It is game day for the Allen Americans as they take on division rival Missouri tonight at the Allen Event Center. After getting the best of Missouri and former Allen assistant coach Richard Matvichuk last season when Allen won eight of nine games against the Mavericks it will be a different story this season. If anything the rivalry has intensified with three time Allen champion, Trevor Ludwig, now the captain in Missouri.
– The Mavericks are a much improved team this year and have gotten off to a great start. They lost last night in Tulsa 4-3 in a shootout but have the second best record in the ECHL (5-1-0-1) and lead the Central division by three points.
– The vast majority of the Mavericks team is under contract to their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL). The Missouri Sound Tigers may be a more appropriate name than the Missouri Mavericks. Just kidding!
– Here is how Allen and Missouri match up based on early season results:
Team Record: 4-2-0-0 (8 points) 5-1-0-1 (11 points)
Division Ranking: 2nd Central 1st Central
Conference Ranking: 4th Western 1st Western
League Ranking: 6th 2nd
Last Game: 6-5 Win in OT (10/24) 4-3 Loss in SO (10/30)
Goals For: 19 20
Goals Against: 15 11
Power Play: 12.9% (4/31) 17.6% (6/34)
Penalty Kill: 91.3% (2/23) 80.0% (4/23)
Team PIM/Game: 14.5 8.1
Leading Scorers: Gary Steffes (3-3-6) Tyler Barnes (2-6-8)
– Special teams will be a key to the game and there are some big contrasts in these teams. Allen has the #1 ranked penalty kill in the ECHL at 91.3% but the Americans power play is ranked #22 at just 12.9%. Missouri’s road penalty kill is just 75% and is ranked #26. The Mavericks road power play is ranked #18 at 9.1%.
– Might be an understatement to say the first goal will be important as both teams have not lost this season when scoring first. Allen is 3-0 and Missouri is 4-0.
– It will be interesting to see what type of game develops tonight. Based on penalty minutes, the Mavericks have not shown a lot of toughness in their first seven games. They have just one major penalty and are #28 in the ECHL in penalty minutes per game at 8.1. Allen led the ECHL in penalty minutes per game last season but have taken far fewer penalties this season. They are ranked #18 with an average of 14.5 minutes per game. Based on the stats you might conclude this will be a game with few penalties but with a team as skilled as Missouri you can be assured the Americans will be finishing their checks from the first puck drop. Allen will have to be a team that is tough to play against if they are to be successful against the Mavericks.
– Who starts in goal for both teams will also be a factor in the game. Missouri’s Josh Robinson has been arguably the best goalie in the ECHL thus far. Robinson was in goal last night for the Mavericks and took the loss (shootout) after winning his first four starts. Robinson has two shutouts, a GAA of 0.98 and save percentage of .960. Parker Milner will be in goal if coach Matvichuk decides to rest Robinson. Milner is 1-1 with a GAA of 2.03 and save percentage of .927. For Allen, the question is whether Riley Gill is ready to go after a week of practice since coming off reserve. Joel Rumpel has started all six games for Allen thus far with a GAA of 2.34 and save percentage of .922. Coach Martinson may want to start Rumpel tonight and give Gill a couple of more days of practice and start him in Tulsa on Tuesday. Will just have to wait and see who is in goal for Allen tonight.
– Allen is ranked #10 in goals scored per game (3.17) and has the advantage over Missouri who is ranked #14 with 2.86 goals per game. In goals allowed per game, Missouri ranks #1 in the ECHL at just 1.57 while Allen allows an average of 2.50 goals per game which ranks them #8.
– Based on who was skating at practice yesterday and the status of some injuries, Allen may be playing with just five defensemen again tonight as they did in Utah. The fact that Allen has not played a game for a week and won’t play again until Tuesday should make it no problem to play with five defensemen as long as they stay out of the penalty box.
– The officials scheduled for the game are referee Andy Thackaberry (#22) and linesmen Aaron Schacht (#32) and Mitch Macpherson (#48).
– Had the chance to talk to Ian Schultz after practice yesterday and he is hopeful to be ready to play in a few weeks. He is skating everyday and needs to get his leg and himself back in shape after many months without skating. Everyone is looking forward to his return.
– After last night’s action, the ECHL is down to just one undefeated team. The Adirondack Thunder (they were in Stockton last year) beat Wheeling 4-1 and is now 6-0. There are two teams still looking for their first win as Brampton is 0-5-1-0 and Evansville is 0-2-0-0.
– Coach Martinson had some extra help at practice this week as power skating coach, Luke Chilcott was working with the team. Luke, as well both of his parents were figure skating champions in Great Britain and are well known coaches in the area. Luke will be working with the players during the season to improve their skating mechanics with practice drills as well as some specialized software and video that can be used one on one.
DID YOU KNOW: In the strange stat category is the fact the Allen Americans are 1-2 when out shooting their opponents this year and 3-0 when they are out shot by their opponents.