ALLEN, Texas – It is game day for the Allen Americans as they try to extend their four-game winning streak. The Americans are in Idaho to take on the Steelheads in game two of their three-game series. Puck drop is 8:10 CST.
– It will be a tough task for the Americans since Idaho has not lost back to back games since mid-November. Prior to the loss to Allen on Wednesday, the Steelheads had lost only two home games in the last two months and over that period had a home record of 13-2.
– The Americans are a good road team. Eight of Allen’s 13 wins this season have come on the road and they have won four of their last five road games.
– The keys to victory tonight match how Allen has been playing recently which is much different than how they were playing earlier in the season. Those keys include:
Scoring first – Allen has scored first in three of the last four games, prior to that Allen had scored first in only 10 of their first 38 games. The team scoring first has won 73.8% of the time this season (ECHL stats).
Shots – The shots on Wednesday were tied 30-30 and over the last four games, Allen has outshot their opponents by an average of 33-31. That compares to the first 38 games of the season when Allen was outshot 37-31 per game.
Penalties – Over the last four games, Allen has taken 26 penalties for 72 minutes while their opponents have taken 32 penalties for 112 minutes. In their first 38 games, Allen had taken 783 penalty minutes while their opponents had taken 585 penalties minutes. If Allen can continue to stay out of the penalty box relative to their opponent it will be a big help.
Power play – Allen’s power play has been the single biggest factor in their four game winning streak. They have had more power play opportunities (20-13) than their opponents and have converted on nine of their 20 power plays for an off the chart 45% power play percentage. In the last four games, the Americans have raised their season power play percentage from 15.9% to 19.2% which is ranked eighth in the ECHL.
Penalty Kill – Allen’s penalty kill over the last four games is 100% (0-13). As important as the 100% is, just as important is how low the number of power play opportunities Allen is giving up during this winning streak. It averages 3.25 per game. In their first 38 games, Allen gave up an average of 5.15 power plays per game.
Goalie play – C.J. Motte’s save percentage over his last 14 games is .921. In the other 28 games, this season the Americans three goalies (Motte, Hayton, Brodeur) have a combined save percentage of just .895.
– It is easier said than done but if Allen can get off to a good start, match Idaho in shots, take fewer penalties than the Steelheads, win the special teams battle and get solid goaltending they will win the game tonight. The Americans have accomplished most of these keys in every game during their four game winning streak so there is no reason to believe Allen can’t do again tonight but it won’t be easy against one of the best teams in the ECHL.
Getting to Know You…
All three players Steve Martinson acquired for trading the rights to Olivier Archambault to Orlando will be in the lineup tonight. Archambault, by the way, played one game for Orlando (January 5th) and was injured and is now on injured reserve.
Here is a little more detail about Allen’s three new players:
Curt Gogol has played four games with the Americans so his arrival has coincided with Allen’s four-game winning streak. In his four games, Gogol has three assists and two fights. He is in his eighth professional season with 179 AHL and 131 ECHL games played so he is a veteran.
Curt is 27 years old, 6’1″ and 190 pounds. He is a left shot who can play both forward and defense.
Gogol was a member of the Kelowna Rockets that won the Western Hockey League (WHL) championship in 2008-09. His teammates on that WHL championship team included Jamie Benn, who had 46 goals in 56 games, and two former Allen Americans, Ryley Grantham and goalie Mark Guggenberger. Curt was second on the team in penalty minutes (144). In his hockey career, Curt has 145 fights and some of his combatants include some familiar names to Allen fans, Mike Berube, Brett Lyon, Ian Schultz, Jessey Astles, Reid Halabi and Jake Marchment.
Curt comes by his style of play from his dad, Brent, who also played pro hockey. His dad set the WHL record for most penalty minutes in a season in 1977-78 when he had 511 penalty minutes. If you have watched Curt you have noticed he plays with high energy on the ice, something he attributes to the fact that he has never gotten first line minutes in his career.
Etienne Boutet is a 6’1″ 215 pound, 26-year-old, left-shot defenseman playing in his second pro season. He played five years in the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) and had 113 points (28G, 85A) in 289 games.
He turned pro in 2013-14 with the Idaho Steelheads. Etienne did what many young hockey players do that play major junior in Canada. He played 25 games with Idaho and decided at the end of December to use the college scholarship he earned playing junior hockey and left for McGill University. He played for four seasons at McGill including one season with his brother, Jasmin, who was a freshman when Etienne was a senior.
Boutet went to NHL camps with the Dallas Stars in 2010 and Philadelphia Flyers in 2011. He was an alternate captain on his college team and graduated with a degree in economics. Last season Boutet played for the Wichita Thunder where he had 14 points (3G, 11A) and 57 penalty minutes in 68 games. He describes himself as a two-way player that will jump into the play but is a defense-first player. He will be more of a defensive defenseman for the Americans.
Emerson Clark is a 5’10” 181 pound, 26-year-old, left-shot forward who was born in the same town (LeGardeur, Quebec) as Olivier Archambault. Clark is under contract with the Marlies and has split the last four seasons between the AHL and ECHL. Allen fans may remember last season, Clark started the season in Jacksonville and had 22 points (8G, 14A) and 113 penalty minutes 19 games. In early December, he was signed by the San Jose Barracuda and spent the remainder of the season in the AHL. Clark is skilled, physical and not afraid to drop the gloves.
He is in his sixth pro season and has played in 95 AHL games with 29 points (14G, 15A) and 206 penalty minutes. He has played in 216 ECHL games an accumulated 122 points (62G, 60A) and 878 penalty minutes. He is a player that will add skill, toughness and leadership to the roster.
With the addition of Gogol, Boutet and Clark he has added three players that will make the Americans very hard to play against. Allen has added experience (274 AHL games played), toughness (342 fights) and skill (133G, 147A) to the lineup.
– Allen now has six veterans on the roster: Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Joel Chouinard, Spencer Asuchak, Thomas Frazee, Gogol, and Clark. The ECHL limit is four vets but that doesn’t count players on injured reserve. Pierro-Zabotel and Frazee are on injured reserve so the vet spot are not a problem now, however, that could be an issue later in the season.
– It will be an exciting night for the Mountain Division tonight with all seven teams in action. It is starting to be crunch time in the battle for the playoffs. The games on tap tonight are Kansas City at Wichita, Florida at Rapid City, Allen at Idaho, and Tulsa at Utah. The same teams play again tomorrow (Saturday) night with the only change being Kansas City vs Wichita game switches to Kansas City. Lots of points at stake this weekend.
Did You Know?
Zach Pochiro is averaging .63 goals per game (23 goals in 37 games) this season which is sixth best in the ECHL. Zach’s average stacks up pretty well with other players that played the majority of the season in Allen. These are ECHL only stats:
.70 – Gary Steffes 2014-15
.63 – Zach Pochiro 2018-19 (after 42 games)
.61 – Bryan Moore 2016-17
.60 – Greger Hanson 2016-17
.57 – Chad Costello 2014-15