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ALLEN, TX – The old saying you have to beat the best to be the best is in play for the Allen Americans as they take on the Florida Everblades tonight and Saturday at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida. It was only one week ago the Americans completed a two-game sweep against the Colorado Eagles who were at the time the #1 ranked team in the ECHL. The Everblades have now assumed the mantle as the #1 team in the league in points (69) and winning percentage (.750).

– The challenge this weekend will be much greater than last weekend because the Americans will be playing on the road where they have a losing record (11-12-0-1).

– Florida’s home record is 14-4-0-2 and they have won five of their last six home games while outscoring their opponents 26-11. The Everblades only blemish in the last six games is a shootout loss to Greenville.

– Despite losing a heartbreaker to Atlanta on Tuesday, the Americans have been playing good hockey recently. As a reminder, on Tuesday Allen took the lead with 22 seconds remaining in the game only to give up the game-tying goal to the Gladiators with .4 seconds remaining and then went on to lose in a shootout. Even though they lost on Tuesday, the Americans did pick up one point. Allen’s current five game scoring streak (4-0-0-1) is the third-longest active streak in the league.

– Allen and Florida have played each other just one time since the Americans joined the ECHL and that was last season. That game took place in Florida on January 25th and the Americans made quick work of the Everblades on the way to a 3-2 victory. Three early first period goals by Dyson Stevenson (0:33), Spencer Asuchak (5:31) and Derek Mathers (6:12) gave Allen a 3-0 lead and the Everblades never recovered.

Here are some stats that compare Allen and Florida:

ALLEN FLORIDA
Team Record 24-18-4-1 (52 points) 32-9-1-4 (69 points)
Conference Ranking 5th – Western 1st – Eastern
Last Game 3-2 Loss (Atlanta) 3-1 Win (Orlando)
Goals For/Against 164/153 163/119
Power Play 18.9% (39/206) 18.3% (33/180)
Penalty Kill 80.4% (42/214) 86.1% (28/202)
Leading Scorer Pierro-Zabotel (13-39-52) MacAulay (20-22-42)
PIMs Leader Moore (135) Heard (107)

–  Here is how Allen and Florida rank in the ECHL in major statistical categories:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (21.77) – Florida 6th (18.17)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 8th (3.42) – Florida 6th (3.54)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 13th (3.19) – Florida 3rd (2.59)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 15th (32.25) – Florida 9th (33.00)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 24th (37.02) – Florida 2nd (27.28)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 9th (18.9%) – Florida 11th (18.3%)
Home Power Play %: Allen 6th (20.2%) – Florida 20th (16.0%)
Road Power Play %: Allen 13th (17.5%) – Florida 7th (20.0%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 22nd (80.4%) – Florida 4th (86.1%)
Home Penalty Kill %: Allen 8th (85.6%) – Florida 3rd (88.0%)
Road Penalty Kill %: Allen 27th (74.8%) – Florida 7th (84.5%)

– These teams are close in average goals scored with Florida having a small advantage (3.52 vs 3.42) but the Everblades have a big advantage in goals allowed (2.58 vs 3.19). You add these stats together and Allen has a +.23 goal differential while Florida is +.95. The difference may look small but over the course of a season, the difference (+.23 vs +.95) represents 52 goals.

– As always special teams will be important tonight. The stats show Allen is better on the power play and Florida is better on the penalty kill. The Americans road power play percentage is 17.5% compared to Florida’s 16.0% at home. There is a big discrepancy in penalty kill percentages with Allen ranked #27 on the road (74.8%) while Florida is ranked #3 at home (88.0%). Another thing for the Allen power play to be concerned about is defending against the shorthanded goal. Florida has a great penalty kill but also plays offense when killing penalties. The Everblades lead the ECHL with 12 shorthanded goals.

– You would have to assume both teams will go with their best goalies tonight. Statistically that is Martin Ouellette for Florida who was the Everblades representative on the ECHL All-Star team and has the fifth best GAA in the league (2.27). Jeremy Brodeur has the fifth best save percentage in the league (.924) and should get the start for Allen.

– If you plan on listening to the game on Mixlr or watching it on ECHL TV the start time is 6:30 pm CST. It is “Pink in the Rink Weekend ” and the Everblades will be wearing specialty jersey in both games against Allen.

– A good start is even more important than usual for Allen. Combined, Allen and Florida are 41-7-2-1 when scoring the first goal of the game. As mentioned yesterday the Everblades are undefeated at home with a lead. They are 8-0 when leading after the first period and 9-0 when leading after the second period. Last year when Allen won in Florida they scored three goals in the first six minutes of the game. They will need to be good early if they expect to win tonight.

– The referee scheduled for the game is Liam Sewell (#7) who was the referee in Atlanta on Tuesday. The linesmen are Billy Gubelman (#36) and Tyler Mackereth (#34).

OTHER COMMENTS

– There are 11 games around the ECHL tonight including Tulsa at Cincinnati, Wichita at Fort Wayne and Idaho at Colorado. The Idaho at Colorado game will be worth keeping an eye on. They will be playing their second of six straight games against each other. The first game on Wednesday had only 16 penalty minutes in a 4-2 Idaho win. I would bet the over on 16 penalty minutes in the game tonight.

– Former Allen goalie Joel Rumpel was traded by Wichita yesterday to Utah for forward Jon Puskar.

Here is the Utah take on the trade: https://utahgrizzlies.com/team-news/headline-news/?article_id=3462

Here is Wichita’s press release on the trade:  https://www.wichitathunder.com/news/press-release/thunder-adds-grit-in-puskar.html

– Here is a story from nhl.com that says in part, “The strategy we see in 3-on-3 overtimes runs counterintuitive to everything we see in the first 60 minutes of the game. The difference in how teams are strategizing and operating in overtime is becoming increasingly clear.” This is a good read about 3-on-3 overtime: https://www.nhl.com/news/overtime-approach-no-longer-run-and-gun/c-295721154?tid=292275938

DID YOU KNOW:  The Florida Everblades were founded in 1998 and have missed the playoffs only once in team history (2013-14). They have been to the Kelly Cup finals three times, winning in 2012 by defeating the Las Vegas Wranglers 4-1. The team is based in Estero which is near Fort Myers. The Everblades are affiliated with the Carolina Hurricanes (NHL) and Charlotte Checkers (AHL). Florida plays in Germain Arena which opened in 1998 and has a capacity for hockey of 7186.

“Swampee” is the name of the Florida Everblades mascot:

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