Friday, March 23, 2018

Allen vs Kansas City Game Preview, Junior Teammates Last Weekend Pro Opponents Tonight, ECHL & PHPA Ratify New Five Year CBA, NHL's CTE Denial and More

It is game day for the Allen Americans as they start a two game set against the Kansas City Mavericks. The games tonight and Saturday night (7:05 pm) couldn't be more important as both teams are fighting to make the playoffs. Allen is tied with Tulsa for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Mountain Division. Kansas City is in fifth place in the Central Division just two points out of a playoff spot. The two games this weekend at the Allen Event Center (AEC) could very well make the difference between making the playoffs or having an early summer.

- Overall Allen and Kansas City have very similar records this season. Allen is 31-26-5-2 and Kansas city is 32-28-2-2. In their last 10 games Allen is 6-3-1-0 and Kansas City is 6-2-2-0. The Mavericks have won two in a row while the Americans have lost three straight. The game tonight will be the seventh between these teams with Missouri winning four of the first six. They have split the two games played at the AEC. Allen won 5-2 on December 19th and Kansas City won 4-3 in overtime on December 20th.

- The Allen Americans have been a team of streaks for the last two months. Here is how the season has gone since January 15. Six game losing streak, four game winning streak, losing six out of seven, six game winning streak and the current three game losing streak. The next winning streak needs to start right now if the Americans expect to make the playoffs.

- Defense and goalie play has been much different between Allen and Kansas City over the last six games. Allen has given up 24 goals (4.00 per game) while the Mavericks have allowed 13 goals (2.17 per game). Kansas City has used seven different goalies this season and recently was assigned an AHL contract goalie, Adam Carlson. Carlson has played in nine games since being assigned in the middle of February, has a record of 5-1-2-1, a GAA of 2.07 and a .922 save percentage. Unfortunately for Kansas City, Carlson was recalled to Hershey (AHL) yesterday.

- In their six head to head games this season Kansas City has outscored Allen 19-15 and has a big advantage in shots (227-164). With the exception of one game (February 24) when there was a mini-brawl with three fights the games between Allen and Kansas City have been pretty tame but you can never predict what will happen.

- Here is a comparison between Allen and Kansas City this season:

                                     ALLEN                             KANSAS CITY

Team Record              31-25-5-2 (69 points)         32-28-2-2 (52 points)
Division Ranking         5th - Mountain                    5th -Central
Conference Ranking  9th - Western                      10th - Western
League Ranking         16th                                    17th
Last Game                  3-2 Loss (Tulsa)                  3-1 Win (Wichita)
Goals For                    212                                     180
Goals Against             206                                     196
Power Play                 16.8% (47/279)                   18.5% (43/232)
Penalty Kill                  81.4% (53/285)                   79.6% (40/196)
Leading Scorer           Pierro-Zabotel  (18-45-63)   Cooper (20-20-40)
Most PIM's                  Moore - 195                         Elbrecht - 146

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

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (20.86) - Kansas City 20th (12.98)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 8th (3.31) - Kansas City 24th (2.81)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 16th (3.22) - Kansas City 11th (3.06)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 20th (31.13) - Kansas City 16th (31.78)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 23rd (36.41) - Kansas City 9th (30.28)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 17th (16.8%) - Kansas City 7th (18.5%)
Home Power Play %: Allen 12th (18.0%) - Kansas City 8th (19.7%)
Road Power Play %: Allen 16th (15.9%) - Kansas City 13th (17.1%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 20th (81.4%) - Kansas City 24th (79.6%)
Home Penalty Kill %: Allen 12th (84.6%) - Kansas City 24th (79.6%)
Road Penalty Kill %: Allen 25th (78.5%) - Kansas City 23rd (79.6%)

- One stat that that stands out is goal differential. Allen is +6 (212 for & 206 against) while Kansas City is -16 (180 for & 196 against). Kansas City is ranked #24 in the league scoring an average of 2.81 goals per game. Allen averages a half a goal per game more than the Mavericks.

 - Which team will be able to generate some offense tonight is the big question. Special teams may very well hold the answer. Allen's power play is 18.0% at home while Kansas City is at 17.1% on the road. Allen's penalty kill is 84.6% at home and Kansas City is 79.6% on the road. In their six previous games the team that scored the most power play goals won the game. That will likely be the case tonight.

- In their head to head games this season (six games) Allen is 4-15 (26.7%) on the power play while Kansas City is 7-24 (29.2%). However, the Allen penalty kill is much improved. Over the last month the penalty kill percentage is 89.4%. 

- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Olivier Gouin (#7) and linesmen Cameron Dykstra (#0) and Aaron Schacht (#31). This is the same crew that handled the game on Wednesday against Tulsa. On Wednesday the referee called a lot of stick penalties including six for slashing. Something for the players to be aware of tonight.    

- Wichita lost last night to Kalamazoo by a score of 5-3 and remains in third place in the division with 73 points, four points ahead of Allen and Tulsa. However, the Americans and Oilers have played two fewer games than the Thunder. Tonight the scoreboard watchers will have to track Quad City at Tulsa and Colorado at Utah in addition to Kansas City at Allen to see the impact on the Mountain Division standings. Tulsa and/or Allen could close within two points of the Thunder with a win tonight since Wichita is idle.

- The ECHL and the Professional Hockey Players' Association (PHPA) announced yesterday that they had ratified a new five year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) effective July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2023. I would assume it will be a while before the complete CBA language will be available but typically all of the dollar related provisions have an escalator clause each season so the salary cap, minimum salary, rookie salary, per diem etc. will increase. The one line in the press release that piqued my interest was the "CBA has been modified to include enhancements to the Reserve System as it relates to veteran players." Will try and get more details on that provision. If you haven't seen the joint press release on the new CBA here it is:

- I was reading the recent Sharks Report written by Paul Gackle and these sentences caught my eye.

 "The most compelling piece of hockey journalism this month comes from HBO Real Sports. In a recent episode, the sports magazine show looked into the NHL's continued denial of the link between head injuries in the sport and the degenerative brain disorder known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). The NHL now stands alone among the four major professional sports leagues in its refusal to acknowledge the connection between head trauma in sports and the potential for longterm brain damage."

 It is clear that hockey can do better when it comes to hits to the head and the NHL must lead the way. Here is a short video about the HBO Real Sports episode.


DID YOU KNOW:  Keep an eye on #91 (Jared Bethune) for Allen and #7 (Brogan O'Brien) for Kansas City if they are in the lineup tonight and on the ice at the same time. It has been quite a week for both players. Less than a week ago (last Saturday) they were Western Hockey League teammates on the Prince George Cougars playing the last game of their junior careers at home against the Kamloops Blazers. Prince George lost the game 6-5 in a shootout. Brogan was an alternate captain, had two goals and an assist, missed in the shootout and was named the #1 star of the game for the Cougars. Jared was an alternate captain, had two assists in the game, missed his shootout opportunity and was named the #2 star of the game for the Cougars. Since Saturday both players signed pro contracts and by coincidence their teams play each other tonight. Bethune played his first game for Allen on Wednesday, O'Brien has yet to make his first pro start. 

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