ALLEN, Texas – Its game day for the Allen Americans as they start a three-game series against the Rapid City Rush at the Allen Event Center with games tonight, Friday, and Saturday. Allen will play Rapid City more than any other team the rest of the season, 11 times in the remaining 38 games.
Allen has been one of the top teams in the Western Conference all season and Rapid City has been at or near last place all season. Timing is everything as Rapid City is arriving in Allen playing the best hockey in the league right now. The Rush have a seven-game point streak of 6-0-1-0 and their record over the last 12 games is 8-2-1-1. Allen’s record over the last 12 games is 6-5-1-0.
A big advantage for the Americans is they are playing at home. Both teams have much better home records than road records. Allen is 13-10-0-0 on the road but 8-1-2-0 at the AEC. Rapid City is 12-8-0-1 at home but 6-10-2-0 on the road.
The game tonight will be the fifth of 16 games this season against Rapid City. In the first five games, the Americans won four with a record of 2-1 in Rapid City and 2-0 in Allen. In the odd stat of the day, in all five games, Allen and Rapid City have played this season the losing team had two goals. If the past is prologue, the first team to three goals wins.
In the five head-to-head games, Allen has outscored Rapid City 18-11 and outshot the Rush 177-145. In the five previous games, Allen’s power play was 3-17 (17.6%) and Rapid City’s was 1-16 (6.25%).
Rapid City has two of the top five ECHL players in points. Tyler Coulter, who was in training camp with Allen in 2017-18, is #3 in ECHL points (36) and Peter Quenneville is #5 with 35 points. The Rush also have two of the top six in goals, Coulter is #6 (15 goals) and Avery Peterson is #5 (16 goals).
Both teams can put the puck in the net having scored 114 goals but the big difference between these teams is goals allowed. Allen has given up 94 goals, while Rapid City has allowed a league-leading 125 goals. Allen has played five fewer games than Rapid City, so if you look at averages the Americans score more than the Rush (3.35 vs 2.92) and allow fewer goals (2.76 vs 3.23).
Both teams have goalies out of the lineup. Allen will be missing Jake Paterson who has been out since March 13. Rapid City goalie Gordy Defiel experienced a medical emergency on the bench on Saturday and did not accompany the team to Allen. Look for Justin Kapelmaster to carry the load for Allen and Adam Carlson for Rapid City.
Overtime could play a role in this series when you consider four of Rapid City’s last six games have gone extra time. Since February 19th Rapid City has gone extra time in 53% of its games (8 of 15). The Rush are 5-2 in overtimes and 2-1 in shootouts this season. Allen is 2-2 in overtimes and 2-0 in shootouts.
It talking to Steve Martinson this morning the Americans will be playing short again tonight with just nine forwards and seven defensemen. That means Colby McAuley and Jesse Mychan are still out.
Help is Coming…
There is help on the way as Martinson has signed three college players who will arrive this weekend. One on Saturday and two on Sunday. All three are forwards who will add scoring, speed, and grit to the lineup. One went to college in the US and two attended Canadian colleges. All three were point-a-game players in college.
An already tight Western Conference could get even tighter tonight with all teams except Fort Wayne in action. In addition to Rapid City at Allen, Kansas City is at Wichita, and Tulsa is at Utah.
There are always familiar faces when Rapid City comes to town. In addition to coach Daniel Tetrault, who won his only professional championship as part of Allen’s 2013-14 CHL championship team. Other Rush players that spent time in Allen include Garrett Klotz, Mike Hedden, and Tyler Coulter.
Did You Know?
Whenever Rapid City comes to Allen at some point it makes me hearken back to the first year of the franchise. The start-up Americans had an amazing run to the CHL championship finals before losing to Rapid City.
Allen had to win games six and seven just to get out of the first round against Laredo. The Americans then took on the top team in the league, Odessa, in the second round and had to win game seven on the road to advance to the championship finals.
In the finals against Rapid City, the Americans were up after three games 2-1 with games four and five at home. The Americans took a 2-0 lead in game four but lost game 4-2 and the next night got blown out 7-2. The teams then traveled to Rapid City with the Rush leading 3-2 and Allen needing to win twice. All looked good for the Americans in game six when they scored the first three goals of the game and had a 3-0 lead after the first period. However, Rapid City scored twice late in the third period to send the game to overtime and won the game and the championship with 32 seconds remaining in the second overtime.
Most fans would select one of Allen’s four championships as the best season in franchise history but an argument could certainly be made for the first-year Allen team. The Americans didn’t even have an arena when the season started as the AEC wasn’t completed. The Americans played the first seven games in franchise history on the road.
It was a Cinderella story that came up a little short but one of the greatest seasons in team history.