Thursday, January 18, 2018

Allen Hits the Road, Travel & Per Diem Details, Why Idaho Claimed Steffes Off Waivers, Asuchak & McAuley Return, ECHL Fight Stats & More

The Allen Americans are on their way to Indianapolis to take on the Indy Fuel tomorrow (Friday) night. The team was scheduled to leave last night around 7:00 and if all goes as planned and there are no travel delays they should arrive in Indy around noon today. The worst of the recent very cold weather has passed Indiana with a high temperature in Indianapolis today of 31 and tomorrow 37. By Sunday in Fort Wayne the high is predicted to be 43.

- I was asked last night why the team didn't leave this morning since they don't play until tomorrow night. There are several factors that go into what time the team chooses to depart on road trips. It is always better on the longer trips like this one to travel during the night where everyone can sleep so that is the preference. Departure time is also driven by the time the team wants to arrive at the destination and also the availability of ice. On this trip, if there are no weather delays, the team will be able to check into the hotel and has ice available this afternoon for practice.

- Another factor in selecting departure times is the payment of meal money. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) not only states the amount of daily meal money ($42) but it also specifies the amount and time on which the meal money is calculated. If the team is on the road prior to 10:00 am everyone gets $9 for breakfast, prior to 2:00 pm $12 for lunch and prior to 7:00 pm $21 for dinner. The team has the option to provide a meal in lieu of the meal money. For example, the team could have gathered for a meal before they departed last night and left before 7:00 pm and the dinner meal money would not be paid. Many times the team leaves after 7:00 pm so everyone eats at home prior to departure. By leaving after 7:00 that would save the team close to $500, almost the cost of a pair of new skates.

- This road trip is important for the Americans to get back on the right track. Allen has been inconsistent recently with a record in their last 10 games of 4-6. They had a good outing in their last road game (7-2 win in Tulsa) but have lost four of their last five road games. Indy has a losing record this season but is 6-4 in their last 10 games and has a winning record at home (9-8). After playing Indy on Friday night the Americans move on to Fort Wayne for two games (Saturday & Sunday). The Komets home record is 12-5-2-0.

- Allen got some good news yesterday with the arrival of reinforcements from San Jose in the names of Spencer Asuchak and Colby McAuley. Asuchak brings his net front presence, faceoff skill and fills a gap at center for Allen.  McAuley was averaging a point a game in his last 11 games in Allen before being recalled by San Jose. They will provide a big lift to the team and for the first time in a long time there are 10 forwards on the trip. There are eight defensemen on the trip but Mike Gunn has one game left of his suspension so he won't be available until the team gets to Fort Wayne.

- I had lots of questions last night about the impact of Idaho making a waiver claim for Gary Steffes yesterday. I am not an expert on this waiver process but here is my guess as to what has happened. What is clear is Idaho now owns his rights. Allen had to put Steffes on waivers as there was no other viable option once he was headed back home. Idaho started the poker game by claiming Gary even though my guess is they have little or no interest in having him play. They are probably only interested in making sure he cannot return to Allen. Idaho does have a veteran spot available but my understanding is Gary's contract makes him one of the highest paid players in the league. It certainly doesn't make economic sense for the Steelheads to claim him. The next step for Allen fans to watch is to see if Steffes decides to see if Idaho is bluffing. All he would have to do is tell Idaho he is ready to go and they should get him a flight from his home to Boise. I can tell you a flight from where he lives in Minnesota to Boise would not be cheap. Gary could also contact Idaho and try and get them to drop the waiver claim by appealing to them as a veteran in the league who isn't interested in playing in Idaho. Whatever the outcome it should be known in the next couple of days. Gary is retired so this is not like the Jack Combs situation a few years ago. It would certainly be nice if the need arises in the future Allen could bring Gary back. Right now that would not be possible but it remains to be seen how this works out with Idaho. Stay tuned.

- The ECHL just announced the format for the 2019 All-Star game which will take place in Toledo on January 21, 2019 (MLK Day). The game will still be a four team three-on-three tournament but instead of having an All-Star team from each division as they did this year, next year will be different. The host team (Toledo) will make up two of the four teams with the other two teams comprised of players from the Eastern and Western Conferences. Here is the ECHL press release announcing the format change with all of the details:

- I didn't ask to confirm this but tomorrow is the official jersey reversal date in the ECHL so you should see the Americans wearing their white jerseys on the road and red at home for the remainder of the season.

- In AHL action last night Utica beat Rochester in a shootout 3-2. Vincent Arseneau did not play as I heard he is out with an injury. The San Jose Barracuda was shutout 2-0 at home by Stockton and has fallen to last place in the eight team Pacific Division. 

DID YOU KNOW: The Mountain Division of the ECHL has won the last three Kelly Cups, won the All-Star tournament this week and is also the toughest division in the league. If you look at the top five teams in fights this season four of them come from the Mountain Division. Here are the top five and bottom five in number of fights according to the website

Top Five
51 -  Colorado
40 -  Jacksonville
40 -  Allen
39 -  Rapid City
36 -  Wichita  

Bottom Five
8 -  Brampton
9 -  Quad City
14 -  Reading
15 -  South Carolina
20 -  Norfolk & Toledo

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Is My Life in Danger by Barry the Blogger, Practice Update, Roster Update and ECHL Overseas Deadline

The blog today should be outstanding because it is 4:00 am and I have been thinking about what to write for two hours. That's right, laid in bed from 2:00 am - 4:00 am wide awake with plenty of time to think. Why was I awake so early? I survived my second assassination attempt in the last seven days last night. Seems my "lovely bride" (we will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in three months) has finally taken serious what I have said for years that I am worth more dead than alive.

I know it is TMI (too much information) but at 70 it is hard to make it through the night without having to get up to go to the bathroom at some point. I am much better than many of my friends here at Wrinkle Ranch, I mean Heritage Ranch, the active adult retirement community where I live. You might wonder how do I know the middle of the night potty habits of my friends. You have to trust me on this one, old folks talk about that stuff. Even the ones that don't talk give it away because I have been on many hunting and fishing trips with a bunch of guys crammed into a small house or cabin with one bathroom. Anyway, I digress.

On those occasions when I do get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom the entire process takes place in the dark. If I turn a light on any sleep for the night is over, plain and simple. I have perfected that trip over time to a point where I believe if I ever loose my sight I could get around our house just fine. It is so easy to get to the bathroom, stand up and feel for the corner of our iron bed frame, slide across the width of the bed touching the bed frame, straight ahead three steps to the bathroom entrance, feel for the granite on the "her side" vanity, follow the granite to the end, feel for the commode door and bingo, you have arrived for touchdown.

Assassination attempt #1 - After living in this house for 10 years and perfecting that trip to the bathroom to the point I can literally do it in my sleep my "lovely bride" decided to leave one of her many vanity drawers open. Yes it was the biggest drawer and it wasn't just cracked open an inch or two, it was wide open to make sure I would trip, fall, break my skull and die from blunt force trama. There are always travel company brochures laying around the house so I think she has already picked out a destination in some exotic place like Morocco or South America to help get over her grief of losing me in a "freak" accident. Unfortunately for her I survived with a big thigh bruise. I was so adept when I hit that vanity drawer I didn't even go down, close but I stayed on my feet.

Assassination attempt #2 - After a "sincere apology" the "lovely bride" convinced me leaving the drawer open was a mere accident and I foolishly bought the story but I am sure she was already plotting what to do next. She was smart as she waited a few days to allow me to get back in the routine and forget about assassination attempt #1. But last night she struck again. This time there was a booby-trap set up right in the middle of the floor. Same plan as before I am sure, trip, fall, hit head and die. Once again my superior athletic abilty came through and all I did was stub my little toe on the corner of the booby-trap (plastic container) and rip off the toenail. That turned out to be good thing because the toe was dripping blood all over so I had the pleasure of summoning the "lovely bride" out of bed to get something to wipe up the blood and use as a compress on the toe. Her post "assassination attempt" story is that she uses that container for something in our walk-in closet and was going to take the container into the shower to wash it off in the morning. 

To add insult to injury everything was cleaned up, the bleeding was stopped and we were back in bed by 2:00 am. I never slept a wink until I got up at 4:00 am. She was snoring in five minutes. I am sure she was dreaming about what to try next!

I will exact my revenge as the "lovely bride" aka Nancy will get up in a few hours and will have to read this story as she is the proofreader for the blog. On second thought there is no revenge possible, I am in a lose-lose situation. If there is no blog tomorrow please come looking for me!

The booby-trap


- I know you didn't come to the blog today to read about my trials and tribulations so here is an update on practice and the roster.

- The Allen Americans typically practice at 10:00 am and I usually arrive between 10:30 - 10:45 because to be honest I find practice kind of boring. Arriving late gives me plenty of time to see who isn't skating, line combinations, defensive pairings and what coach Martinson is working on without sitting through warmups, stretching, and the early practice drills I have seen a 1000 times. I can catch players as they come off the ice after practice and stop by Martinson's office to ask him any questions I might have. This process works great and there are usually fans watching the entire practice that fill me in on anything I may have missed. Yesterday I arrived at my usual time around 10:45 only to find out practice wasn't starting until noon. So I sat myself down on a bench right outside the locker room, pulled out my iPad and began to visit all of the hockey sites I keep track of each day. What happened over the next 75 minutes was a reminder of something my wrestling coach/gym teacher used to say all the way back in ninth grade. "The power of observation is very important in sports and in life, talk less and observe more." Here are some of my observations in that 75 minutes on the bench, things I would have never seen had I not arrived so early.

- I first noticed a player arriving from a distance carrying all of his equipment (hockey bag and sticks) and wondered who could that be. It was David Makowski returning from Indy where he represented the Americans at the ECHL All-Star game. I asked him one question as he was headed to the locker room, "How did you enjoy the experience?" The first thing he said wasn't about his team (Mountain Division) winning the three-on-three tournament, it wasn't the fact that he was the leading scorer (2 goals, 1 assist) in the final game and it wasn't that he wore the "C" for his team. The first thing he said was he got to participate in the ceremonial puck drop and Wayne Gretzky dropped the puck so he got to shake his hand and have a brief word. Gretzky also came in the locker room and addressed the All-Stars. David sounded more like a young fan meeting a hockey hero than an All-Star. A great story! 

- Next I ran into Angie Gill and her young son Jackson who came to watch practice and meet up with Riley who was at the rink rehabbing from his injury. Jackson will be three in July and arrived at the rink with his favorite things. A hockey mask, his favorite stick (right shot but Jackson is a lefty), one glove (the other was left in the car). Jackson got a puck from one of his favorites, Zamboni driver, Geoff Gill (no relation) and he was in his element. All I can say from my observation of this activity is Jackson is "all boy" and soon to be three year old that loves his hockey. My other observation is his mom, who is expecting baby boy number two in a few months, is one patient lady!

- I have to admit I couldn't stop smiling as Jackson waited for every player to come out of the locker room headed to the ice so he could fist bump (glove hand only) each one. It made the players smile too as he was wearing his goalie mask the entire time. Too much fun!

- I was also lucky enough to observe Gary Steffes being Gary Steffes. He was in the locker room saying goodbye to his teammates and he was in coach Martinson's office to say his farewell and that is to be expected. But I also saw him saying goodbye to a special fan (I won't share her name) who stopped by just to see Gary. Then he had a private moment with Geoff (Zamboni driver) and gave him a big bear hug to say good-bye. All you have to do is observe Gary Steffes to see he is a special human being who has impacted so many in such a positive way. What a bright light he is!

- The final observation I had while waiting for practice to begin has to do with the players that are injured. There is nothing worse if you make your living playing a sport than not being able to play. Sitting on that bench watching players heading back to the trainer's room for treatment, ride the stationery bike or run the stairs in the arena gives you an appreciation for what they go through to get back in the lineup. Injuries are part of the game and it is what it is but the frustration is observable.

- The time before practice was well spent and I certainly learned a lot by observing more and talking less.

- Coach Martinson started practice by gathering the team together and sharing with them the same thing he shared with the season ticket holders during the post game chat on Monday. There has been way too many turnovers at the blue line and those turnovers lead to less puck possession time and more opportunities for the opponent. It is a big reason why the Americans are being out shot. He also talked to the team about the lack of physical play, not finishing checks and being easy to play against. He reminded the team everyone has been playing no matter what mistakes they have made because the team is shorthanded but players will soon be back from injuries, players will return from the AHL and he has a vet slot available he is looking to fill. The message was things need to change and they need to change right now.

- It was a spirited practice for sure but ended with a fun three-on-three competition scrimmage with the goals crosswise between the blue line and the end boards. With the team being shorthanded it is the best way to scrimmage and it was also fun for the guys.

- After practice, when I asked Martinson about the roster for the weekend he said doesn't expect any of the injured players to be back, he doesn't anticipate signing any players this week but he does expect to have more players. That says to me one or two players may be assigned from the AHL. Will have to keep an eye on AHL transactions today to see if any players are assigned/returned to Allen. UPDATE: Spencer Asuchak and Colby McAuley are back in Allen and will accompany the team when they leave for their road trip to Indiana tonight.

DID YOU KNOW: The deadline for signing players from Europe is fast approaching and is now less than a month away. With an open veteran spot I am sure coach Martinson is using his many contacts to find a player that would like to come to Allen in hopes of a long playoff run. Players must return from Europe by February 15 (3 pm EST) to be eligible to play in the ECHL.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Allen Loses Rubber Match to Tulsa 2-1, Martinson's Comments, Gary Steffes Reflects on 10 Day Contract, Makowski Shines in Mountain Division All-Star Win

The Allen Americans went down to defeat yesterday losing to the Tulsa Oilers 2-1 in the annual MLK day game before a disappointed crowd of 4216 at the Allen Event Center (AEC). The Americans have lost on MLK day the last three years but more importantly they lost two of three games to Tulsa in the last four days and have now lost six of their last eight games.

- After a scoreless first period the Oilers took a 1-0 lead early in the second period but Allen countered with a goal of their own at 13:03 mark when Bryan Moore scored his team leading 13th goal on the power play. That was the end of the scoring until Tulsa got the game winner with less than five minutes remaining in the game. To add insult to injury the game winner by the Oilers was scored shorthanded. It was the ninth shorty of the season for Tulsa who leads the ECHL in shorthanded goals.

- Allen's lone goal was scored on the power play but they were only 1-7 after going 3-5 in the win in Tulsa Saturday night. The one power play goal was offset by the shorthanded goal allowed. I think it is safe to say the Americans missed David Makowski on the power play unit. Makowski did not play because he was in Indy participating in the ECHL All-Star game.

- Here is the Sporfie highlight of Allen's lone goal. Take a look at this replay several times and you can see all of the attention Archambault gets as he skates through the slot. Two defenders and the goalie are all moving toward Olivier as Roy is skating with the puck from the blue line toward the goal. Eric sees what is happening with Archambault and times a perfect pass to Moore who one times it into the open net. A great read by Roy, a great finish by Moore and the value of Archambault even though his play doesn't show up on the score sheet.

- Here is the game recap issued by the Allen Americans:

- Here is the game recap from the Tulsa World:


- We turned the puck over way to many times and it came back to bite us. We didn't have a very strong game from a lot of our guys. We weren't strong on the puck and had so many turnovers at the blue line.

- We will practice tomorrow as we have to get better by the weekend if are going to win.

- It is pretty obvious we missed Makowski on the power play this afternoon but it is that old cliche, it is opportunity for other guys, it is just a matter if they are ready to seize the opportunity or not.

- I think overall we were way too nice to play against in this game. Our top players have to carry us in games like this and that didn't happen but it is also an opportunity for our depth guys to step up.

- It is painful to have the opportunity to win with a power play late in the game and then give up a shorthanded goal.

- With Gunn, Arseneau, McAuley and Asuchak all out of the lineup we have too many guys that aren't hard to play against right now. Hopefully we will get a couple of those guys back soon. I am not making excuses because we have a good enough line up to win. We beat them 7-2 on Saturday.

- We just didn't compete hard enough to win and they did. They played harder than we did. That was clear in watching their captain win all the battles for pucks. He wants the puck more than other guys. Other guys want the puck but they want it easy.

- It is how you play when you are needed that is important. It is not how you play when we are blowing a team out. I have not been real impressed the last couple of weeks.


- The Americans will now start preparing for another three games in three days, this time all on the road. The road trip starts with an 850 mile trip to play Indy on Friday night. Then a short 120 mile trip to Fort Wayne for games Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. After the Sunday game it will be back on the bus for the 975 mile trip back to Allen. The team will arrive in Allen midday on Monday. The next home game is on Wednesday (1/24) against Rapid City.

- With Gary Steffes headed home and the Americans now down to eight healthy forwards it seems likely at least one of the players in the AHL (Asuchak, McAuley, Arseneau) will be returned before the team leaves for Indy on Thursday. I will attend practice today and get an update from coach Martinson.

- Gary Steffes agreed to leave his job at FCA for 10 days to help out the Americans when their roster was depleted just because he loves the team and Allen is family to him. He is heading back to Minnesota with the experience far exceeding his expectations. He played in six games and had six points (4 goals 2 assists). I had the chance to catch up with Gary after the game yesterday and asked him to reflect on the experience. This is what he had to say:

"Coming to help out was certainly a different feeling than when I was playing and chasing my dream to see how far I could go in hockey."

"The experience exceeded all of my expectations. I had to give myself some grace since I hadn't been playing or training for eight months. I just wanted to help the best I could."

" I would have been stoked just to help out a little bit. First game back I get two assists and then the hat trick in Tulsa. I hadn't had a hat trick since I played for Tulsa in 2012-13."

"Even though I was coming out of retirement and it was temporary all the emotions came back and I wanted to win just as bad as I used to. I definitely felt I was part of the team."

"It was a different kind of pressure than before I retired. I still cared just as much as before but it allowed me to play more relaxed."

"If the team is ever in need again and things work out and FCA says it is okay I would be glad to help out. What was neat for me was coming back and spending time with the family because I feel like I am part of the Allen family. I am blessed."


- The Mountain Division won the ECHL All-Star competition yesterday which was a three on three tournament. They beat the Central Division 5-2 in the semifinal and the South Division 6-5 in a sudden death shootout in the finals. Here is the ECHL press release with all of the details on the tournament and the skills competition:

The Mountain Division All-Star Champs

- David Makowski was the leading scorer for the Mountain Division in the finals after being the only player on the team to not score a goal in the semifinals. Makowski had two goals and an assist in the championship game. Here are the highlights. Notice Makowski is wearing the "C" for his team. A couple of other interesting notes as you watch the end of the game. The Mountain Division sent out defensman Cliff Watson from Utah for the first shootout attempt. He hadn't taken a shootout attempt all season but made a nice move to score. The South Division countered with South Carolina forward Taylor Cammarata who had two goals in the semifinal game and a hat trick in the finals. Cammarata was stopped by Wichita goalie Shane Starrett to give the shootout win to the Mountain Division. Watch the look on Starret's face as he doesn't seem to realize it was a sudden death shootout, so stopping one attempt meant victory, until he hears the PA announcer say the Mountain Division is the winner. By the way, even though Cammarata was stopped in the shootout his five goals in two games earned him the MVP award.

 DID YOU KNOW: Here is Allen's record after 38 games the last three seasons for comparison. It is hard to compare season to season as the teams are so different. Last season Allen barely lost the last half of the season, earned 56 points in the last 34 games, ended up with 104 points and lost in the second round of the playoffs. In 2015-16 Allen earned only 44 points in the last 34 games, ended up with 89 points and won the Kelly Cup. This season the script is still being written and Allen fans can only hope the last chapter is a good one. 

2017-18:   20-13-4-1   (45 points)
2016-17:   23-13-1-1   (48 points)
2015-16:   21-14-2-1   (45 points)

Monday, January 15, 2018

MLK Game History, Allen vs Tulsa Preview, Reason for Regular Season and All-Star Game Today, Allen Playoff History & More

It is game day for the Allen Americans as they play the rubber match against the Tulsa Oilers. The traditional MLK day game is at the Allen Event Center (AEC) this afternoon with a 1:05 pm puck drop. The Americans split the first two games of this three game series with Tulsa, winning 7-2 on Saturday after losing 5-3 on Friday.

- The MLK game has not been kind to Allen fans recently as you have to go back to 2015 for an Americans win. In 2015 Allen scored three goals in the first 11 minutes of the game and coasted to a 5-2 win over the Missouri Mavericks. In 2016 the Americans blew a 2-0 first period lead and ended up losing to Cincinnati 4-3 in overtime. The MLK day game last season was also an overtime loss. Allen came back from a 3-0 deficit after the first period but ended up losing 5-4 in overtime to the Missouri Mavericks.

- Gary Steffes will be playing in his last game for Allen today before returning to his post retirement job in Minnesota. It would be a good bet he will score a goal today. He is the only player that has scored a goal in all three MLK day games for Allen since they joined the ECHL.

- Both teams will be missing key players today who are at the ECHL All-Star game which takes place this afternoon in Indy (1:00 pm EST) and will be televised on the NHL Network. David Makowski is representing Allen and and Connor Bleackley is representing Tulsa. 

- I am still getting questions asking why the Allen Americans are playing the same day as the ECHL All-Star game. There are actually three regular season games today. In addition to the Allen game against Tulsa, Florida is at Atlanta and Rapid City is at Utah. Here is how this came about:

The All-Star game proposals submitted by Indy (2018 All-Star Game) and Toledo (2019) proposed playing the game on the afternoon of Martin Luther King Day in the hopes of attracting a larger crowd than the traditional Wednesday evening game. Both of the proposals were approved by the team owners who make up the Board of Governors (BOG). As part of the approval, the BOG voted to continue to allow regular season games to be played on MLK Day, with the understanding that teams that play that day would send their all-star selection to the game, and as such, they would not be available for the regular season game. All teams were aware of this situation throughout the scheduling process for the 2017-18 season.

- As for the game this afternoon the question is will the Allen team from Friday night or Saturday night show up. After the Friday night 5-3 loss coach Martinson said, "We had way too many turnovers, we didn't have an effective backcheck and we were soft on the penalty kill. It is pretty hard to win that way unless your goalie stands on his head and saves the day." After the 7-2 win on Saturday coach Martinson talked about the Gary Steffes hat trick and also mentioned how important it was to have such a big bounce back after the game on Friday, the solid effort by Stephon Williams in goal and how much everyone chipped in and contributed to the victory. If the Saturday effort continues today the Americans should be in good shape.

- If you combine the stats for the two games in Tulsa the Americans had more goals (10-7), shots (77-76) and power play goals (5-2). Allen scored first in both games. There is a lot to build on but the Americans will have to overcome the loss of Makowski who had four assists in the win on Saturday and brings a lot of offense especially on the power play.

- Here are the updated stats between Allen and Tulsa:

                                     ALLEN                                TULSA

Team Record               20-12-4-1 (45 points)              14-15-3-5 (36 points)
Division Ranking         4th - Mountain                         5th -Mountain
Conference Ranking   6th - Western                          10th - Western
League Ranking          11th                                        19th
Last Game                  7-2 Win (Tulsa)                        7-2 Loss (Allen)
Goals For                    131                                          109
Goals Against             117                                          124
Power Play                 20.9%                                      13.2%
Home Power Play      21.6%                                       11.9%
Road Power Play       20.0%                                       14.1%
Penalty Kill                 81.3%                                       79.9%
Home Penalty Kill       86.8%                                      79.7%
Road Penalty Kill        75.0%                                      80.0%    
Leading Scorer           Pierro-Zabotel  (10-32-42)       Sampair (15-12-27)
Most PIM's                  Moore (121)                             Kessy (88)

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

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (24.51) - Tulsa 13th (15.76)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 6th (3.54) - Tulsa 20th (2.95)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 13th (3.16) - Tulsa 20th (3.35)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 16th (32.35) - Tulsa 1st (38.76)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 24th (36.92) - Tulsa 22nd (34.65) 
Power Play Percentage: Allen 3rd (20.9%) - Tulsa 24th (13.2%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 21st (81.3%) - Tulsa 23rd (79.9%)

- The most striking stats above are shots on goal. Tulsa leads the ECHL averaging over 38 shots on goal per game while the Americans are ranked #24 in the ECHL allowing an average of 37 shots on goal per game. In the first two games against Tulsa the Americans gave up 76 shots but had 77 of their own. If Allen can stay even with the Oilers on shots they will have the advantage because their shooting percentage is much better then Tulsa's (10.9% vs 7.6%).  

- The Allen power play has really come alive recently. In the last three games the power play is 7-15 for a 46.7% conversion rate. This recent success has moved Allen up to the #3 ranked power play in the ECHL (20.9%). Over the last three games the Allen penalty kill has continued to struggle giving up three power play goals in 10 opportunities for a penalty kill percentage of 70%. The question for today is whether the Americans can continue their success on the power play while tightening up on the penalty kill. 

- With Makowski at the All-Star game the Americans will be playing shorthanded in the game this afternoon. Unless something has changed Allen will have nine forwards (one short) and six defensemen.

- If coach Martinson continues to alternate goalies it will be Jeremy Brodeur in goal this afternoon.

- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Sean MacFarlane (#84) and linesmen Michael Houle (#49) and Addison Brush (#80). Allen has had MacFarlane as the referee numerous times this season including for the fiasco on New Year's Eve against Wichita. The Americans have not fared well with MacFarlane as they have lost six of eight games when he has been the referee.


- The three teams ahead of Allen in the Mountain Division standings (Colorado, Idaho, Wichita) are all idle today so a good chance for the Americans to make up some ground. If they can come away with two points this afternoon, Allen will be tied with Wichita for third place and be just one point behind second place Idaho.

- The three teams fighting for second place in the Mountain Division have all been struggling over the last 10 games which has allowed first place Colorado, who is 9-0-1-0 over the last 10 games, to open up a 12 point lead. Idaho is 5-3-1-1 over the last ten, Allen is 5-5-0-0 and Wichita is 4-5-1-0.

- I saw that Tony Stewart, who was supposed to be the celebrity coach for the North Division at the All-Star game today had to back out because of illness. ESPN racing analyst Scott Goodyear is replacing Stewart.

- If you are looking ahead Allen will spend the weekend on the road for the third straight week. They play in Indy on Friday night and Fort Wayne on Saturday and Sunday. In Indy the Americans will meet up with two former players, Garrett Clarke and Nolan Descoteaux. You have to expect Clarke, who is the all time career penalty minutes leader in Allen (432 minutes) will bring his agitating game to the ice that night. In Fort Wayne the Americans will meet up with former captain Jamie Schaafsma, who won three championships in Allen and was the CHL Playoff MVP when the Americans won their second championship in 2014.

DID YOU KNOW: I am always reminded at this time year of some of the slumps the Allen Americans endured in past seasons as they went on to win four straight championships. In 2013 from mid January to mid February the eventual Presidents' Cup winners won only two games while losing eleven. In 2014 Allen won their second championship but while I was on vacation in Patagonia most of the month of February the team was 1-8. So if doubts are creeping into your thoughts about how good Allen is this season my advice would be to "Keep the Faith!" It is not how you play in January and February that counts, it is how you are playing in March and beyond. And based on Steve Martinson's coaching history you have to like the chances the Americans will be playing their best hockey in March and into the playoffs. As a reminder, here are some of Martinson's records:

20 - the number of times Martinson has made the playoffs in 21 years as a head coach
10 - the number of championships Martinson has won as a head coach
2 - the number of times a Martinson coached team has lost in the first round of the playoffs
1 - the number of times a Martinson coached team has lost a game seven in the playoffs
15-1 - Martinson's record in all playoff series (not games but series) in Allen

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Allen Beats Tulsa Behind Steffes Hat Trick, Game Recap, Martinson's Comments, Archambault Stats, Logan Martinson Heading to BCHL, All-Time Playoff Plus/Minus Leaders

After a poor performance in a 5-3 loss to Tulsa on Friday night the Allen Americans played one of their better games of the season last night and clobbered the Oilers 7-2. The crowd of 5562 at the BOK Center wasn't even settled in their seats before Olivier Archambault scored the first of his two goals 89 seconds into the game. It only got worse from there as the Americans scored four unanswered goals in the first period and the game was decided by the first intermission.

- How good was Allen last night? Let me count the ways.

1. Scored the first goal of the game to improve their record when scoring first to 15-3-1-0.
2. Took a 4-0 lead to improve their record when leading after the first period to 8-1-1-0.
3. Went 3-5 on the power play and are now ranked #3 in the ECHL at 20.9%.
4. Were perfect on the penalty kill (0-2).
5. Out shot Tulsa 40-35, just the second time in the last nine games to out shoot the opponent.
6. Had 40 shots on goal for only the second time in nine games.
7. Had fewer penalties (5 to 8) and penalty minutes (16 to 22) than Tulsa.
8. Superior goalie play, Stephon Williams with a .943 save percentage, Tulsa at .825.
9. Allen won the first period 4-0 and more importantly the second period 2-1.
10. Five goal margin of victory was the largest of the season (tied with opening night).

- The official score sheet shows the goal scorers for Allen were Olivier Archambault (10&11), Gary Steffes (2&3), Joel Chouinard (6), Eric Roy (10) and Miles Liberati (4). When I talked to coach Martinson after the game he told me Steffes actually had a hat trick as he deflected the puck on the goal credited to Liberati. He also said in a very Martinson like way, "It is obvious a higher power wants Gary to keep playing."

- Here is the link to ECHL Rewind where you can find video highlights of six of the seven Allen goals. The Liberati/Steffes goal is the one missing. The highlights also include Bryan Moore vs Kale Kessy and Josh Thrower vs Kale Kessy fights.

- Here is the game recap from the Allen Americans:

- Here is the game recap from the Tulsa World:

- In addition to talking about the Gary Steffes hat trick, coach Martinson also mentioned how important it was to have such a big bounce back after the game on Friday, the solid effort by Stephon Williams in goal and how much everyone chipped in and contributed to the victory.

- The Americans headed back to Allen right after the game for some well deserved rest before they take on the Oilers for the third straight game Monday afternoon (1:05 pm). If you are not off work on Monday you might want to skip out after lunch and come to the game. When you play the same team three times in 66 hours that third game is almost always one you don't want to miss. It will also be the last time to see Gary Steffes before he heads back to Minnesota.


- You never know what will happen in the second half of the season but the Mountain Division is looking more and more like the top and bottom are a given and the real race is for second place between Idaho, Wichita and Allen. Colorado won again last night and has now earned points in 12 straight games (11-0-1-0). The Eagles have a 12 point lead in the division. The gap between the last playoff spot and the bottom teams is now nine points. The fight for second place tightened last night as Allen won, Wichita lost and Idaho lost in overtime. Here are the current Mountain Division standings with games played in parentheses. Remember, the top four teams make the playoffs and the top two get home ice advantage in the first round.

60 points - Colorado (37 games)
48 points - Idaho (38 games)
47 points - Wichita (38 games) 
45 points - Allen (37 games)
37 points - Tulsa (36 games)
36 points - Utah (37 games)
22 points - Rapid City (35 games)

- The Americans have six players averaging over a point a game if you include Gary Steffes who has six points in five games. Here is the list with average points per game.

1.73 - Olivier Archambault
1.25 - Bryan Moore
1.20 - Gary Steffes
1.18 - Zach Pochiro
1.14 - Casey Pierro-Zabtel
1.13 - David Makowski

- What Olivier Archambault has accomplished in 15 games is pretty amazing. He not only leads Allen in average point per game he leads the entire ECHL (minimum of 10 games). There are 23 players that have played more games with Allen than Archambault and many of those have played twice as many games. After just 15 games here is how he ranks on the team in the major categories.

24th - Games Played (15)
1st - Average Points Per Game (1.73)
1st - Shooting Percentage (25.0%)
3rd - Goals (11)
4th - Plus/Minus (+11)
5th - Points (26)
5th - Assists (15)

- Tracking the guys in the AHL shows Vincent Arseneau played last night as his Utica team beat Binghamton 3-2 in overtime. Arseneau had all zeros on the score sheet except for a two minute roughing penalty. The San Jose Barracuda did not play. Utica and San Jose will both be in action Monday afternoon.

- It has been a big week for the Martinson family as it was announced on Friday that Steve and Michelle's son, Logan, has committed to play for the Langley Rivermen in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). The Langley Rivermen are a junior "A" team based in Langley, BC which is just southeast of Vancouver. The BCHL is a 17 team league that traces it roots back to the 1960's. The most notable star to come out of the BCHL is NHL hall of famer, Brett Hull, who still holds the record for most goals in a season. In 1983-84 he scored a mere 105 goals in 57 games. The BCHL is where many players from the United States and Canada go in hopes of obtaining a scholarship offer to attended college. The Junior Hockey News rates the top 20 junior leagues in North America for player development and the BCHL is #5 on the list. Here is what they say about the league, "The BCHL is simply out pacing the rest of Junior A in Canada when it comes to college placement in the US (NCAA) and Canada (CIS). Many of those NCAA players are moving on to professional hockey. BCHL alumni on the current Allen roster include Casey-Pierro Zabotel, Connor Reilly and Marcus Basara. Here is the press release issued by the Langley Rivermen announcing Logan Martinson's signing:

DID YOU KNOW: I came across this stat the other day when doing some research and found it very interesting. Here are the top ten Allen players all time in career plus/minus in the playoffs.

+27 - Jamie Schaafsma
+24 - Tyler Ludwig
+19 - Daniel Tetrault
+17 - Chris Crane
+16 - Bruce Graham
+16 - Colton Yellow Horn
+15 - Erik Adams
+14 - Greger Hanson
+14 - Gary Steffes
+13 - Kale Kerbashian

Maybe the most impressive number on this list is the +19 for Daniel Tetrault because he accomplished that in just one playoff season (17 games). In his 17 playoff games in the 2014 championship season Daniel had just two minus games and they were both -1.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Allen Loses to Tulsa 5-3, Doomed by the 2nd Period Again, Game Recap, Martinson's Comments, Rematch Preview, Steffes All-Time Records & Free Tickets

The Allen Americans scored first and had the lead at the first intermission but another bad second period, when they were outscored 3-0, led to their doom last night as the Tulsa Oilers beat the Americans 5-3. Allen never got closer than two goals after the second period and the Oilers sent a big crowd of 9360 home happy.

- The second period has been the Achilles heel for the Americans many times this season. Their goal differential in the first period is +14 and in the third period is +4 but the goal differential in the second period is -6.

- In the game preview yesterday the question was who would win between a real bad Tulsa power play at home against Allen's real bad road power play. Here is what the game preview said. If you look at the special teams stats Tulsa struggles at home with a power play percentage of only 9.4% which is ranked #26 in the league. But they will be going up against the worst road power play in the league in Allen's 75.7%. The answer to the question of which team would prevail turned out to be Tulsa. The Oilers were 2-5 on the power play and in one game improved their home power play percentage to 12.1% and are now ranked #23. Allen on the other hand, giving up two power play goals, tightened their grip on the worst road penalty kill in the league which is now at 74.7%.

Goal scorers for Allen were Marcus Basara (3), Gary Steffes (1) and Eric Roy (9). Here are the video highlights with most of the goals and a penalty shot save by Jeremy Brodeur. Lots of examples of turnovers leading directly to goals.

- Here is the game recap issued by the Allen Americans which includes an acknowledgement of Mathieu Aubin's 500th career point as a professional. According to the website Aubin has 485 ECHL points to his credit along with 27 AHL points for a career total of 512. Whatever the number it says a lot about Aubin's long and productive pro career.

- David Makowski was given a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct for interference toward the end of the second period. The rule (56.4) states, "The referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence, to a player guilty of interfering with an opponent." By rule (56.5) if a major penalty is given and the player is injured a game misconduct is also given. When I contacted coach Martinson after the game I asked about this penalty and whether he thought further discipline would be forthcoming for Makowski. His response was, "I thought it was a two minute penalty and the Tulsa player never missed a shift."

- When I asked coach Martinson about the team's performance he said, "We had way too many turnovers, we didn't have an effective backcheck and we were soft on the penalty kill. It is pretty hard to win that way unless your goalie stands on his head and saves the day."


-  The easiest way for Allen to come away with a win tonight is to correct the issues mentioned by coach Martinson in his post game comments. Fewer turnovers, a better backcheck and an improved penalty kill will do the trick.

- I guess I need to quit talking about how important it is to score the first goal of the game even though from the start of last season until the series at the end of December against Wichita the Americans record when scoring first was 52-2-3-1. Allen has now lost three of their last four games (all in regulation time) when they scored first. When scoring first Allen has lost more games in regulation in the last four games than they did in the previous 58 games. With that said scoring first tonight is important.

 - Special teams will be key in the game tonight. Tulsa has only scored seven power play goals at home all season but four of them have come in the last two games. Three of the four power play goals including both last night were scored by Tulsa's ECHL All-Star, Conner Bleackley, who recently returned from a month in the AHL. The Tulsa power play is a lot better than the stats suggest with Bleackley in the lineup.

- Allen had two power play goals last night and also had two the last time they played Tulsa (December 23). The total is 4-13 or 30.8%. If they can equal that performance tonight they will have a good chance of coming away with a split in Tulsa.

- Allen gave up 41 shots last night but they had 37 of their own. If they can keep the shots close tonight it is a big advantage to the Americans because Allen has one of the better shooting percentages in the league (10.6%) while Tulsa has one of the worst (7.6%).

- Allen and Tulsa have now played nine times this season with Tulsa winning five of the nine games. In the nine games the teams have combined for seven goals five times and eight goals twice. Based on history the winning team tonight will have to score four or five goals.

- There will be an entirely new officiating crew working the game tonight. The referee scheduled is Jeff Parker (#5) and the linesmen are Trent Williams and Jake Jackson.


- In AHL action last night Vincent Areseneau was in the lineup for Utica as they lost to Syracuse 3-1. Arseneau had no points, two penalty minutes and was -1. The San Jose Barracuda lost at home to Rockford 4-2. Neither Spencer Asuchak (injured) or Colby McAuley were in the lineup. With the loss San Jose slipped to seventh place in the eight team Pacific Division. Four teams make the playoffs.

- In ECHL Mountain Division action last night Colorado won while Wichita and Idaho lost so the Americans didn't lose any ground to the teams vying for second place. Finishing in the top two in the division is important because the top two teams have home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. With their win last night Colorado has opened up an 11 point lead over Wichita and Idaho who are tied for second with 47 points followed by Allen in fourth place with 43 points.

- A reminder I have four FREE loge tickets (second level) for the MLK game on Monday (January 15) at 1:05 pm against Tulsa.  I will have a drawing for the tickets tonight, notify the winner and leave the tickets at will call. If you are interested let me know by email ( All I need is your name and whether you are interested in two or four tickets. The tickets are in the end of the rink where the Zamboni enters the ice. Good luck!

- Have to admit there doesn't seem to be much excitement about the ECHL All-Star game. Some of the lack of  excitement stems from the fact Allen and Tulsa will be playing at the same time as the All-Star game. I think many Allen and Tulsa fans are more concerned about playing the game on Monday without two of their best players who will be in Indy for the All-Star game, David Makowski for Allen and Connor Bleackley for Tulsa.

DID YOU KNOW: Gary Steffes had a goal last night and now has three points (1 goal 2 assists) in four games since coming out of retirement and still has two games to play before heading back to Minnesota and his job with FCA. With his two assists Gary has cracked the top 10 on the Allen all time list for assists. Here are the categories Gary ranks in the top 10 all-time for the Americans for the regular season and playoffs:

Regular Season
4th - Goals (88)
6th - Games Played  (204)
6th - Plus/Minus (+42)
7th - Points (168)
9th - Assists (80)

Post Season
2nd - Goals (29)
6th - Points (42)
6th - Games Played (58)
8th - Plus/Minus (+14)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Allen vs Tulsa Preview, Top Allen Players Have Missed Over 150 Games in the First Half, Free Tickets for MLK Game, 1st Allen vs Tulsa ECHL Game

The Allen Americans will hop on the bus today for the shortest commute on the schedule (four hours) as they head to Tulsa to take on the Oilers. The game tonight will mark the halfway point (36th game) in the season for both teams and it is fitting they play each other. It will be the 55th time since joining the ECHL in 2014 they have faced each other, the most the Americans have played any team in the league. Allen's overall record against Tulsa is 32-16-3-3 and their record when playing in Tulsa is 14-9-1-3.

- The Allen Americans are comfortably in fourth place in the Mountain Division with a nine point lead over fifth place Tulsa. With three games against the Oilers in four days, Friday and Saturday in Tulsa then Monday in Allen, the Americans lead could be as high as 15 points or as low as three points after the MLK game Monday afternoon.

- Nobody is happy with Allen being in fourth place halfway through the season as that certainly was not the expectation. Given all that has happened with the roster because of callups and injuries, etc. this team will be fine going forward. All teams deal with roster changes during the season but the Americans have been hit extra hard. Here is a recap that shows how many games players have played of the 35 Allen has played this season

2 games - Riley Gill is still on injured reserve and even though goaltending has been good in his absence he has been missed. Jeremy Brodeur has a GAA of 2.93 and save percentage of .927. Stephon Williams has a GAA of 3.15 and save percentage of .905. The team has had no shutouts in the first half of the season. Last season Gill's GAA was 2.22, his save percentage was .935 and he had seven shutouts.

11 games - Zach Pochiro had seven goals and 13 points when he went down with a hand injury in early November. At the pace which Zach was scoring had he been healthy he could have had 20 goals by the halfway mark of the season. Zach is the seventh leading goal scorer on the team even though he has only played 11 games.

13 games - Olivier Archambault has been the most prolific scorer in the league in the 13 games he has played in Allen. He spent a big chunk of time in the AHL with San Jose. If Olivier would have been in Allen for the entire first half of the season, based on his average points per game, he would be leading the ECHL in scoring by 20 points.

19 games - Vincent Arseneau has missed games due to injury, suspension and is currently in Utica (AHL). His presence in the lineup is so much more than scoring but he was carrying the team before he was loaned to Utica. He had goals in eight of ten games including a hat trick. Based on his goal production over the 19 games in Allen had he played in all 35 games he would also have 20 goals by the halfway mark.

20 games - Zach Hall has had a series of injuries and is currently out of the lineup and will be for a couple of more weeks. The play maker has had a difficult time getting any rhythm because he has been in and out of the lineup so much. Zach scored his first two goals of the season in back to back games in the recent series against Wichita but then got injured again.

20 games - Jonathan Lessard left the team at the beginning of December to play in France. He would have been a 20 goal scorer for the season if he had stayed and also brought grit and toughness to the team. Just speculation on my part but I doubt Tanner Eberle would have ever been traded if it was known Lessard was going to bolt the team when he did. Eberle was traded a couple of weeks before Lessard's surprise announcement he was headed to play in France. 

22 games -  Bryan Moore leads the team in goals (12) even though he has missed 13 games due to callups and suspensions. Based on his average points per game had he played in all 35 games he would have 19 goals and 43 points at the halfway mark.

22 games - Spencer Asuchak is currently in San Jose (AHL) recovering from injuries. He is another player whose presence is so much more important than just his scoring. He is impossible to move from in front of the net and his net front presence contributes to a lot of goals.

22 games - Peter MacArthur suffered a season ending injury on December 22. His veteran leadership will be missed.

- Other key players have played in the majority of games but missed some include Dalton Thrower who has missed 11, Mathieu Aubin eight and David Makowski six.

- With all of the games key players have missed you can see why coach Martinson is optimistic when the injured players return, players return from the AHL and he adds a piece or two going forward the team will have a chance to make another run for the Kelly Cup.


- The game tonight will be the ninth of 13 times Allen plays Tulsa this season. In the eight games they have played thus far four have gone to overtime. Allen's record against the Oilers this season is 4-2-2-0. Three of the eight games were played in Tulsa with the Americans losing two of the three.

- The combined stats for the eight previous games shows Allen with a slight edge in goals (25-23) but to no surprise Tulsa has the edge in shots (340-289). Neither team has been very effective on the power play, Allen is 5-34 (14.7%) and Tulsa is 3-28 (10.7%).

- Here is the match up between Allen and Tulsa:

                                     ALLEN                                TULSA

Team Record               15-11-4-1 (43 points)              13-14-3-5 (34 points)
Division Ranking         4th - Mountain                         5th -Mountain
Conference Ranking   7th - Western                          10th - Western
League Ranking          10th                                        19th
Last Game                  4-3 Win (Utah)                         5-3 Loss (Wichita)
Goals For                    121                                          102
Goals Against             110                                          114
Power Play                 19.0%                                      12.4%
Home Power Play      21.6%                                       9.4%
Road Power Play       15.4%                                       14.1%
Penalty Kill                 81.8%                                       82.0%
Home Penalty Kill       86.8%                                      85.2%
Road Penalty Kill        75.7%                                      80.0%    
Leading Scorer           Pierro-Zabotel  (10-31-41)       Sampair (14-11-25)
Most PIM's                  Moore (114)                             Kessy (74)

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

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (24.86) - Tulsa 15th (15.69)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 9th (3.46) - Tulsa 19th (2.91)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 12th (3.14) - Tulsa 17th (3.26)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 16th (32.00) - Tulsa 1st (38.80)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 24th (36.86) - Tulsa 21st (34.43) 
Power Play Percentage: Allen 9th (19.0%) - Tulsa 24th (12.4%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 19th (81.8%) - Tulsa 17th (82.0%)

- The most striking stats above are shots on goal. Tulsa leads the ECHL averaging over 38 shots on goal per game while the Americans are ranked #24 in the ECHL allowing an average of 37 shots on goal per game. Against Allen the Oilers have averaged over 42 shots on goal. Coach Martinson talks about the way to reduce shots on goal is to avoid so many turnovers in the neutral zone and just inside the offensive blue line. If there is no play to be made dump the puck. Puck possession will be key tonight if the Americans expect to win. In their last two games the Americans have allowed 31 and 21 shots. If they can do that again in Tulsa it will go a long way toward a victory.   

- If you look at the special teams stats above Tulsa struggles at home with a power play percentage of only 9.4% which is ranked #26 in the league. But they will be going up against the worst road power play in the league in Allen's 75.7%. The good news for Allen fans is the penalty kill has been much improved over the last five road games having killed 20 of 23 opportunities for a penalty kill percentage of 86.9%. Tulsa fans also have reason to be encouraged because the poor power play has gone 3-16 (18.8%) over the last five home games. Both teams had two power play goals in their last game on Wednesday.

- It is a good bet the team that scores first tonight will win the game. That has been the case in all eight games Allen and Tulsa have played this season.

- Dalton Thrower will be back in the lineup tonight after completing his three game suspension. The Americans should have a full contingent of 16 skaters available with nine forwards (one short) and  seven defensemen (one extra). Miles Liberati will probably take some shifts up front. 

- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Mike Sheehan (#11) and linesmen Michael Houle (#49) and Addison Brush (#80). Sheehan was the referee for Allen's last game on Wednesday.


- Love this photo taken by Rick Duncan from North Dallas Sports of the scrap on the Allen bench Wednesday night. From the intensity captured in the eyes of the players to the gentle hand on Bryan Moore's shoulder just in case he decides to get involved. I'm pretty sure that gentle hand belongs to assistant coach Jason Deitsch. Maybe the most amazing thing about this photo is Rick took it from the press box on the second level.

- I have four FREE loge tickets (second level) for the MLK game on Monday (January 15) at 1:05 pm against Tulsa.  I will have a drawing for the tickets tomorrow night, notify the winner and leave the tickets at will call. If you are interested let me know by email ( All I need is your name and whether you are interested in two or four tickets. The tickets are in the end of the rink where the Zamboni enters the ice. Good luck!

- Colorado, Wichita and Idaho are all in action tonight and play at home. Here is the ECHL Today which covers all 13 ECHL games scheduled tonight with a few factoids about each game:

DID YOU KNOW: The game tonight will be the 55th time Allen has played Tulsa since joining the ECHL in 2014. The most memorable game of them all was the very first one which took place in the season opener on October 24, 2014 at the Allen Event Center. Tulsa drubbed Allen 9-6 in that game. It is the most goals Allen has ever allowed since joining the ECHL. Greger Hanson was the lone bright spot for Allen with a whopping 11 shots on goal, four points and a hat trick. Aaron Dell was in goal for the Americans and gave up seven of the nine goals. It was Dell's only regulation loss in the 12 games he played for Allen that season. By the end of January he was in the AHL on his way to the NHL.

By the way, the most goals allowed in franchise history also took place at home. It was on New Year's Day in 2011 when Colorado defeated Allen 11-6.