Monday, February 29, 2016

Allen Sweeps Wichita, Game Recap, Martinson's Comments, Playoff Brackets Explained

When the Wichita Thunder took a 1-0 lead against Allen early in the second period yesterday it set up the battle of the "streaks" for the Americans. Would the 10-0 winning streak against the Thunder end or would the streak of 14 straight games for Allen when the team that scored first won the game. It took goals by Greger Hanson and Tristan King in a shootout to settle the issue, as Allen beat Wichita 4-3 and improve their season long record against the Thunder to 11-0.

- Goal scorers for Allen were Justin Courtnall (7), Vincent Arseneau (8), and Greger Hanson (14). Courtnall's goal was key because it came shorthanded with Allen trailing 1-0. Arseneau's goal was key because it tied the score 2-2. It was the fourth straight game Arseneau scored a goal. Hanson's power play goal at 12:42 of the third period gave Allen the lead.

- Despite Wichita's poor record they are a team that works hard. They used that hard work to score a power play goal with just 103 seconds left in the game to tie the score 3-3. It was only the third power play goal the Thunder have scored against Allen in 44 opportunities this season.

- Gary Steffes took an ill-advised penalty as regulation time expired so Allen started the five minute overtime period shorthanded. Luckily, the Americans have the best penalty kill in the ECHL and were able to kill off the four on three penalty. Joel Rumpel was the best penalty killer stopping several excellent scoring chances by Wichita. The Thunder out shot Allen 7-1 in the overtime.

- The shootout was all Allen as Hanson went first and scored, Wichita sent out Andrew Huff who missed. In the second round Chad Costello missed and Wichita's Kale Kerbashian missed. Tristan King scored in the third round and that was the end of the game.

- Allen is now off until Saturday when they start the last long road trip of the season. The team will get on "Big Red" for the 842 mile drive to Colorado where they play on Saturday. They will get on the bus after the game on Saturday and drive 347 miles to Rapid City where they play Sunday afternoon. After the game on Sunday they drive the 1058 miles back to Allen. Whew!


STEVE MARTINSON'S POST GAME COMMENTS

- That is what I call an ugly win. We were 2-11 on the power play and it was frustrating to watch. When you have three games in three nights with travel and everyone is tired the skill level goes down a little bit. I think we saw some of that on the power play tonight.

- In the overtime, I played with two defensmen all the time because I felt we had an advantage if the game went to a shootout.

- It was a great weekend getting all six points. The guys lobbied for two days off so I told them I would be happy to not see them for a couple of days.

- I may change our approach to five on three power plays because it has not been working. We just went over it at practice on Thursday because I thought we might have the opportunity against Wichita. Last year we played Costello up high where he could pass to Tyler Ludwig for a one timer and I may go back to that.

- It is hard for me see how Lizon only got a two game suspension for targeting Courtnall's head. I tell my guys not to target heads with all we know about concussions. You get concussions from normal play but there is no place in hockey for targeting heads. I don't want my guys targeting heads and I don't have any sympathy for guys who get suspended for doing it.

- Our goal is to finish with the second most points in the Western Conference. We are certainly capable of doing that with the line up we currently have and playing 11 of our final 17 games at home.

- I believe Joel Rumpel is playing for the San Jose Barracuda on Tuesday. I have had discussions with San Jose and we will have options to add players for the playoffs. It could be guys currently on the Barracuda roster or guys San Jose has coming out of juniors and college.

- It is great for Aaron Dell to get called up to the NHL. That is the first player from my time in Allen that has made it to the NHL. It is quite an accomplishment.
 


OTHER COMMENTS

- Here are some photos from the game:
Asuchak & Miller go back to their junior days - photo by scenebykimberly.com

photo by Dianne Webster

photo by Dianne Webster



- Tulsa was idle yesterday and 0-2 on the weekend while Allen was going 3-0.  After Tulsa had reduced Allen's lead from 11 points to two points in the race for second place in the Central Division, the Americans have now extended the lead back to eight points.

- The San Jose Sharks play the Montreal Canadiens at home tonight after beating the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 yesterday in Vancouver. Is it possible Aaron Dell gets his first NHL start? Have seen both yes and no to that question on social media this morning but let's hope.



QUESTION OF THE DAY: Thanks to Paul who asked this question at the post game press conference last night. How does seeding work after the first round of the playoffs? Thanks to ECHL Director of Communication Joe Babik for providing the answer. There is no reseeding after the first round. Everything is a straight bracket. In both conferences the winner of the #1 vs #8 series will meet the winner of the #4 vs #5 series in the second round. The winner of the #2 vs #7 series will play the winner of the #2 vs #7 series in the second round. What that means for Allen is if they end up with the best record of all the non-division winners in the Western Conference (a spot they currently occupy) and get the #4 seed and home ice advantage in the first round they will play the #5 seed. If they win that series they will play the winner of the #1 vs #8 series in the second round. Most likely the Missouri Mavericks.



DID YOU KNOW: In the last seven years the ECHL team that won the regular season championship won the Kelly Cup just twice. Both times it was accomplished by the Alaska Aces (2011 & 2014).

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Allen Wins 7-4, Game Recap, Martinson Comments, Bowker Background, Amazing High School Goal

It was the same result but a different path as the Allen Americans defeated the Wichita Thunder last night before a big crowd of 5686 at the Allen Event Center. A day after these teams scored just one goal in a 1-0 Americans win, they combined for a total of 11 goals and an Allen 7-4 victory. The Americans improved their season record to 10-0 against Wichita.

- Allen scored first which should have been reassuring since the last 14 games the Americans have played, the team scoring first has won. However, this night would prove to be one of ebb and flow. After Allen took a 1-0 lead, Wichita scored three straight goals to lead 3-1. Allen then score two goals to tie the score before Allen's nemesis, Kale Kerbashian score his third goal of the game to give the Thunder a 4-3 lead after the second period. Allen owned the third period with four straight goals to make the final score 7-4.

- Goal scorers for Allen were Chris Crane (19 & 20), Greger Hanson (13), Eric Roy (11), Aaron Gens (8 & 9), and Vincent Arseneau (7). Check out all of the highlights at ECHL Rewind: http://www.echl.com/

- It was a big night for Aaron Gens who scored the game tying and game winning goals and was a +3 for the game. For his effort, he was selected the #1 star of the game. In the month of February, Aaron has played in 10 games and has nine points (4 goals 5 assists) and is +3.

-  Speaking of big games and big months, how about Chris Crane. Last night Chris had two goals and an assist and was named the #2 star of the game. So far in the month of February (10 games) Chris has 14 points (8 goals 6 assists) and is +8.

- Chad Costello had three assists to extend his lead in the ECHL scoring race to 15 points.

- Thought it was interesting on the same day a former Allen Americans goalie (Aaron Dell) was called up the the NHL, the Americans equipment manager, Nolan Bowker, played in his first professional game. Nolan played the last 2:01 of the game and made two saves. Check out the "Question of the Day" below for more details.


STEVE MARTINSON'S POST GAME COMMENTS

- It took a while but we got the result we wanted. It was certainly a shaky start giving up three quick goals after taking a 1-0 lead. On their first goal our forward was weak and let them get around him and then Rumpel got lost on the wrap around. We didn't get sticks in the right places. They had two deflection goals and I think the third one went of Kerbashian's skate. Wichita was able to get pucks to the net with traffic in front.

- On the game winning goal we got the puck to the point, won the battle and guys won the fight to stay in front of the goalie. King did a really good job not letting them stop him. If that goal didn't hit King it must have went right underneath his arm.

- I really liked Arseneau's goal. We got the puck in deep, got it at the net and looked for the rebound going hard to the net. He was a physical force for us all night.

- I got a scare today as I was on the ice with my daughter's team and got a call from the Barracuda's coach telling me there was a trade going down and I was going to get a call for Joel Rumpel to go to San Jose. I told him if Rumpel gets recalled our equipment manager is going to have to play goalie.

- Riley Gill is progressing and should be available by next weekend.

- I think we are getting better and everyone is trying to be more accountable knowing the way we have been playing isn't going to win in the playoffs. We did a good job holding them to just 23 shots.

- I am trying to get three lines that can play together and score. That was a little better tonight.

- I like Reggie Traccitto a lot. He jumps up in the play, he is strong and he has a good shot.


GAME PREVIEW

- The Americans will try for their third win of the weekend against Wichita this afternoon (4:05 pm). It will be the third game in less than 48 hours so "will" and "want" will play as big a factor as skill in determining the victor.

- Allen continued their special team dominance over Wichita going 2-8 on the power last night while holding the Thunder scoreless in three power play opportunities. In their 10 head to head games with Wichita the Americans having a huge power play advantage. Allen is 11-42 (26.2%) and Wichita is 2-39 (5.1%).

- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Kenny Anderson (#16) and linesmen Alex Black (#63) and Brian Bull (#49). Anderson was the referee last night. With Allen and Wichita playing their third game in three days it will be important for Anderson to not let the game get out of hand. 


OTHER COMMENTS

- Tulsa lost to Fort Wayne last night and has now lost three straight. Allen has a six point lead over the Oilers for second place in the Central Division.

- Every year at this time I end up talking about the Minnesota High School Hockey tournament which consumes the state. Check out this video about the last team to qualify for the state tournament. There is an Allen connection to both of these teams. Phil Fox (2013-14) is from Stillwater and probably taught many of these players in hockey camps. Jim McKenzie (2011-13) attended Hill-Murray for part of his high school career. You have to see the 1-0 overtime spin-o-rama goal that sent Stillwater to the state tournament which takes place this week.




- Here are some shots of the game:
Photo by Dianne Webster


Nolan Bowker with the save! photo by Lauren Lyssy

Joel & Nolan - photo by Dianne Webster

Kale Kerbashian scores on a wrap around - photo by scenebykimberly.com

Photo by Dianne Webster

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Thanks to Chris for today's question. What is the back story on Nolan Bowker. Did he play high school hockey? Was he ever a goalie? Yes, Nolan was a goalie and played Junior B hockey for various teams back home in British Columbia and also in Alberta. He started as a 16 year old with the Princeton Posse, the next year played for the Port Moody Black Panthers, the next season for the Beaverlodge Blades and then finished his junior career with the Grande Prairie Kings. In his last year (2012-13), Nolan was the number one goalie for Grande Prairie as they won the regular season and playoff championship. The team's record was 32-3. Nolan played in 21 games with a GAA of 2.72 and save percentage of .907.

DID YOU KNOW: With Nolan Bowker playing last night, Allen has used four different goalies this season, (Gill, Rumpel, Di Savlo & Bowker). Last season Allen used six different goalies. Here they are with games played (regular season):
50 games - Riley Gill
12 games- Aaron Dell
10 games - J.P. Anderson
4 games - Joel Rumpel
3 games Raphael Girard
1 game - Josh Trimberger


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Rumpel Leads Allen to 1-0 Win, Martinson Comments, Game Preview, Martinson Describes NHL Goals

It certainly wasn't a surprise that Allen beat Wichita by one goal last night before a crowd of 5106 at Intrust Bank Arena to improve their record against the Thunder to 9-0. The surprise was the final score of 1-0 along with the shots on goal which favored Wichita 48-29. Five of the last seven times Allen has played Wichita the margin of victory has been one goal but the Americans have always scored four or five goals. Last night it took a heroic effort by goalie Joel Rumpel to secure the win. The 48 save shutout was a new record for the Americans.

- The lone goal of the game was scored by Vincent Arseneau (6) at the 5:40 mark of the second period. Assists went to David Makowski and Chad Costello. Makowski pinched in from the point and made a pass to Costello who found Arseneau in the slot. Arseneau took a shot, got his own rebound and put the puck in the net.

- Joel Rumpel was the obvious #1 star of the game but both goalies played great. Sean Bonar was making his first start for Wichita and stopped 28 of 29 shots. For his effort he was named the games #2 star.  Bonar, who started the season in the SPHL, has had brief stints with Brampton and Fort Wayne this season. Wichita had both of their goalies (David Shantz & Grant Rollheiser) injured last weekend so signed Bonar and Adrien Lemay to contracts this week. Lemay played 20 games for Allen back in the 2010-11 season before making the decision to go to college. He just completed his collegiate eligibility at his hometown University of Moncton.

- Both team headed for Allen immediately after the game and if all went well would have arrived around 4:30 am. Game two of the three game series is tonight with a scheduled 7:05 pm puck drop. The game will most likely be delayed as the annual Police vs Fire game takes place at 5:05 pm. Come early and take in the Police vs Fire game as one ticket gets you in for both games.


STEVE MARTINSON'S POST GAME COMMENTS

- Rumpel was the best player on the ice tonight. You don't see many 48 shot shutouts.

- Our forward lines are still not clicking the way they can but with that said they created a lot of quality scoring chances.

- I thought we did a better job of not trying to force plays that were not there. We are getting better but still need to make better decisions.

- Vincent Arseneau has his timing back after missing two months. He not only scored the only goal but was finishing checks all over the ice. He is a difficult player to play against when he plays like he did tonight.


ALLEN VS WICHITA GAME PREVIEW

- Special teams is an area where Allen is much better than Wichita. Allen has the best special teams in the league with a power play ranked #2 at 21.3% and penalty kill ranked #1 at 87.1%. Wichita's power play is ranked #28 at 8.8% and their penalty kill is ranked #10 at 84.9%.

- If you look at the special teams over the nine games Allen has played Wichita this season it is an interesting outcome. In their first five games Allen was 8-27 (29.6%) and Wichita was 0-17 on the power play. However, in the last four games Allen has just one power play goal while the Thunder have two. Look for Allen to break out on the power play tonight.

- Allen is 9-0 against Wichita but has only out shot the Thunder is three of the nine games. The Americans can't be out shot like they were last night and expect to win.

- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Kenny Anderson (#16) and linesmen Alex Black (#63) and Rick Rivera (#59)


OTHER COMMENTS

- Saw some messages on social media concerning Riley Gill and Dyson Stevenson and why they are not playing. Dyson did accompany the team to Wichita last night and was helping out behind the bench. Dyson has been playing with a nagging injury that would not heal. The decision was made to put him on reserve to give the injury some rest. Dyson will not play at all this weekend. Riley Gill was taken off injured reserve and Peter Di Salvo was traded because Riley was completely healed and ready to play. However, before Riley got in a game he suffered an unrelated injury (different part of his body) that has kept him out of the line up. He also will not play this weekend.

- Failed to mention yesterday that in addition to Spencer Asuchak sporting a new number last night (#62), Danny Federico has switched from #2 to #22. Danny wore #22 all four years in college at Quinnipiac University and was a co-captain of the team as a senior.

Danny Federico has switched to his Quinnipiac University #22

- If you have never watched the Police versus Fire Charity Hockey Game it is worth arriving early tonight (5:05 pm) to support this event. It is the seventh annual game and they have proven to be quite entertaining over the years. It has gone from humorous to a grudge match to some pretty good hockey since its inception.

- It is hard to believe the Americans are done playing in Wichita for the season. The final four games between these teams will be in Allen. Wichita will be a totally different team next season including having a new coach.

- With Allen's win last night and losses by division leaders Fort Wayne and Idaho, the Americans are tied for second in the Western Division in points. Missouri is far and away the leader with 90 points with Allen, Idaho and Fort Wayne all tied for second with 65 points.



QUESTION OF THE DAY: Thanks to Nancy for today's question, "We always hear about Steve Martinson's NHL fights but can he tell us about his two NHL goals?"




DID YOU KNOW: Allen has the best record in the ECHL when scoring the first goal of the game. The Americans get 88.9% of the available points when scoring first. In Allen's last 13 games the team that scored first won every game. Unfortunately, the Americans scored first in just six of the last 13 games.

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Fresh Start Begins Tonight, Allen vs Wichita Game Preview, Hospital Visit, Radio Show Returns


Tonight the Allen Americans start a critical three game series against the Wichita Thunder. The teams will play in Wichita tonight and then return to Allen for games on Saturday and Sunday. The Americans approach to the series could be described as a fresh start or reboot to the season. It is no secret that coach Martinson has not been happy with the defensive play of the team, especially from some of the forwards. After having one on one meetings with some of the players, Martinson plans on approaching the series and rest of the season in a different way. The beginning of the fresh start is to look at stats as if everyone is at all zeros. Nothing from the first 53 games matters, so if you are a big minus player you are back to zero. With the fresh start will go more accountability. If players aren't performing as expected the consequence won't just be a video session in the coaches office or extra work at practice. From pee wees to pros the best way to get accountability is through ice time and coach Martinson faults himself for letting bad habits linger without the reduction in ice time. So part of the fresh start will be rewarding those that play the right way at both ends of the ice. That means players/lines must be able to beat whoever they are matched up against in order to get more ice time. As you watch the games this weekend keep an eye on who is getting power play time. It may be different than in the past as the fresh start rewards those that are committed to winning rather than scoring.

- Riley Gill and Dyson Stevenson are not with the team as they are recovering from injuries. Martinson decided to take 11 forwards on the trip so all of the healthy forwards are in Wichita. One will have to sit out tonight but with a bit of a sick bug going around the team, having an extra forward is insurance in case someone comes up sick today. Two healthy defensemen (Nolan Descoteaux & Jacob Poe) stayed home. Equipment manager Nolan Bowker will be doing double duty as he will also be the back up goalie tonight.

- The Americans enter this weekend with a strong line up even with Gill and Stevenson not playing. Spencer Asuchak and Reggie Traccitto are back after getting sick in Alaska, Eric Roy has returned from Lake Erie after signing an AHL deal and Reid Halabi is healthy after recovering from a leg injury. Allen has a line up that can beat any team they play.

- Joel Rumpel will be in goal for Allen. Joel got all new equipment this week and was breaking it in at practice yesterday practice. No word on whether he will use it in the game tonight.

Breaking in new equipment - photo by Dianne Webster


- It is easy to focus on the fact that Allen is 8-0 against Wichita this season but the Thunder are not to be taken lightly despite their poor record. They have just 33 points which is eight fewer than any other team in the league and have only 11 wins in 53 games. However, they are a hard working group that plays teams close. Almost half of their games since December (13-29) have gone to overtime or a shootout including their last four games. It will take a team effort by Allen to come away with a victory tonight.


By almost any statistical comparison Allen should be the favorite to win the game tonight. In their eight head to head games the Americans have out scored Wichita 32-18 and dominated on special teams. Allen is 9-32 (28.1%) on the power play while Wichita is 2-29 (6.9%).


-  Here is a comparison between Allen and Wichita:

                                     ALLEN                               WICHITA

Team Record              29-19-3-2 (63 points)             11-31-6-5 (33 points)
Division Ranking         2nd - Central                         4th - Central
Conference Ranking   4th - Western                        14th - Western
League Ranking         9th                                        28th
Home Record             14-6-2-1                                7-13-3-4
Road Record             15-13-1-1                               4-18-3-1
Last Ten Games         4-4-1-1                                  1-6-2-1
Last Game                 3-2 L (Tulsa)                         5-4 L (Idaho)
Goals For                  160                                       105
Goals Against            153                                        185
Power Play                21.5% (42/195)                      9.0% (19/210)
Penalty Kill                 86.7% (27/203)                      84.8% (36/237)
Most PIM's                 Stevenson (87)                       Milan (95)
Leading Scorer          Costello (21-50-71)                 Kerbashian (9-20-29)



-  Here is how Allen and Wichita rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 4th (16.23) - Wichita 6th (15.62)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 12th (2.02) - Wichita 28th (1.98)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 16th (2.89) - Wichita 27th (3.49)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 26th (27.34) - Wichita 27th (26.91)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 14th (39.75) - Wichita 18th (31.02)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 1st (21.5%) - Wichita 28th (9.0%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 4th (86.1%) - Wichita 17th (83.6%)

- Even though Allen is 8-0 against Wichita this year and have outscored the Thunder 32-18, Wichita has out shot Allen 255-251. These are two of the worst teams in the ECHL in getting shots on goal but against each other they average about 32 shots per game.

- Allen has at least one power play goal in six of the eight games they have played against Wichita  while holding the Thunder scoreless on the power play in six of the eight games. If the Americans can continue that domination they should win tonight.


- If you are looking for who might be the hero tonight for Allen based on head to head scoring you have a lot of choices. Chad Costello leads in assists with 10 and Chris Crane leads in goals with six. There are six players averaging over a point a game against Wichita:
1.88 - Costello
1.80 - Hanson
1.50 - Crane
1.28 - Steffes
1.00 - Makowski
1.00 - Roy

- For Wichita watch out for Kale Kerbashian as he always plays well against Allen and has been hot lately. In the last two Thunder games Kale had a winning goal in overtime and a late third period goal to send a game to overtime.

 
- Officials scheduled for tonight's game are Tudor Floru (#18) and linesmen Chip Excell (#42) and Eric Contino (#92).


OTHER COMMENTS

- If you haven't noticed, going into games tonight Allen has the best power play (21.5%) in the ECHL to go along with the second best penalty kill (86.7%). The combined percentages of 108.2% is also the best in the league and is considered outstanding.

- Heard yesterday Tommy Daniels will be hosting a radio show next week. Location, players, and details will be announced later today by the team. From what I hear the show will have a Minnesota flavor.

- You may have seen some pictures from a players visit to Children's Medical Center of Plano as part of the program Jonathan Parker created when he was in Allen. It is called the 57 Club and is in honor of Jonathan's dad who passed away from cancer. The Americans have continued the the work Parker started before he was traded which brings families suffering from cancer and other medical issues to an Allen Americans game for a special night. The Americans work with Children's Medical Center of Dallas & Plano to identify families. Photographer Dianne Webster accompanied players Riley Gill, Dyson Stevenson, Mike Gunn and Reid Halabi and took these pictures. What a great way for the guys to spend an afternoon visiting children going through some tough times. I am sure they would all agree the children gave as much to them as they gave to the children. Great job guys and great photos Dianne.

L to R Riley Gill, Mike Gunn, a new friend, Reid Halabi & Dyson Stevenson


A great picture of Reid Halabi and friend

Dyson gives his new buddy some hockey tickets






QUESTION OF THE DAY: Thanks to Kevin for the question of the day which is, "Why can't Wichita get an NHL/AHL affiliation? For the answer to today's question I went to Matt Harding who is the Managing Editor of  the Team Sin Bin website (thesinbin.net) and has covered the Wichita franchise for many years. Here is what Matt had to say, "The answer is kind of convoluted, but follow me here. During the shuffling over last summer, Wichita was looking at pairing with St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Arizona. As you know, Arizona paired up with Rapid City, while Tampa Bay does not have an ECHL affiliate. St. Louis preferred to have an affiliate within driving distance of Chicago. The moves left Wichita without a dance partner at the end of the day. It is interesting to note there has not been an AHL player come down to Wichita this season. They sure could have helped."


DID YOU KNOW: Chad Costello currently leads the ECHL in scoring with 71 points and has a 13 point lead over second place. While Chad is not scoring at the same pace as last year he in on pace to have more points than any other player (other than himself) over the last six years. Here are the leading ECHL scorers by year.

2015-16: 71 points - Chad Costello (53 games)
2014-15: 125 points - Chad Costello
2013-14: 88 points - Brandon Marino
2012-13: 89 points - Roy Mathieu
2011-12: 85 points - Dustin Gazley
2010-11: 94 points - Justin Donati



Thursday, February 25, 2016

Americans Head To Wichita, Who Stays Home, Who's #62, Division Races, New Equipment & More

It's getaway day for the Allen Americans as they board "Big Red" this afternoon for the 360 mile trip to Wichita where they will play the Thunder tomorrow night. The Americans are locked in a tight race to be the best team in the Western Division outside the division winners and get the fourth seed in the playoffs. It is critical Allen starts off the weekend with a road win after losing seven of their last eight road games.

- I attended practice yesterday and confirmed with coach Martinson that Riley Gill and Dyson Stevenson will not make the trip to Wichita because of injuries. With the recent additions of Spencer Asuchak, Reggie Traccitto, and Eric Roy the roster is now full with 20 skaters (12 forwards & eight defensemen).  With six defensemen and 10 forwards making the trip that would mean in addition to Stevenson, two defensemen and one forward that are healthy will stay home. Everything will get sorted out after practice today.

Newly acquired defensemen #11 Reggie Traccitto - photo by Dianne Webster


- Spencer Asuchak, who wore #24 in the three games he played in Alaska, will be wearing #62 from now on. With Dyson Stevenson wearing Asuchak's favorite #26 he just went with the reverse. Reggie Traccitto is wearing #11.

#62 Spencer Asuchak - photo by Dianne Webster


- Skating coach Luke Chilcott continues to work with the Americans. It is always interesting to see which players stay after practice to get extra instruction from Luke. There is no question Luke is an expert skater as all you have to do is observe him to see why he was a world class figure skater. What makes Luke unique is how he translates skating techniques to what hockey players do.

- Long awaited new goalie equipment for Joel Rumpel arrived yesterday. Equipment manager Nolan Bowker brought out the new glove and blocker and gave it to Joel to try out just as practice was ending. Joel told me after practice it takes a few days to break in new equipment before using it in a game.


- Will have a complete game preview tomorrow but one thing to look for in the three game series this weekend with Wichita is offense. Allen has had plenty of success in scoring goals against the Thunder. In the last five games (all Allen victories) the Americans have scored 21 goals (5,5,3,4,4).

 


OTHER COMMENTS

-  Two ECHL divisions that are interesting to watch are the South and Midwest. The leaders have been struggling and the teams in second place have been surging. In the South Division second place South Carolina clobbered first place Florida 6-1 last night in Florida. In their last 10 games South Carolina is 8-1-1-0 while Florida is 4-5-0-1. What was once a comfortable lead for Florida is now down to two points.

- In the Midwest Division first place Fort Wayne lost to Missouri at home last night 4-3 while second place Cincinnati beat Atlanta at home 5-2. In their last 10 games Cincinnati is 8-2-0-0 while Fort Wayne is 4-3-2-1. What was once a comfortable lead for Fort Wayne is now down to just two points.

- Photographer Dianne Webster shared the following video and story about a photographer dropping their lens cover on the ice during play at an Ontario Reign game. Maybe this is why there are no photographer cutouts in the plexiglass at the AEC. http://petapixel.com/2015/12/22/hockey-photographers-lens-hood-falls-onto-the-ice-gets-confused-for-a-puck/



QUESTION OF THE DAY: Here is the first of what I hope will be many questions posed by you, the readers of the blog. Please help me out and keep them coming. Thanks to Harry for submitting this question and to Joel Rumpel for taking the time to answer the question. "What percentage of goalie stops are primarily due to positioning, stops made when you don't see the shot clearly?




DID YOU KNOW: Last season the Americans had six players average more than a point per game (minimum 20 games ) including Jack Combs (1.75), Chad Costello (1.74), Rylan Schwartz (1.18), Gary Steffes (1.16), Greger Hanson (1.11) and Spencer Asuchak (1.07). This season only Chad Costello (1.34) and Greger Hanson (1.15) are averaging a point a game.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Practice Update, Fourth Seed Battle Tightens, Free ECHL TV, Plus/Minus Comparison

Had a chance to stop by practice yesterday as the Allen Americans were back on the ice after having the day off on Monday. I have learned over the years that saying the team had a day off is really a misnomer as hockey players never really have the day off. A better description is there was no organized team practice with the coaches on the ice on Monday. Typically on a day off the team makes ice available for the players. Some players opt to skate and others, who have not been playing, might be told they have to skate. Players come to the rink or go to medical facilities to get treatment and many go to the gym/fitness center to workout.

- The good news from practice was the fact that Spencer Asuchak and Reggie Traccitto, who were not on the road trip to Missouri and Tulsa over the weekend, were back at practice and are on the mend. Reid Halabi, who has been out for over a month with a leg injury was also a full participant at practice.

- The bad news from practice was the absence of Riley Gill. It is unsure what Gill's status is for the weekend at this point. Dyson Stevenson was at practice but not a full participant. According to coach Martinson, Stevenson will be placed on reserve and not play this weekend to give an aggravating injury that Dyson has been playing with time to heal.

- The one on one meetings coach Martinson said he would have with each player this week were scheduled to begin yesterday afternoon. It's a chance for Martinson to hear from each player about how things are going for them, their aspirations and any other input they want to provide. These conversations are not about the team, but about the individual player.


OTHER COMMENTS

- There were just three games in the ECHL last night and all of them were of interest to Allen fans. Missouri beat Indy 5-3 on their march to the ECHL record book. The Mavericks now have a 24 point lead over the Americans and have 16 more points than any other team in the ECHL. Missouri has 87 points while second place Manchester has 71 points. 

- The battle to overtake Allen for the fourth seed in the Western Conference was in full swing last night. Idaho visited Tulsa and beat the Oilers 5-3 to overtake Utah for first place in the West Division. Cincinnati beat Evansville 5-2 to close the gap on the Americans. Here is how the teams stand for the fourth seed after the results last night:

63 points - Allen (19 games remaining)
62 points - Utah (19 games)
61 points - Tulsa (20 games)
59 points - Cincinnati (20 games)

- Allen and Tulsa have no hopes of winning their division so the fourth seed is the best case scenario for them. Utah is just two points behind Idaho so their focus is on winning the West Division. The same can be said for Cincinnati who trails first place Fort Wayne by four points in the Midwest Division.

- The ECHL announced yesterday that for the first time ever, ECHL TV will be free for all games on Sunday, March 6. Allen will be in Rapid City so everyone can take in the game for free. Fans simply need to sign up for ECHL TV and utilize the code ECHLFREE2016 and they will be allowed to see all ECHL games that day at no cost. Here are the complete details:  http://www.echl.com/echl-tv-announces-march-6-as-free-global-live-stream-day-p201444

- Thanks to those of you that have submitted questions for the new "Question of the Day" section of the blog. If you didn't see the blog yesterday, I am looking for everyone to send me questions to ask the players and coaches. Wild and wacky, serious and substantive or something you have thought about but never found an answer. I will get an answer and post it in the blog.


DID YOU KNOW:  Plus/minus is a statistic that has many flaws and has been called a "lazy stat" because it is so simplistic. Everyone on the ice gets a plus for a goal scored or a minus for a goal allowed whether or not they had anything to do with the play. Because power play goals and penalty kill goals are not included (other than shorthanded goals) a big part of the game is missed in the plus/minus stat. There is no accounting for whether a player is constantly playing against the opponents top line with prolific scorers or the third line that rarely scores. The plus/minus stat has more meaning when looked at over many games rather than a few. With all of the caveats it is still a measure coaches use to assess players performance. Coach Martinson called out (as a group) the veteran players from last season's championship team in a recent pregame interview and expressed concern about their defensive play. As a team, Allen is -46 right now after finishing +291 last season. The top scorers from last season that returned this year (Costello, Steffes, Hanson, Gens) are a combined -29 this season after being +135 last season.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Look at the Schedule, Roster Changes, Roy Signs SPC, Eight Playoff MVP's with Allen Ties, Help!

It seems like each week at this time of the season the importance of upcoming games is emphasized. That is certainly true for the three games against Wichita this weekend. There is no question the Allen Americans have struggled recently as they have seen their lead for the fourth seed in the Western Conference shrink from 11 points just a couple of weeks ago to two points today. While the focus has been on Tulsa catching Allen, the fact is there are now several teams in the hunt for the fourth seed. Here is a list of those closest to Allen for the fourth seed showing points and games remaining:

63 points - Allen (19 games remaining)
62 points - Idaho (18 games)
61 points - Tulsa (21 games)
57 points - Cincinnati (21 games)

- For those that think it is just a matter of time before the Americans are passed for the fourth seed, keep the following facts in mind. The schedule works to Allen's advantage with 13 of their remaining 19 games at home. Compare that to Tulsa who plays 15 of their 21 remaining games on the road. Both teams have a much better home record than road record.

- Allen has a realistic opportunity to get six points this weekend but it will not be easy. Even though the Americans have a perfect 8-0 record against Wichita this season, the games have been close including two being decided in overtime. In the last six games the margin of victory was one or two goals.

- Here is a breakdown of the 19 games remaining for Allen. This list includes the number of games left which each team (from most to least), the opponents winning percentage and Allen's season record against each team.
                                                                               Win %    Head to Head Record

Missouri:        6 games (4 home 2 away)               .833                  1-4
Wichita:          5 games (4 home 1 away)              .311                   8-0
Evansville:     3 games (3 home 0 away)               .450                  0-0
Tulsa:             2 games (1 home 1 away)              .598                  5-6-1-1
Colorado:       1 game (0 home 1 away)                .529                  3-3
Alaska:           1 game (1 home 0 away)                .433                  1-2
Rapid City:     1 game (0 away 1 home)                .452                  3-0

- The best news for Allen fans concerning this weekend is the possibility that there will be a full roster available to coach Martinson. I will attend practice today and get an update but it is possible you could see as many as six players in the line up at the Allen Event Center on Saturday and Sunday who did not play in the last home game on February 6. Vincent Arseneau, Spencer Asuchak, Riley Gill, Reid Halabi, Eric Roy and Reggie Traccitto.


OTHER COMMENTS

-  Eric Roy is back with Allen but before he arrived he signed a SPC (Standard Players Contract) with Lake Erie (AHL). When players like Eric, who are free agents, get loaned to an AHL team they sign a PTO (Professional Try-out Contract) which is good for 25 games. If the team offers a player an SPC they then control their AHL rights. The contract can be a one-way contract which means the player is paid the same whether they are in the AHL or ECHL or the contract can be a two-way contract which stipulates the players salary is dependent upon the league in which the player is assigned. Don't know this for fact but would assume Eric signed a two-way contract. What signing an SPC with Lake Erie means for Eric and Allen is quite significant. Lake Erie now makes the call if and when Eric goes back to Lake Erie. It is no longer the case that Allen is loaning Eric, it will now be Lake Erie recalling him. Allen still owns Roy's ECHL rights so if Lake Erie decides to assign Eric to the ECHL it must be to Allen unless coach Martinson agrees to a different assignment. Because Eric is now on an AHL contract, Allen is only responsible for $525 per week of his salary. Lake Erie pays the rest. It is a big step for Eric to get an AHL contract and it says Lake Erie sees a bright future for him.

- It is a big week for birthdays for Allen Americans past and present. Jonathan Lessard turned 25 yesterday. Aaron Gens is 29 tomorrow. Anthony Maiani is 27 tomorrow and Brian McMillin is 28 on Friday. Happy Birthday to all!

- The South Carolina Stingrays were a team that had a poor start last season but came on strong at the end to be a major factor in the playoffs. Just noticed South Carolina has the best record in the ECHL over their last ten games at 8-1-1-0. They are second in the South Division, four points behind Florida, but are coming on strong. Definitely a team to keep an eye on.

- I had a suggestion from a reader that it would be nice to have a section of the blog devoted to answering questions posed by those who follow the blog. I have given this some thought and will certainly give it a try. Will call this "QUESTION OF THE DAY" and it will added at the bottom of the blog just before the "DID YOU KNOW" section. In order to make this work I am asking for your help by asking the questions. You can send the questions through social media (either public or private messages), put them in the comments at the end of the blog, send me an email or text message or catch me at a game. The questions can range from what happens on the ice, to rules and policies, to personal information (within reason) about the team or individual players. I am going to try and use video as much as possible to record the answers so make the questions fun as well as serious. Not sure if I can make this a daily event but if there are enough questions I will do my best.


DID YOU KNOW: The playoff MVP's for Allen's three championships were Brain McMillin (2013), Jamie Schaafsma (2014) and Greger Hanson (2015). Did you know there are many other players with ties to Allen that won Playoff MVP awards. Here is a list.
2013 - Riley Gill was the ECHL playoff MVP as the Reading Royals won the Kelly Cup
2011 - Scott Howes was ECHL playoff MVP as the Alaska Aces won the Kelly Cup
2009 - Jason Deitsch was CHL playoff MVP as the Texas Brahmas won the Ray Miron Cup
2007 - Steve Silverthorn won the ECHL playoff MVP as the Idaho Steelheads won the Kelly Cup
2003 - Kevin Colley won the ECHL playoff MVP as the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies won the Kelly Cup



Monday, February 22, 2016

Allen Loses 3-2 in Eight Round Shootout, Martinson Comments, Full Moon Oddities & More

It was an all too familiar pattern last night when the Allen Americans lost to the Tulsa Oilers by a score of 3-2 before an announced crowd of 7171 at the BOK Center. The Americans got down 2-0, had a great third period comeback to tie the score 2-2 and then lost the game in a shootout. It took eight rounds of shootout before Tulsa scored the game winner as 6' 7" Axel Blomqvist beat Joel Rumpel on the blocker side.

- Goal scorers for Allen were Vincent Arseneau (5) and Gary Steffes (16).

- Prior to the game last night Allen had been in two shootouts and had scored on 30% (3-10) of their attempts. Last night they went 0-8. The Americans are now rated #24 in the ECHL with a shootout percentage of 16.7% (3-18).

- Even though Allen lost all three games this weekend they were able to garner two very important points with third period comebacks in both games against Tulsa.

- The Americans will have all week to prepare for three games against Wichita this weekend. They will play in Wichita on Friday and in Allen on Saturday and Sunday.



STEVE MARTINSON'S POST GAME COMMENTS

- Even though we lost tonight there are a lot of positives we can take from this game. The guys never gave up and the two goals in the third period earned us a point.

- It was nice to come from behind again. Last year we had four high scoring offensive defensemen which made coming from behind a lot easier. 

- We have a favorable schedule now with the majority of games at home so we need to buckle down.

- I am going to try and meet individually with all of the players this week. I want to hear what they have to say, get input from them and also clarify my expectations going forward.


OTHER COMMENTS

- With the overtime and shootout losses in Tulsa, the Americans come home with just a two point lead in the race for second place in the Central Division. Here are the current standings with games played in parentheses:

85 points - Missouri (51 games)
63 points - Allen (53 games)
61 points - Tulsa (51 games)
33 points - Wichita (53 games)


- Riley Gill did not get a start this weekend because he is not 100%.  Had a question as to why he was taken off injured reserve for the weekend if he was not 100%. He is completely recovered from the upper body injury that put him on IR so that is not the issue.

- Allen has now lost seven of their last eight road games. In their lone win (6-2 in Alaska) they scored the first goal. In the seven losses the Americans opponent scored first.

- If you didn't get a chance to see the feature on Fort Wayne broadcaster Bob Chase that was presented by Doc Emrick as part of Hockey Day in America yesterday you have to take a look. Very special: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6weSUEo_Jg

- Another part of the Hockey Day in America broadcast was displaying the leading scorer by league  as all are from the US. Included in that list was the ECHL's leading scorer, Chad Costello. Some great national publicity for Chad.



- Former Allen captain Jamie Schaafsma has a history of slow starts to the season but gets hot at the end. It has happened again in Fort Wayne. Jamie had just six goals in the first four months of the season (October-January). In February he has scored five goals in the last six games. Jamie also has one of the best plus/minus numbers on the team with a +13.

- Aaron Dell continues his excellent play for the San Jose Barracuda leading them to a 4-1 win over Stockton yesterday. Aaron had 39 saves which comes after a 50 save performance on February 10th and a 30 save shutout on February 13th. In his five starts in February, Aaron has a GAA of 1.41 and save percentage of .960.

It was a full moon last night and there were certainly some full moon oddities around the ECHL. Check these out:

- Allen had two goals in their loss to Tulsa and scored with exactly eight minutes left in the game and four minutes left in the game.

- Missouri scored the winning goal but lost the game 2-1 to Evansville. With the game tied 1-1 in the third period, Missouri pulled their goalie because of a delayed penalty against Evansville.  Missouri's Tyler Barnes was attempting to make a pass from the point but the pass bounced off an Evansville player and went all the way down the ice into the goal. The goal ended up being the game winner. You can check out this and all of the ECHL highlights in the "ECHL Rewind" at: http://www.echl.com/

- Wichita was forced to play their emergency back up goaltender aka bus driver, Kevin St. Pierre, last night when starting goalie, David Shantz, came out of the game at the 16:55 mark of the first period because of an injury. The Thunder were losing to Idaho 3-1 when St. Pierre entered the game. Kevin played great (stopped 11 of 13 shots) as Wichita scored three unanswered goals in the third period to send the game to overtime. Idaho won the game in overtime but it was a great night for St. Pierre and Thunder fans. Even though St. Pierre is the Wichita bus driver, is almost 41 years old and hasn't played full time professionally since 2009-10, he has a great resume with over 600 professional games including a few games in the AHL. Steve Martinson shared this with me about St. Pierre when he saw he played in Wichita last night, "He was the Fort Wayne goalie that beat us in a game seven years ago when I was coaching in Rockford. He was unbeatable." This is what St. Pierre had to say after the game, "I've been playing men's league, but this is the first time I have skated in almost three weeks because I've been driving the bus."

- Fort Wayne forward Garrett Muers scored two goals in four seconds last night in a 5-4 overtime loss to Colorado. It was the fastest back to back goals in the 64 years the Komets have played. Muers also now owns the ECHL record for the fastest two goals by the same player.


DID YOU KNOW:  The Allen Americans have a record of 14-10-1-1 against their fellow Central Division foes. However, if you eliminate Allen's 8-0 record against Wichita, the Americans are just 6-10-1-1 against Missouri and Tulsa.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Tulsa Beats Allen 5-4 in OT, Rematch Today, Game Recap, Martinson's Comments, Eric Roy Returns

The road struggles for the Allen Americans continued last night as they lost to Tulsa 5-4 in overtime before an announced crowd of 6211 at the BOK Center. For the Americans it was the sixth loss in their last seven road games. The game followed a familiar pattern with Allen allowing the first goal, then taking a lead and then unable to hold the lead. To the Americans credit, last night they came back to tie the score in the third period after falling behind 4-2. Overtime was not kind to Allen as they missed a couple of great scoring chances and then gave up the game winner with just six second remaining in the overtime.

- Goal scorers for Allen were Justin Courtnall (6) shorthanded, Chad Costello (20 & 21) and David Makowski (9). You can see all of the goals and highlights at ECHL Rewind at the following link: http://www.echl.com/

- Watching the game it seemed like there were big momentum shifts back and forth all night. Tulsa scored the first goal. Allen then seemed to take control of the game on the shorthanded goal by Courtnall and power play goal by Costello. Then in the last half of the second period the Oilers dominated play scoring three goals in less than five minutes to take a 4-2 lead into the second intermission. Allen outplayed Tulsa in the third to tie the score but could not get the go ahead goal.

- Both teams had excellent scoring chances in overtime and it looked like the game was headed to a shootout when Tulsa scored the game winner with six seconds remaining. 

- Allen and Tulsa will have a rematch this afternoon with a 4:05 pm CST puck drop. It will be the third game in 48 hours for both teams so there will definitely be some tired legs. Eric Roy, who just returned from a stint in the AHL with Lake Erie, will be in the line up for the Americans and will provide some fresh legs as well as some added offense. Not sure who will be in goal for Allen this afternoon. Coach Martinson had intended to play Riley Gill last night but Joel Rumpel got the start instead. Not sure why the change in plans but wouldn't be surprised to see Rumpel in goal again this afternoon. Just have to wait and see.
 

- Linesmen  this afternoon are the same as last night, Mitch Macpherson (#48) and Chip Excell (#42) but after refereeing the last two Allen games, Chris Pontes will turn the duties over to Korey Chipperfield (#5).


STEVE MARTINSON'S POST GAME COMMENTS

- If you look at the replays you can see our defense was soft in front of Rumpel on several of the Tulsa goals.

- Too often our forwards don't skate which results in odd man rushes.

- Our guys did a nice job in the third period coming back from a two goal deficit.

- It was tough to lose in overtime with a blue line face off in their end with 14 seconds left especially after having a couple of great chances to score earlier in OT.

- It is tough to expect to win when your skill players are a minus as a group. I need to find some line combinations that can out play the lines they are playing against.

- We need to find a first line combination that leads by example, does all of the little things right and plays plus hockey.

- If your power play guys can't outplay the other team's first line then you need depth so when you are at home you can play them against the other team's weaker lines. It is difficult to do that on the road when you don't have last change.


OTHER COMMENTS

- With the overtime win, the Oilers gained another point on Allen and now trail the Americans by just three points with two games in hand in the race for second place in the Central Division.

-  A big difference between this season and last season for Allen is the ability to come from behind. Allen was one of the best teams in the ECHL last season in coming from behind. This season the Americans are 3-10-2-0 when trailing after the first period and 2-15-2-0 when trailing after the second period.

- It is easy to get down on the team after going 5-4-1-0 in their last ten games and losing six of their last seven road games. However, Allen is still holding on to the fourth seed in the Western Conference and has a lot going for them the rest of the season. Adding Eric Roy, Spencer Asuchak and Reggie Traccitto to the line up will be a big help. Having two healthy goalies down the stretch will be a big benefit. The schedule is favorable with 13 of the final 19 games at home. This is a talented Allen Americans team that knows what it takes to win a championship. Look for them to play their best hockey the last six weeks of the season.

- It is hard to overstate the contributions Eric Roy makes to the Americans. Eric is tied for third leaguewide in goals by a defensemen (10) despite missing 18 games because of his loan to the AHL. Eric also leads all ECHL defensemen in shooting percentage (15.9%). He has been solid defensively with a +9 if you combine his ECHL & AHL games. Steve Martinson has said Roy has as much potential as any player he has had in Allen so he may not be with the Americans for long. While he is with Allen look for Eric to play a major role.

- In their last five head to head games Allen and Tulsa have averaged a combined 6.4 penalties and 13.9 penalty minutes per game. Very low for these two rivals. Will be interesting to see if that changes today.

- It was nice to see so many fans make the trip to Tulsa to support the team, led by the Allen Americans Fan Club. Let's hope they get rewarded with an Allen victory this afternoon.

- Finally, want to say thank you to all of the readers of the Allen Americans Blog as another milestone was hit last night. Page view number 600,000 happened in the middle of the night. It has been a labor of love for Barry the Blogger for the last three and a half years but I never imagined it could grow to what it is today. I just want to thank everyone for the support, interest, feedback, information and questions that make me strive to improve what I write each and every day.


DID YOU KNOW:  How important is scoring the first goal of the game? For a team as skilled as the Allen Americans they have struggled getting off to a good start this season. The Americans have scored the first goal in exactly half (26 of 52) of their games. Allen's record when scoring first is 22-2-1-1. When the opponent scores first the Americans record is 7-17-2-0. Would have to say scoring first is pretty important.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Allen Losses 4-2 to Mavs, Game Recap, Martinson's Comments, Allen vs Tulsa Game Preview

The Allen Americans lost last night to the Missouri Mavericks by a score of 4-2 before a crowd of 5689 at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. The good news is the Americans showed they can play with Missouri, the bad news is for the fourth straight time the Mavericks found a way to come out on top. Allen is now 1-4 against Missouri and play the Mavericks six times in the last month of the season.

- It was an auspicious beginning for Allen as Missouri's Jesse Root threw the puck toward the net from a sharp angle only to have it go off Mike Gunn's skate right through the five hole past goalie Joel Rumpel. Less than a minute into the game the Mavericks took a 1-0 lead.

- To their credit the Americans came right back just 29 seconds later when Tristan King put in a long rebound after Chris Crane banged a shot off the post. It was King's eighth goal of the season.

- The Americans took a 2-1 lead at the 6:18 mark of the second period on a power play goal by Aaron Gens (7) assisted by Hanson and Crane.

- The Gens goal would be the end of the scoring for Allen as Missouri scored three unanswered goals to win the game 4-2. The three goals were a power play goal, a poorly played shorthanded goal and an empty net goal.

- Allen out shot Missouri 30-25 and outplayed the Mavericks through much of the game. Three of the four Mavs goals including the game winning shorthanded goal were unique to say the least. But moral victories are always reserved for losing teams and Missouri got the two points and extended their lead over Allen to an insurmountable 22 points. Good teams find ways to win and that is what Missouri did last night.

- Each team had a power play goal with Allen going 1-7 and Missouri 1-5. The big special teams difference was the game winning shorthanded goal by the Mavericks. 

- Allen and Missouri have now played five times this season with the Mavericks winning four times. The Americans have been outscored 16-7 in the five games and have never scored more than two goals in a game. For Allen to be successful in the six games they have remaining against Missouri they will have to score more than two goals per game.



STEVE MARTINSON'S POST GAME COMMENTS

- It was a disappointing outcome tonight. We played much better defensively giving up only one odd man rush.

- The first goal was a lucky goal going off our defenseman's skate through the five hole.

- It looked to me like goalie interference on the Mavericks second goal.

- Their third goal (shorthanded) was painful to watch. It is the type of mistake you can't make against a team as good as Missouri.



ALLEN VS  TULSA GAME PREVIEW

- While Allen was losing to Missouri,  the Tulsa Oilers were at home beating Evansville 5-2 to close within four points in the battle for second place in the Central Division. After last night Allen has 61 points and Tulsa has 57 points plus two games in hand.

- The results last night set up a battle for second place when Allen and Tulsa play back to back games tonight (Saturday) and Sunday afternoon. If the Oilers win both games in regulation to tie Allen, they will have erased an 11 point Americans lead in less than two weeks.

- Riley Gill will get the start in goal for Allen tonight. It will be Gill's first start since January 17th when is was injured. 

- Allen had to travel from Missouri to Tulsa after the game (265 miles) so they didn't get into their hotel rooms until around 3:00 am. This weekend is one of those gut check weekends for the Americans with three road games in 48 hours with travel. Tulsa is also playing three in three but all games are at home.

- The game tonight against Tulsa will be the 12th of 15 games these teams will play this season. The Americans record against the Oilers in the previous 11 games is 5-6. In addition to the typical comparison between the teams, thought it would be interesting to look at averages based on the 11 head to head match ups. Here are the results:
                            
                                    ALLEN          TULSA                  
Goals:                            2.36             2.82
Shots:                            24.45            27.45
Power Play %               12.8%           12.2%
Penalties:                       5.45              5.27
Penalty Minutes:            13.81           13.73



- Here is the regular comparison between Allen and Tulsa:

                                     ALLEN                                TULSA

Team Record              29-19-2-1(61 points)             26-18-3-2 (57 points)
Division Ranking         2nd - Central                         3rd - Central
Conference Ranking   4th - Western                        6th - Western
League Ranking         9th                                        12th
Last 10 Games           5-5-0-0                                  6-3-1-0
Last Game                  4-2 L (Missouri)                    5-2 W (Evansville)
Goals For                   154                                       132
Goals Against             145                                       121
Power Play                 21.6% (41/190)                     13.6% (23/169)
Penalty Kill                 86.5% (27/200)                      84.8% (29/191)
Leading Scorer          Costello  (19-50-69)               DeSalvo (13-30-43)
Most PIM's                 Stevenson - 87                      Clark - 121


-  Here is how Allen and Tulsa rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 3rd (16.71) - Tulsa 7th (15.67)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 9th (3.02) - Tulsa 22nd (2.69)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 14th (2.84) - Tulsa 5th (2.47)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 26th (27.27) - Tulsa 25th (27.55)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 14th (29.92) - Tulsa 4th (27.78)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 2nd (21.6%) - Tulsa 25th (13.6%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 4th (86.5%) - Tulsa 11th (84.8%)

- Special teams will most certainly play a role in the game tonight. If you look at the ECHL stats, Allen has a big advantage with a much better overall power play percentage than Tulsa (21.6% to 13.6%).  If you look at Allen's road power play percentage (24.5%) versus Tulsa's home power play percentage (20.5) the advantage is not as big. If you look at the 11 head to head games between these teams, the power plays are even, Tulsa is at 12.2% on the power play compared to Allen at 12.8%.

- Both of these teams have trouble getting shots on goal with Allen ranked #26 in the league and Tulsa #25. They both average just under 28 shots per game.
  
 - Officials scheduled for the game are referee Chris Pontes (#2) and linesmen Mitch Macpherson (#48) and Chip Excell (#42). Pontes was the referee in Missouri last night.


DID YOU KNOW: Missouri needs 34 points in their last 23 games to break the all time ECHL points record of 116. The Mavericks have only six regulation losses in their first 49 games. If the Mavericks go 17-6 in the last 23 games they will have the record.








Friday, February 19, 2016

Allen vs Missouri Game Preview, Ferras Steps Down As Rush Coach, Dell Closer to NHL

It is game day for the Allen Americans as they take on the Missouri Mavericks tonight (7:05 pm) at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence, Missouri. Last season the Americans were by far the best team in the Central Division and owned the Mavericks, winning eight of nine games. The one loss was in overtime. This season the Mavericks have been the best team in the Central Division and are trying to return the favor to the Americans. Missouri has won three of four games thus far and out scored Allen 12-5 in those four games. The road to a second Kelly Cup for the Americans goes through Missouri and with seven games remaining with the Mavericks it is imperative for Allen to show they can hold their own. That opportunity starts tonight.

- The game tonight will be the fifth of 11 times these teams meet this season. Here are the results of their first four meetings:

October 31 at home - Allen outplayed Missouri throughout, gave up a goal in the last 75 seconds of the game and won 2-1.

November 17 (away) - Missouri dominated this game out shooting Allen 42-18 on the way to an easy 4-1 victory.

December 26 at home - Allen out shot Missouri 33-23 but could not solve Maverick's goalie Josh Robinson. Americans lost 3-1.

January 1 (away) - Missouri took a 4-0 lead before Allen got on the board with their lone goal. The Americans  out shot the Mavericks 33-31 but goalie Josh Robinson was again the story of the game. Final score was 4-1.


- Josh Robinson, who was in goal for the three Missouri wins, was loaned to Springfield (AHL) this week. Robinson is a perfect 25-0 this season. Parker Milner, who was in goal for the lone Allen win, will most likely be the goalie for Missouri tonight. If you think having Milner in goal instead of Robinson is a big break, keep in mind Milner has outstanding statistics himself. His GAA of 1.71 and save percentage of .937 are actually better than Robinson's. Milner shutout Tulsa 3-0 on Tuesday.


- Here is how Allen and Missouri match up:

                                    ALLEN                              MISSOURI

Team Record:             28-18-2-1 (61 points)          39-6-2-1 (81 points)
Division Ranking:        2nd Central                        1st Central
Conference Ranking:  4th Western                        1st Western
League Ranking:        11th                                     1st
Home Record             14-6-2-1                               22-2-0-0
Road Record              15-12-0-0                             17-4-2-1
Last Ten Games         6-4-0-0                                 8-1-1-0
Last Game:                 5-4 Loss (Alaska)                3-0 Win (Tulsa)
Goals For:                   152                                      167
Goals Against:            141                                      101
Power Play:                 21.9% (40/183)                   18.3% (35/191)
Penalty Kill:                 86.7% (26/195)                    86.1% (23/165)
Most PIM's                  Stevenson (83)                    Courtney (54)
Leading Scorers:        Costello (19-50-69)              Barnes (19-32-51)


-  Here is how Allen and Missouri rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 3rd (16.80) - Missouri 26th (10.50)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 8th (3.04) - Missouri 1st (3.48)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 14th (2.82) - Missouri 1st (2.10)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 26th (27.22) - Missouri 23rd (28.85)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 14th (30.02) - Missouri 3rd (26.67)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 2nd (21.9%) - Missouri 7th (18.3%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 4th (86.7%) - Missouri 5th (86.1%)


- The stats above show why the Americans will have their work cut out for them tonight. Allen has trouble generating shots (ranked 26th) while Missouri doesn't allow many shots (ranked 3rd). When you play a team like Missouri that scores the most goals in the league and allows the fewest goals in the league it is a tall task. Another way to look at this is goal differential. Allen has scored 152 goals and allowed 141 for a goal differential of +11. Missouri has scored 167 goals and allowed 101 for a goal differential of +66.


- Special teams are always important but when you have two teams at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to penalties, it could be the deciding factor in the game. Allen has 840 penalty minutes while Missouri has just 504. Allen has taken 48 major penalties (mostly for fighting) while Missouri has taken just 12. This disparity has not shown up in the four games these teams have played against each other. Allen has 54 penalty minutes while the Mavericks have 61 penalty minutes. Allen is 1-15 (6.7%) on the power play and Missouri is 2-14 (14.3%).  If either team can get an advantage on special teams it might make the difference in the game. 

- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Chris Pontes (#2) and linesmen Russ Coll (#40) and Andy Bethmann (#95).


OTHER COMMENTS

- If you haven't seen the story about Rapid City head coach Joe Ferras stepping down on Wednesday  here is a link. Ever since Allen lost to Ferras and the Rush in the CHL championship final in the Americans first year in operation (2009-10) it has been quite the rivalry. Ferras will remain with the Rush as General Manager of both hockey operations and the day-to-day operations of the organization. Associate head coach Mark DeSantis has moved up to the head coaching position. http://rapidcityjournal.com/sports/echl-ferras-steps-down-as-rush-head-coach/article_8a796af2-971b-5e0e-a40c-3afcd232d91c.html

- Drew Daniels, who was part of the Allen Americans first championship and went on to be an all-star with the Fort Wayne Komets, has left the team. I did an in-depth interview with Drew back in 2013 (check the archives dated March 12, 2013, "Oh Danny Boy") and he is a great young man. Not sure about the details as to his leaving the Komets but wish him the best. Here is the story that was published by the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel yesterday: http://www.news-sentinel.com/sports/komets/All-star-defenseman-Drew-Daniels-has-left-Komets

- Aaron Dell is getting closer to making his NHL debut. Here is another story on his progression in the Sharks organization including some nice remarks by his coach. http://www.gacklereport.com/golf-article/barracudas-dell-makes-case-for-recall-to-sharks/

- The Idaho Steelheads are 8-2 in their last ten games and are challenging Allen for the fourth seed in the Western Conference. Allen has a two point lead with two games in hand for the important fourth seed (best record of the non division winners) which carries with it home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.


DID YOU KNOW: The Allen Americans have the best record in the ECHL when scoring first. They have garnered 88.5% of the available points when getting the first goal of the game. Their record is 22-2-1-1. However, Allen has scored the first goal in only 26 of their 50 games this season.




 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Getaway Day Update, Individual & Team Stats, Former Players Update, Great Story From the Past

It is getaway day for the Allen Americans as they prepare to take on the Missouri Mavericks tomorrow (Friday) night. The Americans will have practice this morning and then leave early this afternoon for the 470 mile trip to Independence, Missouri. Have heard some of the guys have been sick and one, Spencer Asuchak, will not be going to Missouri. There will be a complete game preview tomorrow, but to give you an idea of the task at hand for Allen is the fact that the Mavericks have a home record of 22-2 this season. Allen is 1-3 against Missouri with the only win coming way back on October 31 at the Allen Event Center. Since that early victory, the Mavericks have beaten the Americans three straight by scores of 4-1, 3-1 and 4-1. The Missouri goalie in all three of the Mavericks wins, Josh Robinson, who has not lost a game all season (25-0), was loaned to the Springfield Falcons (AHL) yesterday.


-Thought today would be a good day to to take a look at individual and teams statistics. The offensive struggles the team has been experiencing this season is certainly reflected in the statistics below.

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

- When you consider there are 28 teams in the ECHL, if a player is in the top fifteen in any statistical category that is quite impressive. Here are the top players in each category. The number in parentheses is the rank in the ECHL.

Points - Costello 69 (#1), Steffes 30 (#70), Hanson 29 (#78)
Goals - Costello 19 (#8), Crane 18 (#16), Steffes 15  (#38)
Assists - Costello 50 (#1), Hanson & Gens 17 (#101)
Power Play Goals - Costello & Steffes 6 (#13), Roy 5 (#24)
Power Play Assists - Costello 21 (#1),  Gens & Makowski 9 (#19)
Shorthanded Goals - seven players tied with one (#21)
Game Winning Goals - Costello, Roy, Makowski, Crane 3 (#24)
Penalty Minutes - Stevenson 83 (#35), Courtnall & Makowski 75 (#44)
Plus/Minus - Pinkston +8 (#87), Hanson +6 (#113)
Shots On Goal - Costello 141 (#18), Steffes 108 (#84), Crane 94 (#145)
Points By Defenseman - Roy 24 (#22), Gens 23 (#26), Makowski 22 (#29)


-  With the struggles the Americans have had generating shots and goals this year the difference in the stats compared to last year is dramatic.  Here is the same list as above from one year ago.

Points - Costello 85 (#1), Steffes 57 (#5), Combs 56 (#7)
Goals - Steffes 35 (#1), Costello 26 (#3), Combs 22 (#11)
Assists - Costello 59 (#1), Combs 34 (#7), Gens 29 (#22)
Power Play Goals - Steffes 14 (#1), Schultz 7 (#7), Tyler Ludwig 6 (#19)
Power Play Assists - Costello 20 (#1),  Gens 12 (#7), Combs 11 (#13)
Shorthanded Goals - Hanson 4 (#1), Six tied with one
Game Winning Goals -  Steffes 7 (#3), Combs 6 (#4), Hanson 5 (#(9)
Penalty Minutes - Lyon 256 (#1), Gens 166 (#9), Clarke 132 (#18)
Plus/Minus - Costello +30 (#2), Hanson & Steffes +25 (#4)
Shots On Goal - Steffes 186 (#5), Costello 167 (#9), Schaafsma 137 (#44)
Points By Defenseman - Gens 36 (#2), Baker 33 (#5), Young 32 (#7)

 


TEAM STATISTICS:

 Here is how the Americans currently rank in the 28 team ECHL in some of the statistical categories. The first number is Allen's number and the second number is how they rank in the ECHL.

Win Percentage - .610 (#7)
Points - 61 (#5) 
Average Goals For - 3.04 (#8)
Average Goals Against - 2.82 (#14)
Average Shot For - 27.22 (#26)
Average Shots Against - 30.02 (#15)
Power Play Percentage - 21.9% (#2)
Penalty Kill Percentage - 86.7% (#3)
Average Penalty Minutes - 16.80 (#3)
Win % When Scoring First - .885 (#1)
Team Plus/Minus -  -26 (#15) 
Goal Differential -  +11 (#11)


- If you are interested in comparing here is the exact same information from one year ago.

Win Percentage - .745 (#1)
Points - 76 (#1) 
Average Goals For - 4.12 (#1)
Average Goals Against - 2.82 (#7)
Average Shot For - 32.84 (#2)
Average Shots Against - 30.00 (#18)
Power Play Percentage - 20.2% (#4)
Penalty Kill Percentage - 88.4% (#1)
Average Penalty Minutes - 23.00 (#2)
Win % When Scoring First - .839 (#7)
Longest Winning Streak - 9 games (#4)
Longest Home Winning Steak - 11 games (#1)
Team Plus/Minus -  +217 (#2) 
Goal Differential -  +66 (#2)

- When you compare year over year what sticks out is the big difference in  goals scored per game. The Americans scored an average of 4.12 goals per game last season compared to 3.04 this season. Defensively the stats are exactly the same allowing 2.82 goals per game both years.


OTHER COMMENTS

- Peter Di Salvo got his first start for Adirondack on Tuesday since being traded by Allen earlier in the week. It was a rough night for Peter as Adirondack was shutout 4-0.

- It has also been a tough week for Tyler Barr who played 16 games with Allen last season. Barr was playing in his first game with the Louisiana IceGators (SPHL) on Sunday after serving a five game suspension for boarding. Barr was given a two minute penalty in the game for charging and then speared the player he knocked down under the chin while the player was on his knees. He was given a game misconduct and on Tuesday the SPHL suspended Barr for the remainder of the season (19 games) and the playoffs. The league had this to say about the suspension, "Mr. Barr's actions in this game, along with his previous history that has resulted in three other suspensions this season, show a continued lack of respect and complete disregard for the safety of his opponents. Here is one of many articles written about this incident which includes the video if you haven't already seen it on social  media.  http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/tyler-barr-banned-for-rest-of-sphl-season-after-face-spearing--video-220131618.html


- On a more pleasant note, former Allen captain and current Fort Wayne Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma had goals in back to back games last weekend for the first time all season. Jamie was the #1 star of the game on Saturday as the Komets beat Kalamazoo. Even though Fort Wayne is leading the Midwest Division they seem to fly under the radar when you hear talk about who are the best teams in the ECHL heading into the playoffs. The Komets have the third best goal differential in the ECHL (+35) and the best special teams in the league when you combine power play percentage with penalty kill percentage (110.8). They could make a deep run in the playoffs.

- According to eurohockey.net Garrett Clarke has played in six games since signing in Europe with DVTK Jegesmedvek and has three points (1 goal 2 assists) to go along with 24 penalty minutes. His team finished the regular season in first place.

- Alex Lavoie had two goals for the Indy Fuel last night and was named the games #2 star as the Fuel beat Orlando 5-3. Alex set almost every Allen scoring record for rookies when he played for the Americans in 2013-14 and had 76 points (25 goals 51 assists). Alex is Indy's leading scorer this season.



DID YOU KNOW: You never know when something you include in the blog has wide spread appeal but three years ago today one of the most popular stories to ever appear in the blog was posted. It was written by George Darkow who interviewed then Tulsa coach Bruce Ramsay about playing in minor pro hockey. The story is still relevant today and reminds everyone about the dedication the players and coaches have to the game of hockey and how they play for the love of the sport and never give up the dream.  http://allenamericansblog.blogspot.com/2013/02/soldiers-of-little-fortune-life-in-chl.html