Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Ten Most Underappreciated Records in Allen Americans Franchise History

 I have been thinking about writing this story for a long time and the day has finally arrived. After getting input from far and wide I realized there is no right or wrong answer to the question of the most underappreciated records in franchise history. I ended up with a list that included individual players, groups of players, team stats and even coaching stats. First I eliminated the team stats/stories but they will be covered sometime in the future. The story of the 2009-10 team making it to the championship final, the 2010-11 team who was the best team not to win a championship and the 2015-16 team who beat the odds to win a championship. After jiggling and juggling I was able to pare the list down to the top ten. I am sure there are many more that could make the list. Would love to hear what you think are some underappreciated records. Many of the records on the list below are well known and have been written about many times but still underappreciated as far as I am concerned. Others on the list may be a surprise. Let's get started.

10. The Versatile Player - Being able to play forward and defense at a professional level is a real asset especially in the ECHL where roster sizes are so small and all teams play shorthanded at some point during the season. Jamie Schaafsma, Garrett Clarke, Drew Daniels and Miles Liberati are just a few examples of this underappreciated skill.

9. PIM's vs Goals -  If there was such a thing as the Lady Byng Trophy for the Allen Americans (given in the NHL to the player who exhibits outstanding sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability) Brian McMillin would be the winner. Brian never had more than 15 penalty minutes in a season over a 10 year college and pro career and in his three championship seasons with Allen had a total of 18 penalty minutes. McMillin is ninth all time in games played for Allen (256), 10th in goals (68) but 75th in penalty minutes (49). Brian is the only player in team history with more goals (68) than penalty minutes (49).

8. Shorthanded Goals - As a 22 year old rookie Spencer Asuchak led the Central Hockey League with five shorthanded goals, two more than any other player in the league. As a comparison there are still five ECHL teams that don't have five shorthanded goals this season. Asuchak's record of five shorthanded goals still stands as the Allen single season record.

7. Point Streak - Nino Musitelli was a speedy forward that played on the inaugural team in 2009-10. Because the Allen Event Center was not finished the Americans played their first seven games on the road. Nino got off to a great start getting a point in the first three games, all Allen wins. The next three games he was scoreless but on November 6, 2009 he stared a point scoring streak that lasted until December 18. This upstart team and Nino had a point in every game for six weeks. When the streak was broken he had scored in 17 straight games. 

6. Points Per Game Average - Averaging a point per game in hockey is very difficult to do and is akin to hitting .300 in baseball. Only the very top scorers in the league can maintain that pace. If a player averages over 1.50 points per game that is very rarefied air. Four players have achieved that feat in their time with the Allen Americans but only one has more than 32 games played. Here are the four with games played in parentheses.

1.750  -  Jack Combs (32)
1.632  -  Olivier Archambault (19)
1.620  -  Chad Costello (216)
1.591  -  Scott Howes (22)

5. Plus/Minus - Joel Chouinard led the ECHL in plus/minus last season in his first year with the Allen Americans and it wasn't even close. Joel was +47, second place was +40 and third place was +39. If you look at Allen team stats after Chouinard's +47 no other player was better than +26. Joel has only played 129 games in Allen and is already #2 all-time at +67.

4. Rookie Goalie - In 2012 Aaron Dell showed up in Allen as a rookie just looking for a backup job after being cut in training camp by the Colorado Eagles. Allen had signed a former Kelly Cup MVP as the primary goalie. Dell started the season as the backup and had just one start in October which he lost, the only game Allen lost in October. But as the season progressed Dell played better and took over as the top goalie. Dell played in all 19 playoff games to lead the Americans to their first championship. Included in his playoff wins were two game seven victories over Missouri in the semifinal and the overtime win against Wichita in the final. Aaron started the season trying to find a job and ended the season with a championship. For his efforts we has selected to the All-CHL Team, All-Star Team, All-Rookie Team and was named the CHL's Most Outstanding Goaltender. Dell finished the season with the lowest GAA in the league (2.30) and second best save percentage (.916).

3. Shooting Percentage - This is a stat that doesn't get highlighted much as the focus is typically on goals, assists, points and plus/minus so the stat itself is underappreciated. Over the last three seasons one player, Gary Steffes, has been the team leader every year (125 minimum shots). Here are Gary's team leading shooting percentages:

2016-17  -  17.1%
2015-16  -  14.0%
2014-15  -  19.0%

2. Scoring Leader -  Chad Costello's scoring records in his three years in Allen are talked about frequently but are still very much underappreciated. Chad is the only player in the history of the ECHL that has won three scoring titles and he did it in three straight years. Chad had 125 points in 2014-15, 103 points in 2015-16 and 122 in 2016-17. The best way to explain how dominate Chad's achievements were in those three seasons is this stat.  In the 30 year history of the ECHL the scoring champion has won the scoring title by more than 20 points only six times. Chad owns three of the six and accomplished that feat three years in a row. In 2014-15 Costello won the scoring title by 45 points, the most in ECHL history. In 2016-17 he won by 34 points and in 2015-16 he won by 23 points. By the way the other three times the scoring championship was won by more than 20 points was back in the early 1990's when there was a lot more scoring in the game.  

1. Ironman - Of all of the underappreciated records in Allen history this one is far and away my #1. Chad Costello played in 276 games for the Allen Americans from 2014-17 between regular season and playoffs and never missed a single one. This is an amazing feat for any player but Chad is not a big guy at 5'9" and was a veteran when he arrived in Allen. He actually came to Allen on a tryout contract not sure if he would be able to play after missing most of the 2013-14 season with concussion issues. Costello played hurt a lot during his Allen career but never missed a game.

So there you have my top 10. Thanks to everyone who gave me ideas/information on what should be included. Would enjoy hearing what you would add to the list or how you would do the rankings differently.

DID YOU KNOW: The first hat trick in Allen Americans history was scored by Mike Willemsen on November 19, 2009 at the Allen Event Center in a game the Americans beat Arizona 4-2. It was Willemsen's first game with the Allen as he was pickup up off waivers earlier in the day from the Texas Brahmas. The three goals were the only goals Mike scored in his entire professional career which only lasted 11 games. He played three games for the Brahmas and was waived, he played played three more games for Allen after the hat trick game and was waived. Mike then went on to play three games for the Tulsa Oilers and was waived. At that point Mike called it a career with 11 games played, three goals and one assist. He will always be remembered as the first player in Allen Americans history to score a hat trick but few will remember they were the only three goals in his pro career.

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