ALLEN, TX – The Allen Americans take on the surging Rapid City Rush tonight (7:05 pm CST) at the Allen Event Center.

They will do so without Chris Crane who was traded to the Orlando Solar Bears yesterday for forward Bryan Moore. Moore is a second-year pro whose scouting report says he is a good skater who will bring scoring ability and physicality to the lineup every night. He has been playing behind numerous AHL contracted players in Orlando but Allen fans may remember him in his rookie season last year. Moore split time between the San Diego Gulls (AHL) and their ECHL affiliate, the Utah Grizzlies. In 19 games with Utah, Bryan had 23 points (8 goals 15 assists) for a points per game average of 1.21 along with 42 penalty minutes. Moore played four games against the Americans last year and had seven points (2 goals 5 assists) in the four games. He was the #1 star in a game on November 27 when Utah beat Allen 7-3. Moore had two goals and three assists in that game.

– Allen also received the rights to Rylan Schwartz in the trade. Schwartz was part of Allen’s 2015 Kelly Cup championship team and is currently playing in Germany. He is having a great year leading his team in scoring. In 17 games he has 24 points (12 goals 12 assists) but his team is in last place in a 14 team league. It is not likely he will be returning to North America but you never know.

– There have been a lot of roster changes since the Americans last played at the AEC on November 6. Adam Helewka has returned to San Jose, Rick Pinkston and Chris Crane have been traded, J.P. Lafontaine was claimed off waivers by Elmira. Harrison Ruopp was returned from San Jose on loan. Alex Guptill and Bryan Moore have been added through trades.

– Here is my best guess on who is in and who is out for the game tonight. Bryan Moore will not arrive in time to play as he is driving his car from Orlando. Mike Brodzinski had a death in the family so he is on bereavement leave. Mike Gunn, who has practiced all week coming off an injury will replace Brodzinski. Tristin King is also coming off an injury (hasn’t played since October 28) and has looked good in practice. Coach Steve Martinson says he needs more speed in the lineup especially carrying the puck through the neutral zone and King is that type of player. Tristan was also practicing with the power play unit at the point position. If King is in, which I expect he will be, one of the other forwards will be a healthy scratch. It could be Derek Mathers if coach Martinson decides he doesn’t need his toughness against Rapid City, who is one of the least penalized teams in the league. The Rush haven’t had a fight in their last three games, which were all victories. If Mathers plays, whoever is the healthy scratch will be a player not used to being a healthy scratch. Will have to wait until warmups to see how it all plays out.

– Look for Jamie Murray to start in goal. Murray has not had a start since the last Allen home game on November 6 even though he did play 34 minutes in relief of Riley Gill on Tuesday in Missouri. It is important to develop young contract goalies as part of the affiliate agreement with San Jose.

– A week ago if you previewed the game tonight against Rapid City it would be easy to conclude it should be an easy night for the Allen Americans. The Rush were one of the worst teams in the league with a record of 2-9-1-0. They would be arriving in Allen after a game on Friday against the Oilers and traveling from Tulsa. The game against the Americans would be the third in four nights for the Rush.

– What a difference a week makes as Rapid City has won their last three games against quality opponents. Last Friday they beat Colorado (2nd in the Mountain Division) 2-1 at home. They then went on the road and beat the #1 team in the league standings (Tulsa) twice by scores of 2-0 and 3-2. What changed for Rapid City? A lot of credit has to go to goalie Adam Morrison who was signed by the Rush on November 6 and has been in goal for the last three games. Three wins with a GAA of 1.00 and save percentage of .974.

Here is how Allen and Rapid City matchup so far this season:

Allen Rapid City
Team Record 6-8-0-0 (12 points) 5-9-1-0 (11 points)
Division Ranking 5th – Mountain 6th – Mountain
Last Game 5-3 Loss (@Missouri) 3-2 Win (@Tulsa)
Goals For/Against 45/47 46/57
Power Play 8.5% (5/59) 19.6% (11/56)
Penalty Kill 80.0% (13/65) 89.7% (4/39)
Most PIMs Mathers (73 minutes) Grant (23 minutes)
Leading Scorer Costello (4-15-19) Sparks (8-13-21)

 

Here is how Allen and Rapid City rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 3rd (19.21) – Rapid City 25th (10.33)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 15th (3.21) – Rapid City 18th (3.07)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 19th (3.36) – Rapid City 23rd (3.80)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 8th (33.43) – Rapid City 26th (26.33)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 23rd (35.57) – Rapid City 24th (36.07)
Power Play Percentage: Allen 25th (8.5%) – Rapid City 11th (19.6%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 21st (80.0%) – Rapid City 3rd (89.7%)

– More than normal I think the stats are pretty much out the window for this game. Rapid City is a different team in their last three games allowing just three goals to some high powered offenses. They have the statistical advantage on special teams but Allen will have different players tonight on both the power play and penalty kill. Allen will be the fresher team having last played on Tuesday while Tulsa had games on Wednesday and Friday along with the bus trip from Tulsa.

– A good start will be key for both teams but especially for Allen who is 4-0 when scoring first but has struggled in first periods. Allen and Rapid City have a combined record of 7-1 when leading after the first period. When they trail after the first period their combined record is 0-12. I would say a good start is critical.

– Rapid City has two players (Lindsay Sparks & Ryan Walters) in the top four in ECHL scoring. Combined these two players have 33% of the team points and 37% of the team assists. Sparks (#10) and Walters (#88) play on the same line and the Americans will have to pay special attention when they are on the ice.

– Officials scheduled for the game are referee Andy Howard (#2) and linesmen Chase Wilkinson (#68) and Brian Bull (#49).

– I want to close today by wishing Rick Pinkston, J.P. Lafontaine and Chris Crane good luck with their new teams. It has been a tough week for the team and Allen fans as these are three well-liked, class guys who were great in the locker room. It is one of the most difficult parts of cheering for teams in minor pro hockey. If you cheer for the name on the back of the jersey (which everyone does) instead of the name on the front you will always have plenty of disappointment. My reporting would indicate coach Martinson felt with the way the team was playing he had too many players that played the same style of hockey and made a decision to bring in some new players that played a little different style. Hopefully, the new players will accomplish Martinson’s goal of being quick but also hard to play against. We will see if the acquisition of Ruopp, Guptill, Moore and the return to the lineup of King and Kale Kerbashian will make a difference.

DID YOU KNOW: You may remember Rush goalie Adam Morrison from when he was the backup goalie in South Carolina the year Allen beat them in the 2015 Kelly Cup finals. That was the year South Carolina set an ECHL record by winning 23 straight games. Jeff Jakaitis was the primary goalie for South Carolina playing in 37 games with a GAA of 1.96, save percentage of .924 and won the ECHL MVP award.

What is sometimes forgotten is Morrison actually had better stats than Jakaitis playing in 23 games he had a GAA of 1.88 and save percentage of .928. If you are like me you will never forget Jeff Jakaitis won the ECHL MVP award having played in only 37 games while Chad Costello played in all 72 games for Allen and won the scoring title by an all-time record 45 points. Chad had 125 points (41 goals 84 assists) and actually had more assists than anyone else in the league had total points. It may have been the greatest offensive performance in the history of the ECHL and by the way, he finished third in plus/minus with a +43.
It is my opinion that Chad was denied the MVP award because he was with the upstart Allen Americans who had just arrived from the Central Hockey League which had little respect from many around the ECHL that did the voting. The consolation for Chad wasn’t too bad as the Americans beat South Carolina in the Kelly Cup finals. That was also the year the players voted for a league MVP through the PHPA (Professional Hockey Players Association) and the players selected Costello as the ECHL MVP.

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