Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Road Trip Begins, Allen vs Idaho Preview, Everyone Is Going Through Something Story, ECHL's Single Season Biggest Point Increase and Decrease

It is game day for the Allen Americans against the Idaho Steelheads after a long trek from Allen to Boise yesterday. The team was spared the 30 hours bus trip by flying to Las Vegas and then busing the 625 miles to Boise but still arrived well after midnight.

- It will be a new look Allen Americans with four players added in the last week, goalie Jake Paterson and forwards Tristan King, Thomas Frazee and Alexandre Carrier. They arrive just in time for a critical six game swing through the Mountain Division that will go a long way in deciding if the Americans make the playoffs.

- First up on the road trip is one game in Boise against the Steelheads which starts at 8:10 CST tonight. It will be the seventh of ten games between these teams this season. They will meet again the last two games of the season in Allen. The Americans record against Idaho in the previous seven games is 3-3-0-1 but Idaho won the last three meetings, all in Boise, by scores of 5-1, 6-3 and 5-0. To be fair the last time Allen visited Idaho (January 5 & 6) the Americans were missing half the team because of injuries, callups and suspensions. Vincent Arseneau, David Makowski, Spencer Asuchak, Zach Pochiro, Dalton Thrower, Mike Gunn and Zach Hall were all out of the lineup.

- Coach Martinson mentioned to me the last time Allen was in Boise the Steelheads were pretty brave because the Americans were missing so many players and played shorthanded. It will be a lot different tonight as Allen has a much a bigger and tougher lineup going into the game. Both teams acquired tough guys in the last two days from the South Division who are familiar with each other. Allen traded Atlanta for Alexandre Carrier and Idaho traded Greenville for Jack Nevins. If Nevins is in the lineup (trade was just announced yesterday) you might see these two drop the gloves.

- There is certainly no love lost between these teams and it wasn't helped when Idaho claimed Gary Steffes in a bluff move hoping he would refuse to report and they would retain his rights. There is no way Idaho was going to pay his salary which was reported to be in the $1200-$1500 per week range. When Steffes called their bluff and said buy me an airline ticket and I will report they dropped the waiver claim. You can bet Martinson hasn't forgotten those antics.

- Here is a press release issued by Idaho yesterday called "Quick Hits" which will give you some background on the Steelheads as they enter the game tonight.

- Here is the game preview from the Allen Americans with quotes from Joel Chouinard and Tristan King.

- Here is a comparison between Allen and Idaho:

                                     ALLEN                            IDAHO

Team Record              27-24-4-2 (60 points)          33-19-4-2 (72 points)
Division Ranking         6th - Mountain                    2nd - Mountain
Conference Ranking  10th - Western                     4th - Western
League Ranking         17th                                     8th
Last Game                  3-2 Win (Rapid City)           2-1 Loss (Wichita)
Goals For                    184                                     198
Goals Against             181                                     165
Power Play                 16.7% (41/245)                   18.1% (51/282)
Penalty Kill                  80.2% (50/252)                   83.3% (48/287)
Leading Scorer           Pierro-Zabotel (15-40-55)   Dahl (20-36-56)
Most PIM's                  Moore - 185                        Dahl - 103

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

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (21.60) - Idaho 6th (17.88)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 12th (3.23) - Idaho 7th (3.41)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 14th (3.18) - Idaho 5th (2.84)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 17th (31.54) - Idaho 3rd (36.60)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 23rd (36.42) - Idaho 4th (28.91)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 17th (16.7%) - Idaho 11th (18.1%)
Home Power Play %: Allen 10th (18.7%) - Idaho 8th (19.6%)
Road Power Play %: Allen 19th (14.8%) - Idaho 15th (16.7%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 22nd (80.2%) - Idaho 11th (83.3%)
Home Penalty Kill %: Allen 12th (84.5%) - Idaho 16th (82.5%)
Road Penalty Kill %: Allen 25th (75.6%) - Idaho 10th (84.0%)

- It is difficult to make a case for Allen based on the stats above. You rarely see one team have the better stat in every category and that is the case with the exception of home penalty kill percentage and that won't help Allen because they are not playing at home. Allen's differential between goals scored and allowed is +.05, Idaho's is +.59. Allen's differential between shots for and against is -4.88, Idaho's is +7.69. Idaho has the edge on the power play 19.6% (at home) vs 14.8% for Allen (road). The same is true on the penalty kill with Idaho at 82.5% and Allen at 75.6%.  Idaho has scored nine shorthanded goals, Allen has scored five. Idaho has allowed four shorthanded goals. Allen has allowed eight.

- Allen has taken a lot more penalty minutes (1231) than Idaho (1027) but if there is a silver lining for the Americans it is in minor penalties. Idaho leads the ECHL with 356 minor penalties while Allen has 318. Allen racks up a lot of misconduct and game misconduct penalties which drives up their total penalty minutes. Allen has 23 of these penalties compared to 14 for Idaho. Staying out of the penalties box will be key for Allen tonight. Even though Allen has added players they are still playing with only nine forwards. When it comes to special teams the advantage goes to the Steelheads based on the percentages above for the entire season but also because of Allen's recent problems. The power play is 2-47 over the last 11 games. That converts to 4.7%. The penalty kill over the last 11 games is at 80.0% (9-45). If there is any facet of the game that could really help tonight it would be improvement on special teams.

- As always scoring first and playing with a lead will be very important tonight. In all seven meetings between Allen and Idaho this season the team that scored first won the game. They have a combined record when leading after the first period of 34-6-1-1. They have a combined record when leading after the second period of 45-4-0-2. Playing from behind is not a good sign for either team.

- Players to watch tonight for Allen are Bryan Moore (7 points) and Joel Chouinard (6 points) who lead the team in points in the seven games against Idaho. Vincent Arseneau has only played in four of the seven games and has three goals. For Idaho the players to watch are #21 Jefferson Dahl who has 11 points in the seven games against Allen and #27 Justin Parizek who has six goals in six games against the Americans.

- There are eight players that played the last time Allen was in Idaho that won't be on the ice tonight. Allen has won two games in a row and has a chance to show they are headed in the right direction with this revised roster. It should a fun game to watch. 

- The way Jake Paterson played in goal in his first two starts in Allen (GAA 1.93 & save percentage .944) I would expect he will get the start tonight. 

- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Stephen Reneau (#17) and linesmen Scott DeBaugh  (#67 ) and Ryan Nevins (#86). Hope Nevins isn't related to enforcer Jack Nevins who Idaho just acquired yesterday.


- If you tend to be a scoreboard watcher hoping to get help from other teams in Allen's quest for the playoffs the games on tap tonight are Quad City at Wichita and Tulsa at Rapid City.

- When I interviewed Allen captain Joel Chouinard before the season started he introduced me to the website called The Players' Tribune telling me it was something he enjoyed because the stories on the site were written by pro athletes and covered a myriad of topics. There is a section for all of the major sports and I have posted several of the hockey stories in the past. Yesterday I saw several comments on social media about a story written by NBA player Kevin Love. The title of Kevin's story is, "Everyone Is Going Through Something" and he talks about how men in general and pro athletes in particular keep things inside and don't deal with them. He opens up about his personal journey dealing with his mental health. Here is the link to the story which will do everyone some good to read.

- The South Carolina Stingrays beat Greenville last night to become the second ECHL team to qualify for the playoffs (Florida the other). South Carolina has made the playoffs in 24 of their 25 seasons and has three Kelly Cups, tied with Alaska and Hampton Roads for the most championships.   

DID YOU KNOW: Here is an odd stat for you. Did you know the all-time ECHL single season point increase and point decrease is 58 points. Toledo had the biggest increase going from 49 points in 2013-14 to 107 points in 2014-15. Pensacola had 107 points in 2004-05 and dropped to 49 points in 2005-06. In case you are wondering if Allen continues on their current pace (.526 winning percentage) they would finish with 26 fewer points this season compared to last season and wouldn't even make the top 10 which is -36.

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