With December in the rear view mirror and 45% of the season completed it is time to take a look at the month of January and see what lies ahead for the Allen Americans. The team will be back at practice today after ending December playing eight games in 13 days and finishing the year with two losses.
- The month of January will be crucial for the Americans in their quest to move up in the Mountain Division standings. They play 12 games in January and are on the road the first three weekends of the month, starting with Idaho this weekend. The Americans finish the month with a weekend series at home against Wichita.
- Last season Allen was 7-2-1-1 in January on their way from last place in the division at the beginning of December to first place by April. How the Americans perform in January will go a long way in telling if they can make a similar move this season. For the record seven of the 12 games this month are on the road.
- Whenever I have conversations with fans it is always interesting to hear what they think is going well with the team and where they see problems compared to last season. The best way to compare season to season is to look at the hard facts, the numbers. So I dug out the numbers from January 1st last season to compare to where Allen is today. These numbers are as of January 1, 2017 compared to January 1, 2018.
Standings - Allen was in second place in the division last year compared to a tie for third place this season. However, the Americans winning percentage is higher today (.641) than last season (.600).
Penalty Minutes - Allen led the ECHL a year ago and are doing the same again this season. They averaged 20.66 penalty minutes per game last season compared to 24.53 this season. Last season at this time Allen had been involved in 45 fights (14 were Derek Mathers) and this season the number is 32.
Goals Scored - Last season at this time Allen was ranked #6 in the league scoring an average of 3.66 goals per game. This season they are ranked #5 averaging 3.50 goals per game.
Goals Allowed - Last season Allen was ranked #2 allowing 2.71 goals per game. This season they are ranked #11 allowing 3.00 goals per game.
Power Play - A year ago the Allen power play was ranked #10 at 17.6%. Today the power play is ranked #11 at 19.1%.
Penalty Kill - Last year the penalty kill was ranked #7 at 85.5% compared to this year when it is ranked #16 at 82.3%.
- The Mountain Division is always strong, after all they have won the Kelly Cup the last three years, but this season the division has been really strong . There are eight ECHL teams with 40 or more points and four of them are in the Mountain Division. Here are the range of points from first place to fourth place in each division, the playoff teams as of January 1.
34-44 - North Division
31-47 - South Division
37-43 - Central Division
41-50 - Mountain Division
- The bottom line is Allen is similarly situated today as they were in January last season and they have dealt with a lot of players in and out of the lineup because of injuries and call ups. Here is a list of how many games key players have missed of the 32 Allen has played thus far.
30 games - Riley Gill (still on injured reserve)
22 games - Olivier Archambault
21 games - Zach Pochiro (still on injured reserve)
13 games - Vincent Arseneau (still on loan to Utica)
13 games - Bryan Moore
12 games - Zach Hall (out with an injury)
10 games - Spencer Asuchak (still recalled to San Jose)
10 games - Peter MacArthur (season ending injury)
8 games - Mathieu Aubin
8 games - Dalton Thrower
4 games - David Makowski
Allen has a tall task if they want to match the success of last year from January to the end of the season. From this point to the end of the season last year the Americans had a record of 29-4-3-1. Allen has a history of getting better as the playoffs get closer. If they can keep their nucleus together and healthy, add a piece or two, you can expect that to happen again this season.
- This is the week the ECHL usually announces the All-Star team. The All-Star game takes place in Indy on January 15 at 1:00 pm EST. - The ECHL is adopting a format similar to the AHL
and NHL for the All-Star game. It will feature four teams, one from each
division, that will compete in a three-on-three tournament. If you are interested here are all
of the details: https://www.echl.com/format-revealed-for-2018-ccm-echl-all-star-classic
- Because the All-Star game is schedule on MLK day this year in an effort to increase attendance the ECHL gave teams the option to schedule 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. Allen opted to schedule their traditional MLK game so they will be playing Tulsa on January 15 (1:05 CST).
- Don't be surprised if the Americans announce the signing of a player or two this week. Coach Martinson mentioned he was looking to add to the team with Peter MacArthur out for the season. MacArthur is a veteran so Martinson has a vet slot available but he also mentioned when addressing the season ticket holders after the NYE game he is looking at bringing in a player from a Canadian college. One thing is certain, if you stand still with roster changes this time of year you may very well lose ground. General manager Martinson is always trying to improve the roster and with the number of injuries and callups so far this season it is something he will continue to do.
- I heard former Allen captain Jamie Schaafsma has been out of the lineup the last few games for Fort Wayne because of an illness. I asked his wife, Nicole, for an update and she told me Jamie has been battling severe stomach pain for over a week. It was so bad as they were driving back to Fort Wayne from home after Christmas that Jamie ended up in the emergency room at 4:00 am and was put on pain medication. He has had some tests and is awaiting the results. Nicole reports he is hopefully on the mend as yesterday was the first day he hasn't had the terrible stomach pain. I know all Allen fans hope everything turns out for the best and he is back in the lineup soon.
DID YOU KNOW: Continuous improvement is always a key to success and one of the reasons for Allen's turn around last season which allowed them to have a record of 29-4-3-1 from January 1 to the end of the season. The power play was a big part of that continuous improvement. Here is the power play percentage and league rank for last season at the beginning of the month as the season progressed:
7.8% - December (#26)
17.6% - January (#10)
18.6% - February (#10)
22.3% - March (#6)
24.4% - April (#3)
After a disastrous start the power play was converting at over 30% by the end of the season.