Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Allen vs Colorado Preview, Roster Update, Gill Goalie of the Week Again, Murray Answers Why No Water Bottle

The Allen Americans take on the division leading Colorado Eagles tonight (7:05 pm) at the Allen Event Center (AEC). It will be the one and only appearance in Allen this season by the Eagles. Even though they are a Mountain Division rivals the teams play only two times during the regular season. They played in Colorado on November 9 and the Eagles won the game 4-3. Allen had a 3-2 lead going into the third period but Colorado scored two unanswered goals to win the game. To make matters worse Casey Pierro-Zabotel assisted on the tying goal and the winning goal was scored by Matt Register. Casey and Matt were members of Allen's Kelly Cup championship team last season.

- Every healthy player will be in the line up tonight and that means coach Martinson will be short on defense once again. Defensemen Randy Cure, who was just acquired in a trade for Alex Guptill, arrived in town yesterday and will be in the line up. Including Cure there will be only five defensemen available so 11 forwards will dress for the game. Look for Dyson Stevenson to help out and take some shifts on defense. According to coach Martinson, Dyson played a little defense in midget hockey and has looked good in practice. Forward Zach Hall, who was recently obtained from Reading and has practiced with the team the the past two days will make his first appearance tonight.

- Having last change at home will give Martinson the chance to better control match ups. The lines at practice yesterday were Costello-Asuchak-Moore, Steffes-Hall-Hanson, and the third line was a combination of Eberle, Kerbashian, Marchment, Mathers and Stevenson. You can be assured lines will change based on game conditions.

- Keep an eye on the power play unit tonight. It has obviously been the biggest difference in performance between last season and this season. Last season the power play won a lot of games. This season it has been almost a wash as the power play unit has scored 11 times but given up eight shorthanded goals. Based on what I saw at practice you should notice some changes tonight.

- Here is a comparison between Allen and Colorado:

                                     ALLEN                               COLORADO

Team Record              13-12-1-0 (27 points)             14-6-1-3 (32 points)
Division Ranking         4th - Mountain                       1st - Mountain
Conference Ranking   8th - Western                         3rd - Western
League Ranking         13th                                        5th
Home Record             5-5-0-0                                    9-3-0-2
Road Record              8-7-1-0                                    5-3-1-1
Last Game                  5-4 Loss (Wichita)                  4-3 Win (Idaho)
Goals For                    78                                           81
Goals Against             78                                           74
Power Play                 10.0% (11-110)                       21.4% (18-84)
Penalty Kill                  85.0% (18-120)                      82.7% (17-98)
Most PIM's                  Mathers (119)                         Zahn (83)
Leading Scorer           Costello  (10-24-34)               Pierro-Zabotel (10-19-29)

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

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 3rd (18.65) - Colorado 2nd (19.96)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 18th (3.00) - Colorado 11th (3.38)
Goals Allowed Per  Game: Allen 10th (3.00) - Colorado 14th (3.08)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 9th (32.92) - Colorado 10th (32.88)
Shots Allowed Per Game: Allen 20th (33.65) - Colorado 10th (30.75) 
Power Play Percentage: Allen 25th (10.0%) - Colorado 6th (21.4%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 12th (85.0%) - Colorado 17th (82.7%)

- Just looking at the special teams stats you would give Colorado an advantage because their power play percentage is more than double Allen's. However, the Americans penalty kill has been outstanding recently. In the last six games they are 2-29 for a penalty kill percentage of 93.1%. Allen's power play was also on the upswing scoring in four straight games and going 5-17 (29.4%) until they went to Wichita last weekend. Allen was 0-11 in Wichita and gave up two shorthanded goals. It remains to be seen which power play unit shows up tonight.

- The other thing that sticks out in the stats is these are two very physical teams that are difficult to play against. They are one and two in penalty minutes (Allen 485 & Colorado 479) and they are one and two in major penalties (Allen 29 & Colorado 25). According to the website, Fort Wayne leads the ECHL with 31 fights with Allen and Colorado tied for second with 29 fights.

- Both teams have plenty of players willing to drop the gloves if necessary. Colorado has had nine different players fight this season while Allen has had 12. Fights could happen between a lot of players but the match up to look for tonight would be Derek Mathers vs Teigan Zahn. Mathers has 12 fights for Allen, nobody else has more than four. Zahn has 10 fights for Colorado, nobody else has more than four. Mathers and Zahn are ranked #1 and #2 in the number of fights in the ECHL this season. According to neither has lost a fight this season though a few have been rated a draw. Mathers and Zahn fought (rated a draw) when Allen played in Colorado but there is definitely some unfinished business. Look for round two tonight. The video below is the highlight video from game one in Colorado that shows the goals but also includes the fight.

- It will be a family reunion tonight as there are three former Allen Americans on the Eagles roster, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Darryl Bootland and Matt Register. They are all big contributors to the team. Casey is fifth in the league in scoring with 29 points (10 goals 19 assists), Matt is second in scoring among defensemen with 22 points (6 goals 16 assists) and Bootland is his all around pesky self with 13 points (7 goals 6 assists) to go along with 58 penalty minutes. Bootland is also an alternate captain.

- Officials scheduled for the game tonight are referee Sean Fernandez (#21) and linesmen Lucas Bisbee (#72) and Chase Wilkinson (#68).


- I am sure most of you know by now that Riley Gill was selected yesterday as the ECHL Goalie of the Week for the second consecutive week. Here is the link to the press release if you haven't seen it:

- The most amazing fact in the press release is the last goalie to win back to back Goalie of the Week awards was Riley Gill in 2013 when he was playing for Reading. The story of the back to back Goalie of the Week awards in 2013 is really remarkable. Riley started the 2012-13 season playing in the SPHL. He had 38 games with the Louisiana IceGators. He didn't play his first game for Reading until February 27, 2013. Over the next month (the remainder of the regular season) he played in 14 games, won 10 times, had a GAA of 1.28, save percentage of .952. and won Goalie of the Week back to back. Riley's outstanding play continued into the playoffs with a record of 13-3-1, GAA of 1.91, save percentage of .930 and four shutouts. His team won the Kelly Cup and Riley was the playoff MVP. It was quite a ride for Gill going from the SPHL the end of February to Kelly Cup champion and MVP by the end of May.

- Was asked about the rights to Alex Lavoie that were obtained from Indy in the trade that sent Alex Guptill to Indy and brought Randy Cure to Allen. The rights to Lavoie are for this season only so they do not carryover to next season. However, Alex will be a free agent in the ECHL next season and if he doesn't return to Europe I am sure Allen would be the place he would want to play. 

DID YOU KNOW: Thanks to John Weithman for the question of the day about why Jamie Murray doesn't have a water bottle when he plays. Here is Jamie's answer in his own words.

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