The Allen Americans are back home after returning yesterday from almost two weeks away from family and friends. Splitting two games in Quad City and losing two of three in Rapid City was a disappointment for the team that was leading the ECHL in points when they started the road trip.
– The team will practice today in preparation for three games in the next four days against the Wichita Thunder. Home games on Tuesday and Wednesday and then the Americans travel to Wichita to play on Friday.
– Mike DiPaolo will have his first practice with the team today and is expected in the line up Tuesday night against Wichita.
– While going through the remaining schedule the pattern from the last two championship years kept going through my mind. It is familiar to Allen fans and goes something like this. Play well until after Christmas and then have a slump. Start playing well again at the end of the season which carries into the playoffs on the way to a championship. The 2014-2015 Allen Americans not only played well up until Christmas they built an insurmountable lead playing well until the last week in January. The annual swoon started the end of January which is a little later than normal and the team has struggled since that time. They have won just eleven of twenty three games since January 23. Similar to prior years many of the losses (five to be exact) came in overtime/shootouts so even when losing games Allen was picking up a point.
– There are now thirteen games remaining in the season so if the pattern from the last two championship years is to be followed again it is time to see improved play by the Americans. Just how well did Allen play down the stretch the last two years? My memory would suggest the team was playing great at the end of the season but the facts are Allen had the exact same record in the last thirteen games of both championship years and the record was good but not great at 8-5.
Going 8-5 in the last thirteen games of this season should not be difficult for a team as talented as the Allen Americans but there are some obstacles in the way. Here are a few of them:
- Eight of the last thirteen games are at home which should be an advantage but Allen has not played well at home recently having lost six straight.
- Eleven of the last thirteen games are against teams fighting for a playoff spot (Wichita, Tulsa, Rapid City).
- The five remaining road games are against just two teams that have been playing well. Three in Wichita and two in Tulsa.
- One of two games remaining against teams not in the playoffs is with Missouri at home on March 27. That will be the playoffs for the Mavericks as it is the last chance to get a win against the Americans. Missouri is 0-8 against Allen this year.
- There is an expectation some players that are currently playing in the AHL will be assigned to Allen however it is uncertain when this might happen.
- The ECHL average for minor penalties per team for this season is 300. Allen has 400 minor penalties. With the team struggling to kill penalties this could be a problem.
– Even with having a losing record since the end of January, Allen is still in the thick of the battle for the best record in the ECHL. With 85 points Allen only trails Florida (86 points) and Idaho (97 points). And if you look at win percentage Allen is second (.720) to Florida (.729).
– It is often said a change of scenery can have a big impact on a player’s season. Sometimes it is not just a change of scenery but a change in who you are playing with that makes a big difference. Kale Kerbashian is a perfect example. In Evansville he played in 37 games and had 28 points (9 goals 19 assists) and was -17 but since being traded to Rapid City in just 19 games he has 26 points (7 goals 19 assists) and is a +15. And talk about being tough on your old team, Kale has played against Allen in five games and has eight points (3 goals 5 assists).
– Another recent example of the change of scenery success is forward Jack Downing who was traded by Missouri last week to the Cincinnati Cyclones. Jack had ten goals in 48 games with Missouri but has scored four goals in three games with Cincinnati. The Cyclones had a total of five goals in their last two games and Downing scored four of them.
– Gary Steffes is still on pace to score 50 goals this season. Since the end of January, Gary has scored goals in just eight games but in six of those eight games he had two goals.
– Spencer Asuchak did not play for Providence yesterday and has not played in a game since February 28. He was injured but according to coach Martinson has been cleared to play. Seems like with a young player like Spencer if he is not going to play regularly in Providence he would be better off back in Allen getting more ice time.