Monday, February 5, 2018

Allen's Last Week in Review and This Week's Four Game South Division Preview, Mountain Division Tilts, Japanese Hockey Prodigy and Is the ECHL More Balanced This Season

The Allen Americans just completed their most successful week of the season. They have won four straight games which is the longest winning streak of the season. Three of the four wins were against teams ahead of the Americans in the standings including two against the #1 team in the ECHL, the Colorado Eagles.

- The Allen offense has been on fire over this four game win streak scoring five goals in each game. Meanwhile, the Americans allowed only eight goals for a measly 2.0 goals per game average. The goal differential over the four game win streak of +12 (20 goals for 8 against) is the largest goal differential over a four game span all season.

-  Jeremy Brodeur and Stephon Williams combined for a 2.00 GAA and a save percentage of .944 in the last four games. You can't ask for anything more from the goalies than that.

- With all of the success in the last week there is certainly room for improvement going into the coming week. In two of the wins during this four game win streak the Americans allowed shots in the 20's (28 & 29) but in the other two wins the shots allowed were in the 40's (46 & 40).

- You rarely have a four game win streak without excellent special teams play but that was not the case last week. Allen's power play for the season converts on 19.2% of their opportunities but during this four game win streak the power play percentage was 15.4%. Allen's penalty kill is ranked #22 in the ECHL at 80.2% but last week the Americans couldn't even match that as the penalty kill percentage was 78.6%.

- As coach Martinson said after the just completed 4-0 week, "We are generating a lot of offense, we are winning games but we are still not there yet." It is encouraging that the team has been winning games against good opponents but still has plenty of room to improve.

- This week Allen takes a rare road trip outside of the Western Conference as they are busing their way to Atlanta for the first of four games against South Division opponents. They will play Atlanta on Tuesday, Florida on Friday and Saturday and then close the road trip with a Sunday afternoon game in Jacksonville. The first leg of the road trip is 830 miles which means something like 14 hours on the bus.

- How rare is it for Allen to play teams in the South Division? This is their fourth season in the ECHL and they have played South Division teams just seven times. The first two years (2014-15 & 2015-16) they didn't play the South Division at all during the regular season. In 2014-15 the teams in the South were actually called the East Division and Allen beat South Carolina in the Kelly Cup finals to win their first ECHL championship.

- Last season (2016-17) Allen went 3-1-0-1 against the South Division. They split two games at home against Atlanta in October and then took a Florida road trip at the end of January. They beat Florida and split two games in Orlando, losing in a shootout and winning in overtime.

- Orlando was in Allen for the first two home games of this season. Allen won the first game 6-2, Zach Pochiro was the #1 star with two goals. Riley Gill was the #2 star in that game stopping 23 of 25 shots he faced. That game is most memorable because late in the third period Riley Gill was carried off the ice with a head/neck injury that has kept him sidelined ever since. In the second game of the series Orlando beat Allen 4-3 in overtime.

- It will be a real challenge for Allen to match last weeks results this week. For the second week in a row they will be playing two games against the best team in the ECHL. Colorado was #1 last week but after Allen beat the Eagles twice the Florida Everblades are now #1 in points (67) and winning percentage .744. Florida's home record is 14-4-0-2 so getting a win in their house won't be easy.

- The first game of the trip to the South Division is Tuesday night against Atlanta. They are currently in third place in the division but trail second place South Carolina by 12 points and first place Florida by 16 points. Atlanta's record is 24-23-1-2 and their winning percentage is .510. Allen's winning percentage is .564. Atlanta has the misfortune of having played the best team in the league (Florida) nine times this season and has yet to beat the Everblades. If you take the eight regulation losses and one shootout loss to Florida away from the Gladiator's record their winning percentage against everyone else is .610. The point being is Atlanta is a tougher team than their record reflects.

- Jacksonville is in last place in the South Division with a winning percentage of .383. They have lost their last four home games scoring just five goals for an average goals per game of 1.25. This game is a must win for the Americans. 

- The bottom line is this swing through the South Division will be a good test for the Americans to see if they can continue their winning ways. It will be nice for Allen fans to have games starting an hour earlier than normal because of the time difference.

- Allen has won four in a row but they lost six straight before that so their record over the last 10 games stands at 4-6. Here are the records for the teams they face this week over the last 10 games.

6-4-0-0 -  Atlanta
5-3-0-2 -  Florida
5-4-0-1 - Jacksonville


- While Allen is on their road trip to the South Division, Idaho will be in Colorado for three games this week. The three games this week will be followed by three games between the same teams in Idaho next week. That's right, six in a row between these teams from February 7-17. There has already been 11 fights between Colorado and Idaho this season. Idaho has only 29 fighting majors all season so close to 40% of their fights have been with the Eagles. Keep an eye on this series as the fireworks will guarantee the fighting numbers will increase.

- The other team Allen is battling is Wichita. The teams are tied for third place in the division with 53 points but the Thunder has three games in hand over the Americans. Just like Allen the Thunder are on the road for four games this week outside the division. Wichita will be playing four games against Central Division foes. They play second place Fort Wayne on Wednesday and Friday, fourth place Cincinnati on Saturday and first place Toledo on Sunday.

- There is no contest for the ECHL comeback team of the year. The Wichita Thunder had the second worst winning percentage in the ECHL last season at .340. This season they are ranked #8 at .602. Wichita had 21 wins last season. They already have 25 wins this season with close to 40% of their games remaining. Now that is a turnaround.

- You might enjoy this story about 14 year old hockey prodigy Aito Iguchi who is from Japan and aspires to be a pro hockey player. Iguchi has played two season of spring AAA hockey with the Langley Jr. Rivermen, outside Vancouver. This is the same organization that coach Martinson's son, Logan, will join this fall to play on the Langley Rivermen Junior "A" team in the British Columbia Hockey League. This story covers Iguchi but also talks about the state of hockey in Japan.

- Iguchi is an internet sensation for his stick handling videos. Here is one small sample.

DID YOU KNOW: You can make the argument that the ECHL is more balanced this season than last season. Last season there were seven teams that finished with a winning percentage below .450 and the three lowest were .292, .340 and .358. This season their are only four teams below .450 and the three lowest are .356, .372 and .383. 

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