Thursday, May 24, 2018

Steve Martinson's Thoughts on Last Season & Next Season, Kelly Cup Playoff Update, Olivier Archambault's Exit Interview, Military Jersey for Sale, Beckett Dougherty Heads Home

On Saturday at the Allen Americans open house coach Steve Martinson addressed Allen fans on a variety of topics. Here are some of his comments from that meeting and from a conversation I had with Martinson prior to the open house.


"We can't sign players until June 16 so nothing can happen officially until then. I have talked to the rookies about attending AHL camps and I think we will have all of them back except Bethune who is going to college."

"I would expect we will have more training camp spots next season than we have in the past which will be a big help."

"When we played Idaho I thought their team got better for the playoffs and we didn't. Some of our go to guys struggled the last month of the season and into the playoffs. It was a painful end over those last four games. 

"For a couple of months of the season (January & February) we had the worst roster we have ever had. Between injuries, call ups and suspensions we were without Arseneau, Archambault, Gill, Pochiro, MacArthur, Asuchak, McAuley, Hall, Dalton Thrower, Makowski and Gunn.

"We had close to a .650 win percentage from October to the end of December and from March to the end of the season. A .650 win percentage is good enough to win in the playoffs if you add players. If we had 90% of our roster at playoff time and then added two or three players we would have been a really good team."

"I have to learn how to deal with the referees in a different way. I just have to let it go and not point out when I think they make mistakes."

"I intend our veteran spots to go to guys that don't want to go to the AHL."

"We have to make sure the players we get from the American League are top guys that can log top minute time and deserve top minute time."

"The most important thing about a power play is to have five guys playing for each other that don't care who scores. I think we struggled with that when we lost some of the "team first" guys. When you have players that want to score more than they want the power play unit to score it can be a problem."

"I didn't change the model that I have always had of having top end guys that would be here for playoffs. I gambled on some guys that I thought would be here more than they were."

"We have to be careful who we sign because we want the guys getting first line minutes to be here for the playoffs. That has always been the case in the past. This year we had guys getting first line minutes that ended up in the AHL and not available for the playoffs."

"We will be back and forth between our home in Rockford and Allen this off season more than in the past. I might get involved in some camps which I haven't done in the past."

"I am contemplating having shoulder replacement surgery in August."

"Our son, Logan, will be heading to Langley, British Columbia at the end of the summer to play junior hockey so I will be making a trip to British Columbia in August.

"I just got a pontoon boat and will be working on that this summer and may bring it to Texas since we will be back and forth."



- The Americans unveiled their 10th Anniversary logo on Saturday along with merchandise already available in the team store with the new logo.




- Speaking of the team store, because they have had a lot of requests for the military appreciation specialty jersey the team wore this past season, the Allen Americans and OrthoTexas are offering fans the opportunity to purchase one of their own. Cost is $299 and season ticket holder discounts are available. Here are all of the details and the online form to order the jersey. Email Michelle Martinson (mmartinson@allenamericans.com) with any questions. https://allenamericans.com/militaryjersey/
  

- Here is Olivier Archambault's exit interview with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL). He talks about his season including why he was able to be successful at the AHL level. I know coach Martinson played a role in making sure Archambault realized he is a special player offensively but his key to success at the next level was how he performed on the defensive end of the ice. If you watch this interview you can hear Olivier talk about why things went well in Syracuse. Archambault played 19 games in Allen and had 31 points (13G 18A) and was +12. He played 29 games in Syracuse and had 18 points (10G 8A) and was +4. Archambault is already signed with Syracuse for the 2018-19 season.





- The Colorado Eagles defeated the Fort Wayne Komets 4-3 in overtime last night in game seven of their series to advance to the Kelly Cup finals where they will take on the Florida Everblades. It was quite the comeback for the Eagles as they were trailing 3-1 with 12 minutes remaining in the game. Here are two game recaps from different perspectives:

From the local paper in Colorado: http://www.reporterherald.com/sports/ci_31898828/colorado-eagles-beat-fort-wayne-overtime-game-7-echl-kelly-cup-playoffs

From the local paper in Fort Wayne: http://www.journalgazette.net/sports/professional/komets/20180524/Ks-squander-lead-lose-Game-7


-  It may not be true in other leagues but in the ECHL the Kelly Cup champion is almost always a team that is #1 or #2 in their division during the regular season. Only once in the last 10 years has the Kelly Cup champion finished lower than #2 in their division. The Kelly Cup this season will be won by a division champion since Florida won the South Division and Colorado was the Mountain Division champion. During the regular season Florida was #1 with 112 points and Colorado was #4 with 102 points.


-  Another streak that will be kept alive in the finals is a team with toughness will win the Kelly Cup. Does toughness help win in the playoffs where you play teams in best of seven series? The last three Kelly Cup champions have finished the regular season ranked #3, #5 and #1 in penalty minutes. Colorado and Florida were not only division champions they were also two of only five teams that had over 1300 penalty minutes during the regular season.


- You have to feel bad for former Allen captain Jamie Schaafsma who scored again last night in a losing cause. After seven straight years making it to to the championship finals (four different teams) including three straight championships in Allen, Jamie has been disappointed the last three seasons in Fort Wayne by not making the finals. The game last night may have been the toughest to take since the Komets had the game well in hand (3-1 lead) with 12 minutes left. Jamie is 35 and battled injuries all season so you wonder how long he will keep going.


- A couple of stats that stand out in the Colorado vs Fort Wayne series. It is ironic the series winning overtime goal by the Eagles was scored on the power play since prior to that goal they were 1-28 (3.6%) on the power play. The Komets were 8-31 (25.8%) on the power play in the series.  The other stat that is telling and says a lot about the reigning champs is their success in overtime. Colorado won all three overtime games in this series and in the playoffs are now 6-1 in overtime games. Fort Wayne ended the playoffs 1-4 in overtimes.


- Now all of the focus will be on Florida vs Colorado for the Kelly Cup. Even though they have home ice advantage the Everblades will start the series in Colorado (Friday) because the Eagles have building availability issues. The series will be 2-3-1-1.


- Florida enters the championship final as the favorite and is the much fresher team. Florida has played only 14 games (12-1-1) through the first three rounds and have not played since May 19. The Everblades have played in only two overtime periods. Colorado has played in 17 games (12-4-1) through the first three rounds and has also played eight overtime periods.


- Another key statistic which differentiates these teams is special teams. For the 16 teams that made the playoffs Florida is #2 (21.4%) and Colorado is #10 (12.5%) on the power play. Florida is #3 (89.6%) and Colorado is #7 (84.6%) on the penalty kill.



- I know many of you have followed the Beckett Dougherty story. Beckett is the young son of Kelley and Britt Dougherty. Kelley worked in the front office for the Americans and Britt played for Allen in their first season. Beckett was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia when he was three months old and has spent the last nine months in Toronto (20 hours from their home in Swift Current). If you followed his progress you know there were a lot of ups and downs and the updates were hard to read without crying many times. The good news is the Dougherty family is heading home today after nine grueling month of treatment with many set backs along the way. Best of luck!



DID YOU KNOW:  The last two times the regular season champion went on to win the Kelly Cup it was accomplished by the Alaska Aces, in 2014 and 2011.


 

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Chat With Steve Martinson, 2018-19 Allen Schedule, Kelly Cup Update, Bus Driver Monty Williams Retires, Special Teams Cost Allen in Playoffs



-  There is going to be an open house at the Allen Event Center (AEC) tomorrow (Saturday) from noon until 2:00 pm. The team will be unveiling their 10th Anniversary logo and coach Steve Martinson will be having a question and answer session with fans from 1:00 - 2:00. It will be worth the trip to the AEC to hear what Martinson has to say about the just completed season and his plans for next season including what I would describe as a shift in philosophy. Come loaded with your questions and plan on being both better informed and also entertained. For those that can't make it I will share his comments in my next blog post. Here is the news release issued by the Americans on the 2018-19 schedule and the open house on Saturday. https://allenamericans.com/americans-announce-full-2018-2019-schedule/


- If you had a chance to take a look at the schedule for next season or read the "deep dive on the schedule" I posted the other day you have to be excited for what is in store for Allen Americans fans in 2018-19. There are many factors to consider when putting together a schedule and in my opinion this year is the best ever. It is well balanced, the games against Tulsa and Wichita are spread out, the schedule is travel friendly, there are fewer games at home during football season and there is a  heavy dose of home games late in the season. For the first time there will be the battle for the "Jack Gulati Cup" with five games (2 home, 3 away) against Reading. Here is the "deep dive" post if you haven't seen it: http://allenamericansblog.blogspot.com/2018/05/a-deep-dive-on-allen-americans-2018-19.html



- If you have been tracking the Kelly Cup playoffs you know that the final four consist of three division champs (Florida, Adirondack, Colorado) and one second place team in Fort Wayne. It may not be true in other leagues but in the ECHL the champion is almost always a team that is #1 or #2 in their division during the regular season. Only once in the last 10 years has the Kelly Cup champion finished lower than #2 in their division.


- Fort Wayne leads Colorado 2-1 with a chance to close out the series at home with games tonight and Saturday. The Komets playoff power play is ranked #1 at 25.5% which is 6.5% higher than second place. Colorado has been involved in the most overtime games in the playoffs (5) and is 4-1 in those games. Fort Wayne is 1-2 in overtime games.


- Florida has a 2-1 lead in their series against Adirondack with games four (Friday) and five (Saturday) in Adirondack. The key stat in this series might be who scores first. During the playoffs Adirondack is 8-0 when scoring first while Florida is 9-0.


- One group at the Allen Event Center that doesn't get the recognition they deserve is the staff that takes care of the ice in the main rink and the community rink. They take a lot of pride in their work and operate under trying circumstances many times. They are as big a part of the Allen Americans team as anyone and are greatly appreciated by the team and the coaches. Job well done!


- You may have seen on social media that bus driver Monty Williams has decided to hang up his "driving skates" and retire. Monty spent the last six years on the hockey bus first as the secondary driver on long trips and then as the primary driver after Scott Alexander passed away. Monty had to deal with all of the problems with Big Red and went above and beyond the call of duty many times. You won't find anyone more loved in the organization than Monty. Dyson Stevenson captured it best when I asked him for a statement after he was traded to Wichita last season, "I made a real close friend that I will miss everyday especially when I am on the bus and that is Monty Williams. He kept us safe on that shitty bus and still had time to be the most generous guy in the world!"



DID YOU KNOW:  If there is one stat that helps explain Allen's first round playoff loss to Idaho it would be special teams. Of the 16 teams that made the playoffs, Allen's power play was ranked #15 at 8.3% and the penalty kill was ranked #13 at 81.3%. The Americans power play in the four games in Idaho was 0-13.

In 2017 Allen lost to the eventual Kelly Cup champion Colorado Eagles in the second round but their special teams were outstanding. The power play was ranked #3 at 24.4% and the penalty kill was ranked #2 at 90.0%.

The last time Allen won the Kelly Cup (2016) they had the #1 ranked power play in the playoffs (27.2%).

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Deep Dive On the Allen Americans 2018-19 Schedule

The Allen Americans schedule for the 2018-19 season was issued by the ECHL today.  I thought it would be a good time to do the annual "deep dive" on the Americans schedule. It is probably more information than you would ever want to know about the schedule but it will give you many different views of what coach Martinson and the team will be dealing with. The schedule looks improved from a travel standpoint with only one trip to Rapid City, one trip to Idaho and two trips to Utah. The only road trip outside the Mountain Division is a trip to Reading for three games and then on to Wheeling for one game.


- One of the goals of the ECHL when preparing the schedule is to balance cost along with having a schedule that avoids teams playing each other too many times. Allen will be playing 11 different teams this season compared to 13 last season.  Five of the 13 teams (Atlanta, Florida,  Fort Wayne, Jacksonville, Indy) Allen played last season they only played on the road. Next season only one team (Wheeling) will be on the road only. 

- Below is a complete list of Allen's 72 games by opponent comparing last season and the upcoming season. Teams with an asterisk are Mountain Division foes.

                     2017-18                                                    2018-19
13 games - Tulsa (7 home 6 away)*                  14 games - Wichita (5 home, eight away)*
12 games - Wichita (6 home 6 away)*              13 games - Tulsa (5 home, eight away)*
10 games - Idaho (4 home 6 away)*                  11 games - Utah (6 home 5 away)*
8 games - Kansas City (4 home 4 away)            10 games - KC (5 home, 5 away)*          
8 games   - Rapid City (5 home 3 away)*          6 games - Rapid City (3 home, 3 away)*
6 games - Colorado (4 home 2 away)*               6 games - Idaho (3 home, 3 away)*
6 games - Utah (4 home 2 away)*                      5 games - Reading (2 home, 3 away)
2 games - Fort Wayne (0 home 2 away)             3 games - Cincinnati (3 home, 0 away)
2 games - Orlando (2 home 0 away)                   2 games - South Carolina (2 home, 0 away)
2 games - Florida (0 home 2 away)                    1 game - Wheeling (0 home, 1 away)
1 game   - Indy (0 home 1 away)                        1 games - Worcester (1 home, 0 away)
1 game - Atlanta (0 home 1 away)
1 game - Jacksonville (0 home 1 away)

Note there is much more emphasis on divisional play this season as Allen will play 60 of their 72 (83%) games against Mountain Division foes.


- Here is a breakdown of the schedule by day of the week. This is a very similar breakdown as last season.

              2017-18                                                    2018-19
Sunday - 10 (5 home, 5 away)                      8 - (4 home, 4 away)
Monday - 2 (1 home, 1 away)                       1 - (1 home)
Tuesday -  3 (1 home, 2 away)                      6 - (4 home, 2 away)
Wednesday - 10 (7 home, 3 away)                9 - (5 home, 4 away)
Thursday - 1 (1 home 0 away)                      1 - (1 away)
Friday - 21 (10 home, 11 away)                    24 - (13 home, 11 away)
Saturday - 25 (11 home, 14 away)                23 - (11 home, 12 away)



 Allen has always tried to get more road games early in the season to avoid conflicts with football plus early season road trips help bring the team together. The following lists the games by month.

                          2017-18                                             2018-19
October - 7 games (3 home 4 away)                 8 games (1 home 7 away)
November - 12 games (6 home 6 away)           13 games (6 home, 7 away)
December - 13 games (8 home 5 away)            15 games (7 home, 8 away
January - 12 games (5 home 7 away)                11 games (3 home, 8 away)
February - 11 games (4 home 7 away)              11 games (8 home, 3 away)
March - 14 games (8 home 6 away)                  12 games (11 home, 1 away)
April- 3 games (2 home 1 away)                        2 games (0 home, 2 away)
  

- One of the many things the team looks at when the schedule comes out is how many times they have to play three games back to back to back. Three games in three days is stressful especially if there is travel involved. Players are more prone to injuries in these situations. In 2017-18 that happened six times. In 2018-19 Allen will play three games in three days eight times and four of them will come in consecutive weeks. Notice that in only three of the three games in three days travel is involved.

October 26, 27, 28 - Rapid City (A), Rapid City (A), Rapid City (A)
November 9, 10, 11 - Kansas City (H), Kansas City (H), Wichita (A)
January 11, 12, 13 - Wichita (H), Wichita (A), Wichita (A)
December 14, 15, 16 - Reading (A), Reading (A), Reading (A)
February 5, 6, 7 - Wichita (A), Kansas City (A), Tulsa (A)
February 15, 16, 17 - Worcester (H), Reading (H), Reading (H)
February 22, 23, 24 - Utah (H), Utah (H), Utah (H)
March 1, 2, 3 -  Tulsa (H), Tulsa (A), Rapid City (H)


-  Four games in five days is really brutal and that happened three times last season. This season the Americans will play four games in five days three times but notice two of them take place in consecutive weeks. Allen will play eight games in 13 days between December 4th and 16th.   Here is the list of four games in five days.

November 9, 10, 11, 13 - Kansas City (H), Kansas City (H), Wichita (A), Kansas City (A)
December 4, 5, 7, 8 - Rapid City (H), Rapid City (H), Kansas City (A), Kansas City (A)
December 12, 14, 15, 16 -  Wheeling (A) Reading (A), Reading (A), Reading (A) 


- Five of the 11 teams on Allen's schedule this season didn't make the playoffs last season. Of Allen's 72 regular season games 41 (57%) will be against the five teams that did not make the playoffs.


- Allen will play six teams with a winning percentage higher than the Americans winning percentage last season (.542) including three teams (South Carolina, Idaho, Reading) with a winning percentage above .600. However, 54 of Allen's 72 games (75%) are against teams with a lower winning percentage than the Americans. Note that only two teams on the schedule next season (Utah & Rapid City) had a winning percentage below .500 last season.  Here is a complete list in winning percentage order with the number of games Allen will play each team this season in parentheses:

.722 - South Carolina (2)
.667 - Idaho (6).
.604 - Reading (5)
.569 - Worcester (1)
.563 - Cincinnati (3)
.549 - Wheeling (1)
.542 - ALLEN
.528 - Wichita (14) 
.514 - Kansas City (10)
.514 - Tulsa (13)
.493 - Utah (11) 
.389 - Rapid City (6)


- The easiest part of the schedule for Allen will be a period between February 8 and April 4. Allen will spend 56 days at home, play 18 games with 17 at home and the one away game a same day trip to Tulsa.


- The schedule is much more balanced this season than in the past when the Americans seemed to play Tulsa a lot early in the season and Wichita later. The Americans play Tulsa and Wichita at least once every month of the season. Allen's last two games of the season will be on the road against Wichita.


- Here is the complete 2018-19 Allen Americans schedule if you don't already have it: http://allenamericans.com/schedule/



DID YOU KNOW:  Allen will open the 2018-19 season against their long time rival Wichita. When you consider how good the Allen Americans have been since their inception the home opener record is a mediocre 4-5 but the good news is they have won two in a row.  No matter when you started following the Americans these home opener games from the last nine years will bring back some memories good and bad.

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 as Allen beat Missouri 6-3. Kale Kerbashain had two goals and Riley Gill was peppered with 47 shots.

2017-18 -  After two big wins on the road in Rapid City the Americans opened at home against Orlando and beat the Solar Bears 6-2. Zach Pochiro had two goals, David Makowski and Casey Pierro-Zabotel each had three points (1G 2A). This game will always be remembered as the game with less than seven minutes remaining goalie Riley Gill was injured and would be out for the season.




Thursday, May 3, 2018

Allen Americans Update - A Look Ahead, ECHL Schedule Release, Playoff Update and More

It has been a week since the disastrous ending to the Allen Americans season and slowly everyone is moving on and the focus has started to switch to next season. I still plan to talk to coach Martinson  (scheduled next week) about the just completed season and plans for the future. For today here are a few topics of interest.

Affiliation - It was apparent to anyone observing that the affiliation with San Jose seemed to be different this season. My reporting is coach Martinson and the Allen Americans will move on from San Jose and affiliate with a different team next season. Stay tuned.


Rookies -  Everyone wants to know if the four players Martinson brought in at the end of the season will return. Gordie Ballhorn, Jared Bethune, Matt Foget and Braylon Shmyr all have a decision to make whether they will attend college or play pro hockey. It was reported yesterday (eliteprospects.com) that Jared Bethune has committed to Queens University (Kingston, Ontario) so he will not be returning but there is a chance the others could be on the roster again.


Veterans - Seven different veterans played for Allen in the just completed season (Chouinard, Pierro-Zabotel, MacArthur, Frazee, Steffes, Aubin and King). In addition Spencer Asuchak crossed over the 260 pro games played threshold and will be a vet next season. Alex Guptill is just under 260 (252) so will not be a vet next season. The roster is limited to four veterans and coach Martinson always seems to hold one slot for recruiting purposes so there will definitely have to be decisions made regarding veterans.


2018-19 Schedule - You may have noticed some teams have already released their home schedule for next season. The Americans are putting the final touches on the schedule and should release it soon. What is known is the Americans will open on the road in Kansas City on October 12. This is known because Kansas City has released their home schedule. Allen will play in Kansas City six times next season. Tulsa has also released their home schedule and the Americans will play in Tulsa eight times.

It is possible depending on the outcome of the playoffs games this week the entire ECHL schedule could be released next week. If there is a day with no playoff games the league could release the schedule. If it doesn't happen next week the full schedule will be released the week of May 14.


Vincent Arseneau - I ran into Arseneau in the locker room on Tuesday as he was back in town gathering his belongings before heading home. He had a great experience in Utica and received excellent feed back in his exit interview. Arseneau is a player everyone agrees should be playing in the AHL. Remember he was fourth in goals (18) on the Americans and only played in 38 games. He brought his game every night and is the heaviest hitter in the league. The time has come for Arseneau to get an AHL deal and be in that league all year.


Steve Martinson - Next season Martinson will hit a major milestone. He doesn't pay much attention to his coaching stats but has said this upcoming one will be noteworthy. Martinson will begin the 2018-19 season with 978 regular season wins and should hit the 1000 win mark some time between the end of December and the beginning of February. Hope it happens at home.



OTHER COMMENTS

-  If you have been tracking the ECHL playoffs things are going according to Hoyle. All four division finals have the #1 seed leading in the series. The old adage of once you make the playoffs anything can happen is not based in historical fact and definitely not in the current playoffs. With the exception of Orlando who is the #3 seed the other seven teams in the division finals are #1 and #2 seeds. Here is the playoff update:

North Division - It is #1 seed Adirondack (89 regular season points) against #2 seed Manchester (88 regular season points). Adirondack leads the series 2-1 with game four tonight in Adirondack. This is the series where because of scheduling issues Manchester has only two home games (five and six). Adirondack is at home for games 1-4 and than again if the series goes seven games.

South Division - #1 seed Florida (112 regular season points) is playing #3 seed Orlando (75 regular season points). The Everblades lead the series 2-0 winning the first two games 4-1 and 5-1. The teams play in Orlando tonight (Thursday) and tomorrow. 

Central Division - It is #1 seed Toledo (105 regular season points) against #2 seed Fort Wayne (98 regular season points) with Toledo leading the series 2-1. Game four is Friday in Fort Wayne and game five is in Toledo on Saturday. This is a great series with great crowds and a great rivalry. This one looks like it could go seven games.

Mountain Division - #1 seed Colorado (102 regular season points) leads #2 seed Idaho (96 regular season points) 3-0 in the series. Idaho pulled off a miracle against Allen but it is not going to happen again. This series could end tonight when the teams play in Idaho.


- This story was in the Calgary paper last week about Aaron Dell's dad offering help to one of the Humbodlt Broncos players who was paralyzed in their bus crash. It is a nice story of offering help to modify the player's home which is in the same community as Dell's. http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/airdrie-dad-of-san-jose-sharks-goalie-hopes-to-aid-straschnitzki-home-renos


- Here is another story you might enjoy if you haven't seen it already. It is a week or so old and was written by Cris Tiller with the title, "Matt Register proved everybody wrong in journey to becoming ECHL's best defenseman."   http://www.reporterherald.com/sports/ci_31839769/matt-register-colorado-eagles-prove-everybody-wrong-journey-echl-best-kelly-cup-playoffs
 


DID YOU KNOW: David Makowski is no longer playing in the playoffs but did you know he has twice as many goals (4) than any other defenseman in the playoffs. He is still second in points (7). Makowski was also Allen's leading scorer (goals and points) in the playoffs.


In 2016-17 Allen had eight players that averaged one point per game or more. This season (2017-18) Allen had just two and they were Gary Steffes who only played in five games and Olivier Archambault who played in just 19 games.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You - Barry the Blogger Style

 For the first time since I started writing the Allen Americans Blog six years ago the season has ended in the opening round with a historic loss. No time for sorrow or disappointment. It is time for me to say my thanks to all involved in making Allen Americans hockey the best fan experience anywhere. While I will still be posting blogs during the summer when there is news to report, it will no longer be each day.


It is quite an undertaking to write about the team seven days a week during the season and it does indeed take a village to make it all possible. So please indulge me for this once a year post about the blog and all of the people that help me. It seems like as the years go by more and more blog readers help me out with ideas for stories, ask questions and let me know about errors I make in the blog so I can get them corrected.


It wouldn't be right to have a blog post without some stats so here are a couple that amaze me. I write somewhere around 250,000 words during the hockey season. Readership varies but has steadily increased to around 1200 unique page views per day. As of this morning the total number of page views since October of 2012 is 1,311,227.  Who would have imagined a blog started for the Heritage Ranch Allen Americans fan club now reaches people all over the US and Canada as well as the hockey hotbeds in Europe on a daily basis.  It proves fans of the Allen Americans are all over the world.


I want to start out by thanking all of the fans that frequent this blog. It has been my pleasure to meet many of you and your words of encouragement in person, comments at the end of each blog, posts on Twitter, Facebook, message boards, and email have been very satisfying and inspiring. A special thanks to Mary Betz and Ted Hosterman who kindly fill in when I am gone.


Thanks to the many fans, bloggers, and media from all over the league that have promoted the blog as fair and balanced and have also shared information with me about their teams. One of the unexpected benefits of writing the blog has been getting to know all of the broadcasters, writers, bloggers and passionate fans from other teams.


There are a lot of you on Twitter that like and/or retweet the blog. There are a lot of you that like and/or share the blog on Facebook. I notice each and every one and appreciate it so much because it is a way to spread the word about the Allen Americans. I am extremely fortunate that Rick Gosselin and Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News forward the blog to their twitter followers almost every day. That means almost 50,000 sports/hockey fans get publicity about the Americans each day. A special thanks to Rick and Mike for their support.   
 

Thank you to the players who have never said no to a single request I have made of them for a chat, an interview or a question. I have gotten to know most of these young men both professionally and personally and they have represented the Americans in an outstanding manner. You see the players at their best when they are visiting schools and hospitals or are interacting with the young fans in any environment. 


One of my goals when I started the blog was to share the personal stories of the players. It is something I didn't do enough of this season so hope to do more next season. The wives/girlfriends, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and friends I have met have been great about sharing family stories which I have then been able to share in the blog. Thanks to all of you.


Thanks to Steve Martinson and his staff  (Jason Deitsch, Tim Abbott, Bryan Parfrey, Luke Chilcott) for always being willing to talk to me and help educate me. A special thanks to coach Martinson, for allowing me to stop by his office after every game and every practice to ask questions and talk about the team. It is his openness and trust that has allowed the blog to have information you can't find anywhere else.


Thanks to Tommy Daniels, Director of Communications & Broadcasting for the Allen Americans, who has been a big help to me. Tommy is the one who encouraged me to start the blog, made me feel like part of the media team, answered many questions, publicized the blog to attract new readership, and invited me to be part of the between periods conversation on his radio broadcast to talk hockey and promote the blog. Tommy is the best broadcaster in the business and is always willing to share his knowledge with others.


Thanks to Tommy's radio sidekick, Maurice Fitzgerald, for all the between periods chats on the radio broadcast. Maurice has forgotten more about hockey than I will ever know but we are a good combo with all of my day to day information about the team and their stats.
 

Maurice and myself are two of a big volunteer army that devotes time to the Allen Americans because of their love of the team and love of hockey. Photographers, writers, interns, fan club members and fans too numerous to mention. Certainly an under appreciated group of volunteers.


 Joe Babik, Director of Communication for the ECHL has once again spent more time with me this season than I deserved to help educate me about the policies, rules, procedures and records of the ECHL. Joe has gone above and beyond the call of duty and seems to respond to questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Thanks to the entire Team Sin Bin group which has welcomed me into their group for the fourth year and made it very easy for me to get my stories on their site (thesinbin.net). A special thanks to Matt Harding (SinBinThunder) and Joe Rozycki (SinBinMavs).


Unlike most writers, bloggers, and other media types that cover the Americans I have a dual role as in addition to being a blogger I also coordinate the activities of the fan club (over 200 members) at Heritage Ranch where I live. In this capacity I spend a lot of time in the front office of the Americans arranging for season tickets, suites, individual game tickets, seats for soldiers tickets, and other promotions. I want to thank the entire front office staff, led by Matt Canavan, who have gone out of their way to help me with tickets as well a provide content for the blog.


Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't thank my lovely wife of almost 40 years (to be precise 40 years on Sunday) Nancy, who is kind enough to proofread the blog each morning. It is a tireless task. Despite our best efforts we miss plenty of errors in both substance and form. Luckily many of you are kind enough to let me know of these errors so corrections can be made promptly. The volunteer proofreader list has gotten too long to list everyone but you know who you are and I thank you for your help. Blog posts live forever on the internet and can always be corrected so I really appreciate when you let me know about errors.


This will be the last daily blog post for the season. I will still blog on an as needed basis as new information becomes available. If you are on Facebook or Twitter you can see whenever there is a new post on the blog by liking my page on Facebook at "Allen Americans Blog" or following me on Twitter at @allenamericans1. Maybe the easiest way to stay in touch is by making allenamericansblog.blogspot.com one of the favorites on whatever search engine you use and checking in periodically. Remember, it is only 168 days until Allen Americans hockey starts again.


Finally, on a personal note you may know I have been taking a two week fishing trip to Ontario and Minnesota for over 20 years with some buddies from Minnesota. The trip is always the last week of May in Canada and first week of June in Minnesota. This worked fine when Allen was in the Central Hockey League as the playoffs were always over by the time the fishing trip started but that is not the case since joining the ECHL. In 2015 I missed the finals series and in 2016 I flew home early to catch the championship finals. Last season I made the tough choice to forego the fishing trip as it made no sense to cover the team every single day and then miss the playoffs. My fishing buddies told me I was making a big mistake by not going on the fishing trip as the team won four straight championships and if I didn't go on the fishing trip the team would lose. Then my superstitious Allen fans (you know who you are) said it was all my fault the Americans lost because I decided to not go on the fishing trip. Not being the superstitious type myself I once again decided to forego the fishing trip this season so I wouldn't miss the the playoffs. Needless to say come the end of May there will be no playoffs and no fishing trip. I have learned my lesson after two years and promise all of my superstitious friends I am going on the fishing trip next year just to make sure the Americans get back to the Kelly Cup finals.  



DID YOU KNOW: It is hard to believe it is still April and the Allen Americans are not playing hockey. April 25th is the earliest the Americans have played the last game of the season in the six years Steve Martinson has been the coach but not the earliest in team history. Here is the date of the last game played in each year of the Allen franchise along with the results.

May 4, 2010 - A 4-3 loss to Rapid City in the CHL Presidents' Cup finals
May 8, 2011 - A 5-3 loss to Bossier-Shreveport in the CHL Berry Conference finals
April 10, 2012 - A 4-2 loss to the Texas Brahmas in the CHL Berry Conference semi-finals
May 11, 2013 - A 4-3 OT win over Wichita in the CHL Presidents' Cup finals
May 10, 2014 - A 5-2 win over Denver in the CHL Presidents' Cup finals
June 14, 2015 - A 6-1 win over South Carolina in the Kelly Cup finals
June 9, 2016 - A 4-2 win over the Wheeling Nailers in the Kelly Cup final
May 9, 2017 - A 4-3 loss to Colorado in the ECHL Mountain Division finals
April 25, 2018 - A 4-1 loss to Idaho in the ECHL Mountain Division semi-finals

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Heartbreaking and Record-Breaking Ending, Game Recap, Steve Martinson's Comments, Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda and Much More

 I am not sure where the blog post is headed this morning because there are so many thoughts and emotions going through my head. Maybe more opinion than facts than normal but I am an expert at my own opinion. Let's get started.

- Allen lost game seven last night in Boise by a score of 4-1. Only 3060 were in attendance to watch the conclusion of a historic comeback by the Idaho Steelheads. It was the second smallest crowd of the entire season for Idaho.


- The game last night was much closer than the final score. Idaho scored the only goal of the first period and second period. Allen scored their only goal of the game early in the third period (6:20) to cut the score to 2-1 but could not get the equalizer. The Steelheads scored two empty net goals in the last 32 seconds of play to make the final score 4-1.


- If you exclude the two empty net goals last night, three of the four Allen losses to Idaho in this series were by the score of 2-1. You can't expect to win scoring one goal per game.


- Several Allen fans, who love the Americans, sent me messages after the game that had the sentiment of epic fail, huge collapse and unbelievable poor finish. There is little doubt that losing a seven game series after taking a 3-0 lead is historic. It has happened only one other time in the 30 year history of the ECHL (2010 Cincinnati Cyclones). Across all major league sports (MLB, NBA, NHL) it is even a more rare occurrence. The historical combined series record for teams that take a 3-0 lead across these major league sports is 346-5. Just a week ago when Allen was up 3-0 and about to play game four at home the the odds of the Americans winning the series (based on historical major league data) was 98.6% and if you just looked at historical NHL data it was 97.9%. Idaho turned a 2% chance of winning into a series victory. I would say that qualifies as an epic win for the Steelheads and epic failure for the Americans. 


- How would everyone feel if this series had gone seven games and had the same outcome but Allen had won games two, four and five instead of one, two and three? My guess is there would be a very different feeling today.


- I am reminded this morning of something Steve Martinson has said to me many times over the years. The best team doesn't always win five game series but the best team does win seven game series. Rather than focusing on the four losses just maybe Allen did a great job winning the first three games.


- Before this series started I compared these teams based on the regular season stats and it was pretty clear Idaho was a much better team statistically. Here is the data which shows Idaho better than Allen in 11 of the 13 stats. I have added a number in parentheses which is the average for the seven games in the playoffs.


Goals Scored (average per game)
3.39 - Idaho   (3.29)
3.26 - Allen   (2.71)

Goals Allowed (average per game)
2.61 - Idaho   (2.71)
3.22 - Allen   (3.29)

Goal Differential (goals scored minus goals allowed)
+56 - Idaho   (+4)
+3  - Allen    (-4)

Shots For (average per game)
36.11 - Idaho   (35.86)
30.74 - Allen   (31.57)

Shots Against (average per game)
28.36 - Idaho   (31.57) 
36.25 - Allen   (35.86)  

Shooting Percentage (goals as a percent of total shots)
10.5% - Allen   (8.6%)
9.1%  - Idaho   (9.2%)

Power Play Percentage
17.5% - Idaho   (18.8%)
17.1% - Allen   (8.3%)

Penalty Kill Percentage
84.2% - Idaho   (91.7%)
81.6% - Allen   (81.3%)

Power Play Goals Scored
57 - Idaho   (6) 
51 - Allen   (2)

Plus/Minus
+229 - Idaho   (-1)
+38   - Allen   (-1) 

Goals Against Average (GAA)
2.53 - Idaho   (2.71)
3.16 - Allen   (3.29)  

Save Percentage
.912 - Allen   (.908)
.909 - Idaho   (.914) 

Record Last 10 Games
9-0-1-0 - Idaho   (4-3 in last seven games)
4-4-2-0 - Allen   (3-4 in last seven games)


- If you look at all of these stats my conclusion is Idaho was the better team in the regular season and that carried over to the playoffs. The one category that stands out is special teams where Idaho over performed their regular season numbers in the playoffs and Allen under performed. It is hard to overcome an 8.3% power play percentage which is what Allen had in the playoffs. The Americans had just two power play goals and one of them was five-on-three.


- If you are interested in the details of the game last night which I skipped over above here is a game recap and the video highlights courtesy of the Idaho Steelheads. Have to admit it is painful to watch:

Game recap: http://www.idahosteelheads.com/events/allen-americans-vs-idaho-steelheads-13/#gametab-2



- It is ironic that Allen played Idaho 17 times this season (10 regular season and 7 playoffs) and outshot the Steelheads just two times, The first game of the season (November 10) and the final game of the season last night. Over the 17 games Allen was outshot 641-471.


OTHER COMMENTS

- I know every team has a coulda, woulda, shoulda sob story but what a difference it would have made had Allen had Riley Gill, Olivier Archambault, Vincent Arseneau, Colby McAuley and Jonathan Lessard coming down the stretch and into the playoffs. To me the most frustrating loss for the playoffs was Vincent Arseneau who is on loan to Utica (AHL) but has sat in the stands the last two games as a healthy scratch. Coach Martinson is always willing to loan players to AHL teams to help their careers but usually has an understanding they will be returned to Allen if they are not playing. Would assume Martinson is not very happy with Utica.


- My opinion going into the playoffs was the the #1 seed Colorado and #2 seed Idaho were clearly the best two teams in the Mountain Division and would meet in the Division finals. The statistical matrix I use to assess the playoff teams actually rated Idaho ahead of Colorado but it was very close. Idaho is going into the series against Colorado with a lot of momentum. The division final should be a hard fought series that could very easily go seven games. With no dog in the fight it will be an enjoyable series to watch. The division Allen has been in has won the last three Kelly Cups and that is one streak I want to see continued.


- I have had the pleasure of working with fellow Team Sin Bin writer C.C. Hawkley, aka Sin Bin Steelheads, during this series and want to thank him for all of his work to make this series enjoyable for fans in Boise and Allen. He is a class act and a lot of fun to collaborate with. I wish C.C. and the Steeleheads the best and look forward to his coverage as the playoffs resume in Colorado this weekend.


- It is never easy to lose in the playoffs and it is even more disappointing this season losing in the first round the way the Americans lost. There is no doubt Allen fans as well as the coach and players have high expectations. I see so many teams congratulating themselves for making the playoffs and losing in the first round. Not the case in Allen as everyone sees this season as a failure. The goal in Allen is never to just make it to the playoffs. With that said the body of work by the Allen Americans since Steve Martinson arrived six years ago is unprecedented. Four championships, a second round loss and a first round loss and a playoff series record of 15-2.


- The season ended abruptly and with great disappointment after Allen went up on Idaho 3-0. I will have my usual thank you post tomorrow but this will be the last daily post for the season. It has been 225 straight days of blogs posts so a break will be nice. I will still keep everyone up to date on an as needed basis but it will be much more sporadic until September rolls around. I will say this again tomorrow but thanks for all of the support and encouragement as it keeps me going throughout the season.


- Sometime in the next week or so I will interview coach Martinson and go in depth with him about the season, the playoffs and his plans for next season. I did ask him to give me a quote for today now that the season is over. Here is what he said, "It is a painful ending. Idaho added some AHL players from their affiliate which gave them a strong push and we didn't have the ability to close out the series. We struggled the second half of the season and some guys didn't have much left when we needed it." 



DID YOU KNOW:  Since starting the Allen Americans Blog on October 8, 2012 there have been 1505 blog posts and the total number of unique page views just passed the 1,310,000 mark.      


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Allen Loses, Series Deciding Game Seven Tonight, Game Recap, Steve Martinson's Comments, Game Seven Preview, Josh Brittain's Inspiration and the Cincinnati 2010 Comeback


The wheels came off on the Allen Americans in Idaho last night as the Steelheads scored early and often to win the game 6-3 and force a winner take all game seven tonight. Every key to victory fell to Idaho as they scored first, led 3-2 after the first period, 5-2 after the second period, scored two power play goals (2-8) and allowed no power play goals (0-5).


- Allen has now squandered a 3-0 series lead and allowed the Steelheads to become the fourth team in the 30 year history of the ECHL to force a game seven after trailing 3-0. Idaho will be battling long odds if they are to win the series tonight. In the history of the NHL there have been 187 series where one team has taken a 3-0 series lead and just four times (2.1%) has a team comeback to win the series.


- Here is the full game recap from the Idaho Steelheads:  http://www.idahosteelheads.com/events/allen-americans-vs-idaho-steelheads-12/#gametab-2


-  The goal scorers for Allen were Joel Chouinard (1),  David Makowski (4) and Spencer Asuchak (1). Here are the video highlights where you can check out the Allen goals and the numerous defensive breakdowns on the Idaho goals.



- I exchanged messages with coach Martinson this morning and he said, "We didn't play good enough. The positive is they are not beating us at our best. We need to bring our best tonight."


ALLEN VS IDAHO GAME SEVEN PREVIEW


- There is not much to be said when it comes to game seven other than the series is now at that point where it is win or go home for both teams. It really doesn't matter how it got to this point the fact of the matter it is one game for the right to continue to chase the Kelly Cup. Stats don't matter, percentages don't matter, what matters is which team is going to impose their will on the other. If you have followed coach Steve Martinson's coaching career you know that in 21 years of playoff hockey he has lost just one game seven. He will have his team ready to go tonight and it will be up to them to put themselves in the position to win.


- Special teams was the Achilles heel once again last night for the Americans as it has been all series and much of the regular season. Allen gave up two power play goals last night and has allowed a power play goal in five of the six games in this series. Allen was unable to score a power play goal in five opportunities last night including a five-on-three for over a minute early in the second period. Of the 16 teams in the playoffs Allen is ranked #14 on the power play at 9.5% and #15 on the penalty kill at 80.0%. If the Americans can't turn around their special teams play and win the battle tonight they will not win the game.


- Here is the ECHL Today with their take on game seven tonight along with the winningest playoff coaches in ECHL history. With a win tonight Steve Martinson will be tied for #2 all-time with 50 playoff wins. https://www.echl.com/echl-today-april-25-2018


- Maybe the Allen Americans can take some inspiration from former Allen Americans forward Josh Brittain who I wrote about yesterday. His team (Banksa Bystrica) blew a 3-0 series lead and after they lost game six at home disgruntled fans berated the team and started a brawl. The story has a happy ending because Josh's team came through yesterday in game seven, winning 5-1 on the road to claim the Slovakian championship.


DID YOU KNOW: Only one time in the history of the ECHL has a team comeback from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven game playoff series. It was the 2010 Cincinnati Cyclones who accomplished the feat in the third round (conference finals). Here are a few facts from that series:

- Cincinnati accomplished the historic comeback against the Reading Royals
- One player on each team in that series would go on to play for the Allen Americans. Scott Langdon was playing for Reading and Mathieu Aubin was playing for Cincinnati.
- Cincinnati won game six in that series at home by the same score Idaho won last night (6-3).
- Cincinnati won game seven by a score of 1-0 to move on to the Kelly Cup finals.
- Cincinnati played the Idaho Steelheads in the finals and won the series and the Kelly Cup 4-1.