ALLEN, TX – It was a perfect start for the Americans last night against Rapid City at the Allen Event Center.
The Americans were wearing some great looking dinosaur themed specialty jerseys, they had a great crowd in the house (5460), they came out with great energy and they scored the first goal of the game for only the fifth time all season. They were undefeated when scoring first. They had an early power play opportunity with a chance to extend the lead but instead, a turnover at the point led to a shorthanded goal by the Rush and a big swing in momentum. Rapid City scored two goals in the first period despite being outshot 11-8 and the Americans were unable to even the score the rest of the game. The Americans got within one goal (3-2) midway through the second period on a goal by Aaron Gens (2) but gave up a costly goal to Rapid City with just 43 seconds left in the period. The final score was 6-3 in favor of the Rush. Allen ended up winless at home during the month of November (0-3) and are 3-7 in their last ten games.
– There were some bright spots for the Americans despite the disappointing loss. They outshot Rapid City in all three periods and 36-21 for the game. The third line for Allen made up of Derek Mathers, Tanner Eberle, and Jake Marchment caused problems for the Rush whenever they were on the ice. Mathers and Marchment each had a goal and Eberle was on the ice for all three of Allen’s goals. Joel Chouinard quietly goes about his business and has been the best defenseman on the team. He was a +2 in the game last night and is now a +12 on the season which ranks him fifth in the league in plus/minus. That is an amazing stat for a team that has a record of 6-9.
– One of the keys to the game was controlling Rapid City’s two big scoring threats, Lindsay Sparks and Ryan Walters. Coach Steve Martinson tried many different combinations to stop them to no avail. Sparks had two goals and were Deron the ice for all six Rapid goals. Walters had one goal and was on the ice for five of the six Rush goals. When you play a team that has one line that does all of the scoring, the game typically turns on whether you can control the top line.
– Allen heads to Tulsa today for a Sunday afternoon game (4:05 pm) as they start the longest stretch of away games all season with the next six games on the road. The team will return to Allen after the game today and leave tomorrow (Monday) for a game in Utah on Wednesday. They will be traveling close to 7500 miles over the next six games which is about 125 hours on Big Red if all goes without a hitch, which is doubtful.
– Just how bad has this become for the Americans? They are now dead last in the Western Conference in winning percentage (.400). Missouri has 11 points, one less than Allen but they have played two fewer games than the Americans. This team has way too much talent to be performing as they are. The mantra you keep hearing is the players need to play for themselves, stop making excuses, and the core group of returning players need to lead the way.
– Of all the disappointments this season the special teams play is at the top of the list. Most of the special teams are the same guys that had the best record in the league last season. Last season there were eight players with double-digit power play points led by Chad Costello with 40. Six of the eight are back this season with only David Makowski (15 points) and Casey Pierro-Zabotel (14 points) missing. Makowski was great on the point and Zabotel was excellent on faceoffs and going to the net but does that account for a power play that has gone from #1 last season at 21.1% to #25 this season at 8.2%? The same could be said for the penalty kill where most of the unit returned this season but the penalty kill percentage has declined from #3 (86.4%) last season to #22 (80.3%) this season.
– Here are the special teams categories in which the Americans ranks toward the bottom of the 27 team ECHL.
25th – overall power play
23rd – home power play
23rd – road power play
22nd – overall penalty kill
25th – road penalty kill
27th – shorthanded goals allowed
– What a difference a year makes. Last season Allen and Missouri were the top two in the Western Conference standings, this season they are the bottom two.
There was another jersey auction last night. Here are some pictures and the results.
$700 – Dyson Stevenson
$700 – Gary Steffes
$650 – Spencer Asuchak
$600 – Riley Gill
$600 – Eric Roy
$550 – Chad Costello
$550 – Aaron Gens
$550 – Greger Hanson
$550 – Tanner Eberle
$550 – Mike Gunn
$550 – Derek Mathers
$550 – Matt Willows
$550 – Alex Guptill
$500 – Joel Chouinard
$500 – Kale Kerbashain
$500 – Jake Marchment
$500 – Rick Pinkston
$450 – Chris Brown
$450 – Kyle Neuber
$450 – Mike Brodzinski
$450 – Jamie Murray
$450 – Tristan King
$400 – Harrison Ruopp
$400 – Chris Crane
$350 – Peter Di Salvo
– Want to thank Tommy Daniels, voice of the Allen Americans for providing me with a new experience last night. With his sidekick, color commentator Maurice Fitzgerald not at the game, Tommy gave me the remote microphone and I had a chance to periodically share my thoughts during his broadcast from the comfort of my seats on the glass. I then got to conduct the end of period interviews on the ice (coach Martinson after the first period and Derek Mathers after the second). After some initial nerves, it was a lot of fun.
ALLEN VS TULSA GAME PREVIEW:
– It would be an understatement to say the game today in Tulsa is crucial for Allen to back on track. Tulsa had a great start to the season but has lost two straight home games (both to Rapid City) and are 5-5 in their last 10 games.
– With Jamie Murray continuing to struggle in goal look for Riley Gill to get the start today and in most of the games on this six-game road trip. Murray is 2-6 with a GAA of 3.78 and a save percentage of .882.
– Gary Steffes should also be back in the lineup today. Gary always plays well against his old team and it would be great to see him break out of his goal-scoring slump. It has been 12 games since he scored his last goal.
– I always say special teams are key to any game but the matchup between Allen and Tulsa is particularly unique as they both are really struggling. Tulsa’s power play in only marginally better than Allen. Tulsa is at 8.6% while Allen is at 8.2%. Allen has the edge on the penalty kill 80.3% to Tulsa’s 76.3%. If either team can break out it would be a game changer.
– One special teams play to be aware of today is the shorthanded goal. Tulsa leads the ECHL having already scored five shorties. At the other end of the spectrum, the Americans lead the league in shorthanded goals allowed with five.
– In talking to the Allen coaches after the game there was consensus that in order for the team to get out of their slump they need to approach the game in a different way. They need to forgo the fancy/pretty play and concentrate on getting pucks in deep and pucks to the net. More effort on the forecheck is a must. Making it tough to play against by finishing checks is a trademark of this team that has been missing all too often. The Americans need that gritty, gutsy style up and down the lineup and the greasy goals will come. Let’s hope we see more of that style of play today.
DID YOU KNOW: There are now only two teams in the entire ECHL that have a lower winning percentage than Allen. They are Norfolk and Elmira.