ALLEN, TX – With the 3-2 overtime loss to Idaho on Sunday the Allen Americans have now completed exactly one third of their season with a record 15-8-1-0. With three straight championships, Allen fans have very high expectations each and every year and as I walk the concourse at the Allen Event Center, some fans express concern about the inconsistency of this year’s version of the Americans.
I sat down with coach Steve Martinson as well as broadcaster Tommy Daniels yesterday to get their thoughts on how the season has gone thus far. I have learned over the years coach Martinson doesn’t like to compare teams as it is difficult to do without it becoming critical of certain players or group of players so before sharing his thoughts here is some comparative data between this year and last year that might help answer the question of whether you see the glass half full or half empty.
– Last year the Americans got off to a poor start losing their opening game to Tulsa 9-6 and were 3-3 after their first six games. They then went 15-3 over their next eighteen games to finish the first third of the season with 18 wins in 24 games.
– This season the Americans lost opening night (2-1 to Quad City) and when they play poorly it has been really bad such as the 8-1 home loss to Colorado, 6-1 home loss to Tulsa and a 7-3 loss in Utah. However, overall the team has played well having lost two games in a row only once. They have 15 wins in the first 24 games.
– The biggest difference between this season and last season is goals scored, not goals allowed. Last year after 24 games Allen had given up 62 goals and this year they have given up 68 goals. However, at this time last year the Americans led the ECHL in goals scored with 107 while this year the team has managed just 76 goals. The 76 goals scored still ranks Allen seventh in the league with an average of 3.17 goals per game.
– Last year at this time Allen was already showing they were the class of the Central Division on the way to winning the division by 25 points. This year they are trailing Missouri by a substantial eight points. But if you look at the glass half full, Allen has the fifth best winning percentage in the ECHL.
Here are Steve Martison’s thoughts after 24 games:
– There are things we need to improve offensively and things we are working on every day. We definitely need to improve our offensive zone time.
– Our team defense has been pretty good but when we are bad were are very bad. If you take out the three or four games where we were real bad our defensive stats would be excellent but maybe every team could say that.
– We have had numerous injuries on the back end with Makowski, Pinkston, and Federico missing a lot of games thus far. With Baker quitting the team we lost a guy that logged a lot of minutes. There were times when we have had six rookies in the lineup. We will get better as the season progresses.
– I have no worries about our goaltending. They have both played well with Rumpel carrying the load early and Gill lately.
– Our penalty kill was great the first ten games of the season and has dropped off some recently. Pierro-Zabotel is our best penalty killer and it has hurt with him being injured. We are not exactly where we need to be but we are close.
– Our power play has improved as the season has progressed. It has gone from around 11% after ten games to almost 20% now. Again, we are not exactly where I want to be but we are getting closer.
– Bottom line is we are trying to improve as a team and improve individually. We need to improve on the ice and off the ice. We will keep working hard to play better and I will also be trying to improve the roster as I do every year. It is important to keep improving so you play your best hockey in April and May.
Here are Tommy Daniels thoughts on the first third of the season:
– When you consider the team has nine rookies this year and we are playing more games outside the Central Division than last year the team has done very well thus far.
– When Greger Hanson was called up to San Jose our offense was really clicking and he was a big part of that. You combine that with the fact we have had so many injuries and it is pretty amazing we have the fifth best winning percentage in the league.
– It is not easy to win on the road in the ECHL yet this team is 8-5 on the road which ranks as one of the best road records in the league.
– Goalie play has been outstanding this year even if the stats don’t reflect such. Early in the year when the team was struggling offensively, Joel Rumpel kept us in games. Riley Gill has carried the load recently and has played great. We are fortunate that we have two #1 goalies.
– If you look at last season the team that went into the playoffs was very different than the team that started the season. You can be assured there will be roster changes this year as well.
– With such a young team there will be ups and downs during the season as it is a big adjustment in the number of games played per week and the travel involved. The team will only get better as they gain more experience.
– Our power play has been much improved as the season has progressed and the reason for that is our top end players have played better. On the penalty kill we have missed Pierro-Zabotel who logs a lot of penalty kill minutes and is outstanding on face offs.
If you are a glass half empty fan, after the first third of the season the Americans have three fewer victories, eight fewer points, 31 fewer goals than last year and are in second place in the division trailing Missouri by eight points. They are an inconsistent team and will continue to struggle. If you are a glass half full fan the team has nine rookies, had a ton of injuries to key players and still has the fifth best winning percentage in the ECHL and will only get better. Missouri is the best team in the ECHL right now so every team in the league is behind them. It is not how you play the first third of the season, it is how you play the last third that is important. The Americans are on track to make another deep run in the playoffs just like always.
It will be interesting to see how the next two thirds of the season plays out.