Sometimes you look at the Allen Americans schedule and all you can do is marvel at the efficacy of how the ECHL puts it all together. Today is one of those days. The season is now two months old, Allen has played one third of the season and tonight they play Wichita for the first time. What is so strange about that? To start with Allen has 14 games (7 home 7 road) to play against the Thunder, a team not even in the Mountain Division. That means 30% of all remaining Allen games this season will be against Wichita. Half of Allen's next 10 games are against Wichita. C'MON MAN!
- The team left this morning (10:00 am) on the 365 mile trip to Wichita for a game that starts at 7:05 pm. Normally the team leaves the day before the game as required by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). But that rule only applies to stand alone games and the Americans play Wichita tonight and tomorrow night. Not sure why that makes a difference but you know given the option the budget would dictate traveling six hours on the bus on game day rather than spending an extra night in Wichita. Speaking of "Big Red" there is no room for a breakdown when you do same day travel so sure hope Red does better in cold weather (it is 14 degrees in Wichita as I write this) than in the mountains.
- So tonight is game one of 14 against Wichita. Thunder coach Malcolm Cameron was asked about the rivalry between Allen and Wichita on his coaching show the other night and said from what he could see it hasn't been much of a rivalry. He is absolutely right that the rivalry from the CHL days has not carried over the the ECHL. Since joining the ECHL (2014-15) Allen's record against Wichita is 22-2-3-3 and last season the record was a perfect 13-0-0-0. Make no mistake the Wichita this season is much different. They have a new coach who has a history of turning teams around and making the playoffs, he has assembled a team with a lot of young players and the Thunder has a better winning percentage (.559) than the Americans (.500).
- Wichita has been hurt by having a lot of key players being reassigned or loaned to their AHL affiliate in Binghamton. None more important than the ECHL's second leading goal scorer (14 goals), Alexis Loiseau, who was just loaned to Binghamton on Wednesday. Loiseau has 23 points (14 goals 9 assists). There is nobody else on the team with more than five goals.
- Here is a match up between Allen and Wichita:
Team Record 12-12-0-0 (24 points) 9-7-0-1 (19 points)
Division Ranking 4th - Mountain 5th - Central
Conference Ranking 7th - Western 9th - Western
League Ranking 12th 20th
Last Game 4-1 Win (Missouri) 2-1 Win (Rapid City)
Goals For 71 54
Goals Against 73 40
Power Play 11.1% (11/99) 25.5% (12/47)
Penalty Kill 83.0% (18/106) 90.5% (6/63)
Most PIM Mathers (117) Tesink (37)
Leading Scorers: Costello (8-24-32) Loiseau (14-9-23)
- Here is how Allen and Wichita rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:
Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 3rd (18.42) - Wichita 4th (17.76)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 18th (2.96) - Wichita 14th (3.18)
Goals Allowed per Game: Allen 11th (3.04) - Wichita 7th (2.88)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 9th (32.83) - Wichita 27th (37.53)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 19th (32.83) - Wichita 24th (35.05)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 24th (11.1%) - Wichita 1st (25.5%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 15th (83.0%) - Wichita 2nd (90.5%)
- Some very interesting stats above including that Wichita gives up the most shots per game in the league (37.53) but is ranked #7 in goals allowed at 2.88. That points to excellent goaltending as Wichita's team save percentage is .925. That compares to Allen who has Riley Gill at .929 but as a team is at .907.
- In the odd stat category Allen has the exact same average for shots taken per game and shots allowed per game at 32.83.
- The most surprising stats of all are on special teams. Hadn't noticed before but Wichita has the best specials teams in the ECHL ranked #1 on the power play and #2 on the penalty kill. Remember the informal way to measure special teams is to add together the power play and penalty kill percentages. Anything above 105% is considered excellent and anything under 100% is disappointing. Wichita is outstanding with a league leading 116% while Allen is at a disappointing 94.1%. To compare these percentages to the NHL, the Carolina Hurricanes lead with 110.75% and the Chicago Blackhawks are in last place at 87.73%.
- Despite the overall disparity in special teams stats Allen is playing way above their stats recently. They have scored a power play goal in their last four games going 5-17
(29.4%). The same can be said about the penalty kill. In the last five games Allen has killed 20 of 22 penalties for a penalty kill percentage of 90.1%.
- Wichita has won their last two road game but lost their last four home games. Overall they are 5-6-0-0 at home and 4-1-0-1 on the road. Allen is 5-5 at home and 7-7 on the road.
- It will be all hands on deck for the Americans the next two nights in Wichita. San Jose contracted players Matt Willows, Jason Fram and Mike Brodzinski are all gone. Willows was reassigned to Reading in a deal that brought Zach Hall to Allen. Fram has been released from his AHL contract as he is returning to college (University of Alberta) and Brodzinski was recalled to the Barracuda as they were short defensmen because of injuries. Zach Hall will not arrive in Allen until Sunday so he is not available. All the roster shuffling means the Americans will play everyone available the next two nights with no extra guys on the trip. There are only five healthy defensemen so coach Martinson will go with five defensmen and 11 forwards. Riley Gill is expected to start in goal tonight.
- Wichita will be missing their leading scorer, Alexis Loiseau, tonight but they may be gaining back his best friend. Vincent Arseneau signed in Wichita so he could play with his best friend from back home in Quebec. There have been rumors all week that Arseneau is getting close to returning from an injury and may play tonight. He has played in only two games and has not played since October 21st.
- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Lucas Martin (#29) and linesmen Lucas Bisbee (#72) and Russ Coll (#40).
- If you are planning to watch the game tonight on ECHL-TV or listen to the live stream make sure to turn in early to catch the pregame show hosted by fellow Team Sin Bin members Matt Harding and Zach Courter. The show starts at 6:20 pm (CST) and you can listen by going to mixlr.com/wichita-thunder. If you watch the game on ECHL-TV remember to select the "home" feed to get the show. Their special guest tonight is the voice of the Allen Americans, Tommy Daniels.
- The Allen Ice Angels are an amazing group of dancers put together by Ice Angels Director, Stephanie Di Biase. Stephanie is well
known in the industry and has been involved with the Dallas Cowboy
Cheerleaders (DCC) having choreographed routines that were used in the DCC series "Making the Team." Being a member of Ice Angels
has become a stepping stone for so many who have moved on to the NFL,
NBA and NHL dance teams. Each year the Ice Angels get to take an exotic trip for their calendar shoot. This year it was to the Dominican Republic. Here is the behind the scenes video of the trip. There is a whole team responsible for this video including Stephanie, photographer James Higgins and DJP Creative who put the video together. Trust me you have to check it out: https://youtu.be/XAsY33qIDPA
DID YOU KNOW: Wichita coach Malcolm Cameron has a connection to both of the head coaches that have been in Allen. He followed Steve Martinson as the head coach in Elmira and Cameron was teammates with former Allen head coach Dwight Mullins when they both played for the Fort Worth Fire from 1995-97. The coach of the Fire at that time was former Allen assistant coach Bill McDonald.