The Allen Americans announced on Wednesday evening that two more players from last season’s Kelly Cup championship (Trevor Ludwig & Garrett Clarke) will be returning for the 2015-2016 season. The announcement took place at Abuelo’s, a long time sponsor of the Americans, and Trevor Ludwig was there to talk about his return and answer questions from the media and standing room only group of fans. Here is a recap of Trevor’s press conference:
“This is my home as most of you know. I have lived here for a long time and have been on the team for a long time. Allen was always my first choice as to where I wanted to play in 2015-2016. It is a great area, the fans are unbelievable, and the team has been a great team to play for with three straight championships,” Ludwig said. “Not only is this our home but we have lots of family here, and our little girl has grandparents she can visit. I am super thrilled to be back and look forward to making another run this year.”
Q: Your are the longest tenured player on the team and the only one who is left that played in the Mullins years, you have won three straight championships, you were healthy last season after some serious injuries in the past and your brother retired. What went into your decision to play again this year?
A: There was no doubt that I wanted to play again this season and wanted to return to Allen. At the beginning of the summer it looked like the writing was on the wall for whatever reason that I was going to move on. I was 80%-90% positive I was not coming back. There were several possibilities for me with Europe in the mix as well as other teams in the ECHL. It was especially difficult for my wife because our families are here. I know that in professional sports there is no job security and it is a business. In the middle of the summer I reached out to coach Martinson before making a decision and we talked about it and he said he would like me to come back and the rest is history. For the guys who aren’t going to be back I will miss them. Jamie and Nicole Schaafsma and their family were close with my family, Brian and Wendy McMillin were our neighbors at the apartments for the longest time and we became friends over the years. We will miss those players as they were big pieces to our success on the ice and off the ice they meant a lot to me and my family. And it goes without saying it is very rare to have a sibling play the same sport and then have them your team. I will really miss not playing with Tyler.Q: With all of the success the team had last year where do you see there is room for improvement this coming season?
A: We have a big group of players returning from last year and that will help. Last year when we struggled it was in transition and with such a great offensive team we can always improve defensively.Q: What do you think it will be like not having your brother playing with you this season?
A: It probably won’t really hit me until the season starts. Being twins there was always special communication between us growing up, inside jokes and we just understood each other in a certain way. The little things that most people wouldn’t see or understand is what I will miss the most not playing with Tyler.Q: I am sure you and Tyler tended to push each other to be better players. Who will you turn to now to give you that push?
A: Aaron Gens is younger than me but we were line mates from the middle of the season to the end and all through the payoffs. He is a great player and I love playing with him and being his defensive partner. In every practice and every drill in practice he really made sure we never just went through the motions as sometime you have a tendency to do. We had a lot of responsibility in the playoffs defensively to shut down the opponents top line. You don’t get as many points but it is just as important to stop the other team from scoring and we took pride in our role and took it seriously. I think Aaron and I pushed each other and helped keep each other focused.Q: You are going to be playing several new teams this year such as Alaska, Colorado and Utah. Have you spent any time looking at those teams to see how they play and how you match up?
A: Last year we joined the ECHL very late so for the most part we played the teams that came from the Central League. This year will be different with the way the ECHL changed the division alignment. I haven’t paid a lot of attention on the makeup of the teams we will play. The coaching staff will give us a report on the teams as we play them.Q: What do you think of your former teammate, Aaron Dell, suiting up for the San Jose Sharks and playing well in their preseason game this week.
A: I saw some clips but not the whole game and he made some great saves. Dell has always been a good goalie. He is smaller than the typical NHL goalie but he is very quick and has good rebound control. As they always say, first impressions last, when you are in a NHL exhibition game and you are making saves like that, you have the right GM’s and scouts watching and that is great for Aaron. I am happy for him and he deserves it.Q: Did you and Tyler ever have a bet growing up as to who would play the longest?
A: No we didn’t. Growing up we just loved the sport so much. Obviously with our dad playing hockey we just wanted to be like him. We played other sports growing up and there was always competition between us which helped us both improve.Q: Going back to the playoffs last year, you were within about 12 minutes of the season being over in game five of the series with Ontario. What do you think was the difference that put Allen over the top in that game that brought the series back to Allen for games six and seven?
A: Our team last year was a very strong team mentally. We had a confidence in each other and in our team from the goaltending, offense and defense that if we just kept playing things would work out. The team last year was so good at overcoming whatever adversity was put in our way.Q: With you and Gens both returning do you think coach Martinson will have you as a defensive pair this year?
A: I don’t know but I hope so. I really like playing with Gens. Like I said before in practice he always wants to improve himself, he wants to make sure everyone is giving 100% mentally and physically. Being the hockey player he is, he pushes everybody. We have good chemistry and a formula for success which is I pass the puck to Gens, he passes to Costello and he usually scores.Q: Inspite of playing new teams this year Allen will be playing the three teams in their division (Tulsa, Wichita, Missouri) a total of 39 times during the season. What do you expect from the Central Division this year?
A: I would expect the games with Wichita well be physical as they have been in the past. Our games with Tulsa always go back and forth but we did pretty well against them last year. I think Missouri will be improved from last year. I have known Richard Matvichuk since I was ten years old as he and my dad played together. He is an intense guy and last year he had a lot of turnover with his players. My younger brother (CJ) has an AHL deal with Bridgeport and their ECHL affiliate is Missouri. I hope CJ stays in the AHL all year but if he gets sent down to Missouri there will be another Ludwig on the ice.Q: Going back to game seven against South Carolina in the finals, with such a big lead in the game how much gratification was there after all of the criticism of the CHL teams and the path Allen took to the finals?
A: Since we played mostly the CHL teams in the regular season there was a lot of talk how Allen’s record was inflated and it was a watered down schedule because we did not playing many established ECHL teams. We were playing well but for the most part were not getting recognition from around the league. Game seven in the finals was the not type of game I expected. I remember waking up from my pregame nap and thinking how awesome it would be if we could blow them out and have smooth sailing in the third period knowing we were going to have another championship. Then I said to my self there is no way that is ever going to happen. I think the big difference in that game was we scored on our opportunities and they didn’t. We may have had a couple more opportunities but they had some good chances but did not convert. I have to admit it was very gratifying winning the championship because there were so many naysayers.- In addition to announcing that Trevor Ludwig had re-signed, Tommy Daniels also announced at Abuelo’s that Garrett Clarke would also be returning for the 2015-2016 season and asked Trevor to talk about Clarke and how he has changed from his first year in Allen and then his returning last year after playing in Arizona. Here is what Trevor had to say about Clarke:
“You have to remember that Clarke is young. This will be his fourth year as a professional but he is still only 22 years old. Most young players have a transition and learning curve. He has changed from that first year and it helps him knowing the style of coach that Martinson is and what he expects from Clarke. I have always been a fan of Clarke,” Ludwig said.
“He is a very dynamic player and he brings everything. As a young player he was highly scouted and was destined for the AHL & NHL. He is a very talented player who has been put in the role of relying on his physical play and fighting ability. He is as tough as nails and is the kind of guy that doesn’t give up. He is a good addition to the team, is a versatile player that can play defense or up front and is the type of guy that if a coach or player asks him to do something he will do it. As long as he continues to learn and figures out what he needs to do on a consistent basis night in and night out to contribute to the team he will be fine. I think he is a bonus for the team for sure.”
– I had a chance to touch base with Garrett and ask about his thoughts for the upcoming season. Here is what he had to say, “I am looking forward to another exciting season in Allen. Marty does a great job recruiting and with the players coming down from San Jose you can expect a strong line up night in and night out. I am sure we will be on everyone’s radar this season.”
Elsewhere: Goalie Joel Rumpel has been assigned by the Sharks (NHL) to the Barracuda (AHL) training camp. There were five goalies at the Sharks camp and the reassignment will give Rumpel more ice time in preparation for the upcoming season. Aaron Dell is still with the Sharks and will most likely be assigned to the Barracuda in the next couple of days as they further trim their roster.
– With most AHL training camps scheduled to officially open on Monday there are a lot of transactions happening. NHL teams are assigning players to AHL camps, ECHL teams are sending players to AHL camps, and AHL teams are still signing players. If you are on Twitter you can see all of the transactions worldwide if you follow the Elite Prospects transfer site. It is called EP Transfer and is at: @ep_transfers.
– If you haven’t seen the press release about the Steven Brothers hiring a CEO for their sports management group (SDSM) go to the Allen Americans web site (allenamericans.com) and take a look. His name is Steve Violetta and he has an impressive resume. I have had the chance to visit with Steve who will be working with all three teams (Allen, Tulsa & Wichita) and has lots of great ideas that should help all three organizations. What the release doesn’t mention is Steve will office in Allen but will spend plenty of time on the road.
– The St. Louis Blues beat the Dallas Stars last night 6-0 in a preseason game. Spencer Asuchak did not play in the game but has still not been assigned to the Blues AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves. You would expect that would happen soon but Spencer has made a great first impression in St. Louis that will serve him well in the future.
DID YOU KNOW: The list of former Allen Americans players that are coaching or working in the front office of hockey teams continues to grow. Here is a list which may not be complete:
Josh Hepditch – Head Coach, County Aces, Maritime Hockey League (MHL)
Bruce Graham – Assistant Coach, County Aces
Liam Huculak – Director of Business Develpment, Bakersfield Condors (AHL)
John Snowden – Assistant Coach, Orlando Solar Bears, (ECHL)
Steve Silverthorn – Assistant Coach, Bentley University
Jason Deitsch – Head Coach, Allen High School
Erik Adams – Assistant Coach, Allen Americans (ECHL)
Todd Robinson, Assistant Coach, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Phil Fox, Hockey Operations Manager, Northern Michigan University