ALLEN, Texas – It was back to practice today for the Allen Americans and I thought I would start out with a little hyperbole by saying this may be to most important three straight days of practice all season. I say this for a few reasons. First, after this week the Americans will not have three practices days (four days between games) but one time until after the first of the year. This team is still forming and practices are critical at this time of the season. Second, the team is off to a poor start (3-4-0-1). If you look at the standings they are deceiving with four teams (Kansas City, Idaho, Allen, Wichita) tied for third place with seven points. Allen has taken eight games to earn seven points while Kansas City and Wichita have played only five games.
– If you look at the Mountain Division standings by winning percentage the picture is very different. Only two of the seven teams have a losing record, Allen and Rapid City. Here are the standings based on winning percentage.
.900 – Tulsa
.833 – Utah
.700 – Kansas City
.700 – Wichita
.500 – Idaho
.438 – Allen
.429 – Rapid City
– Team performance thus far is why this week is so important when it comes to practice. Coach Martinson said after the team blew a 5-0 lead on Saturday, “We turned pucks over, we didn’t defend well, in some cases we over defended and we defended soft in the second half of the game. We are going to have to figure out if we want to learn from this because we can’t keep playing like this. We need to get home and get to work. We have some guys who need to learn how to defend. We need to get more serious about our mental preparation and defending, making sure that is a priority.”
– While team defense was better in the Allen 2-0 loss on Sunday it did not change the goal for practice this week which is a focus on defensive play. Thus far Martinson has been patient with this group, maybe because they are one of the younger teams in the league and are very skilled. If there isn’t marked improvement in team defense this weekend in two home games against South Carolina, who have also had a mediocre start (4-4-0-0), Martinson could decide he can’t win with this group and make major changes. That is why the next three days of practice may be the most important of the season (hyperbole intended).
– I wrote yesterday about the inconsistency that has plagued the Americans in their first eight games. The best example was the first two games of the season where they lost 5-1 in the opener and the next night won 4-0. Here is a look at a few stats to help describe inconsistency.
– Goals scored – Allen is in the middle of the pack in goals scored ranking #15 averaging 3.00 goals per game. It is a different look when the goals scored in all eights games thus far; 1,4,5,1,4,3,6,0. Here are the brackets which are telling and do show some inconsistency.
0-1 – three times
2-3 – one time
4 or more – four times
– Shots and Goals allowed – These stats are the best proof of the Americans poor defensive play. Allen is ranked #27 (last) in shots allowed (43.25) and #23 in goals allowed (3.75). Goals allowed in the eight games so far were 5,0,6,4,2,5,2. Again the inconsistency is evident with five or six goals allowed three times and two or fewer goals allowed three times.
– Allen has allowed five goals and won, scored five goals and lost, scored two goals and won, allowed two goals and lost, been shutout once, shutout their opponent once and this all took place in the first eight games. I think the word inconsistency is appropriate.
– Allen isn’t the only traditionally good team off to a slow start. Manchester finished second in the North Division last season one point out of first place. This season they have started 3-3-0-1. Florida won the Brabham Cup last season for the most points in the regular season (112). This season they are ranked #22 in points with a record of 2-3-1-0. The winner of the historically good team with a bad start goes Fort Wayne. The Komets were the fifth best team in the ECHL in winning percentage last season and fourth best in 2016-17. This season they have started 1-5-0-0 and are last (#27) in the league with a winning percentage of .167.
DID YOU KNOW: In the history of the ECHL, the Brabham Cup (most regular season points) has been won by the same team in consecutive years just one time. That team was the Alaska Aces and they won the Brabham Cup an amazing four straight years, 2010-2014.