It is game day in Allen and it would be easy to look at the standings and draw the conclusion the game tonight against the Missouri Mavericks has little meaning. Missouri is just playing out the season trying to avoid falling to last place in the Central Division. With an eight point lead over last place Brampton the Mavericks seem destined for sixth place however their last three games of the season are against Brampton so anything can happen.
Allen has already clinched the Central Division title and home ice advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs. Yes they are looking to improve their overall ECHL standing but you wonder if they will be extra motivated tonight.
If asked (which I did earlier in the year) both coaches would say this is just another game on the schedule and we just try to win every game. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There are many subplots to this game but probably the most important one is Allen looking for a perfect record against Missouri. The Americans are 8-0 against the Mavericks and 9-0 sounds much better than 1-8. For first year head coach Richard Matvichuk, who helped Allen to back to back championships the last two years and has had a miserable season in Missouri, getting a win in Allen in this last meeting of the year would be a small but important consolation prize.
ALLEN VS MISSOURI TEAM COMPARISON
– There are a lot of stats you can look at to compare these teams from Allen being 8-0 against Missouri this year, to their records over the last ten games (Allen 5-4-1-0, Missouri 3-5-1-1) to the overall records (Allen 42-14-5-3, Missouri 23-33-4-3). Don’t think anyone would have predicted Allen would have a 39 point lead in the standings when these two teams met for the last time this season.
– Allen is ranked #1 in the ECHL in goals scored per game at 4.00 while Missouri is #26 at 2.54. In goals allowed Allen is #8 at 2.89 and Missouri is #19 at 3.25.
– Here are some other stats:
Points: Allen (92) – Missouri (53)
League Rank: Allen (4th) – Missouri (24th)
Goals For: Allen (256) – Missouri (160)
Goals Against: Allen (185) – Missouri (205)
Goal Differential: Allen (+71) – Missouri (-45)
Team Plus/minus: Allen (+256) – Missouri (-167)
Power Play %: Allen (20.3% – Missouri (12.7%)
Penalty Kill %: Allen (86.1) – Missouri (83.2%)
Team PIM’s Per Game: Allen (22.97) – Missouri (19.22)
Record Last 5 Games: Allen (3-2) – Missouri (1-4)
– Special teams will most likely play a key role in the game tonight and Allen has a big edge in special teams play. If you look at overall percentages Allen is ranked #3 on the power play and #3 on the penalty kill while Missouri is #28 on the power play and #13 on the penalty kill. At home Allen is ranked #13 on the power play at 18.8%. Missouri has the #26 ranked power play on the road at only 12.7%. If you look at the penalty kill Allen is #9 in the ECHL at home (85.5%) and Missouri is #20 on the road at 80.0%. In the eight head to head games Allen is 7-42 (16.7%) on power play opportunities while Missouri has scored just one power play goal in 40 power play opportunities. That is right, Missouri has just power play goal on Allen all year going 1-40. Advantage Allen.
– There is a lot of scoring missing from when Allen played Missouri earlier in the season. If you look at the head to head games with the Mavericks the leading scorer is Chad Costello who has 17 points in the eight games against Missouri. However the #2 scorer against the Mavericks this season (Gary Steffes – 13 points), #3 scorer Jack Combs (10 points) and #6 scorer Ian Schultz (5 points) will not be in the Allen lineup tonight. With the loss of all this firepower it will be important for the Americans to think defense first which they have done against Missouri in the past. Here are the goals scored by the Mavericks in the eight games against Allen this year. 1,0,2,1,3,1,2,3.
– Another concern for Allen is injuries as they were already playing with less than a full lineup in Tulsa on Wednesday and had a couple of players injured in that game which could impact the game tonight. Haven’t had a chance to touch base with coach Martinson so don’t want to speculate about who will be in and who will be out of the lineup tonight but there will be some changes.
– Bottom line is Allen would seem to have a big advantage going into the game tonight. After all, they have won eight in a row against Missouri outscoring them 33-13 in those eight games. The winning formula remains the same and that is out work Missouri, be aggressive but don’t gamble, get back defensively to avoid odd man rushes and take advantage of being the better team on special teams. You can throw what has happened in the past out the window as these are different teams, with different players that will be highly motivated for different reasons. And you can be assured the most motivated of all for a victory tonight will be the two head coaches even though “it is just another game.”
– The on ice officials scheduled tonight are referee Chris Pitoscia (#3) and linesmen Alex Black (#60) and Mike Anderson (#0).
– Rapid City beat Brampton last night 7-2 to take over sole possession of second place in the Central Division. You might think the outcome of the game was expected given where the two teams are in the standing but last place Brampton has given the Rush fits this year. In what was some strange scheduling the first six times these teams played were in Rapid City where Brampton won five of the six games including back to back 5-0 shutouts. Last night was the first time they have played in Brampton and it looks like Rapid City might prefer to play the Beast on the road. They will play again tonight and Sunday. By the way Kale Kerbashian had the first two goals for Rapid City last night, ended the game with three points, was a +5, and was named the #1 star of the game. That is what you would call a good night at the office.
– It is getting to be that time of year where ECHL rosters change a lot and teams fortunes can turn quickly based on the players they get assigned from their AHL affiliates. The old “trickle down” can make a huge difference. Riley Gill and Aaron Gens played in Reading last year and were the #1 seed going into the playoffs and played the #8 seed (Fort Wayne) who had several AHL players assigned. Fort Wayne ended up defeating Reading in the first round four games to one. ECHL teams that have NHL and AHL affiliates who don’t make the playoffs can be at an advantage when it comes to getting players assigned. So how are things looking for the teams Allen is affiliated with? Worcester currently sits in ninth place in the AHL Eastern Conference and out of the playoffs by just one point but they have three games in hand over eighth place Springfield. Worcester plays at Springfield tonight. While not yet eliminated mathematically in the NHL playoff picture the San Jose Sharks will not make the playoffs. This all points to Allen getting some good players assigned for the playoff run.
– If the playoffs started today Allen would be playing Tulsa and Wichita would miss the playoffs. Here is the update on the four teams battling for three playoff spots:
73 points: Rapid City (7 games remaining)
71 points: Quad City (6 games remaining)
70 points: Tulsa (8 games remaining)
68 points: Wichita (8 games remaining)
Tonight Rapid City plays in Brampton, Wichita plays in Quad City and Tulsa is idle.
– If you are a gambler you might pick tonight for the South Carolina 22 game win streak to end. They take on the Toledo Walleye who have won all three games they have played against the Stingrays this year. The game tonight will be played in Toledo. The three games Toledo won earlier in the season were all played in South Carolina. Given Toledo has the best winning percentage (.746) in the ECHL you have to like their chances at home tonight against South Carolina.
DID YOU KNOW: Many fans consider the 2010-2011 Allen Americans team the best ever assembled even though they lost in the third round of the playoffs. It is difficult to compare that team to the 2014-2015 team because it is different times and different leagues. There is no doubt this years team has more all around offense and has blown away most offensive records. The 2010-2011 team ended up with 97 points in the 66 game season which was the best record in the CHL. The most points the 2014-2015 team can earn in 66 games (if they win the next two games) is 96 points. Do regular season points predict playoff success. Not really as last year’s championship team had the fewest regular season points (83) in the Americans five year history.