Allen Tex. – It’s game day for the Allen Americans as they play the first of three games against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits tonight.
With nine players on the sidelines, it would have been easy for the Americans to postpone/cancel this trip to Greenville which is the most expensive road trip of the season. It seems like there is no standard for what hoops a team has to go through to add players when they have a COVID-19 breakout in order to avoid postponing games.
– Rather than having an EBUG for the series, Martinson signed goalie Taran Kozun yesterday who met the team in Greenville. Kozun is a highly decorated 27 year old rookie goalie that has been signed for a short term by several ECHL teams this season. Taran is from Saskatchewan and played his junior hockey in the Western Hockey League (WHL) and then played college hockey (USports) at the University of Saskatchewan. Kozun was selected as the WHL Top Goaltender (Del Wilson Trophy) in 2014-15 and was the back-to-back USports Goaltender of the Year in 2018-19 and 2019-20. Last season in addition to being the USports Goalie of the Year he was also awarded Player of the Year. Taran’s brother, Tad, is a forward for the Orlando Solar Bears. Taran and Turner Ottenbreit were teammates in the WHL.
– Josh Maser, who was just assigned to the Americans by Iowa and was expected to make the trip to Greenville ended up staying in Allen. He may fly to Greenville for the weekend games but could also end up back with Iowa. The Wild had their game in Austin Thursday against the Texas Stars postponed and according to a team press release, was “due to league COVID-19 protocols affecting the Iowa Wild.” The Iowa games against Texas on Friday and Saturday have not been postponed yet so if they get played and Iowa has players out with COVID -19they may need Maser back.
– With Maser questionable coach Martinson reached out and signed another forward on the east coast that will meet the team in Greenville this afternoon. Martinson is talking to other players just in case there is a need for the weekend.
– Here is the bottom line, Allen has nine players on the sidelines plus Maser who is waiting to see what happens. Six of Allen’s top 10 players in games played are not with the team. As many as seven players could play their first game for Allen in this series. Martinson is doing whatever he can to make sure he has enough players so he is not playing short if he has injuries.
– This series pits two teams that have good records but have struggled lately. Allen’s record is 15-7-1-0 (.674) but it has lost four of the last six games including the last two. Greenville, who is in third place in the Eastern Conference with a point percentage of .540 has lost four of their last five games and been shutout three times.
– All eyes will be on the Allen vs Greenville game (6:05 pm Allen time) as it is the only game in the ECHL tonight.
– Allen scores an average of 3.3 goals per game and allows 2.5 goals per game. Greenville is just the opposite scoring 2.6 per game and allowing 3.2 per game. Allen has scored 77 goals and allowed 58 for a +19 goal differential. Greenville has scored 66 goals and allowed 80 for a goal differential of -16.
– Four of the top-scoring defensemen in the league will be on the ice in this series. Allen’s Matt Register is #1 (19 points) and Les Lancaster is #5 (14 points). Lancaster leads the league in goals by a defenseman with six. You don’t see two defensemen leading a team in scoring very often but that is the case with Greenville. Rookie Ben Finkelstein (#5) has 17 points and Sam Jardine (#21) has 17 points to lead the Swamp Rabbits in scoring. They rank #2 in the ECHL, right behind Register, in points by defensemen.
– Allen’s road special teams percentage is 19.6% on the power play and 82.0% on the penalty kill. At home Greenville is 9.1% on the power play and 82.5% on the penalty kill.
– Scoring first is always important but even more so in this series. These are the two best teams in the ECHL when scoring first. Their combined record when scoring first is an almost unbeatable 20-1-3-0. Allen is 12-1-0-0 and Greenville is 8-0-3-0. If past is prologue the team that scores first will win at least two but likely all three games.
– The likelihood of an overtime game when you play Greenville is quite high. They have had more overtime games (11) than any team in the league as 44% of their games have gone extra time. The Swamp Rabbits overtime record is 4-5 and their shootout record is 0-2. Allen’s overtime record is 1-1 and their shootout record is 2-0. Advantage Allen.
– Greenville (12.84) and Allen (13.00) average about the same number of penalty minutes per game but the mix of penalties is different. Greenville has more minor penalties (128-102) and Allen has more five-minute major penalties (15-9). Most of the major penalties are fighting majors, the Americans have had 14 fights compared to the Swamp Rabbits nine fights.
– If there is a silver lining with so many players out because of COVID protocols, it is once the team gets past this weekend they should be in great shape going forward. You don’t wish COVID on anyone but with so many on the team now having had it the term herd immunity applies.
– It was just three weeks ago Allen’s NHL affiliate, Minnesota Wild, was shutdown for two weeks with a COVID breakout that had 15 players on the NHL COVID list in just 10 days. However, the Wild have come back strong after having to postpone games and starting their recent road trip with many regulars still on the COVID list. The Wild just returned home winning four straight road games. They beat the Ducks 3-1 and 5-1, the Sharks 6-2 and the Avalanche 6-2.
– Both AHL teams the Americans work with have had to postpone games this week. Iowa’s game against Texas last night was postponed and it is possible their two games this weekend could be postponed. The San Jose Barracuda have also postponed their game tonight against Bakersfield. From the Barracuda press release, “Despite having only one player currently impacted, the decision to cancel the team’s practice and training activities on Wednesday and postpone the game on Thursday was made out of an abundance of caution.” The Barracuda have not played a game since February 13 and have now had five straight games postponed. They are scheduled to play Ontario at home on Saturday and Sunday.
– Indy and Florida won in the only two ECHL games last night to extend the points percentage lead as the top two teams in the ECHL. There are only three teams above .700 with another three above .600.
Here are the top six:
.813 – Indy
.788 – Florida
.739 – Wichita
.674 – Allen
.667 – Fort Wayne
.640 – Utah
– Indy and Florida are starting to run away in the Eastern Conference standings. After Indy (.813) and Florida (.788) third place Greenville’s point percentage is way back at .540.