Yes, the Christmas break is over and for the second consecutive week the Allen Americans get the lovely three games in three days with some travel. After a home game with Tulsa tonight (Friday) the team travels to Wichita for a Saturday game and then to Tulsa for a Sunday afternoon (4:05) game. It actually works out to be three games in less than 48 hours with over 500 miles of travel.
After the two games this weekend Allen and Tulsa will finally get a break from each other. Allen will have played Tulsa 12 times in the first 27 games of the season. They will only play one time in the next 35 games. Their only meeting between December 29 and March 21 is a home game on February 22.
The series has been good to Allen thus far. After losing two of the first three games against Tulsa at the beginning of the season including the home opener nightmare (9-6 loss) the Americans have won six of the last seven meetings with Tulsa. The only loss was a shootout loss.
So what does Allen need to do to get four points from Tulsa this weekend. Here are the keys to success:
- Tighten up on defense as the team has given up too many odd man rushes the last two games against Tulsa. Allen ranks #3 in the ECHL in goals allowed at 2.58 but allowed an average of 3.50 against the Oilers last weekend.
- Keep the offense rolling. Allen makes up for a lot of defensive mistakes with their league leading offense. They are ranked #1, scoring an average 4.46 goals per game. They averaged 5.50 in the two Tulsa games last weekend.
- Win the special teams battle. Allen has the best penalty kill percentage (90.0%) in the league while Tulsa is #16 at 82.3%. Allen also has the advantage on the power play at 19.3% compared to Tulsa at 11.5%. The Americans scored three power play goals in the two games last weekend and held the Oilers scoreless when they were on the power play. Win the special teams battle and most likely you win the game.
- Tulsa has lost five games in a row and are sick and tired of losing to Allen. Allen has lost in regulation only once since early November. It is important for Allen to come out full of energy in the first period and don't let Tulsa get that first goal which will give them hope. Allen wins 90% of their games when they score first so a fast start will be key.
- Riley Gill will be in goal tonight and Kevin Young will return to the line up. With Brian McMillin out everyone else will play.
- The American Hockey League (AHL) will name the coaches for their All-Star game on December 31. The game itself will take place on January 26. The ECHL will not say what date they will use to determine the All-Star coaches for their game which will take place January 21. The head coach will be the coach of the team with the highest winning percentage in the ECHL. The assistant coach will be the coach with the highest winning percentage in the other conference from the head coach. Here are the best winning percentages for each conference:
Eastern Conference (as of December 26)
.848 Greg Poss, Florida Everblades
.827 Gary Graham, Fort Wayne Komets
.788 Derek Lalonde, Toledo Walleye
Western Conference (as of December 26)
.792 Steve Martinson, Allen Americans
.621 Brad Ralph, Idaho Steelheads
Without knowing the cutoff date for selecting the All-Star coaches it is hard to predict but it looks like the Eastern Conference (either Poss or Graham) will have the head coach and Steve Martinson will be the assistant coach for the All-Star game that will take place in Orlando. A big honor for coach Martinson and great publicity for the Allen Americans.
- The seven former CHL teams have some strange schedules this year but how is this for a schedule. The Greenville Road Warriors have played 28 games thus far but 20 of them have been on the road. Their eight homes games are the fewest in the league. Things are about to change as Greenville starts a 12 game home stand tonight and won't have another road game until January 23. Other than four games on the road (two against Orlando, two against Florida) at the end of January and early February the Road Warriors will be "Home Warriors" with 17 of 21 games at home. Other than those four road games they are at home from December 26 to February 15. Incidentally, Greenville's home record is 7-1 so look for them to make a move up the standings over the next two months.
- Thus far the former seven CHL teams had not fared well against the older ECHL teams as the only victory was the very first game played on October 17 when Rapid City beat Colorado 5-1. Since then the older ECHL teams have won ten in a row. This week the former CHL teams will get four more cracks at beating the older ECHL teams. It will be a tough task as three of the four games are against the best ECHL teams. Quad City plays Fort Wayne and Evansville while Brampton plays Toledo twice. It will take a big effort by Quad City and Brampton to avoid going into next year with a record of 1-14 against the old ECHL teams.
- Both Greger Hanson and Spencer Asuchak have games tonight as Hanson's Worcester Sharks play at home against Manchester and Asuchak and his Providence Bruins are on the road against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Spencer and Greger have been playing great hockey since being promoted to the AHL so keep it up guys!
DID YOU KNOW: The ECHL record for most home wins in a season is 30 which was set by Steve Martinson and the San Diego Gulls in their first year in the ECHL (2003-2004). The Steve Martinson led Allen Americans, who are in their first year in the ECHL are currently on pace to beat the ECHL record for most road wins which is 26.