It is game day as the Americans take on the Rapid City Rush in one of only two games in the ECHL tonight (Wheeling is at Evansville in the other). It is the first of three games against the Rush this week.

As mentioned yesterday Rapid City has been playing the best hockey in the Central Division. It wasn’t long ago the Rush were in a fight to stay out of last place and now they are battling for second place in the division. The Rush have won twelve of their last seventeen games and two of the five losses were in overtime. In the last ten games Allen has a record of 5-3-1-1. Rapid City has a record of 7-1-2-0 in their last ten games which is the best in the Central Division.

Tonight will be the eighth time these two teams have met this season with Allen holding a 5-2 (4-1 home, 1-1 away) edge in the seven previous games. Allen has won five of the last six times these teams have played. If you look at cumulative stats these teams have played much closer than the record might indicate. Cumulative goals are 27-20 in favor of Allen but Rapid City has had some mediocre goaltending in some of the games. In the seven previous games Rapid City has out shot Allen 214-209, have scored more power play goals (Rapid 7-41, Allen 6-24) and taken fewer penalties (Allen 169 minutes, Rapid 115 minutes). If the Rush can get a good performance from their goalie and win on special teams they will make it difficult for Allen to come out on top.

– A statistical comparison of Allen and Rapid City shows an advantage for Allen. Here are a few examples:

Points: Allen (83) – Rapid City (63)
Goals For: Allen (230) – Rapid City (177)
Goals Allowed: Allen (161) – Rapid City (177)
Goal Differential: Allen (+69) – Rapid City (0)
Team Plus/Minus: Allen (+235) – Rapid City (-59)

Allen is ranked #1 in league standings. Rapid City is ranked #14.
Allen is #1 in average goals scored per game (4.11). Rapid City is #14 (3.00).
Allen is ranked #9 in average goals allowed (2.88). Rapid City is #12 (3.00).

– Special teams will most likely be a key to the game especially with Allen leading the league in minor penalties (384). Allen has a better overall power play and penalty kill than Rapid City and if you look at home and road stats the Americans have an even bigger advantage. At home Rapid City is ranked #13 (18.5%) on the power play and #20 (81.3%) on the penalty kill. On the road Allen is #2 (23.0%) on the power play and #2 (88.5%) on the penalty kill. If Allen can reduce the the number of minor penalties taken in the game, which they have done in recent games, special teams will be a key to victory.

– Scoring the first goal of the game is always important as Allen wins 83.3% of the time when they score first and Rapid City wins 73.3%. Allen actually scores the most goals in the second period while Rapid has scored the most goals in the third period. Here are the goals scored by period for both teams:
Allen:  58-94-74
Rapid: 54-54-64

Here are goals allowed by period:
Allen:  48-49-57
Rapid: 49-65-58

Based on these stats the game might be decided in the second period as it is Allen’s best period for scoring and it is the period the Rush give up the most goals. Whoever wins the second period will most likely win the game.

– Daniel Tetrault is on the 21 day IR so he will not be in the line up for Rapid City but former Allen players Dallas Ehrhardt and Kale Kerbashian will be in the line up. Kerbashian has been a big part of the recent resurgence of the Rush. Since being traded to Rapid City by Evansville at the end of January, Kale has twenty one points (6 goals 15 assists) in just sixteen games.

– Even though Rapid City has been playing well overall they have been inconsistent at home. They are just 3-4 at home over the last month which included back to back 5-0 losses to the last place Brampton Beast. The Rush season long home record is 11-14-1-2 while on the road they are 18-11-1-1.

– Three players that have been great on the road recently for Allen and will be looking to extend streaks tonight are Chad Costello who has a goal in six consecutive road games, Greger Hanson who has a point in nine straight road games and Aaron Gens who has an assist in six straight road games. Gary Steffes, the ECHL leading goal scorer (39) is always dangerous. Gary has scored goals in the last three games and has eight goals in the last eight games.

– The on ice officials scheduled for the game tonight are referee Stephen Reneau (#47) and linesmen Cade Bloomenrader (#92) and Butch Mousseaux (#46).

OTHER COMMENTS

– Have had a couple of questions regarding the meaning of the Recall/Assigment deadline which is tomorrow at 11:59 p.m. local time. This deadline applies to players under AHL or NHL contracts who are currently playing in the ECHL. For those players to be reassigned to another team in the ECHL, the reassignment must take place by 11:59 p.m. local time on Wednesday. If there is a player currently recalled to the AHL, this deadline does not apply to them. They can still be assigned to any team in the ECHL after the deadline passes.

– Talk about a turnaround and all you have do is look at the South Carolina Stingrays. In early January they had lost nine out of ten games. Since that point they have won sixteen straight games including ten straight on the road. South Carolina can tie the all time league record for longest winning streak and set a new league mark for consecutive road wins, on Friday, when they play the last place team in the division, the Gwinnett Gladiators.

– With the ECHL trade deadline coming on Thursday (3:00 p.m. EDT) you wonder how much activity there might be. Every year is different and this year is really different as it is the first time in several years the ECHL playoffs are division based rather than conference based which they will return to next season. Because the playoffs are division based and there are fewer teams jockeying for playoff spots/seedings it might affect some trades. Stay tuned.

DID YOU KNOW: The Allen Americans penalty kill is on pace to be the best in team history. Here are the penalty kill percentages by year.
2014-2015:  87.50%
2013-2014:  82.06%
2012-2013:  85.67%
2011-2012:  83.46%
2010-2011:  82.80%
2009-2010:  83.44%

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