Sunday, December 10, 2017

Allen vs Kansas City Game Preview, Roster Update, Some Strange ECHL Games Last Night, Dell Shines Again, Is the Tide Turning With Allen's Rivals

It is finally game day for the Allen Americans as they take on the Kansas City Mavericks this afternoon (4:05 pm CST) at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. If it seems like a long time since the Americans last played a game (6-2 win over Rapid City) that's because it has been a long time. Eight days between games is unheard of but the Americans haven't played a game since a week ago yesterday. Having eight days off between games is so rare it has never happened before in the history of the franchise.

- The long break between games could be just what the doctor ordered for an Allen team that was really dinged up. For the first time in a long time coach Martinson will be sitting players today that are healthy scratches. Dalton Thrower, Peter MacArthur and Connor Reilly should be available after being injured. Vincent Arseneau will return from a three game suspension. The Americans have also signed free agent Marcus Basara who was in training camp with Allen. Here is a link that provides some background on Basara from a blog post in September.

- Allen lost Bryan Moore this week when he was recalled by the San Jose Barracuda but in what was a surprise to many Allen fans Olivier Archambault was released from his tryout contract (PTO) by the Barracuda and has returned to Allen. Archambault played two games in Allen (October 13 & 14) and was then loaned to San Jose and has been there ever since. He played in 12 games for San Jose and had five points (2 goals 3 assists).

- Archambault only played those two opening weekend games for Allen before heading to San Jose but in those two games he had seven points (2 goals 5 assists) and was +7. Having played in only two of 21 games for Allen his stats are amazing. Here is how Archambault ranks on the team for season totals after playing just two games.

26th - Games played (2)
15th - Goals (2)
13th - Points (7)
10th - Assists (5)
3rd - Plus/Minus (+7)
1st - Points per game (3.50)

- The game this afternoon will be the first of eight games (4 home 4 away) between Allen and Kansas City this season. Four of the next five Allen games are against the Mavericks. Today and tomorrow in Kansas City and then December 19 & 20 in Allen. After those four games the teams will not meet again until the end of February.

- Allen and Kansas City have both had up and down season thus far. Kansas City is in fourth place in the Central Division with 24 points and Allen is in fourth place in the Mountain Division with 27 points. The Americans have been playing the better hockey recently having won their last two games and in the last 10 games are 7-2-0-1. Kansas City has lost their last two games and is 5-5-0-0 in their last 10 games. The Mavericks have struggled at home (3-6) while the Americans road record is 6-4. Since joining the ECHL in 2014 Allen's record in Kansas City is excellent at 10-4-1-0.

- Here is how Allen and Kansas City match up:

                                    ALLEN                             KANSAS CITY

Team Record:             12-6-2-1 (27 points)           12-11-0-0 (24 points)
Division Ranking:        4th Mountain                      4th Central
Conference Ranking:  5th Western                       8th Western
League Ranking:        11th                                    16th
Last Game:                 6-2 Win (Rapid City)           3-1 Loss (Wichita)
Goals For:                   74                                       68
Goals Against:            63                                       78
Power Play:                18.2% (18/99)                    16.9% (14/83)
Penalty Kill:                82.0% (18/100)                   78.3% (18/83)
Most PIM                    Makowski (58)                    Elbrecht (64)
Leading Scorers:        Pierro-Zabotel (5-19-24)     McMurtry (10-14-24)

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

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (24.52) - Kansas City 19th (13.57)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 7th (3.52) - Kansas City 18th (2.96)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 10th (3.00) - Kansas City 18th (3.39)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 11th (33.48) - Kansas City 16th (31.70)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 23rd (35.38) - Kansas City 15th (31.74)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 11th (18.2%) - Kansas City 15th (16.9%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 18th (82.0%) - Kansas City 25th (78.3%)

- A couple of things stand out when you look at the stats. First, Allen ranks a little higher in every statistic with the exception of shots against per game. Second, both of these teams have struggled on their penalty kill, ranking toward the bottom of the league.  If you look at road vs home penalty kill percentages both teams are even worse. At home Missouri is ranked #26 with a penalty kill percentage of 68.8%. On the road Allen is ranked #27 with a penalty kill percentage of 72.1%. Staying out of the penalty box is key to any game but the way both teams kill penalties even more so today.

- The Americans have at least one power play goal in three of their last four games going 4-18 (22.2%). However, they have allowed two or more power play goals in three of their last four games going 8-24 (66.7%) on the penalty kill. Can't emphasize enough the importance of specials teams this afternoon.

- Another key to Allen's recent success is getting off to good starts which is a huge predictor of success. The Americans have scored the first goal in four of their last five game. Allen's record when scoring first this season is 10-0. Kansas City's record when scoring first is 6-4.

The referee scheduled for the game is Mike Sheehan (#11) and the linesmen are Addison Brush (#80) and Michael Houle (#49).


- I mentioned on Friday Allen could wake up Sunday morning having a must win game against Kansas City because the teams above the Americans in the Mountain Division standings were playing weaker teams on Friday and Saturday. The outcome could have been worse as both Idaho and Wichita had losses but Allen is still looking up from fourth place this morning needing a win. Tulsa got back in the mix by winning two games and find themselves just three points out of a playoff spot.  The good news for Allen is the entire Mountain Division is idle with the exception of Wichita (plays today) while the Americans play two games. A chance for Allen to gain some ground. Here are the standings as of this morning.

35 points - Colorado
34 points - Wichita
32 points - Idaho
27 points - Allen
24 points - Tulsa
21 points - Utah
14 points - Rapid City

-  There were a couple of strange games in the ECHL last night. The top team in the league by winning percentage (Wichita) was playing one of the worst teams in the league (Indy) and to put it mildly the Fuel lit up the Thunder by a score of 7-1. It was the first regulation loss of the season for Wichita on the road. You will want to check out the video highlights at ECHL Rewind as two former Allen Americans dropped the gloves 17 seconds into the game (Dyson Stevenson vs Garrett Clarke).

- It was even stranger in Fort Wayne for former Allen captain Jamie Schaafsma. Just 92 seconds into the game Jamie was on the ice when a delayed penalty was called on Quad City. Fort Wayne goalie Micheal Houser left his net to give the Komets an extra attacker. Fort Wayne had several shots on Quad City goalie C.J. Motte and then Jamie Schaafsma, who was on the side wall, tried to pass the puck back to a defensman on the blue line. The puck ended up bouncing off the boards all the way down the ice into the Komets goal. The story ended well for Jamie as the Komets won the game 5-3 and in ironies of ironies Schaafsma finished the scoring with an empty net shorthanded goal. I can just hear Jamie telling his buddies in 25 years about the time he scored an empty net goal 92 seconds into a game and another one with 56 seconds remaining in the game. By the way, since Quad City goalie C.J. Motte was the last to touch the puck before Schaafsma shot it into his own net, Motte got credit for the goal. The video highlights are at ECHL Rewind. Here is the link:

- Things just keep getting better for Aaron Dell. Last night he recorded a 41 save shutout as the Sharks beat Vancouver 5-0. Here is another great story about the game last night and how Dell has established himself as a top notch goalie in the NHL.

- If you watched the Dallas Stars game last night the winning goalie in the Las Vegas Golden Knights 5-3 win over the Stars was Maxime Lagace, a name familiar to Allen fans. Lagace spent time with Missouri in 2014-15 and Idaho in 2015-16. I remembered Allen doing well against Lagace so decided to look up the stats and indeed the Americans faced him three times and won all three games. In December of 2015 Allen beat him in Idaho 4-0. Riley Gill had a 29 save shutout that day. In January of 2015 when Lagace was playing for Missouri he started two games against Allen. In the first game Allen won 4-3 in overtime with Riley Gill in goal. Josh Brittain tied the score for Missouri in the third period and Gary Steffes got the game winning goal for the Americans at the 1:15 mark of overtime assisted by Chad Costello and Jack Combs. Lagace started again 10 days later in Allen against another future NHL goalie, Aaron Dell. Dell got the win as the Americans beat Missouri 5-2. Lagace took the loss and was chased early by Allen. He gave up three goals on six shots and was replaced at the 11:08 mark of the first period. You add it all together and Lagace lost all three games he started against Allen and had a save percentage of .855. Maxime got his break in Las Vegas early in the season when they had numerous goalie injuries. He has played in 14 games for the Golden Knights and has a GAA of 3.79 and a save percentage of .872. 

DID YOU KNOW:  Could the tide be turning? Since joining the ECHL in 2014 the Allen Americans have feasted on their three closest rivals (Tulsa, Wichita, Kansas City). Over half of the Americans games have been against these three teams. Here is Allen's record against Tulsa, Wichita and Kansas City since joining the ECHL excluding this season. 

33-4-4-3   -   Wichita
23-7-3-0   -   Missouri/Kansas City
28-14-2-3 -   Tulsa

84-25-9-6 - TOTAL

Here is Allen's record so far this season:

2-2-0-0   -   Wichita
0-0-0-0   -   Kansas City
2-2-1-0   -   Tulsa

4-4-1-0   -   TOTAL


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Getaway Day for Allen, Barracuda Bring up Two Players But Only One From Allen, Mavericks Rivalry Revisited, Odd Stat, PIMS by Division, Dell Stats

It is getaway day for the Allen Americans as they will practice late this morning and then get on the bus at 2:30 pm for the almost 500 mile trip to Independence, Mo. Allen will play the Kansas City Mavericks tomorrow (Sunday) at 4:05 pm and again Monday night (7:05 pm) before returning home.

- The Americans will be without Bryan Moore who has been recalled by San Jose. The Barracuda have also signed Emerson Clark of the Jacksonville Icemen. Moore and Clark played on a line together last night as the Barracuda lost to Tuscon at home by a score of 3-1. Someone asked me last night why San Jose would call up a player from Jacksonville rather than one of their contracted players from Allen. Here is my take on why the Barracuda signed Emerson Clark. It starts with the boxscore from the San Jose game on Wednesday when they got trounced at home 6-0 by Stockton. It is embarrassing enough to get beat 6-0 at home but if you look at the penalties San Jose had four minor penalties in the game and nobody stepped up to fight. I know coach Martinson would expect players to show some toughness when losing 6-0 at home and I expect coach Sommer of the Barracuda would expect the same. Bottom line is the Barracuda didn't score and didn't show toughness. Emerson Clark is a perfect fit if you are looking for a player with skill and toughness. He has more goals (8), more penalty minutes (113) and more fights (7) than anyone on the Allen Americans roster. He leads the Jacksonville Icemen in goals and assists. Emerson's 113 penalty minutes leads the entire ECHL. That is why he is in San Jose from my perspective. Here is the San Jose Barracuda press release announcing the arrival of Moore and Emerson.

- With Moore and Emerson added to the Barracuda roster and another player assigned by the Sharks they now have too many forwards on the roster. Wouldn't be surprised to see a forward assigned to Allen as strange as that sounds. I think San Jose is trying to change the mix by adding players with more grit to their game. UPDATE: Per AHL transactions Olivier Archambault has been released form his PTO by San Jose and is returning to Allen.

- I will have a complete game preview on this series between Allen and Kansas City tomorrow. The Americans actually play four of their next five game (2 away 2 home) against Kansas City so thought today would be a good day to revisit the rivalry between these teams which runs deep. They are no longer in the same division so the rivalry may not be as strong as in the past but the history between these teams is unforgettable. Here is a little history lesson on the Allen vs Missouri/Kansas City rivalry:

Both franchises began in the same year (2009-10) and to overgeneralize a bit, Missouri has always been the "darling successful franchise" that could not win, while Allen was always the struggling "financially troubled franchise" that could not lose. In that very first year Missouri finished sixth in the conference while Allen went to the championship final eventually losing to Rapid City. In 2013 Allen eliminated Missouri in the playoffs on the way to their first championship. In 2014 Missouri was the best regular season team in the Central Hockey League (CHL) but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the eighth seed (Arizona). Allen, who was the third seed, beat Denver for their second straight championship. Once coach Martinson arrived in Allen the CHL annual awards seemed to always be the same. Allen would have the championship trophy and Missouri would be the franchise of the year.

- The rivalry really heated up in 2014-15 when Allen assistant coach, Richard Matvichuk, was selected as Missouri's head coach. It was implied by some that Allen would struggle without Matvichuk who was in Allen for their first two championships. It didn't take long for skeptics to learn who was the teacher and who was the student. Allen beat Missouri eight straight times before losing to the Mavericks in overtime late in the season. Missouri didn't even make the playoffs and Allen went on to win their third straight championship and first Kelly Cup.

- 2015-16 may have been the topper for Allen fans as the Matvichuk led Mavericks had a record breaking season and were the class of the ECHL in the regular season. They had 20 more points than the Americans and were the ECHL's #1 seed going into playoffs.The Americans easily dispatched Missouri (4-2) in the second round of the playoffs on the way to their second straight Kelly Cup.

- Last season (2016-17) Allen's record against Missouri was 10-1-2-0 but the Americans had a disappointing playoff run losing to the eventual champions (Colorado) in the second round. Missouri failed to make the playoffs. 

- I think rivalries are more for fans than players and coaches. Coach Martinson would always say it was just another game when Allen played Missouri but I think there was extra satisfaction when he beat his former assistant. Most of the current players aren't even aware of the past rivalry. Matvichuk has moved on to a very successful coaching career in the Western Hockey League (Prince George Cougars). On the ice there hasn't been much of a rivalry since the teams have joined the ECHL. Allen's record against Missouri is 23-7-3-0. Even though much has changed the rivalry endures. Who can forget the playoff "poogate" in Missouri when the Mavericks put stinkbait in the Americans locker room and coaches office prior to game six of the 2016 playoffs. The Mavericks were down in the series 3-2 at the time and it was win or go home for Missouri. The prank backfired on the Mavericks as the Americans, who were really pissed off, clobbered Missouri 5-1 and eliminated them from the playoffs. Coach Martinson's quote after the game was, "Don't throw fuel on the fire unless you want a bigger fire."  Then there was the incident back in 2014 when Allen goalie Mark Guggenberger was fined for tripping the Missouri mascot (Mac). See the video below.

 At least for the fans the rivalry continues every time Allen and Kansas City play. The one fact Allen fans can and will always point out until the Mavericks do something about it is the Americans have four championships while Missouri/Kansas City has never advanced past the second round of the playoffs.

- The Americans don't play at home again until they play Kansas City at the Allen Event Center (AEC) on December 19 & 20 which is a Tuesday and Wednesday. There are always a lot of quirks in the schedule but this season seems worse than normal. Check out these scheduling facts:

Allen plays two home games in 36 days between November 13 and December 18.
Allen will play five home games in nine days between December 19 & 27.
Of Allen's next nine home games six are on weekdays with just one on Friday & one on Saturday.
Allen plays on Friday & Saturday five weeks in a row starting December 29th but only once at home.

-  How is this for an odd stat. The Allen Americans are in fourth place in the Mountain Division but have the sixth best winning percentage in the ECHL. Here are the top six teams in the league by winning percentage:

.850 - Wichita
.841 - Florida
.750 - Colorado
.700 - South Carolina
.674 - Toledo
.643 - Allen

- Aaron Dell is quietly having another great season with the San Jose Sharks. He is ranked #1 in the entire NHL among goalies that have played in a minimum of 10 games. He is #1 in GAA (1.93) and #1 in save percentage (.933).

DID YOU KNOW: One way to look at style of play in the four ECHL divisions is comparing penalty minutes. So far this season there have been 9293 penalty minutes assessed for an average of 344 per team. Two divisions (South & Mountain) are way above the average and two (North & Central) are way below the average.

South Division - Five of the seven teams in the division are above the 344 average. There are two teams with over 400 minutes (Florida & Greenville) and two with less than 300 minutes (South Carolina & Norfolk).

North Division - Two of the six teams in the division are above the 344 average. There are no teams with 400 penalty minutes and four teams (Reading, Manchester, Adirondack, Brampton) with less than 300 minutes.

Central Division - Just one team (Indy) is above the 344 average. There are no teams with 400 penalty minutes. Five of the seven teams in the division have 300 or fewer penalty minutes (Toledo, Cincinnati, Fort Wayne, Kalamazoo, Quad City). With 176 penalty minutes Quad City has the fewest in the league.

Mountain Division - Six of seven teams in the division are above the 344 average. Only one team is below 300 minutes (Wichita) while four teams (Colorado, Idaho, Allen, Rapid City) have more than 400 minutes. Allen leads the league with 515 penalty minutes.

It may just be a coincidence but five of the six teams that reached the Kelly Cup finals over the last three seasons have come out of the two division above that play a tougher style of hockey when measured by penalty minutes.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Practice Update, Roster Update, Team Statistics, Why a Must Win Weekend for Allen & A Plus/Minus Discussion With ECHL Rankings

The Allen Americans were hard at work during practice yesterday as they prepare for two games in Kansas City on Sunday and Monday. Some strange scheduling for sure driven by the availability of the arena where an indoor soccer team plays tonight. The Americans will head to Kansas City Saturday afternoon and play at 4:05 pm on Sunday and 7:05 pm on Monday.

- It was good to see Peter MacArthur and Connor Reilly back at practice after recent injuries. Dalton Thrower, Zach Hall and Riley Gill are still listed as day to day and it remains to be seen when they will return. Zach Pochiro had successful surgery on his hand on Tuesday and those type of injuries typically have an eight week recovery time. 

- This is the time of the season where it starts to be difficult to find players to sign if a team is looking to add to their roster. Injuries mount up across the league, players leave for Europe and there are more call ups as NHL/AHL have injuries. Each week it becomes harder and harder to find players to sign. I am sure this is something coach Martinson has to be contemplating with Jonathan Lessard leaving to play in France and Zach Pochiro out long term. Martinson has enough forwards (11) today but does he want to gamble there won't more injuries or call ups over the next couple of weeks. If he is going to add a depth player he will have to do that sooner rather than later because fewer and fewer players will be available.

- Because of the way the schedule is this weekend the Allen Americans could wake up in Kansas City Sunday morning having a must win game against the Mavericks. The three teams above Allen in the standings (Wichita, Colorado, Idaho) will be favored to win their games against teams with losing records. Wichita plays in Indy on Saturday against the last place Central Division team. Colorado is at home for games tonight and Saturday against Rapid City, the last place team in the Mountain Division. Idaho is at home for two games against Utah, a team that has one win in their last 10 games. If the favored team wins all of these games, which is very likely, the standings will look like this Sunday morning:

36 points - Wichita
35 points - Colorado
34 points - Idaho
27 points - Allen 

If Allen doesn't win in Kansas City a tight four team race could become a tight three team race for the top spot in the Mountain Division.

- The Allen Americans have now completed 30% of the season. Thought today would be a good time to provide an update on some team stats. Here is how the Americans rank in the ECHL in some critical statistical categories:

Goal differential - 7th (+11)
Average PIMS per game - 1st (24.52)
Overall power play - 11th (18.2%)
Home power play - 8th (20.4%)
Road power play - 21st (15.6%)
Overall penalty kill - 17th (82.0%)
Home penalty kill - 2nd (89.5%)
Road penalty kill - 27th (72.1%)
Shorthanded goals for - 3rd (4)
Shorthanded goals against - 15th (4)
Ave. goals scored - 7th (3.52)
Ave. goals against - 10th (3.00)
Ave shots for per game - 11th (33.48)
Ave shots against per game - 23rd (35.38)
Shooting percentage - 10th (10.4%)
Save percentage - 3rd (.916)
Attendance - 14th (3781)

If you compare the stats above to the last time I posted them which was one month ago a few things stand out. The power play has improved from 13% to 18.2% but the penalty kill has gone in the opposite direction falling to 82% from 89.6%. The road penalty kill is the worst in the league at 72.1%. Along with a declining penalty kill percentage the penalty minutes have increased over the past month going from an average of 20.73 per game which was #5 in the league to 24.52 minutes per game which is #1. One stat that has remained constant over the last month is team save percentage which is ranked #3 in the league at .916.

- Had a regular reader of the blog ask for more of the old videos so here is one that shows some great stick handling:

DID YOU KNOW:  Ever since the NHL adopted plus/minus as an official stat back in 1967 it has been criticized as an individual stat. The definition of plus/minus is a player is awarded a "plus" each time they are on the ice when their team scores an even strength goal or a shorthanded goal and given a "minus" every time they are on the ice when their opponent scores an even strength or shorthanded goal. Critics of the stat argue plus numbers are awarded to players that make little or no contribution to a goal being scored and minus numbers are given to players that were doing their job defensively. A good player surrounded by weaker players will likely have a poor plus/minus number while a weak player playing with stronger players can have a good plus/minus number. Studies have estimated 30% - 40% of the of the plus/minus marks are given to players that had no impact on the play. If you look at team plus/minus numbers however it gives a better idea how good a team is playing. Here are the ECHL teams with a plus/minus over +50.

+124 - Wichita
+104 - Florida
+56 - Colorado
+53 - Allen
+52 - Toledo
+51 - Fort Wayne

You may wonder how Allen could be in fourth place in their division and but have the fourth best plus/minus number in the 27 team ECHL. If you look behind the numbers Allen has feasted on the Rapid City Rush. They have played Rapid City four times and in those four games are +24, +15, +15 & +14 for a total of +64. If you eliminate the four games against the Rush the plus/minus is -15 against the rest of the teams Allen has played this season.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Playoff Banter, Barracuda Lose 6-0, Best Dangles Video & ECHL Teams With 10 Goal Scorers

The ECHL playoffs are still months away but if you look at the division standings you can already see separation between the haves and have-nots. As a reminder, the first two rounds of the Kelly Cup playoffs will be played entirely within the division, with the division winners playing the fourth place finisher and second place team meeting the third place team in the first round (division semifinals). The winners of each series will meet in the division finals, leading to the conference finals and Kelly Cup finals.

- With about 30% of the season completed only the North Division is competitive from top to bottom. The top three teams in the division all have 26 points and are only seven points ahead of last place Worcester with 19 points. This is in sharp contrast to the other three divisions. In the South Division first place Florida (35 points) has a 24 points lead over last place Jacksonville (11 points). In the Central Division first place Toledo (31 points) has an 18 point lead over last place Indy (13 points). In the Mountain Division first place Wichita (34 points) has a 20 point lead over last place Rapid City (14 points).

- In the Mountain Division the top four teams (Wichita, Colorado, Idaho, Allen) have widened the gap over the bottom three teams (Tulsa, Utah, Rapid City) in the last 10 games. The top four have all won seven of their last 10 games. The bottom three have just one win (Utah), two wins (Tulsa) and three wins (Rapid City) over the last 10 games. There is now a seven point gap between fourth place Allen and fifth place Tulsa. While seven points doesn't sound like much, history says a team that far behind at this point will rarely make the playoffs.  

- Here is the playoff status of the other three divisions:

North Division - This is the toughest division to predict because only seven points separate first and last place. Based on the current standings Wheeling, Reading, Adirondack and Manchester make the playoffs. Brampton and Worcester miss the playoffs.

South Division  -  Florida, South Carolina, Greenville and Atlanta are in good position to make the playoffs even though Greenville and South Carolina have only won four of their last 10 games.  Orlando, Jacksonville and Norfolk are on the outside looking in. Orlando was way out of the playoff picture but has closed to within six points of a playoff spot by winning seven of their last 10 games.

Central Division - Like the Mountain Division the Central Division has a distinct gap between the top four teams and the bottom three. Toledo, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Fort Wayne are battling for the top four spots and will make the playoffs.  The bottom three are seven points behind (Quad City), eight points behind (Kalamazoo) and 11 points behind (Indy) the last playoff spot. Again, history would say the bottom three teams have little chance of making up the deficit to make into the playoffs.

- The San Jose Barracuda got pounded at home last night losing to Stockton by a score of 6-0. The Barracuda's record is 9-9-0-1 which places them in a tie for fifth place in the Pacific Division. Their next three games are against division leading Tucson on Friday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Barracuda have been playing with a short bench because of injuries. There could be a chance for a call up from Allen over the next week.

- Have had several questions on the status of players and when they might return to the lineup. I will be attending practice today and will have a full report tomorrow.

- Here is a "best dangles" video for your watching pleasure. Even if you have seen it before it will entertain you:

 - Finally, a shootout goal from the Allen Americans all time dangle master, Colton Yellow Horn. Never get tired of watching this 16 second clip when Colton was playing in Ontario in 2012.

DID YOU KNOW: Allen's leading goal scorers are Bryan Moore and Zach Pochiro who have seven goals. The only team in the ECHL whose top scorer has fewer than seven goals is Worcester (six goals). The top goal scorer in the ECHL is Michael Joly from Colorado who has 18 goals. There are 17 teams in the ECHL that have at least one player with 10 or more goals led by Wheeling who has four.  

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Preparations Begin for KC, More December Stats, Allen's #1's, Player of the Week, SpongeBob Video Starring Bryan Moore, Comparing Attendance Across Leagues & More

After some time off the Allen Americans will start preparing today for a trip to Kansas City where they will take on the Mavericks in a rare Sunday and Monday series. It is unusual to play Kansas City for the first time two months into the season but with the Mavericks moving to the Central Division this year the teams will only play each other eight times compared to 13 times last season. Kansas City has had an up and down season thus far which is similar to the Americans. The Mavericks are currently in third place in the Central Division with a record of 12-10-0-0 while Allen is in fourth place in the Mountain Division with a record of 12-6-2-1.

- In yesterday's blog there was a discussion of how the Americans turned around their season last December and what a daunting task it will be to match that performance this year. As a reminder of just how good the team played in December last season, here are some of the highlights:

- 10-2-1-1 record including 5-0-1-0 on the road.
- Outscored their opponents 67-29 for a goal differential of +38.
- Averaged 4.78 goals per game
- Allowed 2.07 goals per game
- Power play percentage of 29.4%
- Penalty kill percentage of 89.2%
- Plus/minus total of +168. Went from one of the worst (-27) to first (+134) in one month
- Four shutouts outscoring opponents 23-0

- With such a great month you would assume accolades would follow and they certainly did. It was probably the best month ever for individual honors. Here is the list:

Riley Gill - ECHL Goalie of the Week (December 4th)
Riley Gill - ECHL Goalie of the Week (December 11th)
Riley Gill - ECHL Goalie of the Month (December)
Spencer Asuchak - ECHL Player of the Week (December 23)
Spencer Asuchak - PHPA ECHL Performer of the Month (December)
David Makowski - ECHL Plus Performer of the Month (December)
Chad Costello -  Named ECHL All-Star game starter

- Every once in a while I like to go through every stat listed on the ECHL website and see how many  Allen is #1 in individual or team stats. FYI being #1 can be good or bad. It means best or worst in the ECHL. Here are the current #1's.

#1 - Average penalty minutes per game by a team (24.52)
#1 - Casey Pierro-Zabotel  most assists (19)
#1 - David Makowski most minor penalties by a defenseman (19)
#1 - Record when scoring first (10-0)
#1 - Lowest road penalty kill percentage (72.1%)
#1 - Zach Pochiro most points in a game (5)
#1 - Joel Chouinard most power play points in a game (4)
#1 - Most minor penalties in a game by one team (15)

- The ECHL announced their player of the week yesterday and the honor went to former Allen Americans forward Matt Willows who now plays for the Reading Royals. Willows had one goal and five assists on the week as Reading was 1-1-1-0 in their three games. Bryan Moore was a runner up for player of the week with five points (3 goals 2 assists) as Allen was 2-0-0-0 on the week. Bryan obviously had better stats but was hurt by the fact Allen only played two games last week.

-  Here are two stories about the Norfolk Admirals who lost their affiliation with Nashville (NHL) and Milwaukee (AHL) last week. Things have gone from bad to worse ever since Norfolk returned to the ECHL three years ago. They have been at or near the bottom of the standings and their average attendance has declined from 3767 the in 2015-16 to 2984 in 2016-17 and thus far this season is averaging only 1981. Here is the story from last week when Nashville cut ties with Norfolk:

Here is a story titled, "Is the Hockey Ship Sinking in Norfolk" -

- You may remember there was a rookie in Allen's training camp by the name of Tyler Coulter who coach Martinson traded to Jacksonville prior to the start of the season. Coulter had completed his junior career with the Brandon Wheat Kings, committed to play college hockey at the University of Calgary but decided to turn professional.  A player can actually turn pro and still play college hockey that same season as long as he enrolls by a certain date which is sometime around the end of December. Coulter has decided to leave pro hockey to attend the University of Calgary.  Here is a story about Tyler's decision.

It is always somewhat of a gamble when dealing with rookies who have college scholarship money available as there is always a risk they will leave the pro ranks and play college hockey. This same thing happened to Allen when they traded Tanner Eberle for defenseman Michael Webster last month.

- If you haven't had a chance to watch the video of the Allen Americans singing the SpongeBob theme song featuring Bryan Moore here it is. When you are wearing SpongeBob specialty jerseys you have to sing the song and the boys showed they have a sense of humor.

DID YOU KNOW: There are lots of ways to compare attendance across professional leagues. Here are the best and worst teams in average attendance this season by league. Information courtesy of

21473 - Chicago Blackhawks
12595 - New York Islanders

9520 - San Diego Gulls
3157 - Hartford Wolf Pack

7868 - Toledo Walleye
1981 - Norfolk Admirals

4967 - Huntsville Havoc
1872 - Mississippi RiverKings

While the NHL averages over 17,000 per game the other professional leagues draw a lot fewer fans. Here is the average attendance thus far this season by league.

5404 - AHL
4150 - ECHL
3024 - SPHL  

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What Will December Bring, Injuries in San Jose, Sdao Suspended, Ice Angels Release Calendar, Who's Hot, Who's Not & ECHL Fight Card

The month of December will be key for the Allen Americans in their quest to move up the Mountain Division standings where they currently occupy the fourth and final playoff spot. The Americans have gotten off to a great start this month with two decisive wins over Rapid City.

- If you recall it was in December last season when Allen turned around a shaky start to the season (8-11) and began an amazing march from last place to first place in the division. Their December record was 10-2-1-1. The Americans play 13 games this month and with a 2-0 start they certainly have a chance to have a similar record as last season but it won't be easy. Allen plays only three teams the rest of December. There are four games (2 home 2 away) against Kansas City who has a winning percentage of .545 and three games (2 home 1 away) against Tulsa who has a winning percentage of .476. The Americans close out the year with four games (2 home 2 away) against league leading Wichita who has a winning percentage of .842. Those four games with Wichita that take place between Christmas and New Years will go a long way in determining if Allen has a chance of catching the Thunder.

- There have been some recent injuries with the San Jose Sharks which necessitated players being recalled from the Barracuda which then makes them shorthanded. The trickle down effect can then impact the Allen Americans. The Barracuda played a game on Sunday and defenseman Mike Brodzinski was moved up to forward. The Barracuda play tomorrow (Wednesday) night and again on Friday. Wouldn't be surprised to hear San Jose has recalled one of their players from Allen.

- Here is a story that talks about the injures in San Jose titled, "Injuries Show Limits of Shark's Organizational Depth" -

- The ECHL announced yesterday that Rapid City defenseman Michael Sdao has been suspended for three games and fined an undisclosed amount for his hit on Connor Reilly in the game on Saturday. Sdao was given a match penalty for targeting the head. Reilly left the game early in the second period and didn't return after what looked like a deliberate intent to injure. Sdao will miss the next three Rapid City games which all happen to be against Colorado, the team he played for last season. Colorado leads the ECHL in fights (30) and could make it difficult for Rapid City with Sdao out of the lineup.

- Here is the ECHL "Mountain Division Weekly" which has a fact about each team, a fact about a player on the team and the team's schedule for this week. Four of the seven players highlighted have "Rocked the Red" and are playing great for their team. Check it out:  

- There was only one game in the ECHL last night but it impacted the Allen Americans. Idaho beat Utah 3-2 in a shootout and moved into third place in the Mountain Division, one point ahead of the Americans. Wichita has been entrenched at the top of the division and the three teams at the bottom of the division (Tulsa, Utah, Rapid City) have fallen further behind. However, the battle for second place between Colorado, Idaho and Allen seems to change on a daily basis. It currently is Colorado in second with 29 points, Idaho in third with 28 points and Allen in fourth with 27 points.  

- A quick look at the last 10 games for each ECHL team shows a great team playing great is Florida with the most wins (8) in the last 10 games. A good team playing poorly is South Carolina with just three wins in the last 10 games. A team that was in last place playing great is Brampton with seven wins in the last 10 games. A poor team playing poorly with a league low of one win in the last 10 games is Utah. 

- The Allen Americans Ice Angels held their calendar release party on Saturday and as always they have done an outstanding job again. They are an amazing group of talented young women who are the best in the business. You can pick up the calendar at the team store. Here are a couple of photos from the release party courtesy of Michael Lark Photography.

Tough duty for the players in the back supporting the Ice Angels

Congrats to Ice Angel Kaylee who adorns the calendar cover this year

DID YOU KNOW: The Mountain Division of the ECHL is considered by most the toughest in the league and if you look at fights that is certainly the case. Four of the top five teams in the number of fights come from the Mountain Division and the fifth is a close cousin from the Central Division. Here is the top five list for number of fights in the ECHL this season courtesy of

30 - Colorado
23 - Allen
23 - Idaho
22 - Kansas City
22 - Utah

If you are wondering who is at the bottom of the list here are the bottom three:

5 - Quad City
6 - Brampton
7 - Reading

Monday, December 4, 2017

Reflecting on the Allen Americans Family Through Stories, Photos and Videos

It's 4:30 am and as usual I am sitting in my office trying to figure out what to write about in the blog this morning. With the Americans taking a couple of days off since they don't play again until Sunday I am having one of those days where nothing comes to mind. When you are 70 years old like I am and nothing comes to mind your thoughts usually drift to the past. I was reminded of a saying I used many times when speaking to groups before I retired, "Since most of us live in the past a description of the present sounds like the future to us."

- Unlike most other days when I resist talking exclusively about the past I decided to embrace it today because it will be fun for me and just maybe for some of the long time Allen fans, CHL fans and even ECHL fans that read the blog. I hope just one of these stories, photos or videos piques your interest enough to read or watch and reflect on how lucky Allen fans are to have the Americans as part of the community. Some of these will make you smile and some may bring a tear to your eye but they will all make you reflect on the entire Allen Americans family from fans, to players to staff.

- My blog career happened to coincide with the arrival of Steve Martinson as head coach and general manager of the Allen Americans. Those first blogs were brutal and were primarily written for the  Allen fans where I live. The first blog post mentioning coach Martinson was10 days after I started the blog in October, 2012. In six years it has had a total of 55 views and most of them have probably been by me. I would put the link here to the story but can you do one better as this was the entire blog for October 18, 2012.

"Had heard Coach Martinson was a tough, hard-nosed player so thought I would take a look at his fighting statistics at Close to 200 fights in his career including 41 in 1985-1986 while playing for the Hershey Bears for a total of 432 penalty minutes. Average over his career is close to 5 PIM's per game. Yes, he was a tough guy and when he says we are going to be big, strong, tough, and hard to play against there is no doubt he is correct. DREAD THE RED!!!"

It wasn't much but maybe a slight improvement from blog post #1  - "10/8/12 - Welcome to the Heritage Ranch Allen Americans Fan Club blog. This is a work in progress and hopefully both the content and design will improve over time. I wanted to get the site going as training camp gets underway. It was great to see all of the returning and new players at camp today along with Stars players Ericksson, Fistric, Daley, Robidas, & Bachman. Nice to see Jarret Lukin finally wearing his favorite number #32, so long #40 & #7."

- One of my favorite stories ever about coach Martinson was written by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News in 2014. Rick was the first person I ever talked to who made their living writing about sports. I still remember walking up to Rick for the first time as he was watching the Americans practice in the community rink. I was extremely nervous to approach this nationally acclaimed sports writer but I knew he could help me with some of the rules of the road when covering a team. Rick went out of his way to answer every question I had and more importantly reassured me that there will always be a certain amount of tension between a beat writer and the team's media department. He shared many of his experiences dealing with major league sports over the years. Rick has been a big supporter of the Allen Americans over the years and has become a mentor and friend who I can bounce things off of when necessary. This story Rick wrote about Steve Martinson was right on point and to prove the premise of the story Martinson has added two more championships since this story was published in 2014. Pretty high praise when you are called the best coach in the Dallas area: 

- Here is a story that appeared in The Hockey News in 2016 after Allen won their second Kelly Cup and their fourth consecutive championship. Pretty nice when The Hockey News is singing your praises:

-  There are have been many fan favorites over the years I have been writing the blog but none more enjoyable than Darryl Bootland. I was thinking about the guy who prefers to be called Booter because he played his first games of the season over the weekend for the Orlando Solar Bears. He signed with Orlando in the off season but was out with an injury. In Booter style, the 36 year old scored his first goal of the season Saturday night in his second game back. One of the very first in depth player profile stories I ever wrote was about Bootland in 2012. He could not have been any nicer in sharing his story. Here is a link:

If you want to read a story about Booter that will bring a tear to your eye check this one out. The genesis for this story was from a blog reader who read the player profile on Bootland and wanted to share what she had observed. I have read this story many times and it still gets to me: t 

- Some of the most popular stories in the blog over the years have not been about the team. Here is a good example, A story about the drummers who have been a great addition to the game night atmosphere. 

- One of the best things about writing the blog is getting to know the player's friends and family. Here is one of the most popular stories ever and it is about a player's wife who also happened to play hockey in college. It was called, "Wendy McMillin, Hockey Wife & Sports Star: 

- It is hard to talk about former Allen and current Fort Wayne Captain Jamie Schaafsma without talking about his wife Nicole and their children. If you happen to be on social media keeping track of the Schaafsma family is like a Netflix series. Here is the player profile with Jamie from early 2014. FYI they now have three children with number four on the way:     

- I have been an Allen fan from day one and there have been many heartaches along the way as members of the Allen Americans family that I have become friendly with have passed away. Usher Bill Mazzeo is the most recent example, Richard Henry, who came to most practices along with his wife Carol is another, photographer Chip Crail another and of course bus driver Scott Alexander another. Here are tributes I wrote about Chip and Scott who both passed away in 2014.

Chip was a great photographer and friend who went out of his way to help me when I first started the blog. We would talk at every game about so much more than hockey. Here is the story I wrote about Chip after he lost his battle against cancer. It also includes some of my favorite photos from Chip's portfolio. 

Bus drivers are such a key component of a hockey team as they are beloved by all. Here is the tribute to Scott Alexander from December 2014. These type of stories are the toughest to write but when they come from the heart they are the most satisfying. Scott was so much more than a bus driver to the Allen Americans:


 Since I am talking about the past today here are a few photos from the blog. You could call some of these "way back throwback" photos.

Gary Steffes

The Ludwigs

Riley Gill

Costello Christmas

The 1st championship

1st Kelly Cup

Jarret Lukin

Brian & Wendy McMillin

The best championship season highlight video ever. Whenever you are down this will lift you up. Championships are are like your kids in that you love them all but 2013 was my favorite. I dare you to watch this 10 minute recap of the 2012-2013 championship season without making your day better.

You can't have a throwback video without the most famous fight in Americans history. You never get tired of seeing this one between Allen's Judd Blackwater and Jim Jorgensen. No matter how many times you watch this video it is impressive.

DID YOU KNOW: Since today's post is about the past here is the very first DID YOU KNOW which debuted on October 16, 2013.  

- I am starting a daily feature on the blog called "DID YOU KNOW" which will be little known facts about the team, the players, and the staff. Going to need some help to come up with something every day so please help me out by sharing some "DID YOU KNOWS" with me.

DID YOU KNOW: Garrett Clarke set the single season record last year for most penalty minutes (PIM) with 223 but Steve Martinson exceeded that number seven times in his career including 432 PIMs in 1985-1986 for the Hershey Bears (AHL).