ALLEN, Texas – It is game day for the Allen Americans as they take on the Tulsa Oilers for the 13th and final time this season. The Americans record against Tulsa is only 3-8-1-0 but one of the three wins came on Saturday when Allen beat the Oilers 3-2 for Steve Martinson’s 1000th victory.

– You may ask what do the Americans have left to play for over the final eight games of the season and the honest answer is not much. They have been eliminated from the playoffs and have little or no chance of getting out of last place in the Mountain Division standings. The only realistic goal left is to avoid having the worst record in the ECHL. Allen has 50 points and a winning percentage of .391 on a record 22-36-4-2. Greenville is the only team with a worse record. The Swamp Rabbits have 48 points and a winning percentage of .387 on a record of 21-35-3-3. Playing for pride and an ECHL contract for next season is about all that is left for the players.

– I attended practice yesterday and it is clear to me coach Martinson is pushing the team just as he has in the past when they were battling for a division championships. It was a spirited practice and Martinson challenged the team to play like they did on Saturday against Tulsa rather than lapse back into the poor defensive performances against Kansas City.

Kevin Sundher and Etienne Boutet participated in practice wearing the yellow no-contact jersey. Sundher has been out of the lineup since the end of December so I am sure he isn’t ready to return, but Boutet is listed as day to day so he could return soon. Mitch Maloney and C.J. Motte did not practice and will not play.

– Tulsa will have two players in the lineup tonight that did not play on Saturday. Forward Stephen Perfetto has spent most of the season in San Antonio (AHL) and was just assigned to Tulsa. Perfetto has played 12 games in Tulsa this season and has 12 points (2G, 10A). Forward Ryan Tesink was just returned from loan to San Diego (AHL). He is Tulsa’s second-leading scorer with 54 points (23G, 31A) in 58 games.

– Tulsa will certainly arrive in Allen motivated to play better than they did in the loss to the Americans on Saturday. The loss cost the Oilers first place in the division as they are in a battle with Idaho and Utah for the top spot. The top two spots are critical because of home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

– In their 12 head-to-head games, Tulsa has outscored Allen 35-30. The biggest difference between Allen and Tulsa relates to shots. Tulsa is ranked first in the ECHL in average shots taken per game (36.05) compared to Allen who is ranked 19th (31.03). To go along with taking the most shots the Oilers are also ranked first in allowing shots, giving up an average of 26.26 shots per game. This compares to Allen who is ranked last allowing an average of 36.09 shots per game. It computes to a shot differential of +9.79 for Tulsa and -5.06 for Allen.

Tulsa and Allen have played 12 times this season and the Oilers have outshot the Americans in 11 of them. Both teams had 38 shots in Allen’s win on Saturday. Tulsa’s total shots advantage is a staggering 481-330. The Americans will have to keep the shots close tonight if they expect to win.

– If you look at the 12 head-to-head games on special teams, the Americans power play is 7-46 (15.2%) and Tulsa’s power play is 7-58 (12.1%). What is notable in these numbers is Tulsa has had 12 more power play opportunities than Allen. The Americans lead the ECHL with 370 minor penalties, Tulsa has been called for 293 minor penalties. In the Americans win on Saturday, both teams were 2-6 on the power play. If the power play opportunities are even that will be a good sign for Allen.

– If you look at season-long special team stats these teams are close. The Oilers road power play percentage is 15.2% compared to Allen’s home power play percentage of 15.4%. The Oilers road penalty kill percentage is 84.9% compared to Allen’s home penalty kill percentage of 80.5%.

– Scoring first is always key but even more so against Tulsa. The Oilers are ranked #1 in the league when scoring first with a record of  22-1-3-1. Allen’s record when scoring first is 14-7-4-1.

– Tulsa is almost unbeatable with a first period lead on the road with a record of 11-1-1-0. Not so true for the Americans who have managed a first period lead at home 11 times with a record of 4-6-1-0.

– Fans will have the chance to see the top two goals scorers in the ECHL tonight. Adam Pleskach and Zach Pochiro have a lot in common. They both wear #18, they have both had a four-goal game this season and they are first (Pochiro, 33 goals) and second (Pleskach 32 goals) in the league in the goal-scoring race. As an aside, the third player in goals is J.C. Campagna with 31. Campagna started the season with Allen but was traded to Fort Wayne in October.

– Pochiro leads the ECHL with 13 power play goals, while Pleskach is tied for second with 12 power play goals.

– The referee scheduled tonight is Liam Sewell (#7). The linesman will be Chris Provost (#50) and Addison Brush (#80).

Additional Thoughts

– It is great to see coach Martinson getting recognition for his 1000th win which results in publicity for the Allen Americans. It is very difficult to get local media interested in anything related to the Americans but even they couldn’t resist a feat like 1000 wins. I have seen coverage on local radio and television. Martinson was honored at a Dallas Sidekicks game and the Rick Gosselin story has been widely circulated in the US and Canada.

– The top teams are good at both ends of the ice and the stats back that up. Cincinnati is the first in the league in points and winning percentage, Florida is second and Newfoundland is third.

Here are the ECHL leaders in goals for, goals against and goal differential:

Goals scored
236 – Florida
235 – Cincinnati
222 – Newfoundland

Goals allowed
141 – Cincinnati
154 – Florida
169 – Newfoundland

Goal differential (goals scored minus goals allowed)
+94  Cincinnati
+82  Florida
+53  Newfoundland

– Allen has scored 183 goals and allowed 238 goals for a goal differential of -55. Only Greenville (-58) is worse.

– Three of the four best power play teams in the ECHL may not make the playoffs. The top four:
23.0% – Wichita
22.0% – Adirondack
21.6% – Kalamazoo
21.0% – Wheeling

Wheeling and Wichita are in fifth place in their division, Kalamazoo is in fourth place and Adirondack is in second place.

– Who is the best at converting their shots? The best shooting percentage on the Allen team  (minimum of 25 games). The Americans team shooting percentage is 9.0%.

18.1% – Riley Bourbonnais
16.6% – Zach Pochiro
14.6% – Alex Ranger
11.9% – Braylon Shmyr
11.6% – Adam Miller

Did You Know?

I posted this info on the ECHL Stats Twitter account (@ECHLStats) and found it interesting. The style of play between the four ECHL divisions and two conferences varies widely. The biggest difference is between the North Division and the Mountain Division. Five of the seven teams in the Mountain Division have over 1000 penalty minutes and the other two have over 800. In the North Division, no team has more than 864 penalty minutes and four of seven teams have fewer than 700.

The average penalty minutes per team in the Western Conference is 994 minutes, the average in the Eastern conference is 806 minutes.

Here are the average penalty minutes per team in the four divisions;

1073 – Mountain Division
914 – Central Division
895 – South Division
717 – North Division

The last four Kelly Cup champions (Colorado & Allen) have been physical, high penalty minute teams with 1377, 1415, 1189 and 1644 regular season penalty minutes. When you consider there are four grueling best of seven rounds to win the cup the tougher teams seem to wear down the softer teams that rely primarily on skill. The question is will the recent trend continue this season.

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