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ALLEN, Texas – How important is the game tonight against the Wichita Thunder? To quote Steve Martinson, “It is obviously the most important game of the season.”

I attend a lot of practices and have a chance to talk to Martinson after each one and to say his approach to the game tonight is playoff intense would be an understatement. You can tell from his demeanor on the ice, the type of drills at practice, the extra video review and the extra meetings with players that Martinson is doing everything he can to put the team in position to win. It is now up to the players to be ready to play from the first puck drop.

– The game tonight at the Allen Event Center (AEC) will be the 11th of 12 meetings between Allen and Wichita this season. They will close out the series in Wichita next Tuesday night. They have split their first ten games and home ice has not been an advantage. The visiting team has won six of the 10 games. The score-first-win-the-game theory does not hold up in this series. In four of the ten games, the team that scored first lost the game.

– With a win tonight, Allen will take over sole possession of fourth place in the division and trail third-place Wichita by a single point. If they lose (in regulation) they will be in fifth place and trail Wichita by five points with five games remaining in the season.

– It has been two months since Allen and Wichita last played each other. In that two-game series in Allen at the end of January, the Thunder won the first game shutting out the Americans 3-0. Allen won the second game by a score of 5-2. It was a game that was much closer than the final score as the Americans scored two empty net goals in the last minute of play.

– Neither team has played well in the two months since they last met. Allen is 11-9-1-1 while Wichita is 9-12-3-1. Both teams come into the game tonight trying to get things turned around as they have lost four of their last five games.

Here are the updated stats between Allen and Wichita:

Allen Wichita
Team Record 32-27-5-2 (71 points) 33-26-6-2 (74 points)
Division Ranking 5th – Mountain 3rd – Mountain
Last Game 6-1 Loss (Kansas City) 5-4 OT Loss (Fort Wayne)
Goals For/Against 212/215 216/214
Power Play 17.0% (49/289) 14.9% (34/228)
Penalty Kill 81.4% (55/296) 80.2% (52/258)
Leading Scorers Pierro-Zabotel (19-46-65) Cuddemi (29-30-59)
Most PIM Moore (214) Stevenson (154)

– Here is how Allen and Wichita rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (20.89) – Wichita 14th (14.42)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 10th (3.27) – Wichita 13th (3.16)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 16th (3.24) – Wichita 15th (3.21)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 20th (30.98) – Wichita 20th (30.95)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 24th (37.14) – Wichita 19th (33.67)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 15th (17.0%) – Wichita 23rd (14.9%)
Home Power Play %: Allen 12th (18.1%) – Wichita 21st (14.7%)
Road Power Play %: Allen 16th (15.9%) – Wichita 19th (15.1%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 20th (81.4%) – Wichita 22nd (80.2%)
Home Penalty Kill %: Allen 12th (84.4%) – Wichita 22nd (80.3%)
Road Penalty Kill %: Allen 25th (78.5%) – Wichita 20th (80.2%)

– Head-to-head special team percentages favor Allen slightly. Against Wichita, the Allen power-play is 20.0% (7-35) and the penalty kill is 81.6% (7-38). Against Allen, the Wichita power-play is 18.4% (7-38) and the penalty kill is 80.0% (7-35).

– You have to believe special teams will play a big role in the game tonight. Allen has struggled with an inconsistent power play for a couple of months but their penalty kill has been much improved. The penalty kill has had to defend numerous five-on-three opportunities recently.

Wichita’s power play is ranked #23 in the league and their penalty kill is ranked #22. The Thunder penalty kill unit had a bizarre game the last time out in Fort Wayne on Saturday. They allowed three power-play goals (3-8) to the Komets but scored two shorthanded goals in the process.

– Allen and Wichita have played ten times this season and the stats show how evenly matched they are starting with a record of 5-5 against each other. Goals scored are exactly the same (31-31) and shots are 334-331. Even penalties (65-62) and penalty minutes (209-191) are close.

– If you are looking for players to watch tonight for Allen, scoring could come from anywhere. While Joel Chouinard (nine points) and Casey Pierro-Zabotel (eight points) lead the Americans in scoring against Wichita, 18 different players have scored goals against the Thunder. With five or six Allen forwards starting their first game against Wichita tonight look for that list to grow.

For Wichita, players to watch are leading scorer Ralph Cuddemi (#8) who has a goal in six of his last nine games and recently signed rookie Ryan Van Stralen (#20) who has 11 points, including five goals, in 11 games. You can expect Dyson Stevenson (#26) to play the agitator role for Wichita just as he did so well when he was playing for Allen. Dyson has 154 penalty minutes this season and 43 of them have been in games with Allen. After an 18-game goal-scoring drought, he has a goal in his last two games including a shorthanded goal on Saturday.

– I would expect Jeremy Brodeur will get the start against Wichita. He is 3-2 against the Thunder with a GAA of 2.43 and a save percentage of .926.

– Officials scheduled for the game are referee Sean Fernandez (#21) and linesmen Brian Bull (#95) and Cameron Dykstra (#0).


Kristen Wooten, who is a fellow member of Team Sin Bin, just published the first of a three-part series where she looks at the role religion plays in hockey. Gary Steffes is one of the players profiled in this story.

– Saw this article about a proposed new ice arena on Long Island in the hamlet of Medford with the potential of attracting an ECHL franchise. This is a long way off and there is plenty of doubt if the arena will ever be built but a road trip to NYC to watch the Allen Americans could be a possibility in the future. Here is the story:

DID YOU KNOW: Which Mountain Division teams have the most offensive-minded defensemen? I decided to take a look at goals scored by defensemen for the seven teams in the division. Here are the results with the number of 10 goals scorers in parentheses:

59 – Colorado  (3)
41 – Allen (3)
41 – Utah  (1)
36 – Wichita (2)
29 – Idaho (0)
25 – Tulsa  (0)
25 – Rapid City (0)

There are 23 defensemen in the ECHL with 10 or more goals. Nine of the 23 (40%) play in the Mountain Division.

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