ALLEN, TX – The Allen Americans start one of those brutal three games in three days tonight as they take on the Indy Fuel at the Allen Event Center. Allen then plays Rapid City on Saturday and Sunday. Three games in three days sounds bad enough, but with the 4:05 pm start on Sunday it will actually be three games in less than 48 hours.
The good thing is that the Americans spend the entire weekend at home while their opponent (Rapid City) also plays three in three but has some travel thrown in for good measure. The Rush played in Wichita on Wednesday, play in Tulsa tonight and then have to travel to Allen for the games on Saturday and Sunday. It may very well come down to the survival of the fittest.
– It is important to take one game at a time and the game at hand is tonight against the Indy Fuel. it will be the fifth of six games against Indy this season. They will play a final time in Indy on March 12.
– Allen has swept the first four meetings with Indy but it hasn’t been easy considering Allen is a first place team and Indy is a last place team. The combined stats for the first four games show Allen with a 4-0 record. The Americans have scored first in all four games, outscored Indy 21-14 but the shots on goal are almost even at 133-132. Allen is 3-9 (33.3%) on the power play while the Fuel are 3-14 (21.4%) on the power play. There have not been a lot of penalties called in the first four games averaging less than 10 penalties and 25 minutes per game.
– Allen has continued to win but has not played as well over the last six weeks as they did in December and the big difference is on defense. The average goals allowed over the 14 games in December was 2.07. That included four shutouts and three games where Allen allowed only one goal.
Since the beginning of January (18 games) Allen has given up an average of 3.56 goals per game and allowed three or more goals in 14 of the 18 games. There were no shutouts and the Americans held their opponent to one goal just once. Coach Steve Martinson always talks about the importance of winning games rather than scoring points and the players have to buy into that concept. There will definitely be an emphasis on defensive in the pregame talk tonight.
– There is little doubt Allen is a better team than Indy as indicated by their records. Allen’s record is 33-16-2-2 while Indy has a record of 14-32-2-2. If you look at the updated stats below Allen is better in each and every category. All the Americans need to do tonight to win is play their game, be aggressive but don’t cheat. A dedication to defense will go a long way to an Allen victory. If the Americans want to make another deep run in the playoffs they need to play better against last place teams like Indy and Rapid City.
– Here is how Allen and Indy rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:
Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (20.75) – Indy 22nd (11.86)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 2nd (3.99) – Indy 26th (2.52)
Goals Allowed per Game: Allen 6th (3.00) – Indy 25th (3.92)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 15th (31.87) – Indy 23rd (29.76)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 22nd (34.62) – Indy 27th (36.28)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 7th (21.9%) – Indy 22nd (14.1%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 13th (83.4%) – Indy 15th (82.1%)
– Just a reminder of the importance of scoring first and not getting behind in the game. Allen is 25-2-1-1 when scoring first. For Indy, 11 of their 14 wins this season have come when they scored the first goal of the game. Allen is 11-0-0-0 when tied after the first period and 19-2-1-1 when leading after the first period. When trailing after the first period Allen is 3-14-1-1 and Indy is 2-21-0-1. You could almost go home after the first period and be guaranteed of the outcome.
– If you are looking for who will create the offense tonight it is the usual suspects. In the four previous games against Indy, Chad Costello has 11 points (3 goals 8 assists), Spencer Asuchak has six points (4 goals 2 assists) and Greger Hanson has six points (2 goals 4 assists). The line of Bryan Moore, Zach Hall, and Gary Steffes was reunited after the Hall injury and they could have a big night tonight. Moore has six points and Hall five points in the three games they have played against the Fuel.
– Officials scheduled for the game are referee Kenny Anderson (#16) and linesmen Lucas Bisbee (#72) and Brian Bull (#95).
– Florida is one of the few teams that is idle tonight as 24 of the 27 ECHL teams will be in action. With Florida not playing Allen can be assured of being the #1 team in the ECHL in points if they can beat Indy. With a win, Allen will have 72 points and pass Florida who has 71 points.
– There are some interesting Mountain Division matchups this weekend that will impact the standings. Colorado is in Alaska for three games and Idaho plays three games in Utah. Here are the current Mountain Division standings:
70 points – Allen
68 points – Colorado
59 points – Idaho
57 points – Alaska
54 points – Utah
53 points – Missouri
40 points – Rapid City
– If you track social media you may have seen some stories about one of the owners of the Allen Americans being the subject of a federal inquiry into high stakes poker and his efforts to open a casino in Kansas. I am not going to post the stories because this is just an inquiry at this time and nobody has been indicted. If you are interested the local paper (Wichita Eagle – kansas.com) has been covering this story in-depth. What I will say is something I have said many times in the past and that is the current owners need to sell the Allen Americans to an ownership group that cares about the franchise, the coach, the players, the employees, the fans and the community. That is not the case today.
DID YOU KNOW: I was asked at the game on Wednesday about the Americans plus/minus statistic. This is another stat that got turned around with the great month of December. At the beginning of December, Allen had a team plus/minus of -27 which was one of the poorer numbers in the league but had just two minus games (-1 & -3) and 12 plus games including a +29 and +24. For the entire month (14 games) the Americans plus/minus total was an astounding +161.
Here are the current top five ECHL teams in plus/minus:
+208 – Florida
+184 – Allen
+177 – Reading
+132 – Fort Wayne
+129 – Toledo