It has finally arrived as the 2015-16 ECHL hockey season gets underway with 22 teams including the Allen Americans in action tonight. Allen kicks off the season against the Quad City Mallards. It is the seventh home opener in the history of the Allen Americans and thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory and recap the six prior home openers.

2009-10: There was a lot of anticipation for the first home game in franchise history. Because the Allen Event Center (AEC) was still under construction the Americans played their first seven games on the road. They returned to the AEC for the home opener with a record of 5-2 and the season already three weeks old. Allen lost the game to Corpus Christi 4-1. Chad Costello had one of the goals for Corpus Christi and there was a brawl after the final buzzer which resulted in 72 total penalty minutes. One of those involved in the brawl from Corpus Christi was Ryan Garbutt who just two season later was playing in the NHL for the Dallas Stars.

2010-11: The home opener was the season opener and it was against the crosstown rivals, Texas Brahmas. Allen jumped off to a 3-0 first period lead and cruised to a 5-2 win. Erik Adams had a shorthanded empty net goal to cap off the scoring.

2011-12: Allen opened the season at home taking on the Tulsa Oilers and lost the game 4-1 and the game wasn’t even that close. The Americans scored with just over a minute left in the game to avoid the shutout. The star of the game for Tulsa was none other than Gary Steffes who had a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, an assist and a fight with Allen defenseman Scott Langdon.

2012-13: For the third straight year Allen opened the season at home and shutout the Arizona Sundogs 4-0. That was the year Scott Howes was with the Americans. Scott had two goals in the home opener which started his amazing run of 21 goals in 22 games which led to him getting promoted to the AHL. Steve Silverthorn was in goal for Allen and stopped 30 Arizona shots for the shutout.

2013-14: Allen lost their home opener to Wichita by a score of 4-3 in a shootout. It was ironic as Allen opened the season the night before in Wichita and won the game by an identical score, 4-3 in a shootout. Allen only had three goals in 12 shootout attempts over the two games and Kale Kerbashian had two of them.

2014-15: Allen opened the season at home and got trounced by Tulsa 9-6. Allen trailed 5-1 midway through the second period and tried to make a comeback, closing to with one goal at 6-5 before Tulsa pulled away again. Greger Hanson was the offensive star for the Americans with a hat trick.

– What do home openers tell you about a team? Not much as Allen is 2-4 in home openers and lost their last two home openers on the way to a championship. I guess the old saying about it is not how you start but how you finish rings true. It would be nice however, to win a game when there has been a championship banner raising ceremony. The team has a chance to do that tonight.

GAME PREVIEW:

– Allen takes on the Quad City Mallards tonight and these two teams have matched up well over the years. The coaches (Steve Martinson & Terry Ruskowski) have a lot of similarities as they were both hard nosed players, have a ton of coaching experiences (20 years each) and have been very successful. Martinson has nine championships in 19 years and that gets talked about all the time. Terry Ruskowski’s coaching resume includes trips to the CHL finals four years in a row (he won twice) when he coached the Laredo Bucks. Ruskowski’s teams have made the playoffs in 13 of the last 14 years. Ruskowski was just rewarded for the coaching job he has done in Quad City with a contract extension that was announced yesterday. It is about time the Allen Americans ownership does the same for Steve Martinson after winning three straight championships. C’MON MAN!

– For the record, last season Allen played Quad City twice at home and split the two games winning 5-2 and losing 2-1. They also played three times in Quad City and the Americans won two of the three games.

– It probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to look at the statistics from the five games these teams played against each other last year as the rosters are very different this year but here is the info if you are interested.

These are the totals from the five games:
Goals Scored: Allen (15) – Quad City (11)
Shots on Goal: Allen (144) – Quad City (150)
Power Play: Allen (3-20) – Quad City (4-24)
Penalty Minutes: Allen (89) – Quad City(90)

– With Quad City now part of the ECHL Midwest Division the game tonight will be the Mallards only visit to Allen during the regular season. Allen visits Quad City just once for a game on January 2nd.

– One big difference in these two teams from last year to this year is Allen returns the ECHL points leader from last year (Chad Costello) whose 125 points were 40 more than second place and the ECHL’s leading goal scorer (Gary Steffes) who had 44 goals in the regular season. Quad City will be looking to replace their top six scorers from last season who are not with the team this year. One of the key players Quad City was looking to for help on offense (Oliver Archambault) is currently called up the Iowa Wild (AHL).

– Allen has a lot of experienced players back and has added some new young talent with a much stronger rookie crop than last season. Add in some great young players assigned by San Jose (Doremus, Federico, Rumpel, Pinkston) and the Americans have the talent to make a run deep in the playoffs again this season.

– Look for Joel Rumpel to get the start in goal tonight.

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