Saturday, October 21, 2017

Moore & Archambault Promoted to Barracuda, Allen's AHL Experience, Americans Home Openers Revisited

It is finally here, it is game day, it is home opener and the long drought between games at the Allen Event Center (AEC) is over. You are correct if it seems to you like it has taken forever for this day to arrive. To be precise it has been 165 days since the Allen Americans played a game at the AEC, a consequence of the second round loss in the playoffs last season. The number of days between games in 2015 was 124 and in 2016 was 128 when Allen won back to back Kelly Cups.


- Two players that will not be in the lineup tonight are Bryan Moore and Olivier Archambault who have joined the San Jose Barracuda. The terminology to describe these promotions are different because Moore is under contract with San Jose and Archambault is a free agent. That is why if you look at the transactions it says Moore was recalled by San Jose and Archambault was loaned to San Jose. The Barracuda are just starting a five game road trip so Bryan and Olivier flew to Cleveland to meet the team. The Barracuda play the Monsters today (1:00 pm EDT) and tomorrow (5:00 pm EDT). Why are these teams playing at 1:00 pm on a Saturday? The Monsters play at Quicken Loans Arena which is also home to Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers who play the Orlando Magic at home tonight (7:00 pm). It will be one of those quick conversions from hockey to basketball. I read that the plan is for the Barracuda players to attend the Cavaliers game. Being from the basketball hotbed of North Carolina I am sure Moore is a basketball fan. Not so sure about Archambault who hails from Quebec.


- Here is the press release issued by the Barracuda regarding Moore and Archambault.  http://www.sjbarracuda.com/news/detail/barracuda-recall-moore-sign-archambault-to-pto


- By the way the next two stops on the Barracuda road trip are in Texas. They play the San Antonio Rampage next Friday (Oct. 27) and the Texas Stars on Saturday (Oct. 28). If you like hockey road trips you could catch a couple of games with Allen's AHL affiliate and support Moore and Archambault if they are still with the team.


- I would expect just like last week in Rapid City, both Riley Gill and Stephon Williams will get a game this weekend. 


- I mentioned in the game preview (you can read it in yesterday's blog) that Orlando has much more AHL experience on their roster than Allen (1557 games vs 793 games). I decided to take a look behind the numbers in more detail. First of all Orlando has a much bigger roster according to echl.com as they have 26 players compared to Allen's 22. Second, Darryl Bootland (382 AHL games) and Sean Zimmerman (274 AHL games) account for 42% of the Solar Bears AHL experience and they are on the 21 day injured reserve so they will not play this weekend. In Allen's case there are only 18 players available this weekend with Aubin and Liberati on IR and Moore and Archambault with San Jose. Here is the AHL experience for the 18 players expected to be on the ice tonight for Allen.

204 games - Joel Chouinard
190 - Peter MacArthur
58 - Stephon Williams
54 - Spencer Asuchak
31 - Vincent Arseneau
30 - Alex Schoenborn
17 - Casey Pierro-Zabotel
11 - Tanner Eberle
10 - Eric Roy
9 - Dalton Thrower
7 - David Makowski
6 - Riley Gill
5 - Jaynen Rissling
5 - Zach Pochiro
0 - Mike Gunn
0 - Jonathan Lessard
0 -Zach Hall
0 - Josh Thrower



- The officials for the game tonight are referee Kenny Anderson (#16) and linesmen Brian Bull (#95) and Aaron Schacht (#31). Kenny Anderson will be starting his fourth season as a full time referee for the ECHL. He is also a referee for the AHL. Anderson is from Elk River, Minnesota and was selected to referee the ECHL all-star game last season. He has also worked the USHL Clark Cup finals and the SPHL Presidents Cup finals.


- The Allen Americans team store is back in its original location and is stocked and ready to go. The store will open at 3:00 pm this afternoon so arrive early and check it out.


- I saw a reminder put out by the AEC on their bag policy that remains the same as last season. All bags must be 14" x 14" x 6" or smaller.



DID YOU KNOW: When you consider how good the Allen Americans have been since their inception their home opener record is a mediocre 3-5.  No matter when you started following the Americans these home opener games from the last eight years will bring back some memories. 

2009-10 -  Allen started on the road the first season because the Allen Event Center was not completed. The Americans played their first seven games in franchise history on the road. They returned to Allen after those first seven games 5-1-0-1. The home opener was memorable even though the Americans laid an egg, losing to Corpus Christi by a score of 4-1. Two of the goal scorers for Corpus were Chad Costello and future NHLer Ryan Garbutt. That game is mostly remembered for a melee that broke out after the game was over that ended up with 72 penalty minutes being called. A crowd of 5808 witnessed the first home game in team history. 

2010-11 - Allen opened at home against Texas, scored three goals (Alexandre Quesnel, Dustin Donaghy, Judd Blackwater) in the first four minutes of the game and coasted to a 5-2 win. Similar to the year before there were 66 minutes worth of penalties called at the 18:29 mark of the third period including four fighting majors and four game misconducts. Allen got the last laugh as Erik Adams scored an unassisted, shorthanded, empty net goal with under a minute remaining to seal the victory for the Americans. 

2011-12 - Allen's home opener was against Tulsa and the Americans got beat 4-1. Jim McKenzie scored the Americans only goal with just over a minute left in the game. Most notable in that game was a Gordie Howe hat trick by Tulsa's Gary Steffes who had a goal, an assist and a fight with Allen's Scott Langdon.

2012-13 - Allen's home opener was against Arizona and they shut out Sundogs 4-0. Scott Howes had two goals in the game. The other goal scorers were Adam Pineault and Darryl Bootland. Steve Silverthorn was in goal and the backup was a rookie by the name of Aaron Dell. Dell would play sparingly the first few weeks of the season but eventually take over the starting role and lead the Americans to their first championship.

2013-14 -The home opener was an exciting game but the Americans lost to Wichita 4-3 in a shootout. Ironically the two teams had played the season opener the night before in Wichita and Allen had won by an identical score of 4-3 in a shootout. The home opener was a Sunday afternoon game and Allen took a 2-0 lead into the third period only to allow the Thunder to score three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead. Tyler Ludwig got the equalizer with less that three minutes remaining n the game. The game would go to a shootout and Allen could manage just one goal (Kale Kerbashain) in seven rounds before Wichita got the game winner.

2014-15 - The worst home opener ever for Allen as they got beat by Tulsa 9-6. 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.

2015-16 - Another home opener loss as the Quad City Mallards came to the Allen Event Center and beat the Americans 2-1. Allen's lone goal was scored by Garrett Clarke with assists going to Justin Courtnall and goalie Joel Rumpel. You didn't see those three in the boxscore very often let alone on the same play.

2016-17 - It was a home opener win last season as Allen beat Missouri 6-3. Kale Kerbashain had two goals and Riley Gill was peppered with 47 shots.   

Friday, October 20, 2017

Allen vs Orlando Game Preview, Two Players Heading to AHL, Mountain Division Standings, Solar Bears History

The Orlando Solar Bears are in Texas this weekend to play the Allen Americans on Saturday night (7:05 pm CT) and Sunday afternoon (4:05 pm CT). It is always difficult to do a game preview at this time of year because teams have played so few games so you tend to look at last season and with the amount of turnover in the ECHL that doesn't tell you very much. With that said let's take a look at both this season and last season.


- Something will have to give this weekend because both of these teams come into the weekend undefeated. Orlando is 1-0 having beaten Jacksonville 5-4 in overtime on the road in their season opener. Allen is 2-0 with two road wins against Rapid City (8-3 & 5-3) on opening weekend.


- Roster changes and player availability can move quickly at this time of year. Last weekend Allen had a full roster of 22 players. This weekend they will have no extra players. Mathieu Aubin and Miles Liberati went on the 21 day injured reserve and yesterday two players got the call that they are headed to the AHL. The names aren't public yet but should be announced today. That leaves the roster at 18 players so if there are any injuries the Americans will have to play short this weekend as 18 players dress for each game.

- Orlando is dealing with injuries, they have 26 players on their roster but five (including Darryl Bootland)  are shown as injured on eliteprospects.com.


- One way to compare Allen and Orlando is to look at experience. Allen's roster has played 1040 games for the Americans in prior seasons. Orlando's roster has just 141 games played in Orlando in the past. That tells you Allen has many more returning players than Orlando. Allen has just one rookie on the team (Josh Thrower) while Orlando has six rookies. If you look at AHL experience the advantage goes to Orlando as their roster has 1557 AHL games played. Allen's roster represents 793 games of AHL experience. When it comes to NHL games played Orlando has 52 games (32 are Bootland) and Allen has 0.


- If you look at age, height and weight averages between Allen and Orlando they are virtually the same. On average Allen players are two months older, Orlando is a half inch taller and a half pound heavier. Now that is a meaningless stat but after all it is that time of year.


- Here are the current stats comparing Allen and Orlando. Remember, Orlando has played just one game and Allen two.


                                     ALLEN                                 ORLANDO
Record                        2-0                                         1-0
Goals For                    13                                          5
Goals Against              6                                           4
Power Play                  0.0% (0/9)                             0.0% (0/6)
Penalty Kill                  88.9% (1/9)                           88.9% (1/9)
Penalty Minutes          62                                          28
Leading Scorer:          Archambault (2-5-7)              Pospisil (2-0-2)


- The similarity in special teams stats is most notable. Neither team has a power play goal as they are a combined 0-15 and they both have identical penalty kill percentage (88.9%).  I know coach Martinson has worked quite a bit on the power play this week and would assume Orlando has done likewise. Special teams are a big key to any game and will probably be the difference maker this weekend.


LAST SEASON

- Last season Orlando finished with 82 points (36-26-7-3) to finish fourth in the South Division. The 82 points ranked them #14 in the ECHL. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to Florida. The Solar Bears won the first two playoff games in Florida to take a 2-0 series lead and had a 3-1 series lead before Florida stormed back to win the series in seven games.


- Last season Allen finished with 104 points (49-17-4-2) to finish first in the Mountain Division. The 104 points ranked them #2 in the ECHL. Allen lost in the second round of the playoffs (4-2) to the eventual Kelly Cup champions, Colorado Eagles.


- Allen played Orlando twice last season on the road and they were both memorable games. On January 26th Greger Hanson scored two goals and Eric Roy scored a power play goal late in the third period to send the game to overtime. Allen out shot Orlando 6-3 in the OT but neither team could score. Orlando dominated in the shootout scoring on three straight attempts against Jamie Murray for the win.

Three days later on January 29th the rematch was equally as exciting as Allen came out on top 5-4 in a game that ended in overtime. Here is how I described that game at the time:
The Allen Americans came away with a 5-4 come from behind overtime victory over the Orlando Solar Bears on Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 6747 at the Amway Center. Victories have not come easy for the Americans recently and that was certainly the case yesterday. Allen surrendered two goals in the first 3:53 of the game but came back with two goals of their own in the first period tying the score 2-2 with 51 seconds left in the period. Just 28 seconds later the Americans gave up another goal to make the score 3-2 going into the first intermission. Coach Martinson switched goalies at the start of the second period as Peter Di Salvo replaced Jamie Murray. Orlando scored the only goal of the second period. Allen headed into the third period trailing 4-2 and were certainly battling the odds as the Solar Bears had a perfect 13-0 record when leading after the second period. The third period showed what the Americans are capable of as they dominated play out shooting Orlando 21-4 and sending the game to overtime on goals by Josh Brittain and David Makowski. Allen overcame a penalty during the overtime and scored the game winner with 35 seconds remaining. Eric Roy was the hero as he scored from the point on a play where Bryan Moore did a great job screening the goalie.

Base on how these teams battled each other last season there should be a couple of exciting games at the AEC this weekend.


- If you compare the entirety of last season between Allen and Orlando the Americans had a better power play (24.4% to 17.1%) and better penalty kill (84.4% to 75.9%), they scored more goals per game (4.08 to 3.61) and allowed fewer goals per game (2.82 to 3.58). Advantage definitely to Allen but what happened last season has little bearing on this season. 


OTHER COMMENTS

There is a four way tie at the top of the Mountain Division as Allen, Colorado, Idaho and Wichita all have four points. Utah and Rapid City share last place with zero points. The matchups this weekend will show if the gap between the teams at the top and bottom will widen or contract. Allen and Colorado play two games outside the division with Allen taking on Orlando and Colorado hosting Norfolk. Idaho (2-1) has a home and home series with Utah (0-4). Wichita (2-0) hosts Rapid City (0-2) on Saturday and Sunday. It is a big weekend for all the teams but especially Utah and Rapid City who could find themselves eight point behind the division leaders at the end of the weekend,  just 10 days into the season.



DID YOU KNOW: The Orlando Solar Bears started play in the ECHL as an expansion franchise in 2012-13. Their name was revived from the Orlando Solar Bears that played in the International Hockey League (IHL) from 1995 to 2001.

                                  


 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Getting Ready for the Home Opener, Season Preview With Steve Martinson, Costello & Gill Post Season Records

The Allen Americans are now just two days before the home opener for season number nine at the Allen Event Center (AEC) and you can sense the anticipation no matter where you look. Coach Steve Martinson is putting the team through the paces each day at practice building on the two wins in Rapid City last weekend. He will be focusing on special teams play (especially the 0-9 power play) today and tomorrow. The sales staff is working overtime selling a few more groups, reaching out to season ticket holders that have not renewed and accommodating last minute ticket requests. The players have also been making sales calls and delivering season tickets after practice. The team store is being prepared and will be in it's old enclosed location. The AEC staff has been tuning up/sprucing up the Zambonis so they are ready to go. The glass in the rink is being washed on the outside and buffed on the inside to remove all of the marks left by sticks and pucks. All of the new dasher board advertising will be installed tomorrow. The equipment room is in pristine condition and the jerseys are ready to go. The game operations staff is interviewing players, selecting music, editing video for opening night. The Ice Angels are polishing their opening night performance. Tommy Daniels is working on game notes and preparing his broadcast booth which will be from one of the suites this season rather than the perch up in the rafters of the AEC. Tommy did a dry run of the new broadcast location yesterday with a live coach's show with Steve Martinson, it was a 2017-18 season preview. Last but not least every one is planning for owner Jack Gulati being in attendance and all of the activities he will be involved in opening night.

The bottom line is a lot of work has been put in by a lot of people preparing for opening night on Saturday. It should be great hockey and great entertainment. There are still plenty of tickets available so bring a friend, bring a neighbor or buy a few extra tickets and give them to veterans. Robert Fatta (972-912-1024) can give you details on how to donate tickets to vets.


- Everyone that has spent time listening to coach Martinson talk hockey whether it is on the radio, in the media, talking to the season ticket holders after each home game or in one on one conversations is always impressed with his casual, honest and entertaining approach to whatever he is asked. I have said many times if you are a season ticket holder and don't attend the post game chats in the season ticket holders lounge with coach Martinson you are really missing out. I include his comments in the blog but I guarantee attending the post game chat live is 100 times better than reading about it.


- Here are a few of the highlights from the conversation Tommy Daniels had with coach Martinson yesterday.

- I am real happy with the team. We are big, fast, skilled, physical and have a lot of proven experienced players. We are going to be a difficult team to play against. At the beginning of the season last year I thought we looked good on paper but we weren't hard enough to play against. This season we have guys on every line that are physical and can play. We are pretty solid this year and we will give a lot of push back to teams.

- We have had a history of providing opportunities to players to excel because of the style of play in Allen. Everyone knows that defense wins championships but the flip side of that is the team that scores the most goals wins the game. We try to have a combination of both and the players buy into that.

- It may have hurt us a little bit in training camp by not working on our systems but we had our skating coach, Luke Chilcott out working with the players on skating. You don't typically do that in training camp but because Luke is also working in San Jose we have to work around his schedule. I think players see when you are working on their individual skills it helps them. I tell players working on individual skills will help them make more money or move up to a higher level.

- We are going to be more competitive for ice time and power play time as we get Arseneau and MacArthur back in the lineup. I like healthy competition for more playing time on a team.

- It was good for our program that San Jose signed Moore and Makowski in the off season and they were also going to sign Asuchak before he made the decision to go to Europe. What San Jose said to me is you like these players and we like these players so let's sign them rather than going out on the market and sign a player that may or may not work out. It is great San Jose signed some of our go to guys and that counts less on the cap for us but they would not sign guys just for us. They signed these guys because they plan on using them during the season. Bryan Moore was going to go up yesterday and may end up going to the Barracuda on Friday. He went home (North Carolina) after we returned from Rapid City to pick up his vehicle so they couldn't get him to San Jose in time.

- I want players to come to Allen, develop and get opportunities in the AHL. A lot of times coaches want to hold onto their players. Players can see that. They know if you are only interested in winning and sacrifice their careers and chance to move up in an effort to win. We are not doing that. Players respond to us wanting to help them individually. 

- Watching Zach Pochiro in training camp it was obvious he has all of the tools. There are some things that lead up to players not having success right away but you could see his potential early in camp. I trusted his agent and his coach last year, who used to play for me, and they both told me he has more skill than his numbers showed. 

- I did plant the seed in training camp that playing defense will be the key to our success this season. We have lot of players returning who have been here for a few years along with some new guys. I asked myself if in the past I should have been harder, quicker and earlier on some of the guys defensively. I wanted to make sure to everybody knew this year we have the depth so if you are not buying in defensively, if you are not working hard both ways, we don't need your offense. I was just trying to instill that from the get go because sometimes in the past we weren't getting the defensive play from everyone that was capable of doing it.  

- We are going to use four alternate captains this year. Makowski and Asuchak wore the A's in Rapid City. I haven't told the other two players yet. I am not going to be locked into a specific rotation of the four players. Last year we rotated who was the captain at home and who was the captain on the road every month. We will do something like that but some of it will be who is in the lineup with call ups and injuries being a factor. When you have a group of guys with the success and leadership ability that exists on this team it makes sense to have more guys involved.

- The plan with the goalies is to split time but if one gets hot they will play more. It is understood that we develop the contract goalies that San Jose assigns to us but goalies have to earn their playing time too.

- Maybe the best part of the coach's show was towards the conclusion when it came to an abrupt end as coach Martinson got a text from his daughter that she had left her art project on the counter at home. Martinson quickly kicked in to dad duty to get the the art project to school.



OTHER COMMENTS

-  The Allen Event Center and the Allen Americans are joining together to sponsor something they are calling the "Premium Level 3rd Intermission" where the lounge on the upper level will stay open until 11:00 pm after games for fans in the upper level to socialize. There will be live music and coach Martinson and some players might stop by from time to time. While this is intended for those that sit in the premium (upper) level seats, if you would like to check it out let me know and I will get you passes for the upper level.


- In ECHL action last night Tulsa beat Quad City 5-2 and Idaho beat Utah 3-1. Greger Hanson had the lone goal for Utah as the Grizzlies lost their fourth straight game.


DID YOU KNOW: You will probably get bored with all of the facts and figures I use from my new edition of the ECHL Guide and Record Book. Today I want to highlight the post season individual record holders that have an Allen Americans connection. This is the 30th year of the ECHL and if a player holds a post season record after all these years that is special. Two future ECHL Hall of Famers are Chad Costello and Riley Gill who are #1 all-time in several post season categories. Here is the list:

Individual Post Season Records

Most Assists, One Playoff Year
29 Chad Costello - (second place is 26)

Most Assists Final Series
10 Chad Costello - (Allen vs Wheeling, 2016)

Most Playoff Games appeared in by a Goaltender, Career
90 Riley Gill (second place is 80)

Most Playoff Minutes Played By a Goaltender, Career
5095 Riley Gill (Kalamazoo, Reading, Allen)

Most Playoff wins by a Goaltender, Career
53 Riley Gill (second place is 43)

There are many other categories where Riley and Chad as well as several other former Allen players are in the post season record book, just not in first place. Will cover those as the season progresses. 


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Roster Update, Barracuda Call-Ups, What Dads Will Do, SPHL "Pick Your Opponent" Playoffs, Aubin Playoff Record

For general manager Steve Martinson recruiting his team in the off season is paramount to having a successful season. Managing the roster during the season is equally important and takes up much more time than most would realize. The Allen Americans roster is currently comprised of 22 players including two goalies, eight defensemen and 12 forwards. Just as a reminder there are three components to the total number of players on a team. The active roster can be up to 21 players for the first month of the season and then goes to 20 however all of the players on the active roster must fit under the salary cap. In addition to the active roster there can be two players on reserve. They can be moved off and on reserve at the team's discretion, the one exception is if you change a player's salary while on reserve they must sit out one game. The third component of the roster is injured reserve and there can be an unlimited number of players on 21 day injured reserve as long as they are certified by the medical staff as injured. The 21 day IR is a minimum of 21 days, not a maximum.


- With the above in mind here is the current status of the Allen roster based on transaction changes reported by the ECHL yesterday. Jaynen Rissling and Vincent Arseneau have been activated from reserve. Peter MacArthur has been returned from bereavement leave and placed on reserve. Joel Chouinard has been placed on reserve. Finally, Mathieu Aubin and Miles Liberati have been placed on the 21 day injured reserve effective October 15. The players on reserve (MacArthur & Chouinard) can and most likely will change before the game on Saturday. The players on injured reserve will not be eligible to play for three weeks.


-  The other roster change that could happen anytime is loans/call ups to the AHL. San Jose has five contracted players assigned to Allen (Asuchak, Makowski, Moore, Schoenborn, Williams) and the Barracuda are playing with a very lean roster. According to the AHL website the Barracuda have 13 forwards on the roster and remember in the AHL 12 forwards typically dress for each game. There are seven defensemen on the roster with six typically dressing for each game. That means the Barracuda have one extra forward, one extra defenseman and no extra goalies. If there are any injuries in San Jose (Sharks or Barracuda) it is almost certain they would take someone off the Allen roster. After a home game tonight the Barracuda have a five game road trip which includes four games in eight days with stops to play the Cleveland Monsters, San Antonio Rampage and Texas Stars. With a swing through Texas you could easily see one of the Allen players being called up.


-  One of the many pleasures in writing this blog is meeting the families of the players. Yesterday at practice I met Jaynen Rissling's dad, Kelly, who is a real estate broker in Edmonton. Kelly played some professional hockey and shared with me he received a few face washes from Steve Martinson back in the early 1980's when they both played in the International Hockey League. Whenever I do player profiles I often hear about the sacrifices their parents made in time and money so they could pursue their love of hockey. Kelly shared with me what the last week was like for him. He drove Jaynen's truck from Edmonton to Rapid City to watch Jaynen play and hand over the truck. Jaynen did not play in either game in Rapid because of an injury. Kelly then drove to Allen from Rapid City with Jaynen, stayed a couple of days and watched practice but had to fly back to Edmonton yesterday. The tally for the week is 2100 driving miles from Edmonton to Rapid City to Allen and a four hour flight back to Edmonton all without getting to watch Jaynen play. That is a dad who loves his kids. Incidentally one of  Kelly's daughters is on the Canadian women's Olympic bobsled team so he will be in South Korea in February watching her compete.


- If you are on Facebook you may have had the chance to check out the first in a series of ECHL games that will be broadcast via Facebook live this season. The Rapid City vs Allen game last Friday was the first ECHL Showcase game. According to ECHL Director of Communications, Joe Babik, there  will be a showcase game every other Friday, so the next game will be on October 27th. The full schedule probably won't be released until sometime next week. All 27 teams will be featured during the course of the 2017-18 season. A great way to check out teams around the ECHL at no cost.


- The Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) has adopted a playoff format for the upcoming season that is unique where the top teams will pick their opponent in the first round of the playoffs. This concept is not new as it has been used in Austria and Sweden. You never know where this might end up. After all, the SPHL was where 3 on 3 overtime hockey first started. Here is the story with all of the details: http://nhl.nbcsports.com/2017/10/16/sphl-gets-creative-adopts-pick-your-opponent-playoff-format/


- There are some gaudy shooting percentages for a few Allen players which accounts for a lofty team shooting percentage of 19.4%. A team shooting percentage of around 13% will typically lead the league. Check out these percentages after the first two games.

50% - Joel Chouinard has one goal on two shots
50% - Dalton Thrower has one goal on two shots
40% - Jonathan Lessard has two goals on five shots
37.5% - Zach Pochiro has three goals on eight shots
33.3% - Bryan Moore has one goal on three shots
25% - Olivier Archambault has two goals on eight shots
25% - Casey Pierro-Zabotel has one goal on four shots


DID YOU KNOW: Allen forward Mathieu Aubin is third all-time on the ECHL playoff games played list. He has been in the playoffs seven times (five with Cincinnati and two with Utah) and played in 93 playoff games which includes two Kelly Cups in Cincinnati (2008 & 2010). He needs 11 more playoff games to take over the all-time lead. Since joining the ECHL Allen has never played in fewer than 11 playoff games in a season. Good chance Mathieu could be #1 by the end of this season.  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Practice Update, Importance of Home Opener, Changing Stats, Asuchak Records, Official Guide & Record Book

With a 72 game ECHL schedule having as many as six days off between games is a rarity. It actually happens just twice all season. This week and the week of Decmeber 3 when the Americans have seven days off between games. Having six days between games early in the season is great timing as it gives coach Steve Martinson time to work on those system things that are difficult to get installed during a short training camp. This week started with a light practice yesterday that consisted mostly of a four on four scrimmage. Coach Martinson wasn't even on the ice. Today and tomorrow there will be a lot of skating drills and then things will slow down on Thursday and Friday with more emphasis on systems and special teams. There always is a recognition that a balance needs to be maintained between working hard, getting in shape and making sure everyone has fresh legs for the weekend.


- The game on Saturday will be the sixth opening night for Steve Martinson with the Allen Americans but for owner Jack Gulati it will be his first. The game will be different for a few reasons. After four years of raising the championship banner, that will be missing. Jack Gulati will be in attendance to show his support, something that rarely happened under the previous ownership group. There will be a new in game host, Kayla McLain, as the face of a new and improved game operations effort. Some things will be the same. The Ice Angels will be performing and are hard at work at what promises to be an amazing performance. The on ice product with a combination of speed, skill, grit and toughness will be as entertaining as ever.

The bottom line is Jack Gulati has taken over the Americans and provided the team with the financial stability that has been needed for several years. It has only been eight months but Jack has signed Steve Martinson to a long term contract, repaired relationships with many stakeholders, leased a new bus for the team, procured great housing for the players, increased staffing in the front office, added managerial oversight both locally and with the hiring of a COO and CFO to oversee operations in Reading and Allen. With Jack's commitment his expectation, as he would say it is, "putting more butts in the seats."

Saturday night will be the first opportunity to see if all of the effort produces the results that are expected. Since joining the ECHL in 2014-15 the opening night crowd has been 5006, 4745 and 5062. If you are an Allen fan you can help. Invite a friend, a neighbor or extended family to join you for opening night. If you are a season ticket holder (half or partial) make sure you attend opening night. Ask people in the community if they have heard of the Allen Americans and make sure they know what a great entertainment value there is in Allen and how family friendly this team has always been.


- If you regularly monitor ECHL stats or your favorite team's stats you may notice a change in the numbers even though the team hasn't played a game. It is an interesting process with many steps that fans may not be aware of. The off ice officials keep track of the stats in real time via computer as a game is in process. If you look at echl.com all of the stats are updated as they happen. The off ice officials are able to communicate with each other and they get information from the on ice officials to make sure all of the goals, assists and plus/minus stats are correct. After the game there is a period of time (around 30 minutes) when each team can correct any information that has been recorded incorrectly. The game is then submitted as final and official. But even after the game is submitted final, changes can be made. As you might imagine players want to get credit for every stat they feel they earn. They may say the next day the puck glanced off their stick, brushed their jersey or touched their skate so they deserve to be credited with a goal or an assist. They may say they had just gotten on the ice when a goal was scored so they should get the plus. This starts a process that usually involves taking a close look at game video to determine exactly what happened. The final arbiter is coach Martinson and if he feels a change is appropriate the team submits the change to the league office and the change is made.

The process above was apparently used after the two games in Rapid City because some of the Allen stats were changed yesterday. Here is the latest from echl.com on the Allen stat leaders:

Points
7- Olivier Archambault
6 - Casey Pierro-Zabotel
5 - Zach Pochiro

Goals
3 - Zach Pochiro
2 - Olivier Archambault
2 - Jonathan Lessard

Assists
5- Olivier Archambault
5 - Casey Pierro-Zabotel
2 - Zach Pochiro
2 - Dalton Thrower

Plus/Minus
+8 - Casey Pierro-Zabotel
+7 - Olivier Archambault
+7 - Zach Pochiro


- I just received my copy of the 2017-18 ECHL Official Guide and Record Book and the amount of information contained in these 476 pages is amazing. Almost every individual and team stat going all the way back to the beginning of the league in 1988. I use this book on almost a daily basis and it is fun to just page through and look at all of the information. You can buy the book ($20) but it is free electronically if you go to the ECHL website (echl.com) and click on the "Multimedia" tab and then on "Official Guide and Record Book" in the drop down menu. Here is a link that takes you directly to the electronic version. Check it out: https://www.echl.com/official-guide-record-book


DID YOU KNOW: Spencer Asuchak is in his fifth season with the Allen Americans and can accomplish some special things this season depending on how much time he spends in the AHL. First and foremost he could win his fourth championship in Allen, a feat no other player has ever accomplished. He could also climb way up the the ladder in most career categories. Here are a few examples:

Games played - Spencer is currently 10th all time with 176 games. He could be as high as second (238) by the end of the season.

Points - Spencer is #8 all time in points. He is just 16 points from #4 all time (162).

Goals - Spencer is #7 all time in goals. If he matches his goals from last season (26) he would end up #4 all time.

Assists - Spencer is #6 all time in assists (99). If he matches last year's production (40) he will end the season #2 all time.

Penalty Minutes - Spencer is #11 all time but is 61 minutes from moving into #3. 

 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Practice Update, Martinson to Name Four Alternate Captains, The Players' Tribune & Where Are They Now

The Americans arrived safe and sound back in Allen last night after a successful opening weekend to start the 2017-18 ECHL hockey season. It is a long bus ride from Rapid City at 1050 miles and 18 hours of riding the highways. You might think two wins and a day on the bus would warrant a day off from practice but that is not the case. The team will practice today but it will most likely be a "light practice" by normal standards. It actually makes a lot of sense to have a practice today after the team spent most of Sunday on the bus. With five days before the game Saturday night the players will probably get a day off midweek. Coach Martinson often says he gets tired of yelling at the players more than three days in a row and they get tired of listening to him yell at them more than three days in a row so a midweek break is probably in order.


- As Martinson said after the two games in Rapid City the team has some things to clean up before the home opener against Orlando next weekend. He specifically mentioned play in front of their own net, back checking and the power play as areas of emphasis.


- It is only two games into the season but when you look at the league wide stats Allen is in a familiar spot in many categories. Tied for first in points (4), #1 in goals scored (13), #1 in penalty minutes (62),  #1 in goal differential (+7) and #2 in shooting percentage (19.4%).   However there are some stats where Allen is in unfamiliar territory most notably being tied for last in power play percentage (0.0%) going 0-9 in Rapid City. 


- If you watched the two games from Rapid City you undoubtedly noticed that that David Makowski and Spencer Asuchak were wearing the "A's" as alternate captains. I had a chance to ask coach Martinson about this and he shared he plans to name two additional players to be alternate captains. He has used various forms of team leadership over the past five years most notable with the captains (Costello & Steffes) the last two seasons. With so many leaders on this team having four with an "A" makes a lot of sense. You can expect to see two at home and two on the road and then doing a switch at some point in the season. The best way to look at this, however, is Martinson has a pool of four alternate captains and he can mix and match them as necessary given injuries, call ups etc. 


- As the Americans prepare for two games against the Orlando Solar Bears on Saturday and Sunday it won't be quite the homecoming as expected. At one point it looked like four former Allen players would be participating. Allen fans will still see Chris Crane and Orlando's assistant coach, John Snowden. However, Tristan King was recently traded to Quad City and Darryl Bootland was placed on the 21 day injured reserve.


- If you are a hockey fan or sports fan in general there is a website you should be following called "The Players' Tribune." Allen captain Joel Chouinard first mentioned it to me as a place he frequents because the stories on the site are written by professional athletes themselves. Here is how they  describe what they are all about, "Founded by Derek Jeter, 'The Players' Tribune' publishes first-person stories from athletes, providing unique insight into the daily sports conversation. Through impactful and powerful long and short form stories, video series and podcasts, bringing fans closer than ever to the games they love." These stories cover a lot more than just playing the sport. There are stories about life lessons, life after playing professionally and a entire series called, "Letter to My Younger Self." Stories from a diverse group of professional athletes from Marta (soccer) to Chipper Jones to Mike Bossy to Ryan Leaf to David Robinson to Carolyn Wozniacki to Kobe Bryant. Here is recent story from the hockey portion of the website where Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg Jets) writes a piece called, "The 5 Toughest Players I Have Ever Faced" and what a great and insightful read: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/mark-scheifele-top-5-nhl/


- It had to be a disappointing weekend all around for the Rapid City Rush especially with all of the excitement generated with a new coach and a new and improved team.  On the ice the Americans took it to the Rush beating them 8-3 on Friday and 5-3 on Saturday. Just as disappointing was the attendance at the two games. According to the ECHL attendance statistics the Rush averaged only 3078 for the two games and are in last place in average attendance. Only 15 of the 27 ECHL teams have had home games thus far. It is still early and there is plenty of time for Rapid City to turns thing around but most franchises cannot sustain the losses that come with averaging only 3000 per game.


DID YOU KNOW: A reader asked which former Allen players are doing well overseas thus far this season. Here are former Allen players averaging at least a point per game. Stats courtesy of eliteprospects.com.

Austin Smith - Austin has 19 points (6 goals 13 assists) in 12 games playing in Italy
Wade MacLeod - Wade has 17 points (6 goals 11 assists) in 10 games playing in Germany
Spencer Edwards - Spencer has 16 points (8 goals 8 assists) in 13 games playing in France
Colton Yellow Horn - Colton has 14 points (5 goals 9 assists) in 12 games in Czech Republic
Judd Blackwater - Judd has 14 points (4 goals 10 assists) in 13 games playing in Slovakia
Devin DiDiomete - Devin has 13 points (8 goals 5 assists) in nine games playing in Italy
Alex Lavoie - Alex has seven points (3 goals 4 assists) in six games playing in Finland

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Allen Wins 5-3, Game Recap, Martinson & Tetrault Post Game Comments, Allen's Great Start, Pochiro & Gunn

The Allen Americans defeated the Rapid City Rush last night 5-3 to sweep their weekend series by outscoring the Rush 13-6.  It was quite a weekend for the line combination of Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Zach Pochiro and Olivier Archambault who created opportunities every time they were on the ice together and were solid in the defensive zone. Here is how dominant this group was in Rapid City. They collectively scored seven goals, the rest of the team scored six. They had 17 points, the rest of the team had 13 points. They had a plus/minus of +24, the rest of the team was +15.


- Rapid City got off to a good start last night when former Allen Americans forward Alex Guptill scored a power play goal just 3:36 into the game. Allen came right back 87 seconds later on a Zach Pochiro unassisted goal to tie the game 1-1. By the end of the first period the Americans had taken a 3-1 lead and the Rush were never able to get closer than one goal the remainder of the game.


- Goal scorers for Allen were Zach Pochiro (3), Dalton Thrower (1), Olivier Archambault (2&3) and Bryan Moore (1). You can see all the goals on ECHL Rewind. Notice the number of times Allen was able to get behind the Rush defense to score. The Moore 2 on 0 breakaway goal was as wide open as you will ever see two players. https://www.echl.com/


- Here are the game recaps issued by Allen and Rapid City that include goal by goal descriptions.

Allen: https://allenamericans.com/americans-sweep-weekend-games-rapid-city/

Rapid City: http://www.rapidcityrush.com/news/?article_id=916


POST GAME COMMENTS

Here are some post game quotes from both coaches. The Daniel Tetrault quotes are courtesy of the Rapid City Journal.

"It is good to get the four points this weekend but we have some work to do to improve how we play in front of our net.".....Allen coach Steve Martinson

"We handed them everything they got. They are a good team, they know how to put the puck in the net but I thought we out worked them and out played them for most of the game. The effort was there, it is just the mental, costly dangerous mistakes that are costing us, especially tonight."..... Rapid City coach Daniel Tetrault

"We need to do a better job back checking hard all of the way.".....Martinson

"My defense has to play a lot better. They are forcing the issue, they are trying too hard. They are making costly mistakes and we have to clean up on the back end, definitely.".....Tetrault

"It is hard to believe we lead the league in goals but can't score on the power play going 0-9 in these two games.".....Martinson

"This is a top team in the league we are playing. We have only four returning guys. I have all new guys. I have a depleted lineup. We are going to get it together, we are going to clean this thing up and we are going to start winning hockey games. We believe in these guys, the effort is there.".....Tetrault

"We have five days to work on the things we need to fix and I am confident we will do just that.".....Martinson


OTHER COMMENTS

- The team headed back to Allen immediately after the game and will arrive home early this evening. The trip is just over 1000 miles and will take the team 17-18 hours to complete.


- When you outscore your opponent 13-6 in the first two games of the season you create some impressive stats. After two games Allen has a plus/minus of +39. Only 10 teams had a better plus/minus than +39 for the entire year last season. The other off the chart stat is Allen's shooting percentage which stands at 19.4%. Last season the Americans were #2 in the ECHL with a shooting percentage of 12.9%.


- Allen players are all over the ECHL leader board with Archambault #1 in points (7) with Pochiro and Pierro-Zabotel tied for #3 in points (5). However, the most impressive stat is to look at the league plus/minus leaders. Allen players hold the top five spots. Archambault, Pierro-Zabotel and Pochiro occupy the top spot with +8. Joel Chouinard and Eric Roy are right behind in fourth and fifth spot at +5.


- Zach Pochiro was identified early as the type of player that could thrive playing for Steve Martinson. He was the surprise of training camp doing even better than anticipated. He has now gotten off to a great start with five points (3 goals 2 assists) in the two games in Rapid City. Last season playing in Norfolk, Zach had just three goals in 42 games. Keep an eye on #18 when he plays his first games at home next weekend.


- A tip of the hat to Mike Gunn who had an assist in Rapid City but also two fights. Throw in the fight he had in preseason and Mike already has has three fights this season. The rest of the team combined has just three fights. Mike is the type of player that is a team first guy and without a pure enforcer on the team has stepped up to protect his teammates. Mike has never had more than five fights in a season according to dropyourgloves.com but that will probably change this year.


- It is only two games into the season so drawing any conclusions at this point is a fool's folly but it is interesting to look at the Mountain Division standings. Three teams are at the top with 2-0 records and three are at the bottom with 0-2 records with one team in the middle at 1-1. Is it possible the first two games will predict the outcome of the season? Allen, Colorado and Wichita at the top, Utah, Tulsa and Rapid City at the bottom with Idaho in the middle. This may be closer than you think when game 72 rolls around.


- There are just five teams in the ECHL with a 2-0 record and three of them are in the Mountain Division. There are two teams (South Carolina & Reading) that won't play their first game until next weekend.


DID YOU KNOW: Allen has an impressive regular season point streak dating back to last season that is now at 17-0-1-0. The last time the Americans lost in regulation time in the regular season was a 3-2 loss to Rapid City at the Allen Event Center on February 19th.