The Allen Americans are back at practice today (10:00 am) preparing for two of their four home games in the month of February. The February schedule is unique in a lot of respects. Here is a list:
- There are just 11 games on the February schedule (4 home 7 away)
- The home games are the first two games of the month (Friday & Saturday) and the last two games of the month (February 27 & 28).
- Three of the four home games are against the Wichita Thunder (February 6, 27, 28)
- Sandwiched between the four home games at the beginning and end of the month are seven straight road games.
- The Americans play three games in three days twice during February and they both include travel. February 19 at Missouri, 20 & 21 at Tulsa is one set. The other set is three straight games against Wichita on February 26 in Wichita and 27 & 28 in Allen.
- The long awaited trip to Alaska takes place with games on February 10, 12 & 13.
- The trip to Alaska will be unique for sure because the team will fly rather than getting on "Big Red" for the 4000 mile trip. It will also be the longest trip to one place in team history. The Americans leave on Monday (February 8) and don't return until Sunday (February 14). Six nights and seven days in one place is very unusual to say the least.
- The task at hand for Allen is to find a way to get four points at home this weekend against Utah on Friday and Wichita on Saturday. It is hard to handicap the Allen vs Utah match up because the five head to head games have been all over the place. Allen won two games in Utah early in the season and then Utah returned the favor winning two of three in Allen. The last time Utah was in Allen each team won a game by a score of 7-3 so who knows what to expect tomorrow night. As for Wichita on Saturday night, the Americans are 7-0 this year against the Thunder but the games have been very close. The last five games have been one goal games (excluding an empty net goal) and two have gone to overtime.
- The only race realistically left in the Central Division is between Allen and Tulsa for second place. February will tell the tale for a couple of reasons. Allen currently has a nine point lead on Tulsa which seems comfortable until you realize Allen plays 11 games in February but Tulsa plays 14 games in February. They also play each other twice with both games in Tulsa (February 20 & 21). A lot of opportunity for Tulsa to gain ground on Allen.
- Tulsa has given the almost unbeatable Missouri Mavericks fits this season. They did it again last night coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 in overtime. It wasn't just any comeback by the Oilers, it was a heart stopper. Tulsa's Adam Pleskach tied the score with five seconds left in the game after the Oilers pulled the goalie. Tulsa then won the game just 47 seconds into overtime. The Oilers are now 4-2-1-1 against the Mavericks. Missouri has only lost eight times all season but four of the losses have come at the hands of the Oilers. Tulsa has been just in or out of the playoff picture over the last few weeks. How ironic would it be if they finished as the #8 seed in the Western Conference and played #1 seed Missouri in the first round of the playoffs.
- Have had several questions about the promotional timeouts taken during each period. Seems like there is some confusion about how long the timeouts are as you hear some announced as 70 second timeouts and some as 75 second timeouts. Not that it is a big deal but inquiring minds want to know. Here is the straight scoop from ECHL Director of Communications, Joe Babik. "Teams are permitted to take up to two (2) seventy-five second promotional timeouts per period and the timeouts will take place at the first whistle following the 14 and 6 minute marks of each period. The Board of Governors approved new timeout guidelines prior to the start of this season. In the past, teams could take up to three (3) seventy second timeouts. That was changed this season to the current rule of up to two (2) seventy-five second timeouts. The time outs cannot be less than seventy-five seconds. Teams are not required to take the timeouts, but if they do, they must be seventy-five seconds in length."
So if you hear PA announcers or broadcasters around the ECHL say 70 second timeout it is merely a matter of old habits die hard. The officials timekeepers around the ECHL are all taking 75 second timeouts.
- This week is "Hockey Heritage Week" which is a showcase event awarded to an ECHL team each year to celebrate the ECHL. This year the event was awarded to the Kalamazoo Wings and is currently in full swing. Earlier this week the Stanley Cup made a tour of the city and other NHL trophies, and exhibits from the NHL Hall of Fame have been on display. The ECHL Hall of Fame luncheon is tomorrow when two players (Daniel Berthiaume & Allan Sirois) and Craig Brush, who helped found the Florida Everblades and has served as the President and General Manager since inception will be inducted. An entertaining goaltender, Berthiamue is one of only three ECHL goaltenders to record over 200 wins and Sirois is one of the most productive point producers in ECHL history.
All 28 ECHL teams are represented as the Board of Governors meeting is taking place in Kalamazoo with all of the big decisions being made tomorrow.
The week culminates with games between Kalamazoo and Toledo on Friday and Saturday. Both teams will wear specialty jerseys for both games. Friday night will be throwback jerseys and Saturday futuristic jerseys.
DID YOU KNOW: The ECHL, which was originally called the East Coast Hockey League, combined teams from the defunct Atlantic Coast Hockey League and All-American Hockey League, and began play in 1988 with 5 teams—the (Winston-Salem, North) Carolina Thunderbirds (now the Wheeling Nailers); the Erie Panthers (folded in 2011 as the Victoria Salmon Kings); the Johnstown Chiefs (now the Greenville Swamp Rabbits); the Knoxville Cherokees (ceased operations as the Pee Dee Pride in 2005; folded in 2009 following failed relocation efforts); and the Virginia Lancers (now the Utah Grizzlies).