Friday, December 30, 2016

Allen vs Wichita Preview, Allen Acquires Defenseman Miles Liberati, Clarke Back to Europe & More

The Allen Americans take on the Wichita Thunder tonight in the second of their back to back games before heading home for the longest homestand (eight games) of  season. It would be easy for the Americans to enter the game tonight in a complacent mood after shutting out Wichita 5-0 on Wednesday. After all since joining the ECHL in 2014-15 Allen's record in Wichita is an astounding 15-1-1-2.  Hopefully the team will remember what happened just one week ago in Allen when they clobbered Idaho 6-0 in game one of a back to back and lost game two 3-2. Wichita coach Malcolm Cameron kept the team for 90 minutes after the game on Wednesday going through video. There is little doubt you will see a much more competitive Wichita team tonight. Not sure that will translate into a victory but don't expect another 5-0 type of game.

 - The Allen dominance over Wichita has really come to the fore in the last three games these teams have played. The Americans have won by scores of 6-1, 4-1 and 5-0. When you out score a team 15-2 over a three game period that is dominating. Interestingly Wichita has out shot Allen in these three games by a total of  117-103. There are several reason that account for the disparity between goals scored and shots. Wichita has had more power plays (19-14), when you score goals secondary shots are eliminated so with such a large goal differential Allen has missed out on many secondary shots and Wichita takes a lot of outside shots.

-  How bad has it been for the Thunder? Check out these stats from fellow Team Sin Bin writer Matt Harding, better known as Sin Bin Thunder. Wichita has not scored a goal in the last 127:09 and has just two goals in the last 240 minutes. Wichita has been shutout four times at home this season and all four of the shutouts have come since November 18.

- With a game tonight, a six hour bus ride back to Allen and an early start (5:05 pm) tomorrow night against Utah look for Gill and Murray to split the two games. Haven't heard but my guess would be  coach Martinson will give Riley a lot of say in which game he plays. 

- If you are looking for who might lead the offense tonight the best bet is Chad Costello and Dyson Stevenson. They are one and two in scoring in the head to head match ups with Wichita this season (five games). Chad has nine points (3 goals 6 assists) and Dyson has eight points (2 goals 6 assists).

-  Good starts and special teams have been a key against Wichita. Allen has scored first in all five games against the Thunder. The Allen power play has scored in only two of the previous five games but was 5-10 in those two games. The Allen penalty kill has been phenomenal against the Thunder giving up a single power play goal in 33 opportunities and that was a five-on-three. It is safe to say the winner on special teams tonight will win the game.

- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Kory Chipperfield (#5) and linesmen Russ Coll (#40) and Chase Wilkinson (#68).


- The month of January will be a pleasant one for the players, especially those with families. The next eight games between December 31 and January 21 are at home. What is even better is the the games are spread out. Five days between games, four days between games and three days between games over the next three weeks. If the weather cooperates should be plenty of time for golfing, fishing and spending time outside with the kids.

- For those interested in the march to the top of the single season penalty minute record, Derek Mathers is about to crack the top 10. Derek has 140 minutes in just 28 games and is currently ranked #11. Next up are Darryl Bootland (145 minutes 2013-14) and Kip Brennan (146 minutes 2010-11).

- Speaking of penalty minute records, Garrett Clarke, who holds the #3 (223 minutes 2012-13) and #4 (205 minutes 2014-15) spot on the all time list announced yesterday he was leaving the Brampton Beast to head back to Europe where he will play for a team in Brasov, Romania. Clarke started the season in Poland  and then returned to Canada to play for Brampton in early October. I contacted Garrett and asked why he was going back to Europe, especially with Brampton playing so well this season. This is what he had to say, "I got a good offer to go back to Europe. It will set me up for an opportunity next year in another league. I put in my time in North America but it is time to move on for good. I had a great time in Brampton and loved my coaches and teammates so it was a tough decision. Brampton might be the best team I have ever played on and they will do some serious damage come playoffs."

Have to admit that is really high praise for Brampton given the fact that Clarke was on two championship teams in Allen (one CHL & one ECHL) but one thing you always know is Garrett Clarke speaks his mind. Wish him the best of luck in Romania.

- I think most of you know I live in an "active adult retirement community" called Heritage Ranch that we affectionately call wrinkle ranch. One characteristic of old folks is they still like to read a hard copy of the newspaper so most take the Dallas Morning News (DMN). For some still unknown reason the DMN stopped including in the sports section the ECHL results and standings. Everyone knows this information can be found on line but wanted to see the ECHL and the Allen Americans included in the DMN. A sizable group of crusaders (old folks) from Heritage Ranch and other season ticket holders enlisted my help, the help of Rick Gosselin and sent a steady stream of emails to the DMN sport's editor asking why the paper had stopped covering the most successful professional sports franchise in the DFW metroplex. I am pleased to report the crusaders have been successful as the DMN started including the ECHL results and standings as of yesterday's edition. Thanks to all the Allen fans that took the time to send emails and a special thanks to Rick Gosselin for his support. Rick from the beginning told everyone who asked him the ECHL information should have never been dropped. 

- The Allen Americans acquired defenseman Miles Liberati yesterday from the Reading Royals. This was to complete the deal that had San Jose assign Matt Willows to Reading in exchange for Zach Hall and future considerations. Liberati is a rookie defenseman who has played in 12 games for Reading and has three assists and six penalty minutes. He was a seventh round draft choice of the Vancouver Canucks in 2013. All scouting reports you read about Liberati mention his skating ability and offensive instincts as his strengths. This deal was announced by Reading yesterday but nothing has been said by the Allen Americans which is unusual as these things are typically coordinated. This most likely means nothing but it could mean there is a problem or another shoe might drop. Stay tuned.

DID YOU KNOW: You may have noticed the Allen Americans have been the recipient of several weekly awards recently with Riley Gill getting back to back Goalie of the Week awards and should get goalie of the Month in a few days and Spencer Asuchak winning the Player of the Week. What you may not know is these awards are based on nominations sent to the league office each week. The nomination process is more than a statistical compilation and Tommy Daniels is the unsung hero in this process as he is the one that writes the narrative that accompanies the nomination. Numbers are certainly an important factor but many times the player with the best numbers doesn't win. Pointing out the importance of the numbers is a big part of who gets selected and Tommy Daniels takes this very seriously. Many a time he has been upset when I stop by his office during the week because the Allen nomination didn't win. And he can always point out in great detail why the Allen candidate was a better choice. Hats off to Tommy for a job well done and being such a great advocate for the Allen players.

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