ALLEN, Texas – Pretty sure I have never used this statement in the seven years I have been writing, but this weekend’s three-game set is a “battle for the basement in the Mountain Division.” The sixth-place Allen Americans (1-3-0-1) are in Rapid City (1-3-0-0) to take on the seventh place Rush. The loser will find themselves in last place come Sunday night.

– If past is a prologue, Allen is in good shape but unfortunately, what has happened in past seasons doesn’t mean much this season. The Americans have dominated Rapid City since the teams joined the ECHL in 2014. Here are the stats.

Overall record:  22-7-1-0
Record in Rapid City:  11-3-0-0
Record in Allen:  11-4-1-0

– Last season, Allen was 7-1-0-0 against Rapid City including two wins to open the season that I described at the time this way.

“The Allen Americans defeated the Rapid City Rush last night 5-3 after winning 8-3 Friday night. The Americans swept the weekend series by outscoring the Rush 13-6. It was quite a weekend for the line combination of Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Zach Pochiro and Olivier Archambault who created opportunities every time they were on the ice together and were solid in the defensive zone. Here is how dominant this group was in Rapid City. They collectively scored seven goals, the rest of the team scored six. They had 17 points, the rest of the team had 13 points. They had a plus/minus of +24, the rest of the team was +15.”

Those two games in Rapid City to open the season last year turned out to be the best back to back games of the season.

–  The three games this weekend will be the only trip of the season to Rapid City for the Americans. Allen will certainly go into the series knowing they have played well against the Rush in the past but that won’t do them a lot of good.

– When you look at goals scored and goals allowed both teams have struggled. Allen is ranked #18 in goals scored (3.00) and Rapid City is ranked #24 (2.50). When it comes to goals allowed Allen is #23 giving up an average of 4.20 goals per game while Rapid City is ranked #20 (4.00).

– If you look at shots, Allen is ranked #14 in shots per game averaging 31.60 compared to Rapid City who is ranked #23 (28.50). In shots allowed Allen is last in the league allowing an average of 44.00 shots per game. Rapid City is ranked #13 allowing 31.25 shots per game.

– Overall, special teams stats are not as useful as looking at home and road numbers. Allen’s power play is 2-24 (8.3%) overall but 2-16 (12.5%) on the road and the two power play goals came in their last game (in Tulsa) when the Americans were 2-5. Rapid City’s overall power play percentage is 15.0% but at home, they are only 1-9 (11.1%). Allen’s road penalty kill is very good at 90.5% but Rapid City at home is 100% (0-9). Clearly, how these teams perform on special teams will go a long way in determining the outcome of this three-game series.

– You can’t talk about special teams without talking about penalties and it is clear Allen and Rapid City take a lot of penalties. In average penalty minutes per game, Allen is ranked #1 (28.80) and Rapid City is ranked #3 (22.75). There are two facets of this stat. The first is fighting majors and as you might expect both of these teams are more than willing to drop the gloves. Rapid City has seven fighting majors in four games while Allen has six in five games. Heavyweight Garrett Klotz is on the Rapid City roster but has not played in a game yet. Their leading fighter has been Shaquille Merasty who has three fighting majors. There isn’t anyone on the Americans roster that will fight Klotz if he is in the lineup and he is a liability if he isn’t fighting. His career ECHL stats are 21 points (6G, 15A) 156 games to go along with a plus/minus of -36.

– A more telling penalty stat that will have a bigger impact on this series relates to minor penalties. Both of these teams take minor penalties at a high rate averaging 7.4 (Allen) and 7.0 (Rapid City) per game. Both teams are giving up close to six power play opportunities per game which is well above the league average. Whichever team is the most disciplined and stays out of the penalty box (unless they take someone with them) will be successful.

– Allen and Rapid City are the worst in the league in goal differential. Allen has scored 15 goals and allowed 21, Rapid City has scored 10 goals and allowed 16. Their minus six goal differential has the Americans and Rush ranked tied for #27. While Rapid City has a minus goal differential in all three periods, Allen’s scoring by period is quite different. The Americans have been outscored in the first period 5-3 and in the second period by a significant 12-6 but in the third period, they have outscored their opponents 6-3. Scoring first and winning the first period is always important but even more so in this series.

– The referee scheduled tonight is Jeff Parker (#22). The linesmen will be Kilian McNamara (#90) and Cade Bloomenrader (#91).

– If you plan on listening to or watching the games this weekend the time (CDT/Allen time) is 8:05 pm on Friday and Saturday with a 4:05 pm puck drop on Sunday.

– Three former Allen Americans could be in the lineup for Rapid City in this series. Steven Tarasuk was part of the 2013-14 CHL championship team and also played briefly for Allen in 2014-15. Garrett Klotz was also a member of the Americans 2013-14 championship team. His 257 penalty minutes that season ranks #2 all-time for a single season. Tyler Poulsen is the third former Allen player on the Rapid City roster. Poulsen played briefly for Allen last season and was in training camp with the Americans this season before being traded to the Rush.

– Several Allen players will be trying to extend scoring streaks tonight. Alex Breton has a point in all five Allen games. He has the longest road streak (4 games) in the league for assists and points. Dante Salituro and Braylon Shmyr have a goal in three straight road games which is the longest streak in the league.

OTHER COMMENTS

– In other Mountain Division action tonight Kansas City is at Tulsa and Idaho is at Utah. A couple of other games around the league to keep an eye on are Florida at Orlando and Toledo at Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne and Orlando are playoff teams from last season that have gotten off to poor starts, looking to get back on the winning track.

DID YOU KNOW: It is always interesting to look at the geographical makeup of the Allen Americans roster. If you go back to the first season (2009-10) there were 35 players that played at least one game for the Americans. Canadians were the vast majority as 26 players were from Canada with the other nine from the US. By 2014-15 the roster was 23 Canadian, 18 US and one from Sweden. Here is the breakdown of the 22 players on the current Allen roster. Looks like those British Columbia boys are slowly taking over.

Canada: 15 Players
9 – British Columbia
2 – Quebec
1 – Saskatchewan
1 – Alberta
1 – Ontario
1 – Manitoba

United States: 6 players
2 – Michigan
1 – Missouri
1 – Pennsylvania
1 – New Jersey
1 – Nevada

Czech Republic: 1 player