Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Thunder Rolls, Streaks End, Martinson's Post Game Comments & More

Allen & Wichita have a meet and greet during pregame warmups

It has been a long time, November 9th to be exact, since the headline has been about an Allen loss but the win streak finally came to an end last night in Wichita as the Thunder beat the Americans 3-1 before a big crowd of 5110 at Intrust Bank Arena. It wasn't just the eight game overall win streak or the five game road win streak that came to end, many other streaks ended last night. Here are just a few:

- Allen lost for the first time after scoring the first goal of the game. They had been 8-0.
- Allen lost for the first time when leading after the first period. They had been 9-0.
- For the first time all year Jack Combs did not have a point. He had a point in 14 straight games.
- Chad Costello did not have a point. His eight game scoring streak ended.
- Allen only had one goal (scored by Trevor Ludwig). It was the first time all year the Americans scored less than two goals.
- Riley Gill was the losing goalie after eight consecutive wins.

The bottom line is Allen could not hold an early lead, the top line did not have a point for the first time all year and Allen could only score one goal. Whether it was the fourth game in five days, great play by Wichita, or some other factor it was not a typical Allen Americans game.

The road trip (five consecutive games on the road) is not over but the team headed home after the game last night and will get to spend a couple of nights in their own beds before a day trip to Tulsa on Tuesday and then back in Allen for a rematch with the Oilers on Wednesday.


- It looked like we were a bit tired tonight as the team did not have the same jump that we have had recently.

- We had a lot of up close chances but the puck just didn't want to pay attention to what we were trying to do.

- We had bad coverage on one goal and another took a bad bounce, it was just not our night. We just need to look forward and start another run on Tuesday.

- I am proud how the team has done an about face from the start of the season and become one of the top teams in the league. If we would have won the game tonight we would have had the top winning percentage in the ECHL. Not bad for a team that had many pieces being added over the last month. It says a lot about this group of guys and their desire to win.


- With 22 points Allen maintains first place in the Central Division with Tulsa in second with 21 points. Wichita and Quad City are tied for third with 19 points. Allen has played fifteen games while the other three have all played seventeen games.

- Last weekend Allen beat Brampton twice as the Beast were mired in last place in the division. After leaving Allen, Brampton headed to Rapid City for three games. Brampton won all three games in Rapid City to climb out of the cellar. Last night the Beast won 2-1 despite getting out shot by the Rush 56-19. Needless to say the #1 star of the game was Beast goalie Grant Rollheiser.

- You may have heard about or seen pictures of the pregame dust up between Allen and Wichita when Trevor Ludwig was tripped by a Wichita player. Some pushing and shoving at center ice but that was about it.  Have to admit it was nice to see Trevor get the first goal of the game. To be fair the player that tripped Ludwig (Erik Lizon) also scored a goal and his was the game winner for Wichita.

DID YOU KNOW: Close to half (46%) of the games on Allen's schedule this year are with Tulsa (16 games) and Wichita (17 games). I know the ECHL plays unbalanced schedules with a disproportionate number of games with teams that are geographically close but sure hope this doesn't get repeated next year.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Allen Wins Turkey Day Shootout, Coach's Comments & What a Difference a Year Makes for Rapid & Missouri

Chad Costello was the #1 star last night and is now 3rd in ECHL scoring - photo by

Have to admit as the game progressed last night different thoughts kept popping up. When Tulsa took at 2-0 lead in the first period the thought was Tulsa sat home on Wednesday resting up while Allen traveled to Missouri to play and the guys are just out of steam. Then when Allen scored three unanswered goals (Hanson, Schultz, Young) to take the lead 3-2 and dominated the second period with shots on goal of 20-6 the thought was the Americans can win this game. Then Tulsa scored early in the third period to tie the game 3-3 and the thought was if the Americans can hold on and get one point it will be a great three days. Finally, when Tulsa took a 4-3 lead midway through the third period the thought was the team is exhausted and winning two of these three back to back midweek games playing rested teams would be a good outcome.

It says a lot about the character and talent on this team that they never quit and even when they were operating on fumes they found a way to come back. The team scored their second power play goal of the night at the 15:00 minute mark of the third period as the top line tied the score with a Chad Costello goal assisted by Ian Schultz and Jack Combs to preserve one point and send the game to overtime.

Allen dominated play in the overtime but could not score and Riley Gill made a great stop on the one opportunity Tulsa had in overtime. As the overtime expired another thought came to mind and that was with the skill on the Americans team they will be dynamite in shootouts and this is the first time to put that to the test. The shootout was over in four rounds as Riley Gill stopped three of four Tulsa shooters while Allen scored three straight goals (Steffes, Costello, & Hanson) after Jack Combs led off with a miss.

Final score was 5-4 before a disappointed crowd of 3648 at the BOK Center in Tulsa as Allen won their eighth straight game overall and fifth straight game on the road. About all you can say is enjoy this outstanding hockey while you can as this is very special. The time will come, as it always does, when the team will struggle (usually in January) and fans will long for the quality of hockey the team is playing during this win streak.

The team gets a well deserved day off today. They stayed in Tulsa overnight and will get to sleep in this morning before taking the short trip to Wichita (175 miles) where they play the Thunder tomorrow (Friday) night.


- That was a great comeback victory tonight. The team never stopped working and the hard work paid off.

- The guys were really tired. It is more than three games in three days. It is three days of travel on top of the three games. And then having to play teams that did not play the day before like we did made it a tough task.

- With the games and the travel, to come into Tulsa tonight and hammer them with 56 shots is impressive.

- We felt very confident if the game went to a shootout with Riley Gill in goal and the skill guys we have on this team.

- I am not sure when we will leave for Wichita tomorrow (Friday). I am going to let the guys sleep in.


- The three stars of the game were #1 Chad Costello, #2 Kyle O'Kane and #3 Kevin Young. All good selections but thought Tulsa goalie, Brady Hjelle, who was peppered with 56 shots deserved recognition.

- It took Kevin Young thirteen games to get his first goal but he has now scored a goal in back to back games. Kevin has eight points (2 goals 6 assists) in the last seven games.

- Chad Costello continued his hot streak with the game tying goal in the third period and his goal in the shootout. Chad has had multiple point games in four of the last five games, has a point in eight straight games and is now tied for third in scoring in the ECHL with twenty points (6 goals 14 assists).

- Jack Combs had two assists and has scored in all fourteen Allen games this season. He extended his ECHL scoring lead to three points as he now has 24 points (10 goals 14 assists).

- With a 28 team league it is difficult to be a league leader in any statistic but Allen has more than their fair share. Here are the categories where the team or individual players lead the ECHL:
Points: Jack Combs (24)  #1
Assists: Jack Combs & Chad Costello (14)  #1
Shorthanded Goals: Greger Hanson (2)  #1
Game Winning Goals: Greger Hanson (4) #1
Penalty Minutes: Brett Lyon (76) #1
Goalie Save Percentage: Riley Gill (.937) #1
Goalie Wins: Riley Gill (9) #1
Point Streak: Jack Combs (14 games) #1
Plus/Minus: Ian Schultz (+13) #1
Plus/Minus Defensemen: Trevor Ludwig (+11) #1
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen (4.36) #1
Longest Winning Streak: Allen (8) #1
Longest Current Road Winning Streak: Allen (5) #1
Conference Winning Percentage: Allen (.786) #1

-  Brian McMillin did not play in the game against Tulsa last night because of an injury. Brian's status is day to day.

- Coach Martinson mentioned at his last home press conference that he will be sending a player to Worcester (AHL) and it would be a young player but he would not name the player. It seems unusual he would know someone is going up but the announcement is delayed. This is just a guess but the one young player on the team that might cause a delay in making a decision is Spencer Asuchak. If Worcester is interested in Spencer they would want to make sure he played a few games in Allen after his injury to make sure everything was okay. Now that he has played three games in three days a decision may be forthcoming. Guess everyone will have to just wait and see if a player gets called up this week and who the player might be.

- It is way too early to be looking at playoffs but if they started today two of the teams on the outside looking in would be Rapid City and Missouri. The beginning of this year is a sharp contrast to the beginning of last year when Rapid City and Missouri were dominating play in the Central Hockey League. Rapid City has played sixteen games this year and and has a record of 5-11. Last year Rapid City was 14-2 after sixteen games. Missouri has played fourteen games this year and has a record of 6-8. After fourteen games last year Missouri was 11-3 and had played nine of the fourteen games on the road. What a difference a year makes. If there is any solace for the Rush and Mavericks fans it is their teams started strong and ended weak last year year. This year they may get a slow start with a strong finish.

DID YOU KNOW: Two of Allen's three losses this season have been to the Tulsa Oilers. The other was to the Rapid City Rush. Since the team started in 2009-2010 the Americans have always played well on the road and actually have a slightly better road record than home record. This trend continues this year as Allen is 4-2 at home and 7-1 on the road.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Allen Spanks Missouri 6-0, Smith Heads to Europe, Thanksgiving on the Road, Coaches Comments & More

Before talking about the great game last night want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving with the hope you get to spend the day with family and friends. Minor pro hockey is a tough grind with all of the bus trips and time away from family but is especially tough when your team has to play games on the road on a holiday. Turkey dinner by himself at Denny's doesn't quite match the Thanksgiving feast and enjoyment Steve Martinson would have at home with his wife Michelle and their two children (Logan & Lily). Some of the player's families were heading to Tulsa but many more were not. Hope all of the players, coaches and staff have a good day as everyone is thinking about them.

Thanksgiving Dinner on the Road - photo courtesy of Steve Martinson

- Talked about Austin Smith yesterday and the fact he was meeting the team in Missouri and would be in the lineup last night as that was the plan heard directly from the team. When he wasn't in the lineup my assumption was he had flight trouble coming from the east coast with all of the bad weather and had been delayed. That did not turn out to be the case. In a move that definitely caught the team by surprise Smith has signed to play in Europe and will not be returning to Allen. Best of luck to Austin and maybe he will be back come playoff time, you never know. Smith will be suspended by the Americans today and they will retain his rights.

- WOW is all that can be said about Allen's 6-0 victory last night in Missouri. All of the things that have made this team special during what is now the ECHL's longest win streak of the season (seven games) was witnessed in the game last night. Balanced scoring with six different players (Schultz, Baker, Asuchak, Steffes, Young, Lyon) getting goals and outstanding special teams play with the power play accounting for two goals in three attempts and the penalty kill holding the Mavericks scoreless in four attempts. Throw in great defensive play and outstanding goaltending and this team is definitely on a roll.


- Riley Gill made some great saves in the first period. I have said it before that he is so comfortable in net. He is making it look easy.

- We are playing a strong puck possession game right now starting in our own zone. Things are really working well.

- This has been a big turnaround since the first couple of week of the season. The guys have made a commitment to defense while still being aggressive on offense.

- It is difficult for us to play three games back to back while the teams we play rest as was the case with Missouri tonight and Tulsa on Thursday.

- I hope all of our fans have a Happy Thanksgiving and can celebrate a win in Tulsa.


- Two guys that get talked about after every game are Jack Combs and Riley Gill and they certainly deserve mention again. Combs had two assists to continue his streak of scoring in all thirteen games this season. Comb's now stands alone as the ECHL's top scorer with twenty two points (10 goals 12 assists) in thirteen games. Riley Gill is on an equally amazing run as he has allowed only seven goals during the American's seven game win streak. He is now the top goalie in the ECHL in GAA (1.65) and save percentage (.944). Enjoy the amazing play of these two guys while you can as the AHL is watching and will certainly come calling for their services.

- Chad Costello has been flying under the radar a little bit but has quietly climbed into seventh place in the ECHL scoring race with eighteen points (5 goals 13 assists) in just thirteen games. Chad has been on a tear during the win streak as he has a point in all seven games and has twelve points (4 goals 8 assists) in those seven games.

- Gary Steffes has scored a goal in each of the last four games to go along with four assists.

-  Tyler Ludwig had five assists in the last two games and is now tied for fourth in scoring for defensemen with twelve points (3 goals 9 assist). The top scoring defenseman in the ECHL is former Allen Americans player Matt Register (2011-2012) who has fourteen points playing for the Ontario Reign.

- With the win in Missouri, Allen has won four straight road games and improved to 6-1 on the road for the season.

- Allen has once again taken over first place in the Central Division with 20 points. Tulsa and Quad City are tied for second with 18 points but have played two more games than the Americans. Allen's 20 points places them third in the Western Conference in points trailing only Idaho who has 23 points and Ontario with 22 points. The points are misleading as Allen has only played 13 games while Idaho has played 17 and Ontario has played 18 games. If you look at winning percentage Allen leads the conference at .769.

DID YOU KNOW: The Allen Americans have the top three players in the ECHL in plus/minus. Ian Schultz leads the ECHL at +13, Trevor Ludwig is second in the league at +12 and Jack Combs is tied for third at +11.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Allen Beats Tulsa 3-1, Martinson Comments, Missouri Preview, Asuchak Returns, Erik Adams Hits The Road

Gary Steffes, who played for Tulsa from 2010-2013, was the #1 Star last night with a goal and an assist - photo by

The winning formula continued last night for the Allen Americans as they defeated the Tulsa Oilers 3-1 before a crowd of 3571 at the BOK Center to extend their winning streak to six games. That winning formula is to score early (Allen is 7-0 when scoring the first goal), play good defensive hockey (Allen allowed Tulsa only one goal on 21 shots) and get great goaltending (Riley Gill with one goal allowed lowered his GAA to 1.84).

- Had the chance to talk briefly to Steve Martinson after the game and he was pleased with the victory and another solid defensive effort by the team. Always looking for more from his team Martinson described the game like this, "We played okay and didn't hurt ourselves. We are still a little too cute at times on offense as we passed up good shots looking for a better play. The team is playing very solid defensive hockey and we are getting great goaltending from Gill."

- Talking about good defensive hockey, the Americans allowed Tulsa just 21 shots on goal which is the second fewest shots Tulsa has had in a game all year. During this six game winning streak Allen has allowed only one goal in four of the games and two goals in the other two games for a total of eight goals allowed in six games.

- It was quite the game for Jack Combs, Chad Costello, and Gary Steffes who were teammates in Tulsa in 2010-2011. The trio combined for over 200 points that year. Last night Steffes was named the games #1 star with a goal and an assist, Combs had the first goal of the game and Costello chipped in with an assist on the Comb's goal.

- Allen's six game win streak is the current longest win streak in the ECHL and is tied for the longest win streak all season.

- With his goal last night Jack Combs continues his streak of scoring in every game this year (12) and is now tied for the ECHL scoring lead with twenty points (10 goals, 10 assists).

- Riley Gill is the second ranked goalie in the ECHL with his 1.84 GAA to go along with the best save percentage (.938) in the league.

- With the win over Tulsa last night Allen has moved into a tie for first place (with Tulsa & Quad City) in the Central Division standings with eighteen points. Allen has played 12 games, Quad City 14 games and Tulsa 15 games.

- Allen has raised their winning percentage to .750. The only team in the entire league with a higher winning percentage is the Florida Everblades who are at .821.

- It was great to see Spencer Asuchak back in the lineup for the first time since November 9th. He got an assist on the second goal which was scored by Greger Hanson and was a +2 for the game.

- While Tulsa gets today to rest waiting for the Thanksgiving night rematch with Allen, the Americans got on the bus immediately after the game for the 264 mile trip to Missouri where they will take on the Mavericks tonight at 7:05 pm. After the game tonight it is on the bus for the trip back to Tulsa for the game tomorrow night.

- Jessey Astles who is returning from injury and Austin Smith, who is returning from loan to Norfolk and will meet the team in Missouri, will both be in the lineup tonight.

- Allen vs Missouri Comparison:
Record: Allen  9-3, Missouri 6-7
Winning Percentage: Allen .750, Missouri .462
Goals for per Game: Allen 4.17, Missouri  2.77
Goals Allowed per Game: Allen 2.67, Missouri 3.77
Power Play: Allen 17.9%, Missouri 9.8%
Penalty Kill: Allen 85%, Missouri 78.9%
Penalty Minutes per Game: Allen 19.25, Missouri 21.15
Shots Taken per Game: Allen 31.92, Missouri 26.54
Shots Allowed per Game: Allen 28.92, Missouri 30.69
Record When Scoring First: Allen 7-0, Missouri 3-2

DID YOU KNOW: Assistant coach Erik Adams accompanied the team on this road trip. It is his first bus trip since he quit playing back in March of 2012. Can't wait to hear his account of being in the back of the bus where the coaches and staff bunk. Rumor has it his roommate for the trip is Tommy Daniels which will make for more good stories.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Midweek Marathon & A Lot Of Tulsa On The Schedule

Each year when the schedule is released there are always parts that make you scratch your head and the last week of November and first week of December is certainly a head scratcher this year for the Allen Americans. Not an ECHL issue as this is a leftover from the CHL. To start with there are seven games (six on the road) in eleven days with five of the games being against Tulsa. This includes four different trips to Tulsa. Here is how it goes starting today: to Tulsa, to Missouri, back to Tulsa, day off, to Wichita, two days off, back to Tulsa, to Allen (to play Tulsa), day off, back to Tulsa.  Three games back to back is not that unusual as Allen will do that six times this year but three games back to back all on the road during the week is very unusual. Allen plays Tulsa tonight, Tulsa then rests on Wednesday while Allen travels to Missouri to play the Mavericks and then the Americans return to Tulsa for a game Thursday night. To add insult to injury Allen is the only one of the seven former CHL teams that has to play on the road for Thanksgiving. Not too family friendly.

- Despite the rugged schedule, these five games against Tulsa in the next eleven days will be crucial. Tulsa leads the Central Division in points (tied with Quad City) and Allen leads the Division in winning percentage. These are two of the tops teams in the division and because they play each other 17 times during the season, how they do head to head will go a long way in determining where they finish in the standings. So far they have played three times, all in Allen, with Tulsa winning two of the three games including a 9-6 blowout opening night. With Allen playing much better hockey recently the upcoming five games against the Oilers will be a good measuring stick for the Americans.

- With all of the talk about the five upcoming games with Tulsa starting tonight the most intense game of the week might be tomorrow night when Allen returns to Missouri to play the Mavericks. Most will say it is just another game but you know Richard Matvichuk will have his team jacked up and ready to go after Allen beat the Mavericks in their first meeting in Missouri. That was the game Devin Di Diomete tried to prove a point that Allen didn't want him but Missouri did so he had two fights and fourteen minutes in penalties as Allen won the game 3-1. Incidentally, Missouri traded Di Diomete to the Idaho Steelheads yesterday.

- Speaking of Missouri, Richard Matvichuk has certainly been working hard trying to retool his roster after a slow start this season. The Mavericks have already had 35 different players on their roster this year. That is at least ten more than any other team in the division. Allen has had 24 different players on their roster.

- Austin Smith was loaned to the Norfolk Admirals (AHL) yesterday after scoring nine points (3 goals 6 assists) in seven games with Allen. He came to Allen with the hope of getting back to the AHL and that sure didn't take long to happen. Norfolk plays Charlotte tomorrow (Wednesday) night so hope Austin gets a chance to play.

- Coach Martinson had mentioned Saturday after the game that a player would be called up to the AHL this week. The  Austin Smith loan to Norfolk is not the move he was talking about on Saturday. Another young player (as yet unnamed) will be sent to Worcester.

- Here are some statistical comparisons between Allen and Tulsa:
Record: Allen 8-3-0-0, Tulsa 8-4-1-1
Winning Percentage: Allen .727, Tulsa .643
Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 18.73, Tulsa 20.79
Power Play: Allen 18.5%, Tulsa 15.3%
Penalty Kill: Allen 83.9%, Tulsa 84.1%
Goals For per Game: Allen 4.27, Tulsa 4.00
Goals Allowed per Game: Allen 2.82, Tulsa 3.79
Shots Taken per Game: Allen 32.55, Tulsa 28.07
Shots Allowed per Game: Allen 29.62, Tulsa 33.21
Record When Scoring First: Allen 6-0, Tulsa 5-1-0-1

- Both Allen and Tulsa have had one goalie carrying the load for the team. Kevin Carr has played in thirteen games for Tulsa and has a GAA of 3.01 and save percentage of .905. Riley Gill has played in nine games for Allen with a GAA of 1.95 and save percentage of .937.

- Tulsa has three players in the top ten in the ECHL in goals scored led by Adam Pleskach (11), TJ Caig (9) and Jon Booras (8). They also have the number two scorer amongst defensemen in the league in Scott Macaulay who has thirteen points (2 goals 11 assists) in fourteen games.

- The advantage Allen has is a much more balanced scoring attack. Allen has eleven players averaging .64 points per game or higher, Tulsa has five.

- The bus leaves for Tulsa this afternoon (Tuesday) at 1:00 pm. The fan club has invited everyone to join them (behind the AEC) to send the team off.

DID YOU KNOW:  Pat Quinn, a veteran of more than 600 NHL games and 1400 games as an NHL head coach passed away this week. Quinn played 140 games with the Tulsa Oilers over parts of four different seasons from 1964 -1969.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Allen Wins 4-1, Martinson Post Game Comments, Schaafsma Video Interview & More

Brian McMillin creating traffic in front of the net - photo by

Led by outstanding goalie play from Riley Gill along with goals from Jack Combs (2), Austin Smith and Gary Steffes the Allen Americans accomplished their weekend goal of two victories with a 4-1 win over the Brampton Beast last night. Since the now much talked about players only team meeting the Americans have won five games in a row. Things don't get any easier as Allen will play their next five games on the road starting on Tuesday in Tulsa.


- Another good win tonight, we lead the league in goals scored per game (4.27) and if you exclude the opening night loss to Tulsa we also lead the league in goals allowed per game (2.20).

- I thought we were being too cute in the first period and turned the puck over at both blue lines with behind the back passes and one touch stuff that looks really good when we do it but it wasn't working so I told the team let's get back to our speed and power game and they did a better job with puck possession in the second period. Their goalie (Rollheiser) has played well against us in the past and it didn't surprise me at all that he played better tonight. Brampton also played more physical in the game tonight.

- Garrett Clarke has been working hard in practice and I think he is getting more confidence every time he plays. Clarke has been keeping it simple and is moving the puck hard and he has made some good passes. Some of what he is doing goes under the radar but it is what we ask the defensemen to do. He likes to do some misdirection where he looks one way and sends the puck another. Overall, I have been happy with his play.

- I try to have a little fun on the bench when we are doing well. You have to pick your spots but when you are doing well you try and make it a little more enjoyable around the rink. You might have seen me kidding with Jamie Schaafsma about a backhand shot he took. And on the first Combs goal Chad Costello was skating up to him nodding his head as if to say good play. I told Chad he looked like a bobble head doll out there. I laugh at my own jokes all of the time and make a lot of comments on the bench just to humor myself. It has been a lot of fun watching this team play over the last five games.

- Gill will get the start on Tuesday and we will see how things go from there. He did really well playing in three games in three nights and thrives on a lot of work so we will see how things go. With Riley's great play he has had the opportunity to go up to an AHL team as a backup but after talking to the team has decided to stay in Allen. It was obviously not great timing with Dell already called up and our team starting a six games in nine days stretch.

- The only thing I can say about a forward getting called up to Worcester is there will be only one player called up and it will be a young guy. This will happen next week.

- The Steffes, Hanson, Smith line is doing a good job of using each other to score goals. The goal Steffes got tonight was a great pass from Hanson and it is a goal I saw Gary score many times when he played for Wichita where he gets the puck at the top of the circle and fires a rocket wrist shot into the net. That line is a lot of fun to watch.

- I thought we did a better job in the third period of getting to the front of the net. A couple of times they kept us out but it is an area of emphasis for us. When you have a lot of skill players it is something that has to be constantly emphasized to get traffic in front of the net.

- Asuchak could have played tonight if we were short players but I am being very cautious with him to make sure he is 100%.


- Jack Combs had two more goals last night and is in second place in the ECHL in scoring with nineteen points (9 goals 10 assists) in just eleven games. He is averaging 1.73 points per game which is the highest in the ECHL.

- Riley Gill gave up only one goal last night and lowered his GAA to 1.95 which is third in the league. His save percentage increased to .937 which is tops in the ECHL.

- Allen has the longest win streak in the league right now at five games. During this five game win streak the Americans have scored twenty two goals while only allowing seven. Their power play percentage is 20% and the penalty kill is at 92%.

- If you look at winning percentage to account for the different number of games played, Allen is fourth in the ECHL. Here are the top five teams in winning percentage:
.821 - Florida Everblades
.750 - Toledo Walleye
.733 - Fort Wayne Komets
.727 - Allen Americans
.700 - Elmira Jakals

- Allen has outscored their opponents in each period. 15-8 in the first period, 18-13 in the second period and 14-10 in the third period. Florida and Toledo are the only other teams in the ECHL that have out scored their opponents in all three periods.

- The attendance last night was 4705 and for the season (six games) Allen is averaging 4315 per game which is just under the ECHL league wide average of 4341. Allen ranks #15 out of 28 teams. Let's hope after football season crowds will pick up.

- Tommy Daniels asked me to join him in the radio booth last night for the third period to be the color commentator as his regular partner, Maurice Fitzgerald, was not at the game. It is always fun talking Allen Americans hockey with Tommy. He is such a professional he makes you feel so comfortable. Want to thank Tommy for the opportunity to join him.

- Tommy Daniels has been doing more videos interviews this year and posting them to YouTube. Here is his latest with Jamie Schaafsma if you haven't already seen it.

- Quad City beat Rapid City 3-2 last night to maintain their lead on top of the Central Division standings with 17 points. Allen and Tulsa are tied for second with 16 points. In other action, Wichita beat Missouri 6-0 as the Mavericks suffered their third straight loss and have fallen to sixth place in the division with a 5-7 record.

- In the former player category Darryl Bootland had the game winning goal (his second goal of the year) as his Colorado Eagles beat the Utah Grizzlies 2-1. Daniel Tetrault got his second goal of the year in a losing cause as his Rapid City Rush lost to Quad City 3-2.

DID YOU KNOW: The win last night was Riley Gill's 100th victory as a professional.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Allen Wins 9-2, Martinson Post Game Comments, & Plenty Of Other Comments

In what was one of the more entertaining games you will ever see the Allen Americans defeated the Brampton Beast last night by a score of 9-2 before a jubilant crowd of 3759 at the Allen Event Center (AEC). Brampton started out like the team that had a three game win streak scoring just three minutes into the first period and building a shots on goal lead of 9-1. After Allen scored their first goal just two minutes later at the 5:27 mark Brampton played like the team that is in last place in the ECHL standings. Allen exploded for four first period goals and followed that up with three in the second period and two in the third period. Goals came from all directions on some outstanding passing and great individual effort. The two teams are back at it tonight at 7:05.


- That was not a very stressful game even though I looked up at one point and Brampton had a 9-1 edge in shots on goal. They won a bunch of face offs in our zone early on so they had shots but they were not dangerous ones as the goalie could get a good look at them.

- I was commenting after the game that one of the critical coaching decisions I made was to put three forwards and one defenseman out when we were playing four on four. What happened is I read the clock wrong and thought we were coming out of the box and would have a four on three but in fact it was four on four. I put Combs out thinking it was a four on three but he made it look like a great decision as he scored of the face off.

- Jessey Astles got hurt early in the game when he ran into the boards. If he can't go tomorrow we have Nolan Descoteaux who is healthy and ready to go.

- Chad Costello has really come on in the last few games after missing most of last year with an injury. As good as Chad has been recently I don't think we have seen everything he has yet. That line could have had even more goals.

- Greger Hanson made a couple of great plays including picking up the puck behind the net, going end to end and splitting the defense for a goal which was a fun goal to watch. Then on the shorthanded goal he just out battled the defensemen. That is what Hanson does so well is win battles for the puck. He also made a great pass on the goal that Steffes scored in the third period. It was an unselfish play as he could have tried to roof a shot for his third goal but passed to his line mate instead. I really like to see when guys make plays for each other.

- Jack Combs is really strong on the puck. If you notice when he has that puck on his stick it is hard to get it from him.

- Ian Schultz I thought had a good game considering he wasn't able to skate for a week and a half. He made a great pass to Costello on one of his goals. That line (Combs, Schultz, Costello) has great chemistry.

- Austin Smith made a great play on our first goal when he cut in in front of the goal. That is something he does very well as he moves his feet and can cut in.

- Justin Baker actually got that power play goal in the third period. They gave it to Lyon but Lyon told me he never touched the puck. I call Baker the hunchback because he skates bent over all of the time but he sure is fun to watch play because he competes hard all of the time and makes some great moves. He has been a really good pick up for us this year.

- I have not spent too much time scouting Brampton as we have been concentrating more on what we need to do. One of their leading scorers (Tyler Donati) is not on the trip. I am not sure what to expect from Brampton tomorrow but we will go out with a business as usual approach. Our goal for the weekend is to get two wins and improve our winning percentage which will be .727 if we win on Saturday and that will give us one of the highest winning percentages in the ECHL. I don't go by points in the standings so much as we have played fewer games than those ahead of us.

- We probably could have been a little more physical in the game tonight but the problem with that is everyone wants to score in a game like this. With our upcoming schedule (six games in nine days) it doesn't make sense to get into a bunch of fights and wear guys out.

- It was nice to get Girard a little work tonight. I thought he made some good saves after the goal he gave up that went over his stick. He looked good during the preseason. I could have gotten him in the game a little earlier.

- I don't think our team will be complacent tomorrow night. We have a lot of guys that want to score goals and get noticed by the American Hockey League (AHL) and I have no problem with that as long as we don't cheat to try and score.

- Jesse Messier should be cleared and will be ready for next week. I know one or two of our forwards will get the opportunity to go to the AHL in the next week or so. Worcester has only one extra forward so they will give someone the opportunity to play and I support that. I always have my eye on guys that can come in if we lose players to the AHL.

- I thought Garrett Clarke played great tonight and we can always move him up to forward if need be if we lose forwards to the AHL.

- The team meeting the players had before we started this winning streak was really positive and says a lot about the group as a whole and the leadership group on the team. It wasn't like a five minute meeting and you could see a change in their game right after that meeting. Maybe they got tired of me saying stuff and didn't want to hear me anymore.


- It is always a fun night when six different players score goals and ten different players have a point in the game as the Americans accomplished last night. Goals scorers were Costello (3), Hanson (2), Combs, Baker, Smith and Steffes.

- There have been nine goals scored by one team twice this season in the ECHL. Both of them involved the Allen Americans and took place at the AEC. In addition to last night, Tulsa scored nine goals in the home opener (October 24th) beating Allen 9-6.

- Not very often you see two hat tricks in one game. Chad Costello had the traditional hat trick scoring three goals while Greger Hanson with two goals, two assists and a fight had the Gordie Howe hat trick.

- Talk about a turn around in the defensive part of the game by the entire team, in the last four games Allen has only allowed six goals. Riley Gill played just two periods last night allowing just one goal before giving way to Raphael Girard for the third period. Gill has lowered his GAA to 2.11 which ranks him #3 in the ECHL. His save percentage is .933 which ranks him #2 and only .001 behind the league leader.

- With his seventh goal of the season last night Jack Combs continues his streak of scoring in every game played thus far this year. His ten game scoring streak (7 goals, 10 assists) has him in second place in the ECHL scoring race with seventeen points.

- A little reminder that last year Brampton came to Allen for two games in December on a Friday and Saturday night. Allen won the first game on Friday only to have Brampton come back on Saturday and beat Allen 6-2.

- Had the chance to spend some time with Dave Gens who is Aaron's dad the last few days at practice. A master of timing as Dave not only avoided the extremely cold temperature back home in Baudette, Minnesota (it is literally on the Canadian border) but he chose to come and watch Aaron play five games. He was in Wichita and Missouri last weekend before coming to Allen for the Rapid City game last Sunday and then the two Brampton games this weekend. So far he is 4-0 and Aaron has played great in front of his father. Dave leaves right after the game tonight on his journey back to Minnesota. Let's hope it is with a perfect 5-0 record. Dave is a minister and a musician (you can find his music on line) and has spent many a day watching hockey as five of his six kids (boys and girls)  played hockey including college and a couple of them professionally.

- Tulsa beat Missouri 4-1 and Quad City beat Rapid City 4-2 last night so there were no changes at the top of the Central Division Standings. Tulsa leads with 16 points followed by Quad City with 15 points and Allen with 14 points. Tulsa is idle tonight and Quad City plays Rapid City.

- Have had many questions about why the championship banner has not been put in the rafters. According to the Allen front office the banner was received but had to be sent back as it was only printed on one side. Once the two-sided banner is delivered the plan is to have it displayed during a game in the concourse so fans can take picture with it and then it will be put in the rafters.

- Two fun events will be part of the festivities tonight. The annual teddy bear toss will happen after the first goal is scored by the Americans and after the game, at Kelly's, the Ice Angels will have their calendar release party. Throw in an Allen victory and this will be quite the night!

- Happy birthday to Spencer Asuchak who turns 23 today.

- Finally, want to say thank you to all of the readers of this blog. This week another milestone was reached as the 300,000 unique page view was passed.

DID YOU KNOW: Last night Tyler Ludwig played in his 200th regular season game for the Allen Americans. He joins Brian McMillin (203), Mike Berube (230) and Jarret Lukin (238) in the Allen Americans 200 Club.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Allen Americans vs Brampton Beast Weekend Preview

The Allen Americans saw their league lead disappear this week as Tulsa (14 points) and Quad City (13 points) won midweek games to leap frog Allen (12 points) who was idle. With two games against Brampton tonight (Friday) and Saturday it is an opportunity for the Americans to reclaim first place in the Central Division. After all, Brampton is dead last in the ECHL standings with just seven points and trails Allen in almost every statistical category. It would be a big mistake to look at the statistics and draw the conclusion Allen will sweep the two games against the Beast. The reason is Brampton has an excellent team and is playing much improved hockey. After starting the season 0-6 the Beast have won three straight games and now have the longest winning streak in the ECHL (tied with Allen and several other teams). So call it a trap game or a game where based on the standings it is easy to take lightly and beware the upset.

With that said Allen is coming off a great weekend themselves where they went 3-0 including two road victories and are playing much better defensive hockey. In three games last weekend Allen only allowed four goals. If Allen continues to play like they have been playing it should be a good weekend.

- As mentioned above Allen leads Brampton in most statistical categories from winning percentage (Allen .667. Brampton .389), to goals scored (Allen 34, Brampton 24), to goals allowed (Allen 28, Brampton 38) and of course points (Allen 12, Brampton 7).

- Brampton has a -14 goal differential (24 scored, 38 allowed) while Allen is a +6 (34 scored, 28 allowed). 

- Allen is ranked #4 in the ECHL averaging 3.78 goals per game, more than a goal per game than Brampton who is ranked #22 at 2.67 goals per game. Allen is ranked #15 in average goals allowed per game at 3.11 while Brampton is last in the league (#28) allowing an average of 4.22 goals per game.

- Brampton has really struggled in the first period of games as they have only scored three goals in the first period while allowing thirteen goals. With Allen's 5-0 record when scoring first, the first period could be critical to the outcome of the game.

- As always, special teams will be a key to victory this weekend. Allen has improved recently but still averages 19.56 penalty minutes per game and lead the league in the average number of minor penalties with 7.6 per game. Brampton averages just 15.22 penalty minutes per game and only 3.4 minor penalties per game. So based on averages Brampton will have four more power power play opportunities than Allen.

- Allen has a distinct advantage in both the power play and penalty kill. Allen is ranked #9 in the ECHL on the power play at 19.1% and Brampton is ranked #26 at 10.1%. On the penalty kill Allen is ranked #12 at 84% and Brampton is #25 at 79.3%.

- As always scoring for Allen can come from any of the three lines as thirteen different players have scored goals. Four players are scoring at a point per game or better. Combs, Costello, Schultz and Smith.

- Leading scorers for Brampton are Tyler Donati and Chad Painchaud who both have nine points in nine games.

- Jesse Messier is still on the 21 day injured reserve and Spencer Asuchak is day to day but everyone else is cleared to play. Riley Gill will start in goal, Asuchak is doubtful and there will be two scratches for the game.

DID YOU KNOW: Brampton's top scorers (Tyler Donati & Chad Painchaud) both played for Steve Martinson in the 2011-2012 season when he was the coach of the Chicago Express (ECHL). Donati also played for Martinson in Elmira (ECHL).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Perspectives From A Fired Coach

As everyone is waiting for the first of two games this weekend with the Brampton Beast was looking for something to talk about this morning. The team continues to practice, a new player (Jessey Astles) has arrived, some players (Asuchak & Schultz) are getting closer to returning to the line up and others are nursing nagging injuries that may keep them out of the lineup. All of the decisions about who will be in the line up tomorrow night won't be made until Friday morning so not much to discuss today.

Came across the article below from November 11 about the firing of the coach for the Iowa Wild (AHL) and thought it provided some interesting perspective on what it is like to be a coach in AAA or AA hockey with a team that gets players scuffled in and out like the AHL and ECHL does with their NHL affiliates. Now that Allen is in the ECHL everyone says in future years there will be many more players assigned through NHL/AHL affiliations and also recalled as needed. This certainly leads to an interesting dynamic for the players, coaches and fans. Having an NHL contract and being assigned to an ECHL team does not make for a happy player. The article also provides insight into coaching styles, how easy it is to "lose" the team, and the importance of winning. This story was written by Micheal Russo who covers the Minnesota Wild for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune.

Posted by: Michael Russo

Late last night, I had a conversation with Kurt Kleinendorst, who lost his job Sunday night as head coach of the Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate in Des Moines. Following a loss to Chicago that put Iowa’s record at 2-10, Kleinendorst met with Wild director of minor-league operations Jim Mill and was informed of the team’s decision that he was being dismissed as coach. It left a sour end to Kleinendort’s 29th wedding anniversary to wife, Deon.
After finishing last in the AHL’s Western Conference last year, this was Kleinendorst’s 25th year as a hockey coach and it was by far his toughest.
Kleinendorst said he’s disappointed, embarrassed, frustrated and relieved that it’s over. He says the Wild had little choice but to let him go. Whatever he tried the past two years didn’t work with a group that wasn’t responding to him in Iowa, so now it’s his friend John Torchetti’s chance to retake the reins of a struggling team that lacks confidence right now.
Here is a Q and A with the 53-year-old who now will enjoy eight months of paid vacation:
On getting fired: “It’s interesting. I’ve never been through it. You watch your peers go through it and you feel for them because it’s not fun obviously. These are high-profile positions. At the end of the day I do appreciate that [GM Chuck Fletcher] gave me an opportunity in the first place.”
Were you surprised? “Oh no, Jim and I, we go back, and anybody that knows me, would agree that I can self-evaluate. He and I have actually been having dialogue for some time because it’s been such a struggle. Since Day One, it’s been a struggle. You can’t let something like this go on too long. I understand that. The last thing any organization wants is for their young kids to be developing in a losing environment because it’s not healthy. We tried and tried and tried. We tried pretty much everything. At the end of the day, what options are left? This is what’s left, so I get it. I totally get it. I understand.  I’m disappointed, but I understand why they felt they needed to do what they needed to do. I’m completely on board with it. It’s just disappointing because generally at some point you’d expect you’d get your players to kick a little bit, and it just didn't happen and that bothers me."
Why not? Looking at your career, this hasn’t happened to you at any level? Are the kids not the right kids? “I’ve been with these guys every day. I’ve got a good idea of why, but I’m going to keep that to myself. I will say this though: This needed to be done. Now Chuck is going to know it was either the guy behind the bench or it was the players out on the ice. What is it? So at the end of the day, Jimmy, Chuck, they’re in a good situation because they will be able to determine if it was the guy behind the bench or just maybe we’re not as good in Iowa as we think we are. It’s got to be one or the other. I totally understand that. I think the time was right-you just could not let this continue to fester.”
Can Torch jumpstart this team? “Torch and I go way back.  I love Torch. He’s a friend. I think he’s the right guy to come in and do what Chuck and Jim need him to do, plus he’s got a relationship with some of these players already from Houston, so I think that will be helpful. He’s a no-nonsense guy most of the time. I’m a no-nonsense guy most of the time with less bite and I think this group needs that extra bite. I think they need a guy that is going to be a miserable jerk, and I think Torch can be that guy – and trust me, that’s no disrespect to Torch.  He's a solid person. You have to be who you are. The year that we won the [Calder] Cup [in Binghamton], I had a group of guys that connected with me. They wanted to play for me. They appreciated to be coached the way I coach. My Calder Cup year we did have a group that responded to my approach. That's how you win. Not every team is the right fit for every coach and vice versa. This group, I think they need 90 percent jerk. Maybe that's what they deserve and that’s what he’s going to give them. I will always be true to myself and stick to what I believe in.
They just didn’t connect to you? “It bothers me. It’s not often that I have a group that isn't willing to push for me. It does come down to the willingness to do what you’re being challenged to do. We challenged and we challenged and we challenged, and most every player will tell you, we put our time in, we did everything we thought would help this group click, and it just didn’t happen. It just didn’t happen. You get to a point where you have a big cloud over the locker room, and the only way you’re going to get rid of that cloud is by winning, by making a trade or by getting rid of a coach. And in this league and at this time of the year, it’s not the easiest thing to trade players. And you don’t want to be trading assets for the sake of the American League anyway, you really don’t.”
How tough was it with the Wild’s top-end prospects being in the NHL most of your tenure and guys shuttling back and forth because of injuries? “The NHL, we all know, is the best league in the world, but the hardest league to coach is the AHL in my opinion. No. 1 you’ve got a bunch of guys that don’t want to be here and a bunch of them who don’t think they should be here. That's an interesting dynamic in itself. You’ve got guys at all different developmental levels. You’ve got your veteran guys that get it, you’ve got your middle of the road guys that some get it and some don't but think they do, and you’ve got your young, developing guys that are just happy to be in the locker room. I mean, it’s a tough, tough league to coach, and that’s what makes it such a great challenge. But there are some good pieces here for sure. Justin Falk, Brett Sutter, Stephane Veilleux played their hearts out for me and are the veteran depth guys that every NHL team needs: Mark Hagel, Zack Mitchell are all in. Listen, when you’re winning, you’re not going to find out anything about anybody-not when things are going well. Anybody can be a good boy and a positive person and be uplifting when things are going your way. It’s when things aren’t going your way when we’re really going to find out about ourselves. Justin Falk is an unbelievable character. Brett Sutter is an unbelievable character. Stephane Veilleux is an unbelievable character. These are guys, that fought for me and their teammates every day, and as a coach, I respect that and appreciate that.
“You’ve got a third of your group, your core leaders, you've got your middle third and then you've got your bottom third. Your bottom third is generally your young kids, the middle third are the group of guys that could go either way. What we weren’t able to get to was, we had a really strong upper group, but we just couldn’t get the middle group to come up and join them, and because of that, you can’t get the bottom third to get pulled to the middle. But Falky, Sutter, Steph, I can’t express enough how much I appreciate them for what they did. Justin has come far. He's the one guy that I will walk away feeling the best about. In some very difficult circumstances, he's a guy that stepped up, did everything I asked of him. He wanted to be part of the solution and was a guy who was pulling for me, trying to make it work, and his game grew the most. Isn’t that how it is supposed to work? Listen, put in the time, work hard and grow. Crazy how that works.  He’s taken a big step in getting back to the NHL. And Sutsy, you wouldn’t expect anything less from him.”
Can Torch turn this around though? “They’re bringing in the right guy. Don’t expect him to flip it in a day. The guys are just not in a good place right now. It’s more than likely going to take a little time.”
What’s next for you? “I’m going to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I feel bad that this didn’t work out. If there could have been a comedy of errors in a bad way, it would have been the start to this season- nothing went our way. It was almost like it was never meant to be-if you believe in such things. I have a daughter who is a grad assistant coach in Vermont at Castleton College so I’m going to go out and spend some time with her. We’ve got a place out in Park City I will get out there.

“When I left on Sunday, I was disappointed and embarrassed.  I always feel that your teams are a reflection of you, and this team was by no means a reflection of me. It was difficult to get this group to buy in to what I needed them to do and I own that. I won't pass that off on anyone. I was disappointed, and in the end embarrassed for the way we were playing, but I was also relieved that it was over. It was like we had tried everything and it wasn’t happening-it happens. Time to move on from a bad experience. Plenty of good coaches have been let go and come back to have success. [Devils GM Lou Lamoriello] taught me to be a good self-evaluator and I believe I do. I know everything that needed to be done and what I could control was done.

“I’m going to take some time. I won't come back to coaching until my belly’s burning and I'm excited to get behind the bench again. My belly’s not burning right now. Hockey is a great game and coaching’s such a great profession. I’ve got something to offer. We'll just have to wait and see where that will be.”

DID YOU KNOW: Last year Allen and Brampton split six regular season games with each team going 2-1 on home ice. In the first round of the playoffs Allen beat Brampton in a best of seven games series 4-1.