It is game day in Allen as the Americans take on the Tulsa Oilers at the Allen Event Center this afternoon with a 4:05 p.m. puck drop. It will be the fourteenth meeting between Allen and Tulsa but only the second since December 28th. After playing twelve times in the first two months of the season these teams have played only once in the last three months. That is about to change as four of the next five games are against Tulsa and they will all will take place in the next ten days.

Tulsa has been the best team in the Central Division recently as they have won six straight games and eight of their last ten. While the Americans had the day off on Saturday to rest, Tulsa played in Wichita last night (Tulsa won 4-1) and had to travel the 360 miles to Allen overnight.

The game this afternoon is big for Allen as they try to snap an eight game home losing streak with the added bonus of clinching the Central Division title with a win. In the thirteen previous games Allen is 8-4-0-1 against Tulsa and at home Allen is 4-3 against the Oilers. One of the worst defeats of the year for the Americans was the home opener when they lost to the Oilers 9-6.

Here is a statistical comparison:
Team Record: Allen (40-14-5-3) – Tulsa (33-25-1-3)
Points: Allen (88) – Tulsa (70)
League Rank: Allen (4th) – Tulsa (13th)
Goals For: Allen (245) – Tulsa (221)
Goals Against: Allen (182) – Tulsa (210)
Goal Differential: Allen (+63) – Tulsa (+11)
Team Plus/minus: Allen (+218) – Tulsa (+102)
Power Play %: Allen (18.4% at home) – Tulsa (17.2% on the road)
Penalty Kill %: Allen (85.8% at home) – Tulsa (83.8% on the road)
Team PIM’s Per Game: Allen (23.2) – Tulsa (19.3)
Record Last 5 Games: Allen (1-4) – Tulsa (5-0)

Special teams are always critical to the outcome of a game and if you look at recent performance Allen will have to improve to beat Tulsa. Tulsa has given up only one power play goal in the last five games and has a penalty kill percentage in those five games of 96%. Allen has given up seven power play goals in the last five games and has a penalty kill percentage of just 66.7%.

The leading scorer for Allen against Tulsa is Chad Costello who has twenty three points (11 goals 12 assists) in the 13 games. T.J. Caig leads the way for Tulsa with sixteen points (5 goals 11 assists).

The referee for the game this afternoon is Peter Tarnaris (#23) who was the referee in Wichita on Friday. Tarnaris was also the referee for last night’s Tulsa/Wichita game.

OTHER COMMENTS:

The battle for the final three playoff spots in the Central Division continues to be very close and positions change daily. Last night Tulsa beat Wichita and Rapid City beat Quad City to gain the advantage.

Here is how they stand today:
71 points – Rapid City (8 games remaining)
70 points – Tulsa (10 games remaining)
69 points – Quad City (7 games remaining)
68 points – Wichita (9 games remaining)

There are lots of ways to slice and dice the remaining schedule but with games in hand and playing the best hockey right now Tulsa looks to be in good shape for a playoff spot. Wichita is the team on the outside looking in right now but they play their last six games at home. You can be assured the final playoff spot will not be decided until the last game of the season.

The South Carolina Stingrays kept their win streak alive beating Cincinnati last night 5-4 in a shootout. The Stingrays had to come from behind and tied the score on a power play goal with just 72 seconds remaining in regulation time. South Carolina has now won 21 consecutive games. They hit the road for their next seven games starting in Cincinnati on Wednesday.

A once in a lifetime performance last night by Shawn Szydlowski as he led the Fort Wayne Komets to a 6-4 win over Missouri. The 24 year old Michigan native had five goals in the game including three shorthanded goals.

Have to mention the hockey success at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota. The women’s team is in the Frozen Four for the fourth consecutive time. After winning back to back championships in 2012 & 2013 they lost in the finals last year and are back in the finals again this year. They will meet Harvard this afternoon for the national championship. Not to be outdone the men’s team won the Big Ten playoff title yesterday with a 4-2 win over Michigan and earned an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament. Go Gophers!

Aaron Dell was in goal last night and stopped 28 of 29 shots as the Worcester Sharks beat Lehigh Valley 6-1. It was Aaron’s tenth win for Worcester and he lowered his GAA to 1.87 and raised his save percentage to .931. The article below about Aaron was published by the Worcester Telegram and Gazette this past week.
http://www.telegram.com/article/20150319/NEWS/303199479/1009/SPORTS

DID YOU KNOW: The three shorthanded goals scored by Shawn Szydlowski last night ties the ECHL record which has been achieved two other times. The mark was originally established way back in 1998 by Jamey Hicks who played for the Birmingham Bulls. The only other player in ECHL history to have three shorthanded goals in one game is Chad Costello who accomplished the feat in 2012 playing for the Colorado Eagles.

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