ALLEN, TX – The Allen Americans take on the Idaho Steelheads tonight and tomorrow night at the Allen Event Center (AEC) to finish their season series. The teams played twice in Idaho at the end of November with Allen losing both games (3-2 & 5-2).
– Allen and Idaho are two evenly matched teams that have been playing well. Allen has won their last three games and is 7-2-1-0 in the last 10 games. Idaho has won their last two games and is 5-4-0-1 in the last 10 games. They are tied in the Mountain Division standings with 33 points (Idaho has three games in hand).
– Idaho has not been a good road team as they are 4-5-1-1 on the road but 11-4-1-0 at home. Allen has been good on the road (10-7-1-0) but are only 6-6-0-0 at home. Should make for a couple of interesting games for two teams that had an epic first round playoff battle last season. Let’s hope that vibe of winning games six and seven with a dramatic overtime win in game seven returns to the AEC the next two nights.
– It will be a big lift for the team if Zach Hall, Eric Roy or Harrison Ruopp return to the lineup tonight. After playing two skaters short in Tulsa on Tuesday it would be nice to have a full contingent tonight. Coach Steve Martinson said it was possible all three could be available but no decision will be made until after pregame skate this morning.
– Here is a comparison between Allen and Idaho:
|Team Record||16-13-1-0 (33 points)||15-9-2-1 (33 points)|
|Division Ranking||3rd – Mountain||3rd – Mountain|
|Conference Ranking||6th – Western||6th – Western|
|Last Game||6-3 Win (Tulsa)||5-2 Win (Rapid City)|
|Power Play||15.0% (19/127)||24.3% (25/103)|
|Penalty Kill||84.9% (21/139)||83.0% (18/106)|
|Leading Scorer||Costello (15-29-44)
|PIM Leader||Mathers (131)||Dodero (66)|
– Here is how Allen and Idaho rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:
Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 2nd (19.97) – Idaho 6th (17.11)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 14th (3.27) – Idaho 9th (3.41)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 9th (2.93) – Idaho 13th (3.11)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 6th (33.20) – Idaho 13th (31.93)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 21st (33.87) – Idaho 19th (33.00)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 20th (15.0%) – Idaho 2nd (24.3%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 10th (84.9%) – Idaho 18th (83.0%)
– As you can see from the stats above Allen and Idaho are evenly matched with the glaring exception of the power play and that stat is misleading because the Allen power play has been on fire recently. The Americans power play has scored on their last seven attempts, is 8-13 (61.5%) over the last three games and is 12-42 (28.5%) in the month of December. In the month of December, the Idaho power play is 7-30 (23.3%). As is usually the case special teams will be a key to victory in the two games with Idaho. If the Americans can come anywhere close to their recent performance on special teams there is no reason they can’t come away with four points.
– A good start has been a key to the Americans better play over the last month. They won in Tulsa on Tuesday after giving up the first goal of the game but that doesn’t happen very often. Allen’s record when they score first is 12-2-1-0. In the games where they don’t score first their record is 4-11-0-0.
– Here is a preview of the two-game set with Idaho from the other side written by the voice of the Steelheads, Brian McCormick. An interesting read: https://www.idahosteelheads.com/blog/steelheads-news/preview-lone-star-series/
– Officials scheduled for the game tonight are referee Chris Pontes (#2) and linesmen Brian Bull (#49) and Aaron Schacht (#31).
– One thing you can’t do as the general manager of a hockey team is spend a lot of time second-guessing decisions made to trade, release or not sign players. There are so many considerations when making these decisions other than on ice performance. Housing and insurance costs, veteran status, salary demands, injury history/reliability, and being a team player in the locker room are just a few of the considerations other than on ice performance. Then there are the circumstances where you need a certain type of player and you trade a good player to get what you need at the time. While general managers can’t spend time following what has happened to players that have moved on, fans often do. One such instance is Rick Pinkston, who scored a goal the last two nights for Manchester. It piqued my interest in how some of the players from last season’s championship team that have moved on to other ECHL teams are doing.
Rick Pinkston – Rick was never known as a goal scorer so seeing he scored the last two nights for Manchester got me to looking. Turns out they are his only two goals of the year. Rick has five assists (three from his days in Allen) to go along with the two goals. Rick is on a good team as Manchester is leading the North Division.
Chris Crane – Chris had a total of five goals in his first four games after being traded to Orlando but has been out with an injury since December 3. He has missed the last nine Orlando games. Orlando is in second place in the South Division.
Casey Pierro-Zabotel – Casey is having an outstanding season with Colorado after signing with the Eagles in the off season. He leads the team with 34 points (10 goals 24 assists). He is third in the league in assists. Colorado is in first place in the Mountain Division.
Daniel Doremus – Daniel played 11 games for Allen last season before being recalled by San Jose where he spent the rest of the year. He had three points (1 goal 2 assists) in Allen. This season, Doremus is playing in Manchester and is the third leading scorer on the team with 23 points (4 goals 19 assists) in 26 games.
Tristan King – Tristan played in seven games for Allen and had a goal and an assist before being traded to Indy. He has played in eight games for Indy and has not scored a goal. He does have three assists. His plus/minus in Indy is -10. Indy is one of the worst teams in the ECHL and are in last place in the Central Division, fourteen points out of a playoff spot.
Matt Register – Matt is having an outstanding season reminiscent of his Defenseman of the Year performance in 2013-14 with the Ontario Reign. Matt leads all ECHL defensemen in points (28), Assists (20), power play points (11), shots (87) and game winning goals (5). He is second in goals (8), second in power play assists (9), and third is plus/minus (+17). Matt and Pierro-Zabotel are a big reason the Eagles are the second best team in the ECHL with 40 points.
Vincent Arseneau – Arseneau signed in Wichita in the off season but has been plagued by an injury that kept him out of the line up for seven weeks. He has been effective when he has played but has only appeared in seven games. He has four goals and three assists in the seven games. Wichita is in fifth place in the Central Division and nine points out of a playoff spot.
J.P. LaFontaine – J.P. is playing in Elmira and his stats are remarkably similar to his time in Allen. Lafontaine played nine games in Allen and had one goal, two assists and was a +5. He has played 10 games in Elmira and has one goal two assists and is a +5. J.P. leads the team in plus/minus. Elmira is in last place in the North Division already 14 points out of a playoff spot.
DID YOU KNOW: I heard a conversation recently about whether it is better to have a good power play or a good penalty kill to succeed in the playoffs.
I decided to take a look at the last five Kelly Cup champions to see what their special team stats were during the playoffs in order to determine if that might help answer the question.
In all five seasons, the Kelly Cup champion had a better power play percentage than their finals opponent. However, in 2016 Wheeling had better penalty kill percentage (84.3% vs 80.2%) than the champion (Allen) and in 2014 Cincinnati had a better penalty kill percentage (89.9% vs 85.5%) than the champion (Alaska). It is not very scientific but in this small sample you could conclude a better power play percentage predicts the Kelly Cup champion 100% of the time but a better penalty kill percentage predicts the champion only 60% of the time.
Here are the stats for the last five Kelly Cup champions with their finals opponent’s percentage in parenthesis:
Power Play % Penalty Kill %
2016: Allen 27.2% (21.7%) 80.2% (84.3%)
2015: Allen 18.8% (16.7%) 84.8% (79.1%)
2014: Alaska 17.9% (12.8%) 85.5% (89.9%)
2013: Reading 14.3% (8.4%) 84.6% (84.0%)
2012: Florida 18.6% (12.1%) 86.4% (85.9%)
I am sure many of you remember in 2014 Allen won the Central Hockey League championship by setting a record. The Americans did not score a single power play goal in the finals against Denver. They were 0-26. However, for the entire playoffs, Allen was 20.6% on the power play compared to Denver’s 17.3% so the theory still holds up. Denver was 94.9% on the penalty kill compared to Allen’s 85.5%.