ALLEN, TX – It has been so long I feel like I need to reintroduce myself, “Barry the Blogger” here. My wife/proofreader and I just returned from a month-long vacation in Africa visiting many safari camps in South Africa and Namibia.

If you have any interest in nature and wildlife, you must add a safari trip to Africa to your bucket list. I am not a photographer but took a few short videos with my iPhone when the mood struck me. Here is just a small sample of the sites and sounds.

In the first video, we were in the midst of a herd of 21 elephants as they were moving and eating. The second video was a pride of 11 lions doing what they do best as they sleep around 18 hours per day. The last video is a colony of fur seals at Cape Cross on the Skeleton Coast of Namibia (Atlantic Ocean). This colony has 250-300 thousand seals when all of the pups are born in November and December.

– Now it is time to start focusing on hockey; it is that time of year when preparations begin to quicken and activity increases. Coach Martinson has returned to Allen from his summer home in Illinois, the players that live in the DFW metroplex have started skating together, and fans are finalizing their choices for which home games to attend.

– There is so much to write about in the lead up to training camp you can expect numerous articles, starting with this one. For starters, a brief recap on a few players who won’t be back in Allen and an updated roster. I will have more detailed information in future pieces.

The past: A lot of familiar names will be missing when the Americans take the ice for their home opener against Orlando on October 21. It is possible the top six scorers from last season will be missing.

Chad Costello (122 points) is playing in Germany, Greger Hanson (76 points) signed with the San Diego Gulls (AHL), Spencer Asuchak (66 points) is playing in Slovakia, Bryan Moore (51 points) signed with the San Jose Barracuda, David Makowski (50 points) signed with the San Jose Barracuda and Gary Steffes (47 points) has retired.

It is possible Moore and/or Makowski could be assigned to Allen if they don’t make the Barracuda roster out of training camp but they both have a realistic shot at sticking in San Jose. These six players accounted for 54% of the Allen goals last season and 51% of the total points. This, despite these six players missing a total of 84 Allen games because of call ups, injuries and the fact Makowski was in Germany until early December and Moore wasn’t traded to Allen until the middle of November.

It will be difficult to replace that much offensive firepower especially if Moore and Makowski are in San Jose. And let’s be honest, there is no way to replace Chad Costello.

– Also missing will be fan favorites Dyson Stevenson, traded to Wichita, and all-time single-season penalty minutes leader (274) Derek Mathers who has retired.

The future: With Steve Martinson at the helm, you know the Americans will have another competitive team when training camp gets underway. When you win four straight championships and make it to the second round of the playoffs in your fifth year in Allen, there are a lot of players that want to be part of this team. Sixteen players have been signed and announced thus far and here is that list.

Goalie:
Riley Gill

Defense:
Joel Chouinard
Mike Gunn
Miles Liberati
Jaynen Rissling
Eric Roy
Dalton Thrower
Josh Thrower

Forwards:
Olivier Archambault
Marcus Basara
Tanner Eberle
Zach Hall
Jonathan Lessard
Kyle Neuber
Casey Pierro-Zabotel
Zach Pochiro

– Look for Martinson to add some additional scoring power to the list of forwards above. I know he is talking to some veteran players as well as some high-scoring younger guys.

Of the list above only Chouinard and Pierro-Zabotel are veterans (260 professional games) and the ECHL rule is four veterans on the roster so look for at least one and possibly two more veterans to be added.

– Coach Martinson may be considering right shot versus left shot as he fills out the roster. Just two of the seven defensemen (Thrower brothers) are right shot, and three of the eight forwards (Basara, Neuber & Pochiro) are right shot. In Canada most players are left shot (65%) while US born players are most often (65%) right shot. If you have never read about the entire issue of left vs. right shot, here is a fascinating story that covers the issue in-depth. Very interesting: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/hockey/righty-lefty-don-shooting-nhl-puck-article-1.2655568

Joel Chouinard was recently named the captain of the team for the upcoming season. No matter who you talk to they will tell you this is an excellent choice. Joel is experienced with over 200 AHL games to his credit and has been a leader on and off the ice since he arrived in Allen last season.

– Allen’s home opener (October 21) will be against the Orlando Solar Bears. As mentioned above a lot of players from last season will not be on the Allen roster this year. Two Allen players from last season that should be playing for Orlando that night are former Americans, Chris Crane, and Tristan King. Also, former Allen forward John Snowden is in his third season as assistant coach of the Solar Bears.

DID YOU KNOW: Former Americans forward Kale Kerbashian took a little vacation to Australia this summer as he was brought in by the Newcastle Northstars of the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) for a few games. The AIHL is not a very strong league and getting a player of Kale’s caliber is something special. Kale played ten games for Newcastle and averaged a smooth 2.50 points per game. That’s right, in 10 games Kale had 25 points (7G, 18A). According to eliteprospects.com, Kale has not been signed for the upcoming season. He is a veteran for the first time (281 pro games) and with each ECHL team allowed just four vets it can take a little longer to find a job.

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