ALLEN, Texas – The longest wait in franchise history between hockey games for Allen Americans fans has finally come to an end with the opening of the 32nd ECHL season. It has been 188 days since the Allen Americans have played a game. Compare that to 2015 when Allen won the Kelly Cup and played their next game just 124 days later.
There is nothing like the opening day when all 26 ECHL teams are undefeated, everyone feels they have a playoff team and optimism runs rampant. The optimism won’t last long for many teams. History tells us 75% of all playoff teams will be decided by Thanksgiving, just 45 days from now.
For Allen fans, expectations are high after last season when the Americans had the worst record in the ECHL. Everyone is anticipating coach Steve Martinson has put together a team that will lead the Americans to a deep playoff run.
Looking at the opening day roster it is clear Martinson has taken a little different approach than last season. The roster is still built on the Martinson philosophy of having a team that is big, skilled, fast, tough, offensive minded and will finish their checks. He has signed several players that are clearly AHL ready. Shawn O’Donnell and Brett Pollock spent all of last season in the AHL. Gabe Gagne was in the AHL for all but five games with Newfoundland. The risk with these players is if they get off to a good start they will most likely be back in the AHL. Being AHL free agents, any AHL team could sign them to a tryout contract (PTO).
The other change this season will be the number of players sent to Allen by their affiliate. Six Wild players have already been sent to Allen but that number will grow as the season progresses. Here is the current list:
|Olivier Archambault||Alex Breton||Dereck Baribeau|
|Tyler Sheehy||Stepan Falkovsky|
The opening day roster is made up of two goalies, seven defensemen and 13 forwards. 14 players are from Canada, seven from the US and one from Belarus. According to the Elite Prospects website Allen is the second tallest team in the league averaging 6’2″ and second heaviest team averaging 197 pounds. The Americans are the 11th youngest team in the ECHL with an average age of 24.55.
15 of the 22 players on the roster have AHL experience. The total AHL games played is 1060. Only four ECHL teams have over 1000 games of AHL experience on their roster.
With all of the experience on the roster, there are plenty of first and second year players as well. There are seven rookies on the roster (less than 25 regular season pro games). Josh Lammon, Jack Sadek, Tyler Sheehy, Les Lancaster, Ben Owen, Regan Nagy, Dereck Baribeau. Three of the rookies (Lancaster, Nagy, Baribeau) have yet to play their first pro game.
The goalie formula is a familiar one for Allen. Jake Paterson is an experienced goalie with a career ECHL record over five seasons of 75-45-5-2 with a GAA of 2.68 and a save percentage of .913. Allen’s second goalie is rookie Dereck Baribeau who is on a three year NHL deal with the Minnesota Wild. Dereck is the depth goalie for the Wild and will be recalled if a goalie in Iowa or Minnesota is injured. Which goalie will emerge as the top goalie remains to be seen. How this plays out will have a lot to say about Allen’s success this season. There have been seasons when the rookie goalie beats out a playoff MVP goalie to lead Allen to a championship (Aaron Dell). There have been seasons the experienced goalie was better than the rookie contract goalie and led Allen to championships (Riley Gill). Allen fans can only hope one of these scenarios plays out in 2019-20.
If you ask the questions where does Allen need to improve this season the answer is everywhere. Allen led the ECHL in penalty minutes, minor penalties, 10 minute misconduct penalties, game misconduct penalties, and match penalties. The Americans gave up 366 power play opportunities and had only 294. Allen will always be a high minute penalty team but to be successful this season they will need more discipline.
In Allen’s championship years their power play was above 21% and their penalty kill above 86%. Last season the power play was 16.7% and the penalty kill was 81.7%. Special teams will have to be better this season.
The Americans have always been known as an offensive team and that is part of the reason players sign in Allen. However, the Americans struggled at both ends of the ice last season. They finished #22 in goals scored per game (2.89), #26 in goals allowed, #19 in shots per game (30.88) and #26 in shots allowed per game (36.11).
In summary, Allen can only go up from where last season ended. The roster Steve Martinson has put together is as deep in talent as you could hope for. The unknowns will be injuries that decimated the Americans last season and will Allen lose a bunch of their top end players to the AHL.
Managing all this talent will be tough but a good problem to have for Steve Martinson. You could argue he has three first lines all looking for ice time and remember there are still three Allen players in the AHL (Josh Atkinson, Matt Register, Jake Doty).
There are a lot of leaders on this team and Steve Martinson always says the team needs to play for themselves, not the coaches or the fans. If the locker room comes together as a group this team will go a long way. Because there are a lot of potential captains on the roster, Martinson has decided he will not name a captain for a few weeks and will go with just “A’s” for the near future.
Steve Martinson will reach another milestone this season. He is one of just three pro coaches with 1000 wins. Martinson’s total is 1003 and he needs 25 wins to pass John Brophy for second place all-time. He can then set his sights on #1 Scotty Bowman who has 1244 wins. I can assure you, Martinson, does not have this on his mind, will never bring it up and would prefer nobody else does either.
ALLEN VS RAPID CITY GAME PREVIEW
Rapid City is a great opponent for opening night because of the history between these teams. Allen made it to the CHL finals in their inaugural season (2009-10) only to lose the championship in six games to the Rush. Rapid City coach Daniel Tetrault won his only professional championship as a member of the Allen Americans 2013-14 championship team.
Since both teams missed the playoffs last season they want to get off to a good start this season. Since joining the ECHL, Allen has a record of 26-9-1-0 against Rapid City including 13-5-1-0 at home.
Allen has more depth and experience than Rapid City. The Americans roster has 1060 AHL games played compared to 153 for the Rush. Three Allen players, Mike Hedden (210), Shawn O’Donnell (188) and Gabe Gagne (154) have more games played in the AHL than the entire Rapid City Rush roster.
It there is one thing that distinguishes a Daniel Tetrault coached team it is how hard they work. They always seem to over perform.
Coach Martinson will be making some roster changes today. Mike Hedden and Shawn O’Donnell are on reserve and I assume one or both will play tonight. Jared VanWormer just arrived in Allen and wasn’t at any training camp so there is a question if he is ready.
DID YOU KNOW: When you consider how good the Allen Americans have been since their inception the home opener record is a mediocre 4-6. No matter when you started following the Americans these home opener games from the last 10 years will bring back some memories good and bad.
2009-10 – Allen started on the road the first season because the Allen Event Center was not completed. The Americans played their first seven games in franchise history on the road. They returned to Allen after those first seven games 5-1-0-1. The home opener was memorable even though the Americans laid an egg, losing to Corpus Christi by a score of 4-1. Two of the goal scorers for Corpus were Chad Costello and future NHLer Ryan Garbutt. That game is mostly remembered for a melee that broke out after the game was over that ended up with 72 penalty minutes being called. A crowd of 5808 witnessed the first home game in team history.
2010-11 – Allen opened at home against Texas, scored three goals (Alexandre Quesnel, Dustin Donaghy, Judd Blackwater) in the first four minutes of the game and coasted to a 5-2 win. Similar to the year before there was 66 minutes worth of penalties called at the 18:29 mark of the third period including four fighting majors and four game misconducts. Allen got the last laugh as Erik Adams scored an unassisted, shorthanded, empty net goal with under a minute remaining to seal the victory for the Americans.
2011-12 – Allen’s home opener was against Tulsa and the Americans got beat 4-1. Jim McKenzie scored the Americans only goal with just over a minute left in the game. Most notable in that game was a Gordie Howe hat trick by Tulsa’s Gary Steffes who had a goal, an assist and a fight with Allen’s Scott Langdon.
2012-13 – Allen’s home opener was against Arizona and they shut out Sundogs 4-0. Scott Howes had two goals in the game. The other goal scorers were Adam Pineault and Darryl Bootland. Steve Silverthorn was in goal and the backup was a rookie by the name of Aaron Dell. Dell would play sparingly the first few weeks of the season but eventually, take over the starting role and lead the Americans to their first championship.
2013-14 -The home opener was an exciting game but the Americans lost to Wichita 4-3 in a shootout. Ironically the two teams had played the season opener the night before in Wichita and Allen had won by an identical score of 4-3 in a shootout. The home opener was a Sunday afternoon game and Allen took a 2-0 lead into the third period only to allow the Thunder to score three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead. Tyler Ludwig got the equalizer with less than three minutes remaining n the game. The game would go to a shootout and Allen could manage just one goal (Kale Kerbashain) in seven rounds before Wichita got the game winner.
2014-15 – The worst home opener ever for Allen as they got beat by Tulsa 9-6. Greger Hanson was the lone bright spot for Allen with a whopping 11 shots on goal, four points, and a hat trick. Aaron Dell was in goal for the Americans and gave up seven of the nine goals. It was Dell’s only regulation loss in the 12 games he played for Allen that season. By the end of January, he was in the AHL on his way to the NHL.
2015-16 – Another home opener loss as the Quad City Mallards came to the Allen Event Center and beat the Americans 2-1. Allen’s lone goal was scored by Garrett Clarke with assists going to Justin Courtnall and goalie Joel Rumpel. You didn’t see those three in the boxscore very often let alone on the same play.
2016-17 – It was a home opener win as Allen beat Missouri 6-3. Kale Kerbashain had two goals and Riley Gill was peppered with 47 shots.
2017-18 – After two big wins on the road in Rapid City the Americans opened at home against Orlando and beat the Solar Bears 6-2. Zach Pochiro had two goals, David Makowski and Casey Pierro-Zabotel each had three points (1G 2A). This game will always be remembered as the game with less than seven minutes remaining goalie Riley Gill was injured and would be out for the season.
2018-19 – The Wichita Thunder was the home opener opponent and they spanked the Americans 4-1 in a memorable game. The outcome was decided early as former Allen player Dyson Stevenson scored two first period goals and the Thunder never looked back. Alex Breton scored Allen’s lone goal. The teams combined for 112 penalty minutes including 10 fighting majors.