ALLEN, Texas – The first practice of the 2018-19 season for the Allen Americans is in the books and as is typical for the Americans optimism abounds. When you have made the playoffs all six seasons Steve Martinson has been in charge and won four championships it is not so much optimism but an expectation the team will be a good team. It is just part of the culture if you play in Allen.
– The team practiced for an hour late Sunday afternoon with three lines, seven defensemen and two goalies. It was nothing too strenuous as coach Martinson typically takes it slow during training camp in how much pure skating he incorporates into his practices. If there was one area of emphasis in the first practice it would be the drills focusing on backchecking. I asked Martinson about this after practice and he confirmed he will focus on backchecking at all practices during training camp.
– If you aren’t familiar with exactly what backchecking entails, simply put it refers to players hustling back to the defensive zone when the opponent starts their attack. If you are interested in a better understanding of backchecking here is an article written by former NHL player Chris Drury which provides five tips to being a successful backchecker. At the end of the article Drury makes the point backchecking is all about heart and hustle. http://usahockeymagazine.com/article/2009-12/backchecking-can-be-backbone-your-team%E2%80%99s-success
– When I asked Martinson and assistant coach Jason Deitsch their overall impression after the first practice they were both pleased. They saw a lot of speed and skill but were quick to point out when you have drills which are basically no contact, players may stand out more than when they encounter contact.
– I couldn’t help but think while watching what was a full squad on the ice there will be at least 10 more players added to the mix over the next few days. Allen players will return from AHL camp, Iowa will assign players to Allen and additional players could get signed. The competition for roster spots has only just begun.
– If you track ECHL transactions you may have noticed Steve Martinson claimed forward Daniel Moynihan off waivers yesterday from the Fort Wayne Komets. According to reports Moynihan was released by Fort Wayne because he has an undisclosed medical condition. Moynihan is a good player and claiming him poses no risk or cost to Allen. While it is unlikely he will play this season if his condition changes the Americans will own his rights. The only downside and it is a small one is after using this waiver claim Allen now goes to the bottom of the waiver claim list. With the abundance of talent Martinson has in training camp there is no way he will be claiming players off waivers any time soon.
– Defenseman Ben Owen, the local Allen product who is on a tryout contract with the Americans, fit in quite well from what I observed during practice. I had a chance to meet his parents and talk to them about Ben’s background. After growing up in hockey crazed Minnesota (Rochester) where one of his youth coaches was former NHL player Doug Smolek (a Rochester native) who was the first round draft choice (#7 overall) of the Minnesota North Stars in 1989. Smolek went on to play almost 500 games in the NHL. The Owen family moved from Minnesota to Vermont and then 10 years ago to Allen. One of Ben’s coaches in Allen was Jason Deitsch, the Americans assistant coach. Ben and his sister have taught classes at the Allen community rink. After finishing his collegiate career Ben is trying to break into professional hockey. He has a lot of local friends and family pulling for him. It is a great story and even if he doesn’t make the team, which is a long shot for a tryout player, he has a contract with Evansville in the SPHL. If he makes a good impression at training camp he could get a call up from Evansville if he plays well there and the Americans end up short defensemen during the season because of call ups, injuries or suspensions.
– The suspense on where Matt Foget was traded was answered yesterday when the Florida Everblades issued a press release that stated they have acquired him from Allen. The reason Allen never issued a press release regarding this trade is because it wasn’t for a player but for other considerations. Here is the press release. http://www.floridaeverblades.com/2018/09/everblades-acquire-mathieu-foget-in-trade-with-allen-americans
– A few former Allen Americans have gotten off to great starts in Europe:
Alex Guptill – Alex has played nine games and has 13 points (7G, 6A). His Nottingham Panthers team is in first place in an 11 team league.
Chad Costello – Chad has played in six games and has seven points (2G, 5A). His Krefeld Pinguine team is tied for third place in a 14 team league.
Colton Yellow Horn – Colton has played in six games and has six points (3G, 3A). His Graz 99ers team is in fourth place in a 12 team league.
Alex Lavoie – Alex has played in five games and has five points (2G, 3A). His HC Insbruck team is tied for ninth place in a 12 team league.
DID YOU KNOW: Alex Lavoie only played one season in Allen and it was his rookie season, 2013-14. It was the best rookie season in the history of the Americans. Here are a few of his milestones:
– Led the team in points with 76 which was 19 more than second place
– Led the team in assists with 57 which was 16 more than second place
– Finished second on the team in goals with 25
– Was selected as the CHL Rookie of the Year
– Only Chad Costello and Colton Yellow Horn have had more assists in a season than Alex’s 57
– Alex was a big part of Allen’s 2014 CHL championship season
– On his 21st birthday, he got his first AHL call up to the Oklahoma City Barons