The Allen Americans take on the Tulsa Oilers tonight for the sixth time this season. It will be one of those same day road trips where the Americans travel the 230 miles to Tulsa this afternoon on Big Red, play the game at 7:05 pm and then head right back to Allen after the game. That gets them back to their apartments in the neighborhood of 3:00 am. Welcome to ECHL hockey Allen style.
- Allen and Tulsa will play14 times during the regular season. Allen has the edge in the five games they have played thus far with a record of 3-2. Two of the three wins were in Tulsa, in overtime, including a 1-0 OT victory the last time the Americans played at the BOK Center.
- Allen will be the more rested team as they had an optional light skate (less than half the team showed up) yesterday while Tulsa traveled to Missouri to take on the Mavericks. Tulsa won the game 3-2. The game ended at 9:49 pm last night so by the time the Oilers arrived home it would have been around 4:00 am this morning. Advantage Allen.
- Tulsa will be missing their top goal scorer, Adam Pleskach, tonight as he was placed on the 21 day injured reserve yesterday. Adam hasn't played since the last time the Americans were in Tulsa on November 29th. Pleskach is always one of Tulsa's leading goal scorers. If you remember, the last time the ECHL had a 40 goal scorer was in the 2014-15 and there were three that year. Gary Steffes led the league with 44 goals, Chad Costello and Adam Pleskach had 41.
- Allen is still dealing with their own roster issues especially on defense. Eric Roy, Aaron Gens and Harrison Ruopp did not play in Wichita on Sunday. It remains to be seen if any of the defensemen are back tonight but Allen could be going with five defensemen again. In addition, Kale Kerbashian sustained an upper body injury on Sunday and will not play tonight. Injuries are never a good thing but to me it seemed like Kale was never himself when he returned from his hand injury at the beginning of December. He might have come back to quickly. His current injury isn't related to the prior one so let's hope he can take the time to heal up and when he does return he is 100% and can be the Kerbashian of old.
- So much can happen in a short period of time during a hockey season. Just in the last five weeks Matt Willows, Chris Crane, Mike Brodzinski, Tristan King, Alex Guptill, Jason Fram, J.P. LaFontaine and Rick Pinkston have been traded, released or recalled. Allen has added David Makowski, Bryan Moore, Harrison Ruopp, Zach Hall and Randy Cure. Goalie Jamie Murray was recalled by San Jose for two weeks and the Americans had to go with an EBUG (emergency backup goalie). Add that to all the player movement injuries that kept players out of the lineup for multiple games (Kale Kerbashian, Travis Brown, Dyson Stevenson, Aaron Gens, Mike Gunn, Tristan King, Riley Gill) and you see there have been a lot of moving parts that both coach Martinson and general manager Martinson has been dealing with.
- The good news is with all of the changes the team has started to play better recently. They are 7-2-1-0 in the last ten games and have shown significant improvement in the month of December. The team has gotten tougher and is harder to play against. Some years Allen has had a lion such as Kip Brennan or Garrett Klotz and some years you could describe the team has having no lion but a pack of wolves. This season you could say the team is a combination of both with Derek Mathers leading the league in fighting majors but 13 different players with at least one fighting major. Maybe the best way to describe this team is they are a pride of lions.
- Coach Martinson always describes toughness not in terms of fighting but in terms of finishing checks and dealing with the consequences of the hard checks. If you have a player willing to check anyone on the ice and then fight if necessary, you have a tough player. The tough players are the ones that will finish checks, accept the consequences and also stick up for their teammates.
- How much improvement has there been in the month of December? Here are just a few examples. At the end of November Allen had scored 61 goals and allowed 66 for a differential of -5. In December they have scored 31 goals and allowed 19 for a differential of +12. At the end of November the power play was 7-85 (8.2%). In December the power play is 9-39 (23.1%). The penalty kill was 16-92 (82.6%) at the end of November. During December it is 5-43 (88.3%).
- Here is a match up between Allen and Tulsa:
Team Record 15-13-1-0 (31 points) 17-10-2-0 (36 points)
Division Ranking 4th - Mountain 2nd - Central
Conference Ranking 8th - Western 3rd - Western
League Ranking 12th 4th
Last Game 4-1 Win (Wichita) 3-2 Win (Missouri)
Goals For 92 82
Goals Against 85 78
Power Play 12.9% (16/124) 9.1% (10/110)
Penalty Kill 84.4% (21/135) 79.6% (12-108)
Most PIM's Mathers (124) Clark (87)
Leading Scorer Costello (13-29-42) Brewer (7-11-18)
Hanson (15-17-32) Pleskach (10-6-16)
- Here is how Allen and Tulsa rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:
Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 2nd (10.14) - Tulsa 8th (14.86)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 14th (3.17) - Tulsa 22nd (2.83)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 9th (2.93) - Tulsa 2nd (2.69)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 6th (33.77) - Tulsa 5th (33.45)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 21st (33.79) - Tulsa 10th (30.69)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 20th (12.9%) - Tulsa 26th (9.1%)
Penalty Kill Percentage; Allen 10th (84.4%) - Tulsa 22nd (79.6%)
- When you look at the special team stats above you will notice Tulsa is one of the few teams with worse percentages than Allen. The Americans have outperformed their season long numbers by a huge amount over the last 10 games so if they continue their recent good work on special teams they should be okay.
- After getting off to a great start this season Tulsa has struggled recently. They are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games. The Oilers have lost five straight home games.
- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Mike Sheehan (#11) and linesmen Lucas Bisbee (#72) and Chase Wilkinson (#68).
- Rick Gosselin has been a big supporter of the Allen Americans over the years and that support has been invaluable. Rick attended a recent game and interviewed Riley Gill. When I asked Riley how the interview went he said Gosselin seemed real interested in the fact Riley's alma mater, Western Michigan University was playing in the Cotton Bowl. Here is the result of that interview, another great story that is on the front page of the Dallas Morning News today. If you don't get the paper or haven't seen it on social media here is a link to the story: http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallas-stars/stars/2016/12/19/allen-americans-goalie-riley-gill-problem-ticket-cotton-bowl-see-western-michigan-can-fix
- Allen has scored first in nine of their last 10 games and has held opponents scoreless in the first period in nine of the last ten.
After tonight the Americans will play 10 of their next 12 games at home. The two road games are back to back in Wichita. The combined record of the teams Allen will play in the next 12 games (Idaho, Wichita, Utah, Indy, Missouri) is 53-62-3-7. Only Idaho has a better record than Allen. If the Americans can continue their recent good play they can make a big move in the standings over the next 12 games while the spend the majority of the next month at home.
- I mentioned yesterday the Toledo Walleye are in a class by themselves this season with a .840 winning percentage which is on record pace. They are averaging 4.48 goals per game, more than a half a goal better than second place Fort Wayne at 3.88. Here are some other interesting stats that should cause concern for the rest of the league. Toledo has scored more goals (112) than any other team in the league, but are one of the better defensive teams as well. They have allowed only 71 goals. Their goal differential is +41. Second place in goal differential is Manchester at +23. No other team is higher than +16. Toledo has the most goals scored in the ECHL by far but doesn't have a single player in the top 15 in scoring. What they do have is balanced scoring with seven players over 20 points.
DID YOU KNOW: It seems like there have been a lot of roster changes already this season as 32 different players have played in a game for Allen. Steve Martinson still has a way to go to reach the 46 different players that played last season. The number for Allen's first year in the ECHL (2014-15) was 41.