ALLEN, Texas – It is game day for the Allen Americans as they make the one road trip destination (Tulsa) where they can leave the same day.

Every once in a while I get asked why the team drives to Tulsa the same day as the game. It obviously saves money since they return home right after the game thus avoiding an overnight stay. Here is the wording from the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), “An overnight stay shall be required when the distance to be traveled one-way to a stand-alone game exceeds 325 miles.”

Tulsa is 230 miles from Allen. The next closest destination for the Allen is Wichita which is 360 miles one way so an overnight stay is required.

Allen/Orlando Deal

– Allen made a move yesterday that could bring as many as three players to the Americans. The ECHL rights to Olivier Archambault to the Orlando Solar Bears for defenseman Etienne Boutet, forward Curt Gogol and the ECHL rights to defenseman Sam Jardine. Boutet and Jardine are currently playing in the AHL. Archambault was assigned to Orlando by the team’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse Crunch.

Here is my take on this transaction: The Syracuse Crunch (AHL) wanted to send Archambault to the ECHL and had no interest in sending him to Allen as they wanted to send him to their ECHL affiliate (Orlando). Once Martinson was convinced Archambault would not be coming to Allen, he negotiated for the three players in the deal. Gogol is on his way to Allen and it is possible he arrives in time to accompany the team to Tulsa. Boutet was signed to a tryout agreement (PTO) with Stockton (AHL) on December 27 and will report to Allen when he is released from his PTO. It is possible he could stay in Stockton long term.

– Defenseman Sam Jardine is a different story since he is signed to an AHL contract with the Toronto Marlies. He played in Orlando last season so they were able to retain his ECHL rights which they included in the deal with Allen.

Here is part of a Marlies press release about Jardine when they announced the signing of seven players to AHL deals back in July: “Jardine spent last season in Orlando and is still on their reserve list, meaning for the Marlies to send him to the Growlers (Toronto’s ECHL affiliate, Newfoundland Growlers), they will have to make a deal for his rights. They do that routinely in the ECHL, and given the logjam of defenders in the AHL, the Growlers seems to be where Jardine will spend most of his time.”

Jardine has spent all season thus far with the Marlies having played in 13 games. If they get to the point of wanting to send him to Newfoundland they will have to deal with Allen to obtain his rights. It seems to me he will not be sent to Allen but another player will be in exchange for Jardine’s rights. Just a guess on my part but Allen could end up with Gogol, Boutet and a player from the Marlies organization for giving up the rights to Archambault who was never going to be sent to Allen. Stay tuned.

Allen/Tulsa Game Preview

Steve Martinson will be back behind the bench after serving a two-game suspension for what the ECHL described as multiple post-game abuse of officials game misconducts. Casey Pierro-Zabotel will also be behind the bench tonight helping Martinson.

– According to Martinson, defenseman Josh Atkinson will be making the trip to Tulsa and will be in the lineup for the first time since November 24. The Americans have been playing short defensemen so Atkinson’s return will help. Alex Breton is in Belleville (AHL) and was a healthy scratch on Wednesday. Belleville has home games tonight and Saturday so hopefully, Alex will get his first AHL game.

– The game tonight in Tulsa will be the sixth of 13 times these team will meet this season. Tulsa has won four of the five games they have played thus far including a 3-1 win in Allen last Monday.

– In the five head-to-head meetings, Tulsa has outscored the Americans 15-11 and outshot them 209-129. Allen has done better on special teams as they are 4-16 (25%) on the power play compared to Tulsa at 2-23 (8.7%).

– Allen’s biggest problem against Tulsa has been their inability to score even strength. In the five games they have played against the Oilers, Allen has managed just seven even-strength goals, 1.4 per goals per game.

– The five games between Allen and Tulsa have been pretty meek and mild. Over the five games, the teams have combined for an average of only 19 penalty minutes per game. That is fewer than Allen’s season-long average by themselves of 20.62 minutes per game. The New Year’s Eve game was a little different as there were 34 penalty minutes and a fight between Jake Doty and Tulsa’s Mike McKee. Tulsa has only nine fights all season and if you discount the five fights Doty has had since arriving in Allen, the Americans have had only 10 fights all season. The point being with Doty in the lineup, who is always looking for a dance partner, this game may not be as meek and mild as most of the past games.

– If the game goes to a shootout the advantage is with Allen. The Americans are 3-2 in shootouts this year after going 3-2 last season. Tulsa is 0-2 this season in shootouts after going 0-9 last season.

– Tulsa is one of two ECHL teams (Florida the other) that has not lost a game in regulation when they score first. Their record when scoring first is 10-0-3-1.

– After the win against Kansas City on Wednesday, Jason Deitsch, who was behind the bench and Martinson, who was watching the game from the second level, agreed that the team did better in avoiding costly turnovers, especially in the neutral zone but there is still improvement needed. This will be key in the game tonight. Tulsa is ranked #1 in the ECHL in average shots taken per game (35.45) but they are also ranked #1 in shots allowed (26.30). Allen is #18 in shots taken (31.39) and #26 in shots allowed (36.68). In the five games, these teams have played this season Tulsa has averaged 16 more shots on goal than Allen. If the Americans expect to win they need to close this shot gap and avoiding turnovers will help in that effort.

– Tulsa seems to have righted the ship after losing 11 games straight between December 1-27. They have now won three straight. Allen broke an 11-game road losing streak with a win in Utah last Saturday. Allen went from November 21 to December 29 without a road win.

– It may not seem like Allen has turned things around but they are 3-3 over their last six games. That means one-third of Allen’s wins for the entire season came in just 13 days which included the Christmas break. They have a chance for two wins in a row with a win in Tulsa tonight. The Americans have not won more than two straight games all season and they have won two in a row just once (October 26 & 27).

Additional Thoughts…

– The ECHL All-Star Classic will be held in Toledo on January 21. The members of the all-star team will be announced on Monday. The all-star team is a showcase for young talent around the ECHL and it is hard to imagine Allen’s representative will be anyone other than Alex Breton who is on loan to Belleville (AHL). Alex leads the Americans in assists (18) and is fifth among all ECHL defensemen in points (23).

– Had someone ask about the jersey reversal date when the Americans switch to their white jerseys at home. The jersey reversal date is January 25.

– The Mountain Division has been close all season but this weekend could start to see some separation. Utah (.667) and Idaho (.641) are starting to put some distance from the rest of the group. Wichita (.529) and Rapid City (.471) are starting to struggle. Wichita is on the road for two games in Utah and Rapid City is in Kansas City for two games. Here are the current Mountain Division standings based on winning percentage:

.667 – Utah
.641 – Idaho
.581 – Kansas City
.576 – Tulsa
.529 – Wichita
.471 – Rapid City
.270 – Allen

Did You Know?

Not sure how this computes, but there are only nine of the 27 ECHL teams with a winning percentage below .500. Just two below .400 and one below .300. Here is the list.

.484 – Kalamazoo
.484 – Worcester
.484 – Manchester
.471 – Rapid City
.470 – Norfolk
.470 – Brampton
.431 – Greenville
.323 – Atlanta
.270 – Allen

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