ALLEN, Texas – It took quite a wait between victories at the Allen Event Center (AEC) for the Allen Americans. To be exact, 238 days and one minute after the Americans beat Idaho 5-4 in overtime on April 6, 2018, they got the monkey off their back with a 4-1 win over the Wichita Thunder last night.
– It has been a long time since there has been so many smiles and high fives at a home game. It was an entertaining game that was much closer than the final score. The game didn’t start well for the Americans as they dominated the first period by outshooting Wichita 17-9 with many grade-A scoring chances but finished the period trailing 1-0. Allen’s record prior to last night when giving up the first goal was 0-11-0-1 and it looked like they would be snakebit once again.
– What happened last night was Allen put together three good periods, outshot Wichita 39-30, won the special teams battle by going 1-4 on the power play while killing all four Thunder power play opportunities, minimized turnovers and played solid defense. When the defense did break down rookie goalie, Kyle Hayton, playing in his second game with Allen and third as a pro, came up big. Hayton stopped 29 of 30 Wichita shots for a save percentage of .967.
– Goal scorers for Allen were Adam Miller (3), Alex Breton (4) Greg Chase (2) and Zach Pochiro (8).
– The easiest way to describe what Allen needs to do to win tonight is more of the same. The game last night might have been the most complete game the team has played all season. Good at both ends of the ice, good on special teams and outstanding goaltending.
– One improvement for tonight would be for the Americans to score the first goal of the game. They have managed to do that in only eight of their 21 games.
– Martinson did share that he will get forward Mitch Maloney, who was a healthy scratch last night, in the lineup tonight. Otherwise, the lineup should remain the same.
– Everyone was expecting plenty of fisticuffs last night and the teams had the fewest combined penalty minutes (24) of any of the five games they have played this season. It looked like Jake Doty was asking for a dance partner from Wichita but had no takers. Things may change tonight.
– The referee scheduled tonight is Stan Szczurek (#15). The linesmen will be Micheal Miggans (#47) and Aaron Schacht (#31). This is the same crew that worked the game last night.
– The Mountain Division has three of the top five teams in the ECHL in winning percentage. Tulsa and Utah are tied for second (.789) and Kansas City is fifth (.676). Allen is still firmly entrenched in last place with a winning percentage of .286 looking up at the two teams directly ahead of them (Atlanta & Kalamazoo) who are tied at .382.
– To give you an idea of how difficult it will be to dig out of the hole Allen has created for themselves, they will have to have a record of 30-21 the rest of the season just to get to .500. There has been just one team of the 64 that have made the playoffs in the last four years with a winning percentage of .500 or below.
– Joe Ernst, Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations for the ECHL was at the game last night and I took the opportunity to ask him about the video replay test that is taking place in four arenas this season (Kalamazoo, Toledo, Worcester, Idaho). Joe told me the test is going well, it has been used several times and the feedback from coaches and on-ice officials has been positive. He wishes it could be used everywhere and it looks like the league will be moving in that direction though no decision has been made at this point.
– I asked Ernst if he has seen any trends in penalties this season and he said:
“A trend I have seen recently that I don’t like is aggressor game misconduct penalties where it is a one-man fight or a player punches a guy that is a non-willing combatant. We are trying to eliminate those because it causes injuries.”
– There is a full slate of games (13) in the ECHL tonight with all Mountain Division teams in action. In addition to Wichita at Allen, Tulsa is at Kansas City, Utah visits Rapid City and Idaho takes on Jacksonville at home.
Did You Know?
If you are in the camp that believes Allen plays Tulsa and Wichita too many times this season keep in mind the ECHL plays unbalanced schedules with a disproportionate number of games with teams that are geographically close as a cost savings effort. The Americans play Tulsa 13 times and Wichita 14 times this season which amounts to 38% of the schedule with these two teams. However, that is an improvement from a few years ago (2014-15) when close to half (46%) of the games on Allen’s schedule were with Tulsa (16 games) and Wichita (17 games).