After a day off yesterday it is back to practice for the Allen Americans as they prepare to take on the Cincinnati Cyclones on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Before heading to Allen, the Cyclones play Fort Wayne at home tonight. That means Cincinnati will play four games in less than six days as the Monday game is a 1:05 pm start. Throw in a 923 mile bus trip (unless they fly) and Allen has the advantage being at home and resting all week. I plan on attending practice today to see what is happening on and off the ice. Will have a full report tomorrow.
- Yesterday I talked about the second half of the schedule for the Americans and how many games they had remaining with each team. Most of the difficult travel is done and the vast majority of the games are against division rivals. Today let's look at the current winning percentage of the teams Allen has to play in the second half. Here is the list from lowest to highest win percentage with the number of games to be played in parentheses.
.319 - Wichita (9 games remaining)
.414 - Alaska (4 games)
.424 - Evansville (3 games)
.486 - Colorado (1 game)
.530 - Cincinnati (3 games)
.547 - Rapid City (1 game)
.581 - Tulsa (8 games)
.586 - ALLEN
.588 - Utah (1 game)
.882 - Missouri (7 games)
- A couple of things stand out when you look at the information above. In order to maintain the fourth seed in the Western Conference and get home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, the Americans must do well against the teams that are below .500. They have 17 games remaining against these clubs. The other key is playing better against Missouri and Tulsa. In the first half, Allen was 3-4 against Tulsa, and 1-3 against Missouri. With 15 games remaining with these two division rivals the Americans will have to do better if they want to maintain the fourth seed in the West.
- If the Americans are to be successful in the second half of the season they will have to score more goals, as they are on pace to have the lowest number of goals scored in team history. Chad Costello and Gary Steffes carried the load last season and will be counted on to do the same the second half of this season. Aaron Gens led all ECHL defensemen in scoring last season. With Eric Roy out of the line up, Gens will need to be more of a scoring force. Here is a comparison between scoring last season and this season for these three veterans and team leaders.
Costello: Chad currently leads the ECHL in scoring by a wide margin with 49 points (14 goals 35 assists). However, last season at this point he had 57 points (18 goals 39 assists).
Steffes: Gary was the ECHL's leading goal scorer last year. He is second on the team in goals scored this year and has 19 points (10 goals 9 assists) in 32 games. After 32 games last season Gary had 32 points (21 goals 11 assists).
Gens: Aaron has 16 points (5 goals 11 assists) this season. At the same point last season he had 26 points (5 goals 21 assists).
To be successful in the second half, Allen will need more production from all three lines and the defense. Getting back King, Pierro-Zabotel and Arseneau from injury will help. Throw in a player or two from San Jose and a good second half from Costello, Steffes and Gens and the Americans will achieve the goal of being the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
- It was a light schedule around the ECHL last night with just four games played but a couple of the games are noteworthy. Orlando beat Kalamazoo 6-2 in Kalamazoo and the Rylan Schwartz show continued. He didn't score a goal for the first time in four games but had three assists. The last place Solar Bears have now won four in a row and in those four games Schwartz has eight points (3 goals 5 assists). The other noteworthy thing from the game was the attendance. Kalamazoo averages a league low 1914 per game but last night the official attendance was just 873. Hard to see how this team survives next year if they make it through this season.
- Kind of like a broken record but the Missouri Mavericks won again last night traveling to Wichita to beat the Thunder 4-1. The Mavericks are 29-3-1-1 and have still not lost a home game (13-0). They are on pace to obliterate the ECHL single season record book. I often hear from fans that Missouri is winning because they have so many AHL contracted guys, so they are much better than the other teams in the league. But you see in professional sports all the time that the team with the best players isn't always successful. Richard Matvichuk has this team playing great hockey. Yes, they have plenty of skill, but this team works hard at both ends of the rink. When you have the most goals scored in the league (119) and allowed the fewest goals scored (59) you can be assured Matvichuk has everyone bought into his style of hockey. I always remember Richard talking about how you can work hard and still have fun and you sense that is exactly where he has this Mavericks team. He deserves a lot of the credit for their success.
- After sitting out the last four games, Spencer Asuchak was back in the line up for the Chicago Wolves (AHL) last night as they lost to Rockford 5-2. It has to be difficult for Spencer to sit out so many games and then when you do play, not get a lot of playing time on the third or fourth line. It is probably wishful thinking, but it would sure be nice if Chicago would send Asuchak to Allen for a couple of weeks to get a lot playing time, get going with a bunch of points, gain some confidence and then bring him back to Chicago.
DID YOU KNOW: Saw this article from The Hockey News about a junior team in Russia who recently (January 8) scored what is believed to be the fastest goal ever in the history of hockey. It took just 3.05 seconds after the opening faceoff. The NHL record for fastest goal to start a game is five seconds. Here is the link to the story which includes video of the goal. http://bit.ly/1PVfz5t