about hockey while cruising the Amazon.
Enough about vacation, let's talk hockey. Allen had their three game winning streak snapped by Idaho last night as the Americans lost to Idaho 3-2 before a disappointed crowd of 4185 at the Allen Event Center (AEC). It was another "specialty jersey" loss as the team was wearing holiday sweaters for Ugly Sweater Day. Not sure of the American's all time record when wearing specialty jerseys but it is abysmal for sure.
|Dyson Stevenson got the party started at the opening puck drop - photo by scenebykimberly.com|
The best way to describe the game was a crappy beginning and a crappy ending with some okay hockey in between. Allen was out shot 14-1 in the first period. It was the fewest shots in a period all season for the Americans and is the fewest shots in a period in the entire ECHL this season. Luckily Allen was only trailing 1-0 at the break. Chad Costello got his tenth goal of the season to tie the score 1-1 early in the second period which was much more evenly matched. However, Idaho took the lead late in the period (18:03) on a play where the Steelheads kept possession of the puck behind the Allen net even as they were changing lines. Idaho took a 2-1 lead to the locker room after the second period.
|Gary Steffes with a rebound goal as Schultz screens the goalie - photo by Dianne Webster|
The Americans were able to tie the score 2-2 midway through the third period as Gary Steffes put home a rebound for his seventh goal of the season. The tally completed the Gordie Howe hat trick for Steffes who assisted on the Costello goal and fought Idaho's Andrew Panzarella after he delivered what looked like a shot to the head on Vincent Arseneau, however, no penalty was called. Steffes is scorer, not a fighter, but is always willing to stand up for a teammate.
Both teams had quality chances in the last ten minutes of the game but neither could get the game winner in regulation so Allen fans had the opportunity to see three on three overtime for the first time this season at the AEC.
Cole Ully, who was drafted by the Dallas Stars in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL draft got the game winner at 3:24 of overtime when he intercepted a pass on the forecheck, skated to an open spot and fired the puck past a screened Riley Gill. The game winner was the first goal for Ully since being sent down by the Texas Stars (AHL) six games ago.
Had a chance to sit down with coach Martinson for a few minutes after the game and review some of the breakdowns that resulted in the Idaho goals. Two things stood out as he walked me through the plays. The first is almost every time a goal is scored it isn't just one player or one mistake that results in the goal. Fans (like me) typically see one mistake but when the play is analyzed in slow motion several mistakes are usually made. The second issue raised by coach Martinson has been a recurring theme when the team plays poorly. All too often this season the forwards have been getting outworked and losing battles for the puck.
The team will practice today before leaving tonight on a three game road trip when they will play Colorado on Wednesday and Idaho on Friday and Saturday. The three game swing to the Mountain Time Zone will add another 4000 miles of bus time.
- Despite losing in OT last night the Americans gained one point on league leading Missouri who lost to Tulsa 4-3. The loss snapped Missouri's 14 game win streak. The Mavericks still have a commanding eight point lead over Allen in the Central Division standings (39-31).
- The Dallas Stars management team was well represented at both games with Idaho this week. I counted six at the game last night. They were at the AEC to watch all of their AHL/NHL contracted players who are playing for their ECHL affiliate (Idaho) but it was nice to have them in Allen. To have the likes of coaches Lindy Ruff and Curt Fraser as well as GM Jim Nil and Director of Hockey Operation Scott White attend Allen games had many fans talking about how great it would be if Stars owner Tom Gaglardi would buy the Allen Americans. Don't hold your breath but always nice to dream.
- The Americans are 24 games into the season and are down to just three players that have played in all 24 games. The Ironmen are Chad Costello, Justin Courtnall, and Aaron Gens.
|Pierro-Zabotel's jersey was the top seller at the post game live auction - photo by Lauren Lyssy|
- If you call a specialty jersey "Ugly Sweater Night" probably shouldn't expect too much at the live auction. Lowest prices in memory for the specialty jersey auction last night. Here is what the jerseys went for:
$600 - Pierro-Zabotel
$550 - Schultz
$550 - Arseneau
$500 - Courtnall
$500 - Rumpel
$500 - King
$450 - Costello
$450 - Steffes
$450 - Stevenson
$400 - Makowski
$400 - Gill
$400 - Pinkston
$350 - Parker
$350 - Nikkel
$350 - LaFontaine
$350 - Gens
$300 - Roy
$300 - Poe
$250 - Hanson
$250 - Bowker
$200 - Doremus
$200 - Federico
DID YOU KNOW: Allen has had an up and down season thus far but still ranks as the fifth best team in the ECHL if you look an winning percentage. Here are the top five:
.848 - Missouri
.800 - Adirondak
.667 - Florida
.652 - Utah
.646 - Allen