Friday, February 5, 2016

Allen vs Utah Game Preview, Will Rest or Rust Prevail, Pinkston Recalled, ECHL Fights At Historic Lows

It is game night in Allen as the Americans take on the Utah Grizzlies at the Allen Event Center (AEC) with a 7:05 pm puck drop. The Americans haven't had a game since last Sunday, took a three day All-Star break and practiced yesterday. It will be interesting to see if the talk after the game is about rest or rust. It is good to get some time away from hockey as the team did for three days this week. Time to heal those bumps, bruises, and injuries. But sometimes after taking time off the first game is difficult to get back into rhythm.

There is no question Allen is the more rested team because Utah played last night in Tulsa and had to travel to Allen after the game. The Grizzlies beat Tulsa 3-1.

The game tonight will be the sixth and final regular season game between Allen and Utah and the series has produced some unusual results. Allen leads the series 3-2. Both teams have won a game by a score of 7-3, one game was 6-5 in overtime, and the game Allen won 7-3, Utah out shot the Americans 44-18.

If you had to characterize the five head to head games these teams have played this season it would be very easy. Lots of offense, not much defense and not much rough stuff. Allen averages 2.98 goals per game but against Utah is averaging 4.4 goals per game. Utah averages 3.33 goals per game but against Allen they have averaged 4.2 goals per game.  The same can be said for shots on goal and power play goals as both teams have better averages against each other than they do against the rest of the league.

Here are the totals for the previous five games:

                                   ALLEN       UTAH
Goals                            22               21
Shots                            146            192
Power Play                   5-20            5-21
Penalties                       29               28
Penalty Minutes            128             124

- Here is the regular comparison between Allen and Utah:

                                     ALLEN                              UTAH

Team Record              26-16-2-1(55 points)             27-16-2-0 (56 points)
Division Ranking         2nd - Central                         1st -West
Conference Ranking   4th - Western                        2nd - Western
League Ranking         8th                                        5th
Last Game                 3-1 W (Tulsa)                         2-1 W (Tulsa)
Goals For                   134                                      150
Goals Against             126                                      130
Power Play                 21.4% (36/168)                     17.8% (33/185)
Penalty Kill                 85.7% (25/175)                      78.1% (34/155)
Leading Scorer          Costello  (18-45-63)                Sarault (14-30-44)
Most PIM's                 Stevenson - 83                       Taker - 51

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

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 4th (16.78) - Utah 24th (11.69)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 8th (2.98) - Utah 2nd (3.33)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 13th (2.80) - Utah 15th (2.89)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 25th (27.67) - Utah 5th (31.78)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 14th (30.04) - Utah 9th (29.16)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 3rd (21.4%) - Utah 11th (17.8%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 6th (85.7%) - Utah 27th (78.1%)

- Special teams are always important but maybe even more so against Utah. The Grizzlies have by far the worst road penalty kill in the ECHL at only 65.1% and their road power play is just 16.0%. A key to the game is Allen capitalizing on their special teams advantage. 

- Roster changes at forward since these teams last played should also advantage Allen tonight. Casey Pierro-Zabotel and Greger Hanson did not play the last time these teams met but will be in the lineup tonight. On the flip side, two of Utah's three leading scorers against Allen (Bryan Moore & Matt Berry) are currently playing in the AHL.

- The defense is another story as Eric Roy has been loaned to Lake Erie (AHL) since the last time Allen played Utah and just found out this morning from coach Martinson that Rick Pinkston has been recalled by the San Jose Barracuda and will not play tonight.

- If Utah's top goalie, Ryan Faragher, is in goal tonight it will be the first time Allen has faced him all season. Faragher is 19-7-1-0 on the season and was in goal last night in Tulsa when he allowed just one goal and stopped 30 shots in the 3-1 Utah win over the Oilers.

- Based on the previous games Allen has played against Utah the players to watch tonight are many. As would be expected the leading scorer is Chad Costello with 10 points (3 goals 7 assists) in five games. However, there will be seven players in the game tonight that have averaged a point a game against Utah.

                              Games     Goals     Assists     Points 
Costello                   5               3              7            10
Steffes                    5               4              2             6
Gens                       5               2              4             6
Crane                      3               3              1            4
Pierro Zabotel          4                2              2            4  
Hanson                    2               2               1            3
King                        3               0               3            3

- The referee scheduled for tonight's match is Andrew Wilk (#24). Coincidentally, Wilk has been the referee the two times Allen has lost to Utah this season. In those two games Allen was called for 11 penalties and Utah was called for seven penalties. The linesmen will be Aaron Schacht (#32) and Rick Rivera (#59).

DID YOU KNOW: The number of fights in the ECHL this year are at historic lows according to The site has a chart going back to the 1999-2000 season and there has never been an ECHL season with average fights per game lower than .70. So far this season the league is averaging .69 fights per game. Last season the average was .84 fights per game. Last season (2014-15) there were 151 fights in December, this season just 107. Last season in January there were 148 fights, this season just 106. The teams with the most fights this season are Colorado (52), Norfolk (50) and Allen (45). The teams with the fewest fights this season are Missouri (11), Toledo (16) and Brampton (18).

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