ALLEN, Texas – As if the Allen Americans needed any more incentive to play well tonight against the South Carolina Stingrays, after a record of 3-4-0-1 to start the season, it came in the form of a Rapid City Rush overtime win over the Tulsa Oilers last night. The Rush win leapfrogged them past the Americans in the standings. Allen is now in last place in the Mountain Division in winning percentage (.438) and they are the only team in the division below .500.
– The lineup will have a new look when the Americans take the ice tonight (7:05 pm). Because of injuries, every healthy player will be in the lineup. Based on practice yesterday a defenseman will be playing forward. The two new forwards added this week (Johnny McInnis & Christophe Lalancette) were at practice and will play tonight. McInnis will be wearing #14 and Lalancette will be wearing #77.
– This will be the first regular season meeting ever between Allen and South Carolina. They did play seven games in the epic finals of the 2015 Kelly Cup. Allen won that series and the championship so everyone always remembers the 6-1 win in game seven but the teams actually split the four games played at the Allen Event Center (AEC) in that series. The Stingrays won game one (4-3) and game three (4-1) while Allen won game two (5-2) and game seven (6-1).
– South Carolina has a record of 4-4-0-0 but like the Americans have spent most of the season on the road. The game tonight will be their seventh road game. The Stingrays road record is 2-4-0-0. The game tonight will be the second home game for Allen. They lost their home opener 4-1 to Wichita.
– South Carolina is also dealing with roster issues as the Stingrays top goalie, Parker Milner, was called up to their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, earlier in the week. All indications are that South Carolina is trying to find an EBUG (emergency backup goalie) for the game tonight.
– Special teams will play an important role against South Carolina. These are the top two teams in the ECHL in minor penalties (Allen 55 – South Carolina 53). If things hold true to form there should be a lot of power plays for both teams tonight.
– Allen has played only one home game but in that game, they were 0-8 on the power play. The power play has been much improved recently and that needs to carry over tonight. South Carolina has not done well on special teams in their six road games. The Stingrays road power play is 9.4% (3-32) and their penalty kill is 78.8% (7-33).
– Allen is ranked 23rd, allowing 3.75 goals per game and South Carolina is ranked 22nd, allowing 3.63 goals per game.
– Allen’s Achilles heel has been their defensive play. They are ranked last in the league giving up an average of 43.25 shots per game. Despite a .500 record South Carolina is ranked #5 in average shots per game (35.38). With all of the injuries Allen is dealing with, the loss of the league’s number two scorer (Braylon Shmyr) to the AHL, two players playing their first game in Allen, a defenseman playing forward and possibly playing with less than 16 skaters the importance of playing defense is apparent. There will certainly be less firepower on the ice for the Americans as close to 35% of the season’s offense/points will not be in the lineup. Less offense requires better defense as the likelihood of the Americans winning a 6-5 type game is not good.
– If the Americans can hold down the number of shots against and not have a big shot differential they will have a great chance of winning the game because the Allen goalies have much better save percentages. Allen’s goalies have a combined save percentage of .916 compared to South Carolina at .881. If you look at the starting goalies tonight it will be Adam Morrison for the Stingrays who has a .885 save percentage against C.J. Motte (expected starter) for Allen who has a save percentage of .917.
– It is hard to overstate the importance of scoring first for the Americans. They have played eight games this season, every time they have scored first they have won (3-0) and every time they have not scored first they have lost. Here is another stat that makes the point about the importance of a good start. Allen is 3-0 when leading after the first period and they are 0-3 when tied after the first period.
– When players get called up to the AHL like Braylon Shmyr did this week, the first question that gets asked is will he be in the lineup. Shmyr is with the Springfield Thunderbirds who play at home against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers tonight and again on Saturday in Bridgeport. I am sure many Allen fans will be tracking the box score tonight to see if Shmyr is in the lineup.
– The ECHL started releasing their awards for the month of October yesterday. Former Allen defenseman Mike Brodzinski, who plays for Orlando, was the plus performer of the month with a plus/minus of +10. Today, the rest of the awards (goalie, player, rookie) will be released and Braylon Shmyr won the league’s Rookie of the Month for October, thanks to his 14-point performance. Shmyr finished the month as the leading goal scorer (tied) in the league and second in points. Among rookies, his point total (14) was five more than any other rookie.
– There are still two ECHL teams that do not have a regulation loss and neither made the playoffs last season. Jacksonville is a perfect 5-0-0-0 and plays Florida at home tonight and Saturday. The other team is Tulsa who is 4-0-1-1 and plays Rapid City at home tonight and Saturday.
– Here are the Mountain Division standings based on winning percentage with the team’s record in parentheses:
.833 – Tulsa (4-0-1-1)
.714 – Utah (4-1-0-2)
.700 – Kansas City (3-1-1-0)
.700 – Wichita (3-1-1-0)
.563 – Idaho (4-3-0-1)
.500 – Rapid City (3-3-1-1)
.438 – Allen (3-4-0-1)
Did You Know?
The website eliteprospects.com tracks all kinds of information, including oldest players in the ECHL (Jamie Schaafsma is #5 at 36) and the heaviest players in the league (Spencer Asuchak is listed as #4 at 231 pounds). The stat that caught my attention is the lightest players in the ECHL. According to eliteprospects.com, the second lightest player in the ECHL is Zach Pochiro at 154 pounds. Zach told me during training camp he weighed 190. Now that is a big miss.