Tonight the Allen Americans start a critical three game series against the Wichita Thunder. The teams will play in Wichita tonight and then return to Allen for games on Saturday and Sunday. The Americans approach to the series could be described as a fresh start or reboot to the season. It is no secret that coach Martinson has not been happy with the defensive play of the team, especially from some of the forwards. After having one on one meetings with some of the players, Martinson plans on approaching the series and rest of the season in a different way. The beginning of the fresh start is to look at stats as if everyone is at all zeros. Nothing from the first 53 games matters, so if you are a big minus player you are back to zero. With the fresh start will go more accountability. If players aren’t performing as expected the consequence won’t just be a video session in the coaches office or extra work at practice. From pee wees to pros the best way to get accountability is through ice time and coach Martinson faults himself for letting bad habits linger without the reduction in ice time. So part of the fresh start will be rewarding those that play the right way at both ends of the ice. That means players/lines must be able to beat whoever they are matched up against in order to get more ice time. As you watch the games this weekend keep an eye on who is getting power play time. It may be different than in the past as the fresh start rewards those that are committed to winning rather than scoring.
– Riley Gill and Dyson Stevenson are not with the team as they are recovering from injuries. Martinson decided to take 11 forwards on the trip so all of the healthy forwards are in Wichita. One will have to sit out tonight but with a bit of a sick bug going around the team, having an extra forward is insurance in case someone comes up sick today. Two healthy defensemen (Nolan Descoteaux & Jacob Poe) stayed home. Equipment manager Nolan Bowker will be doing double duty as he will also be the back up goalie tonight.
– The Americans enter this weekend with a strong line up even with Gill and Stevenson not playing. Spencer Asuchak and Reggie Traccitto are back after getting sick in Alaska, Eric Roy has returned from Lake Erie after signing an AHL deal and Reid Halabi is healthy after recovering from a leg injury. Allen has a line up that can beat any team they play.
– Joel Rumpel will be in goal for Allen. Joel got all new equipment this week and was breaking it in at practice yesterday practice. No word on whether he will use it in the game tonight.
– It is easy to focus on the fact that Allen is 8-0 against Wichita this season but the Thunder are not to be taken lightly despite their poor record. They have just 33 points which is eight fewer than any other team in the league and have only 11 wins in 53 games. However, they are a hard working group that plays teams close. Almost half of their games since December (13-29) have gone to overtime or a shootout including their last four games. It will take a team effort by Allen to come away with a victory tonight.
By almost any statistical comparison Allen should be the favorite to win the game tonight. In their eight head to head games the Americans have out scored Wichita 32-18 and dominated on special teams. Allen is 9-32 (28.1%) on the power play while Wichita is 2-29 (6.9%).
– Here is a comparison between Allen and Wichita:
|Team Record||29-19-3-2 (63 points)||11-31-6-5 (33 points)|
|Division Ranking||2nd – Central||4th – Central|
|Conference Ranking||4th – Western||14th – Western|
|Last Ten Games||4-4-1-1||1-6-2-1|
|Last Game||3-2 L (Tulsa)||5-4 L (Idaho)|
|Power Play||21.5% (42/195)||9.0% (19/210)|
|Penalty Kill||86.7% (27/203)||84.8% (36/237)|
|Most PIM’s||Stevenson (87)||Milan (95)|
|Leading Scorer||Costello (21-50-71)||Kerbashian (9-20-29)|
– Here is how Allen and Wichita rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:
|Penalty Minutes Per Game||4th (16.23)||6th (15.62)|
|Goals Scored Per Game||12th (2.02)||28th (1.98)|
|Goals Allowed Per Game||16th (2.89)||27th (3.49)|
|Shots For Per Game||26th (27.34)||27th (26.91)|
|Shots Against Per Game||14th (39.75)||18th (31.02)|
|Power Play Percentage||1st (21.5%)||28th (9.0%)|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||4th (86.1%)||17th (83.6%)|
– Even though Allen is 8-0 against Wichita this year and have outscored the Thunder 32-18, Wichita has out shot Allen 255-251. These are two of the worst teams in the ECHL in getting shots on goal but against each other they average about 32 shots per game.
– Allen has at least one power play goal in six of the eight games they have played against Wichita while holding the Thunder scoreless on the power play in six of the eight games. If the Americans can continue that domination they should win tonight.
– If you are looking for who might be the hero tonight for Allen based on head to head scoring you have a lot of choices. Chad Costello leads in assists with 10 and Chris Crane leads in goals with six. There are six players averaging over a point a game against Wichita:
1.88 – Costello
1.80 – Hanson
1.50 – Crane
1.28 – Steffes
1.00 – Makowski
1.00 – Roy
– For Wichita watch out for Kale Kerbashian as he always plays well against Allen and has been hot lately. In the last two Thunder games Kale had a winning goal in overtime and a late third period goal to send a game to overtime.
– Officials scheduled for tonight’s game are Tudor Floru (#18) and linesmen Chip Excell (#42) and Eric Contino (#92).
– If you haven’t noticed, going into games tonight Allen has the best power play (21.5%) in the ECHL to go along with the second best penalty kill (86.7%). The combined percentages of 108.2% is also the best in the league and is considered outstanding.
– Heard yesterday Tommy Daniels will be hosting a radio show next week. Location, players, and details will be announced later today by the team. From what I hear the show will have a Minnesota flavor.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Thanks to Kevin for the question of the day which is, “Why can’t Wichita get an NHL/AHL affiliation?” For the answer to today’s question I went to Matt Harding who is the Managing Editor of the The Sin Bin website and has covered the Wichita franchise for many years. Here is what Matt had to say, “The answer is kind of convoluted, but follow me here. During the shuffling over last summer, Wichita was looking at pairing with St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Arizona. As you know, Arizona paired up with Rapid City, while Tampa Bay does not have an ECHL affiliate. St. Louis preferred to have an affiliate within driving distance of Chicago. The moves left Wichita without a dance partner at the end of the day. It is interesting to note there has not been an AHL player come down to Wichita this season. They sure could have helped.”
DID YOU KNOW: Chad Costello currently leads the ECHL in scoring with 71 points and has a 13 point lead over second place. While Chad is not scoring at the same pace as last year he in on pace to have more points than any other player (other than himself) over the last six years. Here are the leading ECHL scorers by year.
2015-16: 71 points – Chad Costello (53 games)
2014-15: 125 points – Chad Costello
2013-14: 88 points – Brandon Marino
2012-13: 89 points – Roy Mathieu
2011-12: 85 points – Dustin Gazley
2010-11: 94 points – Justin Donati
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