The Allen Americans take on the Wichita Thunder tonight at the Allen Event Center (AEC) with a puck drop at 7:05 pm. The game will be the seventh of 14 times these teams will play each other this season and the first of three games in three days against the Thunder. Both teams will head for Wichita right after the game tonight for games on Saturday night (7:05 pm) and Sunday afternoon (4:05 pm).
– You never know what kind of game will develop between these bitter rivals. Historically, scheduling three games in three days between these team has not turned out well. At some point things tend to get out of hand. The last time Wichita visited the AEC there were 24 penalty minutes in the first game and 72 minutes in the second game. Allen has 15 fighting majors this season and six of the 15 are against Wichita. If you subtract Jake Doty’s five fights it is six of 10 fights against Wichita. Doty has played two games against the Thunder but none of the Thunder players have been willing to fight him. They will get that opportunity again tonight.
– Allen has owned Wichita since these teams joined the ECHL back in 2014. The Americans overall record against the Thunder is 41-12-4-5. Things have changed last season and this season however. Last season these teams split 12 games and this season Wichita is 4-2-0-0 against the Americans.
– Head to head Wichita has a slight advantage in goals (22-20) and in shots (226-219). The two times Allen beat Wichita the scores were 4-0 and 4-1. In the four games the Americans lost to the Thunder they gave up 6,4,5 and 6 goals.
– As always and especially when Allen and Wichita play, special teams are a key and in this area Wichita has a distinct advantage. Allen’s power play percentage at home is 15.3% (9-59) compared to Wichita’s road power play percentage of 26.5% (18-68). On the penalty kill Allen is 80.8% at home and Wichita 85.1% on the road. It will be important for the Americans to stay out of the penalty box unless they take a Wichita player with them.
– Head to head (six games) Allen is 3-33 (9.1%) on the power play and Wichita is 4-34 (11.8%). The two times the Americans beat Wichita they did not allow a power play goal.
– Better team defense will be a key to the game but scoring five-on-five will be just as important. Allen is ranked #26 in average goals scored per game at 2.45. The Americans have been shutout twice in their last five games and had only one goal in another.
– Allen is 3-4 over their last seven games. In the three wins they scored 4,4 and 5 goals. In the four losses they scored 3,0,1 and 0 goals.
– Wichita arrives in Allen riding a five game losing streak (0-3-2-0). They have been dealing with injuries and call ups. Dyson Stevenson, Travis Brown, Lane Bauer, Stefan Fournier and Gabriel Verpaelst have all been on injured reserve and the Thunder have John McFarland, Dylan Wells, Jared Wilson and Nolan Vesey in the AHL. Not sure if any of the players will be back tonight but six of them were in the lineup the last time Wichita was in Allen.
– Allen had a week off between games so have had a chance to put in a lot of practice time this week and also heal some bumps and bruises. Alex Breton will be back in the lineup after returning from his assignment in the AHL and Alex Ranger might also return tonight. Ranger has been sidelined with an injury since December 14. Also seeing his first action for the Americans will be forward Curt Gogol who was recently acquired from Orlando. C.J. Motte will be in goal for the ninth straight game since he returned from a call-up to Iowa (AHL).
– The referee scheduled tonight is Stan Szczurek (#15). The linesmen will be Adam Brush (#80) and Aaron Schacht (#31). Szczurek was the referee in the last two games between Allen and Wichita.
On November 30 he called 12 minor penalties in a 4-1 Allen win. On December 1st he called 24 penalties for 72 minutes. That was the “Alex Penner” weekend with warnings from the league office in place. Maybe the same question remains for the game tonight. Could the game be even less physical than the typical Allen vs Wichita game? Will everyone be on their best behavior or will the bad feelings between these teams boil over once the emotions of the game take over. With Wichita captain Dyson Stevenson out of the lineup with an injury that could change the dynamic of the game tonight.
– C.J. Motte has been a stalwart for the Americans through some difficult times this season. Watching him in practice there is nobody that works harder and is more committed to getting better every day. It may go unnoticed with all of the losses but over his last 10 starts C.J. has faced 378 shots and made 350 saves for a save percentage of .926. There are only two ECHL goalies with a save percentage higher than .926.
– Allen owner Jack Gulati is in town and as usual will be roaming the concourse before the game tonight greeting fans. Jack plans to join coach Martinson at the post game chat with season ticket holders and take questions. These session are always informative.
– Here is a story about the trials and tribulations of being a hockey player. The struggle is real, why hockey butts and jeans don’t mix. The title of the story is, “Hockey players have big butts, and they cannot lie.” Check it out: http://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/25707545/the-struggle-real-why-hockey-butts-jeans-mix
– The inter-divisional games between the Mountain Division and Central Division continue tonight with Utah at Wheeling, Cincinnati at Kansas City and Toledo at Idaho. The Central Division still has a big advantage over the Mountain Division with a record of 21-6-0-2 but in the showdown on Wednesday between the best teams in both divisions Utah best Cincinnati 4-3 in a shootout and Idaho beat Toledo 4-2.
– There are 12 games on tap around the ECHL tonight. Here is the ECHL Today with a short preview on all of the games: https://www.echl.com/en/news/2019/1/echl-today-jan-11
DID YOU KNOW: Allen has played 15 home games and their average attendance has been 3723. Attendance will improve going forward because high school football is over and 14 of Allen’s remaining home games will be on Friday and Saturday night. The Americans have only three midweek home games left. In 2015-16 Allen had the best average attendance in franchise history (4571). It has been downhill since then. In order to equal last season’s average attendance (4082) the Americans will have to average 4338 per game over the final 21 home games. The question is what impact will Allen’s poor on ice performance have on attendance the remainder of the season. Here is Allen’s average attendance by season as reported to the league office. The asterisks indicate the seasons Allen won the championship.
2018-19: 3723 (after 15 of 36 home games)