Friday, March 17, 2017

Allen vs Wichita Preview, Opportunity to Meet New Owner Jack Gulati, Free Tickets for Veterans

The Allen Americans take on the Wichita Thunder tonight (7:05 pm) at the Allen Event Center (AEC). It will be the 11th of 14 games between these teams this season. They will play again at the AEC Saturday night.

- Wichita is out of the playoff picture, has just 18 wins, 40 points and has lost seven of their last 10 games. Over the last two seasons Allen has a record of 20-2-1-0 against the Thunder. It looks like a couple of easy wins for the Americans this weekend. Nothing could be further from the truth. The two regulation losses took place the last two times Allen played Wichita and the games weren't even close. On January 22 the Thunder beat Allen 5-1 in Wichita and on January 21 they shutout the Americans 4-0 in Allen. Take Wichita lightly at your own peril.

- The lineup will have a different look for the Americans tonight. Spencer Asuchak will not be playing for the first time all season after playing in 61 straight games. Allen will miss many aspects of his game but particularly his net front presence. Asuchak is on loan to the Providence Bruins (AHL). Wade MacLeod who was recently signed and has a goal and assist in his first two games, will be making his home debut. Tyler Barnes who just arrived in Allen after being loaned by the Rockford IceHogs is expected to be in the lineup tonight.

- If I have the math correct two players will be healthy scratches. Coach Martinson has two options. He can sit out two forwards or he can have Dyson Stevenson help out at defense and sit out one forward and one defenseman.

- Here are the current stats comparing Allen and Wichita:

                                     ALLEN                               WICHITA

Team Record               39-17-3-1 (83 points)             18-36-3-1 (40 points)
Division Ranking         2nd - Mountain                       6th - Central
Conference Ranking   3rd - Western                         13th - Western
League Ranking         4th                                           25th
Last Game                  5-3 Win (Indy)                         2-1 OT Win (Missouri)
Goals For                    243                                         157
Goals Against             175                                          225
Power Play                 22.5% (59/262)                       15.8% (35-222)
Penalty Kill                  84.5% (45/290)                       81.1% (47/249)
Most PIM                    Mathers (238)                          Melindy (180)
Leading Scorers:        Costello (31-75-106)                DeBlouw (13-21-33)
                                   Hanson (32-38-70)                   Marcotte (12 -18-30)          

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

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (20.20) - Wichita 2nd (17.90)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 2nd (3.98) - Wichita 25th (2.71)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 2nd (2.87) - Wichita 25th (3.88)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 19th (31.70) - Wichita 13th (32.22)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 22nd (34.72) - Wichita 26th (35.71)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 4th (22.5%) - Wichita 18th (15.8%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 4th (84.5%) - Wichita 20th (81.1%)

- A couple of interesting things to note from the stats above. Allen has a big advantage as they score over a goal a game more than Wichita and allow over a goal a game less than the Thunder. But if you look at shots for and against the teams are very close. That tells you Allen has a much better shooting percentage than Wichita (12.5% vs 8.4%) and much better goaltending (GAA 2.81 vs 3.83).

- Allen needs to capitalize on the clear advantage they have on special teams. In the two losses against Wichita at the end of January, Allen went 0-7 on the power play while the Thunder was 2-10. If you look at all 10 previous games Allen is 11-46 (23.9%) while Wichita is 7-56 (12.5%). It has been feast or famine for Allen on the power play against Wichita. They have had multiple power play goals four times (three goals twice) but have had no power play goals in five of the 10 games.

- In the 10 head to head games this season Allen has outscored Wichita 42-22, but the Thunder has out shot the Americans 384-324.

- There is little doubt Allen should win both games this weekend if you look at the talent on the team, the stats and the record against Wichita. But the team needs to resist trying to do too much in front of the home crowd and new owner who will be at both games. It is a broken record but it is the key to success. Be aggressive but don't cheat on offense. Don't try and make plays that aren't there. If you don't have a play dump the puck in and forecheck. Remember it is more important to win the game than score. Finish your checks and avoid stick penalties especially in the offensive zone. With the high powered offense on the ice tonight it will be a commitment to defense that is key. I guess that is enough cliches for one game.

- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Andrew Wilk (#24) and linesmen Erik Contino (#89) and Lucas Bisbee (#72).


- New owner Jack Gulati is in town and will be very visible to all fans at both games this weekend. You will see him in the concourse wearing his #5 Allen Americans jersey and he really does want to meet with as many fans as possible and listen to whatever is on your mind. If you are a season ticket holder or sponsor there will be a casual meet and greet with Jack before the game on Saturday (March 18). If you are a season ticket holder or sponsor and didn't receive the email with the details all you need to know is the meet and greet with Jack will be from 5:00 - 6:00 pm on Saturday in the season ticket holder lounge. You need to enter through the south doors.

Fans will have a chance to meet Jack Gulati on Friday & Saturday

- I have heard from many fans sharing what they plan to talk to Jack about, asking me to share their concerns or asking what I thought they should say. My advice is for everyone to share whatever is on your mind but make sure to take the time and do it. I know from observing Jack before and after the press conference announcing the sale of the team he is in his element when talking to fans and truly wants to engage with them. If you want to know what is on my list to talk to him about it includes the following four items. First and foremost is thanking Jack (again) for taking the risk and buying the team as he is a hero for stepping up under difficult circumstances. Second, I want Jack to know Steve Martinson is not only the face of the franchise but it's heart and soul and if Jack wants more butts in the seats a long term contract for the coach is essential. Third, I want to share some marketing and promotion ideas that might help attendance. Finally, I want to talk to Jack about the possibility of a name change for the team. I started thinking about this when Missouri recently made their announcement that next season they will be the Kansas City Mavericks. This topic has come up  numerous times over the years and the rationale for Missouri making the change certainly applies to Allen. I love the current name but the question to ask is would a broader and more recognizable name attract more fans. If a change is made, now is the prefect timing with a new owner in place. So you have what is on my mind. My encouragement to everyone is to take the time to introduce yourself and share whatever is on your mind. It is not very often you get the chance to talk directly to the decision maker of a sports franchise so take advantage and you could impact what happens going forward in Allen.

- I mentioned on Wednesday the Allen Americans have long supported veterans through their "Seats for Soldiers" program. This year I asked if I could expand the program that has allowed me to offer free tickets to the many veterans that live at Heritage Ranch (where I reside) from World War II, Korea and Vietnam and offer free tickets to veterans that read Allen Americans Blog. The team has graciously agreed to give it a try. Here is what you need to do if you are a veteran and are interested in free tickets for Military Appreciation Night which is Saturday March 25 (7:05 pm.) Send me an email at with the following information:

1. Your name
2. Branch of Service - (in my case Army)
3. Dates of service - (in my case 1968-1970)
4. Where you Served - (in my case Vietnam)
5. How many tickets you need - (I can provide tickets for you, your spouse and children)
6. Let me know if you need wheelchair accessible seating

I will put your tickets at will call and you will have to provide photo id to pick them up. Let me know if you have any questions.

- Happy birthday to Harrison Ruopp who is celebrating his 24th birthday today. 

- Congrats to LaJean Bilbrey and Micheal Moriarty who won the drawing for free tickets for the games this weekend. For those that didn't win there will be more opportunities so please keep entering.

DID YOU KNOW:  Steve Martinson has won 10 championships in 20 years of coaching but never planned to coach after ending his playing career. He was working as a financial advisor and was talked into coaching. He won a championship in his first season with a record of 49-7-2 for a win percentage of .862. The rest is history. It is interesting the highest win percentage in his coaching career came in his first year as coach.