ALLEN, Texas – It is game day for the Allen Americans as they are in Wheeling, West Virginia to take on the Nailers with a puck drop at 6:05 p.m. (CST). The last game between these teams was a memorable one as it was on June 9, 2016 in Allen, and featured the Americans beat the Nailers 4-2 to win their second-straight Kelly Cup. The stars of that game were Eric Roy, with a goal and two assists, and Riley Gill, who stopped 40 of 42 Wheeling shots.
– What happened back in 2016 has little bearing on the game tonight as Allen tries to snap a three-game losing streak and improve on a 2-8 record over the last 10 games. In fact, few players on either roster remember the 2016 Kelly Cup finals. There will be just three players from that series in the game tonight, Spencer Asuchak and David Makowski for Allen, and Dan Fick for Wheeling. Casey Pierro-Zabotel also played in that series but is back home in Allen on injured reserve. Mike Gunn was on the 2015-16 team during the regular season, but was not on the playoff roster.
– Allen’s roster is still missing some key pieces. Pierro-Zabotel, Thomas Frazee and Josh Atkinson are all recovering from surgery and did not make the road trip. It was hoped Kevin Sundher would be back in the lineup, but he too stayed home. Sundher has been out since October 20. Goalie C.J. Motte is still in Iowa (AHL) serving as a backup while one of the Wild goalies is out with an injury. Motte has been in Iowa for almost one month and has played in two games.
– The game tonight pits the last place team in the Central Division, Wheeling – with a record of 9-11-1-0, against the last place team in the Mountain Division, Allen – with a record of 6-18-0-2. Wheeling has won its last two games in strong fashion, beating a good Toledo team on the road on Saturday by a score of 5-2 and Indy at home on Sunday 5-1. The Nailers have scored 14 goals in their last three games. Allen has lost its last three games, giving up 16 goals in the process.
– Wheeling has a losing home record (4-6-1-0) while Allen has done better on the road than at home. The Americans have earned 10 of their 14 points this season on the road.
– It is hard to find a stat which doesn’t favor Nailers. Wheeling averages 3.1 goals per game, Allen averages 2.6. The Nailers allow an average of 3.1 goals per game, while the Americans allows 4.0. Wheeling has scored 65 goals and allowed 66 for a goal differential of -1. Allen has scored 66 goals but allowed 103 for a goal differential of -37.
Wheeling has the top power play in the ECHL (22.4%), Allen is ranked #23 (13.4%). Wheeling is ranked #19 on the penalty kill at 82.5%, Allen is ranked #23 at 81.3%. Even more so than usual, tonight the Americans will have to stay out of the penalty box to be successful. Allen has taken more minor penalties (156) than any other team in the league and when you are playing against the team with the best power play in the ECHL, taking penalties is not a recipe for success.
– Scoring first is usually a big key as league-wide stats indicate the team which scores first wins 75% of the time. That is not the case with Wheeling and Allen, who have two of the worst records when scoring first. Combined, they are 9-7-0-1 when scoring first.
– Allen has not fared well on the road this season when trailing, but has had great results playing with a lead. Allen’s road record when leading after the first period is 3-0-0-0 and after the second period is 4-0-0-1. When trailing after the first period, Allen is 0-4-0-1 and trailing after the second, the record is 0-9-0-1.
– Officials scheduled for the game are referee Sean MacFarlane (#4) and linesmen Denny Urban (#97) and Zach Roberts (#84).
– I wouldn’t expect a very big crowd at the game tonight. Midweek games are always a tough draw, and Wheeling has the worst average attendance in the entire ECHL averaging only 2,155 per game.
– ECHL Player of the Week honors for last week was shared by two Wheeling players. In three games, Cam Brown had two goals and seven assists, while teammate Nick Saracino had four goals and four assists. They are a couple of players to keep an eye on in the game tonight.
– It is a busy schedule around the ECHL for a Wednesday night with nine games on tap. Here is the ECHL Today with a short preview on each game: https://www.echl.com/en/news/2018/12/echl-today-dec-12
– If you monitor boxscores around the ECHL as I do, you have probably noticed a lot players which started the season in Allen have been scoring in bunches recently. Here are a few examples:
J.C. Campagna (Fort Wayne) – six games, eight points (7G, 1A)
Tyler Poulson (Rapid City) – six games, 10 points (5G, 5A)
Ben Duffy (Norfolk) – five games, seven points (3G, 3A)
Matt Foget (Orlando) – four games, four points (2G, 2A)
Miles Liberati (Indy) – four games, three points (1G, 2A)
– The Americans are now 12 points out of sixth place, 13 points out of fifth place and 18 points out of first place in the Mountain Division. They are the only team in the division below .500, with a winning percentage of .269. Here are the standings with games played in parentheses:
32 points – Utah (22 games)
31 points – Tulsa (24 games)
30 points – Kansas City (21 games)
27 points – Idaho (24 games)
27 points – Rapid City (27 games)
26 points – Wichita (24 games)
14 points – Allen (26 games)
– I had a question yesterday about whether Allen could still make the playoffs. The answer is yes, the Americans could mathematically still make the playoffs. The reality is, based on the average number of points it takes to make the playoffs, the Americans would have to have a record of close to 31-12-2-1 the rest of the season. Yes, it is possible but highly unlikely.
– I have seen several comments on social media recently regarding the impact team ownership and the new affiliation have had on this season. I can say with some certainty neither can be blamed for the poor season. Owner Jack Gulati has improved conditions for the players since buying the team. The team is flying to away games (with the exception of Tulsa and Wichita), they are living in topnotch housing and the team is fully funded. The affiliation with the Wild has seen five contract players (Dante Salituro, Motte, Chase Lang, Pavel Jenys [traded to the Kings on 11/22], Josh Thrower) assigned to Allen. The Wild have not taken any non-contracted players from Allen. Braylon Shmyr was loaned to the AHL but he went to Springfield. Coach Martinson is pleased with the relationship with the Wild, and you can’t expect them to send more players to Allen just because the Americans are losing.
DID YOU KNOW: Three players on the Allen roster started their ECHL career with the Wheeling Nailers. Casey Pierro-Zabotel in 2009-10, David Makowski in 2014-15 and Mike Gunn in 2015-16.