It is game day as the Allen Americans are down to their last four home games of the season. All of the optimism about turning the season around is gone and everywhere you look everyone can’t wait for the nightmare of the 2018-19 hockey season to be over. It is a feeling never before felt by Allen fans, just playing out the season. It sucks to just be playing out the season.
– Allen takes on Utah tonight and Saturday in must win games for the Grizzlies. A month ago Utah visited Allen for three games as the top team in the Mountain Division with a record of 31-15-4-1 and winning percentage of .657. Allen swept those three games 7-5, 4-2 and 5-4. The Grizzlies have lost 12 of their last 14 games and have fallen to third place in the division with a winning percentage of .587. Utah is currently five points behind first place Idaho, four points behind second place Tulsa and five points ahead of fourth place Kansas City.
– Utah will be looking for a different outcome in Allen this weekend and they definitely need the points so they can overtake Tulsa for second place in the division and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
– The task for the Americans will be much more difficult this weekend than the three game sweep of the Grizzlies last month just based on roster changes. Allen will be playing without Alex Breton, Riley Bourbonnais and Emerson Clarke and it is unknown if goalie C.J. Motte will return from the injury that has kept him sidelined for the last three weeks. C.J. has been practicing and is listed as day to day. Utah has added toughness and skill with the addition of Gabriel Verpaelst by trade, Joey Ratelle (from the AHL) and a couple of amateurs. Finally, Cole Ully, who missed over two months with an injury has returned to the lineup. Even though he has only played in 35 games, Ully is the third leading scorer on the Grizzlies with 39 points (14G, 25A).
– The game tonight will be the ninth of 11 games against Utah this season. The Americans are 4-4-0-0 in the first eight meetings. Allen lost the first four times these teams met, were outscored 17-3 and were shutout three times. The Americans have won the last four times these teams have played and outscored Utah 20-13.
– If you look at season long stats Utah averages 3.3 goals per game, Allen just 2.9. Utah allows 2.9 goals per game, Allen 3.7. Utah’s record when scoring first is 24-5-3-2. Allen’s record when scoring first is 14-7-4-1.
– Special teams will be key in this two game series. Head to head Allen is 5-37 (13.5%) on the power play, Utah is 9-41 (22.0%). If you look at season long stats Utah has the advantage on the power play (21.2% vs 16.5%) and on the penalty kill (86.0% vs 82.5%).
– Allen has struggled on the penalty kill since Riley Bourbonnais and Alex Breton have been loaned to AHL teams. The Americans have given up at least one power play goal in their last six games and during that time the penalty kill percentage is 71.9%. (9-32).
– It is clear by most statistical measures it could be a tough weekend for the Americans but that was even more the case the last time Utah came to town and Allen won three straight. If you are looking for positives Allen has won two of their last three games while Utah has just finished playing Rapid City six straight times and they lost five of the six. Allen is 5-5-0-0 in their last 10 games while Utah has the worst record in the ECHL over the last 10 games (2-5-0-3).
– It is always hard to predict how much rough stuff will happen when Allen plays Utah. Both teams have plenty of players willing to drop the gloves but the situation plays a big role in how the game plays out. Utah is second in the ECHL in fighting majors with 67 compared to Allen’s 40. There is so much on the line for Utah this weekend it is hard to believe they will be going out of their way to mix things up. However, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
– The referee scheduled tonight is Eric Krasnichuk (#20) and the linesmen will be Kristopher Delaney (#96) and Cameron Dykstra (#79).
– There aren’t many milestones to track over the last six games of the season but two I will be watching are related to Zach Pochiro and Spencer Asuchak. Spencer is the only Allen player that has not missed a game all season which is an amazing feat. Allen has had at least one player play in every game each year of the franchise. Spencer is the only hope for this season. Zach Pochiro needs two goals in the last six games to double his goal production from last season (18) and move into #3 all time in goals in a season. Zach has 34 goals and needs two more to pass Greger Hanson who is #3 all time with 35 goals.
– There are nine games in the ECHL tonight. The Mountain Division teams in action are Kansas City at South Carolina, Utah at Allen and Idaho at Rapid City. Kansas City has lost three straight and their hopes of moving up in the standings are fading fast. Rapid City has won five of their last six games (all against Utah) and still have hopes of catching Kansas City for the final playoff spot. It is a real long shot for the Rush as their next five games are against division leading Idaho. Rapid City trails the Mavericks by seven points.
– Rick Gosselin shot a two part 45 minute video this week with Steve Martinson that covered his playing and coaching career. It is posted on my Allen Americans Blog Facebook and Twitter page if you have access to either of those platforms. I am having trouble embedding the video here but will try to find a way for those of you not on any social media platforms to view it.
– As each day passes is it less likely coach Martinson will sign a collegiate or junior player to an amateur tryout contract. Top players want to go to teams that will make the playoffs. It is not out of the question but is not likely. If enough Allen players return from injury or AHL loans it is possible Martinson may have to waive/release players. The last day to place players on waivers isn’t until April 5th.
– One benefit from missing the playoffs is a lot more time to recruit for next season. I know coach Martinson is always in contact with agents, he has more time to work with the Wild in planning for next season, he is constantly tracking players that will be rookies next season and he tracks players coming off AHL deals. Lot’s of ground work is already taking place but Martinson has not given up on this season by any means. I know he feels it sucks to be playing out the season with no chance of making the playoffs, something he has never experienced in 23 years of coaching. The only other season he didn’t make the playoffs (2011-12) his team won five straight going into the last game of the season. They needed a win that last game to make the playoffs but lost 3-2 in overtime. By the way Mathieu Aubin, who would later play in Allen, scored the overtime goal that put Martinon’s team (Chicago Express) out of the playoffs. After the overtime loss Chicago was tied with Reading for the final playoff spot but lost the tiebreaker.
DID YOU KNOW: I think one of the more undervalued statistics there is has to do with players that never miss a game. I call them the Ironmen and they are few and far between. In AA hockey with limited rosters and salary cap/budget issues having a player that plays every game in a season is something special and valuable. That means playing with injuries, no AHL call ups and answering the bell each and every game. Last season there were 980 players in the ECHL for a least one game. Just 18 or 1.8% played in all 72 games. Thought today would be a good day to honor all of the Ironmen in Allen history. One thing to keep in mind is when the Americans first started in the CHL (2009-10) they only played 64 games in a season. It was then expanded to 66 games and since joining the ECHL (2014-15) it is 72 games. Congrats and stick taps to all Allen Ironmen past and present! It is a very exclusive club.
2018-19 – Spencer Asuchak (through 66 of 72 games)
2017-18 – Joel Chouinard, Casey Pierro-Zabotel
2016-17 – Chad Costello, Joel Chouinard
2015-16 – Chad Costello
2014-15 – Chad Costello, Aaron Gens, Jamie Schaafsma
2013-14 – Spencer Asuchak, Daniel Tetrault, Mike Berube
2012-13 – Jamie Schaafsma, Jason Deitsch
2011-12 – Jason Deitsch
2010-11 – Colton Yellow Horn, David Strathman
2009-10 – Bruce Graham, Christian Gaudet