Monday, January 15, 2018

MLK Game History, Allen vs Tulsa Preview, Reason for Regular Season and All-Star Game Today, Allen Playoff History & More

It is game day for the Allen Americans as they play the rubber match against the Tulsa Oilers. The traditional MLK day game is at the Allen Event Center (AEC) this afternoon with a 1:05 pm puck drop. The Americans split the first two games of this three game series with Tulsa, winning 7-2 on Saturday after losing 5-3 on Friday.

- The MLK game has not been kind to Allen fans recently as you have to go back to 2015 for an Americans win. In 2015 Allen scored three goals in the first 11 minutes of the game and coasted to a 5-2 win over the Missouri Mavericks. In 2016 the Americans blew a 2-0 first period lead and ended up losing to Cincinnati 4-3 in overtime. The MLK day game last season was also an overtime loss. Allen came back from a 3-0 deficit after the first period but ended up losing 5-4 in overtime to the Missouri Mavericks.

- Gary Steffes will be playing in his last game for Allen today before returning to his post retirement job in Minnesota. It would be a good bet he will score a goal today. He is the only player that has scored a goal in all three MLK day games for Allen since they joined the ECHL.

- Both teams will be missing key players today who are at the ECHL All-Star game which takes place this afternoon in Indy (1:00 pm EST) and will be televised on the NHL Network. David Makowski is representing Allen and and Connor Bleackley is representing Tulsa. 

- I am still getting questions asking why the Allen Americans are playing the same day as the ECHL All-Star game. There are actually three regular season games today. In addition to the Allen game against Tulsa, Florida is at Atlanta and Rapid City is at Utah. Here is how this came about:

The All-Star game proposals submitted by Indy (2018 All-Star Game) and Toledo (2019) proposed playing the game on the afternoon of Martin Luther King Day in the hopes of attracting a larger crowd than the traditional Wednesday evening game. Both of the proposals were approved by the team owners who make up the Board of Governors (BOG). As part of the approval, the BOG voted to continue to allow regular season games to be played on MLK Day, with the understanding that teams that play that day would send their all-star selection to the game, and as such, they would not be available for the regular season game. All teams were aware of this situation throughout the scheduling process for the 2017-18 season.

- As for the game this afternoon the question is will the Allen team from Friday night or Saturday night show up. After the Friday night 5-3 loss coach Martinson said, "We had way too many turnovers, we didn't have an effective backcheck and we were soft on the penalty kill. It is pretty hard to win that way unless your goalie stands on his head and saves the day." After the 7-2 win on Saturday coach Martinson talked about the Gary Steffes hat trick and also mentioned how important it was to have such a big bounce back after the game on Friday, the solid effort by Stephon Williams in goal and how much everyone chipped in and contributed to the victory. If the Saturday effort continues today the Americans should be in good shape.

- If you combine the stats for the two games in Tulsa the Americans had more goals (10-7), shots (77-76) and power play goals (5-2). Allen scored first in both games. There is a lot to build on but the Americans will have to overcome the loss of Makowski who had four assists in the win on Saturday and brings a lot of offense especially on the power play.

- Here are the updated stats between Allen and Tulsa:

                                     ALLEN                                TULSA

Team Record               20-12-4-1 (45 points)              14-15-3-5 (36 points)
Division Ranking         4th - Mountain                         5th -Mountain
Conference Ranking   6th - Western                          10th - Western
League Ranking          11th                                        19th
Last Game                  7-2 Win (Tulsa)                        7-2 Loss (Allen)
Goals For                    131                                          109
Goals Against             117                                          124
Power Play                 20.9%                                      13.2%
Home Power Play      21.6%                                       11.9%
Road Power Play       20.0%                                       14.1%
Penalty Kill                 81.3%                                       79.9%
Home Penalty Kill       86.8%                                      79.7%
Road Penalty Kill        75.0%                                      80.0%    
Leading Scorer           Pierro-Zabotel  (10-32-42)       Sampair (15-12-27)
Most PIM's                  Moore (121)                             Kessy (88)

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

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (24.51) - Tulsa 13th (15.76)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 6th (3.54) - Tulsa 20th (2.95)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 13th (3.16) - Tulsa 20th (3.35)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 16th (32.35) - Tulsa 1st (38.76)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 24th (36.92) - Tulsa 22nd (34.65) 
Power Play Percentage: Allen 3rd (20.9%) - Tulsa 24th (13.2%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 21st (81.3%) - Tulsa 23rd (79.9%)

- The most striking stats above are shots on goal. Tulsa leads the ECHL averaging over 38 shots on goal per game while the Americans are ranked #24 in the ECHL allowing an average of 37 shots on goal per game. In the first two games against Tulsa the Americans gave up 76 shots but had 77 of their own. If Allen can stay even with the Oilers on shots they will have the advantage because their shooting percentage is much better then Tulsa's (10.9% vs 7.6%).  

- The Allen power play has really come alive recently. In the last three games the power play is 7-15 for a 46.7% conversion rate. This recent success has moved Allen up to the #3 ranked power play in the ECHL (20.9%). Over the last three games the Allen penalty kill has continued to struggle giving up three power play goals in 10 opportunities for a penalty kill percentage of 70%. The question for today is whether the Americans can continue their success on the power play while tightening up on the penalty kill. 

- With Makowski at the All-Star game the Americans will be playing shorthanded in the game this afternoon. Unless something has changed Allen will have nine forwards (one short) and six defensemen.

- If coach Martinson continues to alternate goalies it will be Jeremy Brodeur in goal this afternoon.

- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Sean MacFarlane (#84) and linesmen Michael Houle (#49) and Addison Brush (#80). Allen has had MacFarlane as the referee numerous times this season including for the fiasco on New Year's Eve against Wichita. The Americans have not fared well with MacFarlane as they have lost six of eight games when he has been the referee.


- The three teams ahead of Allen in the Mountain Division standings (Colorado, Idaho, Wichita) are all idle today so a good chance for the Americans to make up some ground. If they can come away with two points this afternoon, Allen will be tied with Wichita for third place and be just one point behind second place Idaho.

- The three teams fighting for second place in the Mountain Division have all been struggling over the last 10 games which has allowed first place Colorado, who is 9-0-1-0 over the last 10 games, to open up a 12 point lead. Idaho is 5-3-1-1 over the last ten, Allen is 5-5-0-0 and Wichita is 4-5-1-0.

- I saw that Tony Stewart, who was supposed to be the celebrity coach for the North Division at the All-Star game today had to back out because of illness. ESPN racing analyst Scott Goodyear is replacing Stewart.

- If you are looking ahead Allen will spend the weekend on the road for the third straight week. They play in Indy on Friday night and Fort Wayne on Saturday and Sunday. In Indy the Americans will meet up with two former players, Garrett Clarke and Nolan Descoteaux. You have to expect Clarke, who is the all time career penalty minutes leader in Allen (432 minutes) will bring his agitating game to the ice that night. In Fort Wayne the Americans will meet up with former captain Jamie Schaafsma, who won three championships in Allen and was the CHL Playoff MVP when the Americans won their second championship in 2014.

DID YOU KNOW: I am always reminded at this time year of some of the slumps the Allen Americans endured in past seasons as they went on to win four straight championships. In 2013 from mid January to mid February the eventual Presidents' Cup winners won only two games while losing eleven. In 2014 Allen won their second championship but while I was on vacation in Patagonia most of the month of February the team was 1-8. So if doubts are creeping into your thoughts about how good Allen is this season my advice would be to "Keep the Faith!" It is not how you play in January and February that counts, it is how you are playing in March and beyond. And based on Steve Martinson's coaching history you have to like the chances the Americans will be playing their best hockey in March and into the playoffs. As a reminder, here are some of Martinson's records:

20 - the number of times Martinson has made the playoffs in 21 years as a head coach
10 - the number of championships Martinson has won as a head coach
2 - the number of times a Martinson coached team has lost in the first round of the playoffs
1 - the number of times a Martinson coached team has lost a game seven in the playoffs
15-1 - Martinson's record in all playoff series (not games but series) in Allen


  1. I have set the DVR to record the All Star Game today (channel 215 for DirecTV subscribers) starting at 12p CT. I enjoy the All Star game and think it will be a fun match up with 3 on 3 hockey. I also enjoy the skills competition. I know David M will represent the Allen Americans and Mountain division well.

    It is going to be sad to say goodbye to Gary again this afternoon especially since he picked right back up where he left off in May of last year. I know he is doing what he should be doing and that is helping form the next generation of hockey players but he is such a great person that it will be hard not seeing him play in an Americans sweater in the next game...

    1. Gilley, the comments below also apply to you not only here on the blog but on the other social media platforms. Keep up the passion and continue keeping them honest!

  2. A special thanks to Gary Steffes for stepping in and stepping up for the Americans. I think most would agree that we will miss him going forward.
    On another note, I don't think the Americans can afford to have a January/February slump this year. Now is the time to start winning all of the games that we should and most of the games that we are underdogs.

    1. I wanted to thank you for taking your time to post your thoughts on the blog as you are a frequent contributor. I always appreciate your point of view and I am sure others do as well. Keep up the good work!