Saturday, February 4, 2017

Allen Wins 6-2, Coach's Corner, My Reflections on if this Team is Special & Power Play Progress

One of the advantages of writing this blog each and every morning and approaching it as a newspaper column rather than a news story is not feeling the rush to get the story out there quickly after the game. My goal is to try and add something to all of the nuts and bolts that describes the sequence of events that took place in the game. Because I have no deadline to get the story written, posted and edited ASAP after the game, I have the luxury to listen to the post game interviews, talk to coach Martinson, engage with fans and most importantly reflect before writing the next morning.

- Have to admit the question I ask myself frequently each morning is if I am adding value knowing the blog readers are fans that already know the details of the game. To me the game last night said so much more than the numbers that appear in the box score. It was the second night in a row that as I reflected on the game as I was falling asleep, I kept telling myself this team is unique. More on that later but let's start with the nuts and bolts.

- The Allen Americans defeated the Tulsa Oilers 6-2 last night before a crowd of 4765 at the Allen Event Center (AEC).  Allen took a 3-0 lead in the first period including two power play goals. By the seven minute mark of the period, six fighting majors had been assessed and three players were ejected. Tulsa dominated the second period out shooting the Americans 15-4 and scoring twice in a span of eight seconds to cut the score to 3-2 going into the second intermission. Allen took charge in the third period scoring three unanswered goals to make the final score 6-2. Here is the press release from the Allen Americans which provides all of the details:

- As of this writing the game highlights have not been posted to ECHL Rewind which is a shame as there were some amazing highlights last night. Hopefully, they will get posted later today.

- There were a total of 126 penalty minutes assessed in the game (68 to Tulsa - 58 Allen) and each team had six power play opportunities. Allen went 4-6 while Tulsa was 1-6. Tulsa has the worst special teams in the ECHL ranked #27 (9.9%) on the power play and #23 (79.2%) on the penalty kill. You would think they would figure out these high penalty minute games with lots of special teams play would not be in their best interest. Allen has played Tulsa five times since December 2 and in those five games are 11-21 on the power play for a hard to believe percentage of 52.4%.

- Game three against Tulsa takes place at the BOK Center tonight with a 7:05 pm puck drop. With all that transpired in the first two games it may be an interesting game to watch.  Officials scheduled for the game are referee Mike Sheehan (#11) and linesmen Chip Excell (#42) and Chuck Schamel (#97). Sheehan doesn't typically call a lot of penalties and is highly regarded. He will have to be on his "A" game tonight to keep control.

- Derek Mathers will not be suspended based on his game misconduct last night.  


- Here is Tom Manning's pregame interview with coach Martinson

- Here are Steve Martinson's post game comments:

- Their second goal was a breakdown in the breakout we were using which resulted in a Tulsa player stealing the puck and scoring a goal. It is tough when you give up a goal like that.

- It was good to have the power play clicking.

- Derek Mathers was given a game misconduct penalty for leaving the bench and that penalty comes with a suspension. There certainly were some extenuating circumstances surrounding what happened so we will see how this is resolved.

- We took a couple of offensive zone penalties in the second period that lead to their one power play goal.

- Jamie Murray had a good game in goal. He always comes up with some big saves. We have been getting good goaltending from both guys. Riley Gill will get the start tomorrow in Tulsa.

- Because of possible construction delays on Highway 75 we will leave at 12:30 pm tomorrow for Tulsa.

- That power play goal where Chad made the pass to Makowski was a thing of beauty. Makowski made a great rush and was flying in like he was shot out of a cannon. That play Chad made was something else. What is amazing is Chad sees that play, it is not a lucky play. I am sure the defenseman were thinking if I could just close my legs in time because he put the pass right between both defensemen's legs and it was right on Makowski's tape. I said to Chad when he got to the bench, "you were shooting that right?"

- Kale Kerbashian will be in the lineup tomorrow.


- You never know what goes on in the locker room and it is hard to argue with the success of the Allen Americans over the past four years. Coach Martinson is the only constant since 2012-13 and he certainly deserves much credit for the team's success. As I watched the games the last two nights and thought about them after the fact I kept thinking this team seems special. I am around the rink a lot and interact with the players but nobody knows the inner workings of a team other than team itself. To them this team may seem no tighter than the previous championship teams but to me there are some unique qualities that makes it a pleasure to follow this edition of the Allen Americans. Here are a few of my random thoughts that I think makes this team special.

- They are always trying to give credit to somebody else. Interview after interview you hear the top players on this team deflecting from their success and put it on others. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts with this team.

- The players stick up for each other without hesitation. I know all teams do this to a certain extent but this team excels at it. Some years the team toughness is in the form of a lion and some years it is more akin to pack of wolves. This season the team has both. The lion, Derek Mathers, is as tough as they come and will risk his own health to come to the defense of his teammates. It is ironic that Reid Halabi fought Derek three times and spent the entire time trying to bear hug Mathers to avoid getting destroyed. The only punches Halabi landed in Allen is when he sucker punched Dyson Stevenson. If you mess with the Americans there are always a couple of wolves out of the pack on the ice and they will respond immediately.

- That leads me to another reflection and that is the role of Dyson Stevenson on this team. He is a combination of toughness, grit and dedication with a commitment to the team that is unparalleled. Whether it is sticking up for a teammate, killing penalties, blocking shots or rushing the puck he is all in all of the time. His impact in the locker room is underestimated in my opinion. He does this being one of the smaller guys on the team, don't believe that 6' 0" & 185 pounds which by his own admission is overstated.

- You saw what happened last night after Stevenson was boarded in the first period and when Halabi sucker punched him in the third. The lion and the pack of wolves were unleashed. It was quick, efficient and effective. This is how this team operates and they are very good at it. One for all and all for one and it shows.

- Another observation of why I think this team is unique happened a couple of weeks ago but was in full view again Thursday night. Two weeks ago Bryan Moore passed up an empty net goal that at the time he thought would have been his fifth goal of the game. Costello could have had the empty net goal but passed the puck to Moore to put it home. Moore actually caught Costello by surprise when he passed back to Chad right at the goal mouth. Chad had no choice but tap the puck in the net. When asked why he passed the puck on what at the time was his fifth goal Moore said, "I knew that Costello needed one more for his 300th point with the Americans and I wanted to see him score that goal." If you were at the game Thursday night you witnessed a long period of time when Tulsa pulled the goalie. Allen had a three goal lead at the time so the game had been decided. On numerous occasions players passed up a shot at the empty net to pass to a teammate only to see the opportunity missed. I know fans were yelling to just put the puck in the net but the team had other ideas. I thought it was such a powerful message about the team. Bryan Moore once again passed up a surefire goal and passed to Josh Brittain who finally got the empty net goal.

- Watching Riley Gill accept the #1 star acknowledgment while holding his son Jackson or watching Gary Steffes return to the bench after that nasty cut  made you want to give them a hug.

- I could go on and on why I think this group is special and it may not be true at all. The players may think this team is no different than the previous ones when it comes to these issues. I just see a group of guys playing for each other working toward a common goal. While the fans, coaches and ownership matter, the players use themselves as the focal point and they play for each other so whatever negativity comes at them they use as a rallying point. Win or lose, good or bad, it has been a real treat to watch this group come together and what an entertaining show they put on.

DID YOU KNOW: I have started to refer to the 1-0 overtime win in Tulsa on November 29 as the game that turned around the Allen season. I know that is a tad hyperbolic but I am sticking with it.  It was also the game that saw the Allen power play hit rock bottom. The power play at that time was 6-77 for 7.8%. Today the power play is 43-213 for 20.2%. How good has the power play been to raise the percentage to 20.2%? From November 29 through last night the Allen power play is 37-136 for a 27.2% success rate.

1 comment:

  1. I love all of your insights here. Coach does a remarkable job putting a team together. It is fun seeing how these guys have come together and pushed to the top few in the league. Once again it will be exciting to see how things continue to move forward as we dare to hope for a possible 5th championship. Thank you again for the work you do.