One of the best things for Allen Americans fans about the second season in the ECHL is the opportunity to play a wider variety of teams. The next two nights Allen will be taking on the Utah Grizzlies. The Grizzlies play in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Valley City which is the second largest city in Utah (population of 130,000 last census). The team plays in the 10,100 seat Maverik Center that was opened in 1997 and served as the main venue for the hockey events during the 2002 Winter Olympics. The Maverik Center gets it name from Maverik, Inc. which owns convenience stores in the region and got the naming rights for the arena in 2010.
ALLEN VS UTAH PREVIEW
– Last season Allen had a a record of 48-14-6-4 and Utah had a record of 37-27-5-3. Allen went on to win the Kelly Cup. Utah was the fourth seed in the Pacific Division and had a great first round in the playoffs defeating the top seed (Idaho Steelheads) before losing in the division finals to the Ontario Reign.
– Utah has gotten off to a great start this season beating Colorado twice in Colorado last weekend by scores of 4-3 in overtime and 5-2. The game tonight will be the home opener for the Grizzlies and there should be a large and enthusiastic crowd on hand. The Americans have gotten off to their typical slow start and are 2-2 after a 3-1 win in Colorado on Wednesday.
– With so few games played (Allen four & Utah two) comparison stats are not too meaningful but here are a few that caught my eye. The number in parenthesis is the ECHL rank.
Average goals scored: Allen 2.25 (#18) – Utah 4.50 (#4)
Average goals allowed: Allen 2.00 (#8) – Utah 2.50 (#11)
Average shots allowed: Allen 27.75 (#12) – Utah 38.00 (#28)
Average penalty minutes: Allen 15.50 (#15) – Utah 20.00 (#7)
– Special teams will undoubtedly play a key role in the two games with Utah. Again it is a small sample but Utah has the edge on the power play at 24% (#5) compared to Allen at 5.6% (#22). Allen has had the better penalty kill at 94.1% (#6) with Utah at 71.4% (#23).
– One of the keys to success for the Americans this weekend is to get off to a better start. In the first four games Allen has scored just three goals in the first two periods while allowing six. In the third period Allen has scored six goals and allowed only two.
– Another big key for Allen this weekend is to get more production from players that are expected to be the top scorers (Costello, Steffes, Hanson, Pierro-Zabotel). Utah gave up 76 shots in their two games against Colorado and if they do that against Allen look for these players to have a big weekend.
– The Grizzlies have been led by forward Barry Almeida who has five goals in just two games and leads the entire ECHL in goals scored. Almeida was a teammate of Riley Gill in Reading in 2012-2013 when they won the Kelly Cup.
– Joel Rumpel will be in goal for Allen tonight. Riley Gill is not on the trip.
– Officials scheduled for the game tonight are referee Stephen Thomson (#27) and linesmen Kollin Kleinendorst (#35) and Andrew Collins (#58).
– Today is the last day to purchase any ECHL TV package at early bird prices. Having watched the first two Allen away games (Tulsa & Colorado) the picture quality has been outstanding. The cost for the single team away package is $89.99. If you buy games one at a time ($7.99) you will be money ahead with the season package if you watch just 12 of the 36 away games. And if you miss a game they are archived so you can go back and watch the games you missed.
– The following video which was played prior to the banner raising on opening night has been all over social media but for those of you that are not on social media and did not attend opening night you will enjoy it.
– It is early but the Eastern Conference has familiar names at the top and bottom of the conference. Florida is in first place and is the only team in the ECHL at 3-0. At the bottom (tied with Kalamazoo) is the Brampton Beast at 0-2.
DID YOU KNOW: The franchise history of the Utah Grizzlies is a long and storied one dating back to the origins of the ECHL. The franchise started as the Virginia Lancers and was one of the founding members of the East Coast Hockey League. The franchise was under seven different names in five different southeastern cities from 1988 before suspending operations in 2003. In 2005 new owners bought the dormant franchise and moved the team to Utah. Here is the ECHL lineage of the Utah Grizzlies including the most famous hockey name ever, the Macon Whoopee.
1983-1990: Virginia Lancers
1990-1992: Roanoke Valley Rebels
1992-1993: Roanoke Valley Rampage
1993-1994: Huntsville Blast
1994-2001: Tallahassee Tiger Sharks
2001-2002: Macon Whoopee
2002-2003: Lexington Men O’ War
2005-Present Utah Grizzlies