ALLEN, Texas – Tonight at 7:05 pm inside the Allen Event Center, the Allen Americans take on the Cincinnati Cyclones in game two of their three-game series. Game one on Wednesday saw the Cyclones break a 2-2 tie with four unanswered goals in the third period to take a 6-2 victory.

– At this point given Allen’s record of eight straight losses and losing 21 of their last 24 games maybe the question isn’t what do the Americans have to do to win the game. Consider Allen will be taking on the Cyclones who have more points (41) than any other team in the league, have the best winning percentage in the ECHL (.759) and have won seven straight games. Maybe the focus should be on playing the right way, backchecking, taking pride in defense, avoiding neutral zone turnovers, staying out of the penalty box, finishing checks, driving the net and working hard. If the Americans could accomplish those goals a win should follow but if they still lose you just tip your hat to a better team.

A Vince Lombardi quote captures this best, “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand and the determination that whether you win or lose, you have applied the best of yourselves to the task at hand.”

– I don’t want to repeat the litany of stats that show the contrasts between Allen and Cincinnati that has the Cyclones ranked #1 in the ECHL and the Americans ranked #27 but a couple of stats stand out and bear repeating.

Cincinnati is the best defensive team in the ECHL allowing an average of 2.19 goals per game, 59 goals in 27 games. Allen is the worst defensive team in the ECHL allowing an average of 4.06 goals per game, 126 goals in 31 games. If you look just at third period, scoring the Cyclones have allowed just 10 third period goals all season and have a third period goal differential of +25. Allen has allowed a league-worst 48 goals in the third period and has a third period goal differential of -19.

Cincinnati scores an average of 3.78 goals per game, Allen averages 2.45 goals per game.

Cincinnati’s goalies have a combined save percentage of .923, Allen’s combined save percentage is .891.

– In game one, Cincinnati outshot Allen 44-25. If you combine that with the disparity in shooting percentage between these teams it becomes a real problem. The Cyclones shooting percentage this season is 12.2% so their six goals on 44 shots (13.6%) was right in line. The same was true for Allen who have a 7.7% shooting percentage this season so their two goals on 25 shots (8.0%) was also right in line. The takeaway is the Americans will have trouble winning even if the shots are even given the big difference in shooting percentages. If Allen gets out shot like they did on Wednesday they will not win.

– One positive from the game on Wednesday for the Americans is special teams. Allen took just five penalties in the game and matched the Cyclones as each team had one power play goal. Allen was 1-3 and Cincinnati was 1-4. As good as Cincinnati has been this season their road power play percentage is ranked #24 in the league at 10.7%. The Americans can use this to their advantage in the game tonight.

– Two Allen roster changes for tonight’s game are Mitch Maloney back in the lineup after being a health scratch on Wednesday and Garrett Clarke on the sidelines with an upper body injury.

– Not that they need any more firepower but Cincinnati had two players reassigned to them by their AHL affiliate (Rochester Americans) yesterday. Forward Myles Powell, 18 points (10G, 8A) in 17 games leads the Cyclones in points per game (1.06) and defenseman Devante Stephens, 15 points (5G, 10A) in 24 games and leads the team in plus/minus (+22) have joined the Cyclones for the final two games in Allen.

– Here is an interesting stat with some symmetry. Since joining the ECHL Allen has played Cincinnati four times. The Americans record in those four games is 1-1-1-1.

– The referee scheduled for the game is Andrea Barone (#13). The linesman will be Michael Miggins (#47) and Trent Williams (#0).

Postgame Comments Revisited

– After listening to Steve Martinson‘s post game comments and spending close to an hour with him in his office after the game on Wednesday, several themes came through that are worth sharing.

1. The idea of talking about and planning for next season is not part of Martinson’s thinking. His total focus is about winning this season. With 25 home games remaining, Martinson is going to do whatever he can to win this season. He will continue to grind to get the team on a winning track.

2. Doing whatever is necessary to win includes roster changes going forward. If players are unwilling to work hard and don’t have the right approach on and off the ice, they will be replaced. When you have the worst record in the league, players aren’t interested in coming to Allen so it complicates trying to improve the roster through free agent signings or recruiting players in Europe. Trades are the main option.

3. There is no room for excuses for how this season has gone and that is very clear when you spend time with Martinson. He takes this season personally and losing is harder on him than anyone else. He takes responsibility for what has happened but doesn’t dwell on it as he is laser focused on making it better. Remember, this is uncharted waters for Martinson. In his 23 years coaching AA hockey, he has never finished a season with a winning percentage lower than .542 and even in the one season his team didn’t make the playoffs he had a winning percentage of .556.

4. You can’t emphasize enough there is no quit in this coach. He mentioned after the game on Wednesday he was going to do something he hadn’t done in many years by having the team watch the entire game with him after practice on Thursday. Typically Martinson breaks down the game tape and shares clips with the players. Having the team watch the entire game with him is just another approach searching for improvement. As he said to me, “You do video with the idea of correcting mistakes and getting better, we will see if it works.”

Additional Thoughts

– I get asked frequently about the impact on attendance from the losing season. Allen’s home record is 2-9-0-0. The attendance over the first 11 home games has averaged 3716 which is within a 100 of the same period last season. The Americans typically have larger crowds after the first of the year when football season is over. The Americans average attendance last season was 4082 which placed them midpack (15th) in the league. In order to match last year’s attendance numbers, the Americans will have to average 4434 per game for the remaining 25 home games.

– The Mountain Division is really competitive this season and there are some great matchups this weekend. Wichita is at Rapid City, Tulsa is at Kansas City and Utah is at Idaho for games tonight and Saturday. I know I will be doing some scoreboard watching.

Did You Know?

Allen is the only team in the ECHL that has not scored a shorthanded goal at home nor allowed a shorthanded goal at home. Jacksonville leads the ECHL with seven shorthanded goals scored at home. Four teams (Brampton, Atlanta, Orlando, Rapid City) are tied for the most shorthanded goals allowed at home (4).

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