Friday, January 5, 2018

Roster Update, Allen vs Idaho Preview, All-Star Game Questions & Thoughts, Five Years Ago Remembered

It is game day as the Allen Americans are in Boise to kick off 2018 with a pair of games against the Idaho Steelheads. The biggest concern is what will the roster look like when the Americans take the ice tonight (7:10 pm MST). What is known for sure is defensemen Mike Gunn, Dalton Thrower and David Makowski won't play as they all begin multiple game suspensions handed out by the league for the warmup fracas on New Year's Eve.

- Things could always change sometime today but as of last night coach Steve Martinson planned to have 14 skaters for the game tonight which is two short. The lineup will include nine forwards and five defensemen. If you are keeping track of the numbers there are two adds (one defenseman, one forward) and one delete (forward) since the team was down to 13 skaters after the three suspensions were announced on Wednesday. Official announcements should be made by the team today. UPDATE: The delete is Colby McAuley who has been recalled by the San Jose Barracuda. The add (forward) is Gary Steffes who has come out of retirement (temporarily) to help out for 10 days or so. He will be in the lineup tonight wearing #91. The add (defenseman) is Anthony Calabrese who was loaned to Allen by the Pensacola Ice Flyers (SPHL).

- The game tonight will be the sixth of 10 times Allen and Idaho play this season. The teams played five times in November with Allen having the edge 3-1-0-1. The Americans won two of three games in Idaho. At the Allen Event Center (AEC) the Americans won a game and lost in a shootout in the other. Since joining the ECHL Allen's record in Idaho is 3-4-0-0.

- The teams are tied for fourth place in the Mountain Division with 41 points. Both have struggled recently. Allen has lost their last two games and is 5-3-2-0 in their last 10 games. Idaho has lost their last three games and is 5-4-0-1 in their last 10 games.

- Here is the series preview written by Brian McCormack of the Idaho Steelheads. Brian is the Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations for the Steelheads. Hands down Brian puts together the best previews of any team Allen plays and his preview is always available the day before the game. This is a must read if you want to get a complete picture of the two games with Idaho:

- Here is a comparison between Allen and Idaho:

                                     ALLEN                            IDAHO

Team Record              18-9-4-1 (41 points)           18-10-3-2 (41 points)
Division Ranking         3rd - Mountain                   4th - Mountain
Conference Ranking  5th - Western                      6th - Western
League Ranking         8th                                      9th
Last Game                  4-2 Loss (Wichita)              5-4 Loss (Utah)
Goals For                    112                                     106
Goals Against             96                                        92
Power Play                 19.1% (26/136)                   19.8% (34/172)
Penalty Kill                  82.3% (26/147)                   84.0% (26/162)
Leading Scorer           Pierro-Zabotel (10-28-38)   Samuelsson (12-17-29)
Most PIM's                  Moore - 102                        Moroz - 88

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

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (24.53) - Idaho 7th (17.85)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 6th (3.50) - Idaho 13th (3.21)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 11th (3.00) - Idaho 4th (2.79)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 14th (32.69) - Idaho 2nd (36.73)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 24th (36.94) - Idaho 3rd (28.76)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 10th (19.1%) - Idaho 7th (19.8%)
Home Power Play %: Allen 4th (20.5%) - Idaho 2nd (22.0%)
Road Power Play %: Allen 16th (17.0%) - Idaho 14th (17.3%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 16th (82.3%) - Idaho 11th (84.0%)
Home Penalty Kill %: Allen 4th (87.5%) - Idaho 11th (84.4%)
Road Penalty Kill %: Allen 27th (74.6%) - Idaho 13th (83.3%)

- Statistically these teams are pretty evenly matched. One exception is Idaho is ranked #2 in the ECHL in shots for per game (36.73) and #3 in shots allowed per game (28.76) for a differential of +7.97. Allen is ranked #14 in shots for (32.69) and #24 in shots allowed (36.94) for a shot differential of -4.25. The Americans will have to work hard, use puck possession, avoid penalties and play good defense to hold down the number of shots Idaho gets in the game tonight. The shot differential doesn't transfer to goal differential because Idaho has one of the worst shooting percentages in the league (8.5%). Allen's shooting percentage is much better at 10.6%.

- Allen has taken a lot more penalty minutes (785) than Idaho (589) but when it comes to minor penalties Allen leads the league with 200 but Idaho is second with 197. Allen racks up a lot of penalty minutes with major penalties, 10 minute misconducts and game misconduct penalties. Staying out of the penalties box will be key for Allen tonight. Playing two players short is reason to avoid any major penalties and you can be sure Idaho will be more than willing to engage given the Americans are shorthanded. When it comes to special teams the advantage goes to the Steelheads based on the percentages. On the power play Allen is 17.0% on the road while Idaho is 22.0% at home. On the penalty kill Allen is 76.0% on the road while Idaho is 84.4% at home. The last time these teams met (November 25) Allen was 0-6 on the power play while Idaho was 4-9. Allen visited Idaho for three games the end of November and won two of them, however, in those three games Allen was 2-16 (12.5%) on the power play while Idaho was 6-18 (33.3%). Avoiding the sin bin should be mandatory tonight.  

- Despite the fact that Allen lost their last two games after scoring first and having a first period lead, getting off to a good start is always key. When leading after the first period Allen and Idaho have a combined record of 21-2-1-1.

- Players to watch tonight for Allen are Bryan Moore (6 points) and Joel Chouinard (5 points) who lead the team in points in the five games against Idaho. Olivier Archambault will be making his first start against Idaho and has at least one point in his last seven games with a total of 14 points.

- Coach Martinson has been alternating the goalies so that means Jeremy Brodeur should be in goal for the Americans. Brodeur's record is 9-3-2-1 and his .933 save percentage is the second best in the league. 

- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Sean MacFarlane (#4) and linesmen Scott DeBaugh  (#67 ) and Ryan Nevins (#86). MacFarlane was the referee in two of Allen's last three games against Wichita including the game on New Year's Eve.


 - Congrats to David Makowski for his selection to the ECHL All-Star team. Here is the ECHL press release with details about the game and the complete roster:

- Had a couple of questions about the All-Star team. One was why Indy had two players selected and the other was why goalie Etienne Marcoux, who plays for Indy in the Central Division and is the ECHL's leading goaltender in save percentage (.940), was named the goalie for the North Division. Thanks to Joe Babik, ECHL Director of Communications for the explanation.

With 27 teams and 28 roster spots there would obviously be one team with two representatives. The fairest and best way to handle that situation was to allow Indy, as the host, to be the team with two representatives. (Michael Neal & Etienne Marcoux).

As for Marcoux being on the North Division team, Pat Nagle had by far and away the most votes for a goaltender in the Central Division so he was the logical representative there. Marcoux was also high up in the Central Division votes and the decision was made to shift him to the North Division.

- The All-Star game always creates some controversy because many of the best players in the league including the league's leading scorer (Shawn Sydlowski), the league's assist leader (Casey Pierro-Zabotel) and the top scoring defenseman (Matt Register) aren't on the team. I always remember the year Chad Costello won the scoring title by the largest margin in league history (45 points) and had 125 points he didn't make the All-Star team. You just have to accept it is not an attempt to gather the best players in the league even though there will be many great players participating. It is a showcase game with all teams represented by only one player (except the host team) and it is an effort to expose some of the younger talent in the league. A first for this All-Star game is there will be three regular season games taking place while the All-Star game is in progress, which if you ask me is not good form. I understand this was done because the All-Star game was switched to MLK day to increase attendance and the league allowed teams that had traditional MLK games to continue but to me it diminishes the All-Star game plus the teams that play that day, including Allen, will be missing one their best players.

DID YOU KNOW: One of the most memorable regular season games in team history took place on this date (January 5) five years ago. If you look at the score it appears uneventful as the Allen Americans beat the Rapid City Rush 5-4 at the Allen Event Center on a Saturday night before a crowd of 4710. Here are a few things that may jog your memory of that game.

- The first of five fights in the game took place at the opening puck drop as two heavyweights dropped the gloves. It was Allen's Kip Brennan vs Rapid City's Justin Sawyer.

- Before the second period was over four other Americans would drop the gloves including Ryley Grantham, Mike Berube, Garrett Clarke and the diminutive Anthony Maiani who fought a guy five inches taller and 50 pounds heavier. It was one of only two fights Anthony had in his entire career.

- Clarke and Rapid City's Justin Faryna were given game misconducts.

- Alec Martinez, who won a Stanley Cup the prior season with the Los Angeles Kings and was playing with Allen during the NHL lockout scored his only CHL goal in the game. It turned out to be his last of three games with Allen.

- After a penalty filled second period (74 minutes) there were just two minor penalties in the third period. Allen did one of their famous third period comebacks scoring three unanswered goals to take the victory 5-4. The third period goal scorers were Jason Deitsch, Anthony Maiani and the game winner by Jamie Schaafsma assisted by Brian McMillin and Kip Brennan.

- In addition to having one NHL player in the lineup that night (Alec Martinez) a future NHL player also played as Aaron Dell was the winning goalie.

- Talk about a team with some toughness the Allen lineup that night included Kip Brennan, Ryley Grantham, Darryl Bootland, Garrett Clarke and Mike Berube. This group has over 800 fights in their hockey careers.

- There were many highlights but the fight at the start of the game between Brennan and Sawyer was rated the best fight of the year in the CHL and there were 531 CHL fights that season in the 10 team league. It was a toe to toe heavyweight battle that went over a minute. Both landed plenty of punches and it was a close fight but most had Brennan as a slight winner. Check out Brian McMillin clearing out of the faceoff circle as soon as the puck is dropped for this prearranged bout.

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