Opening day has finally arrived for the Allen Americans as they head to Tulsa to take on the Tulsa Oilers (7:05 pm CDT). If you are counting it was 174 days ago Allen played its last game, a disappointing 6-3 home loss to Rapid City in the first round of the Kelly Cup playoffs.
– Much has happened since the end of last season, most importantly Chad Costello retired as a player to become coach and general manager of the Americans. I have met with Costello almost every week since he was selected to his new position and there is no doubt it has been a sharp learning curve, not so much in assessing talent and recruiting but all of the rules, regulations, paperwork and administrative issues he never dealt with as a player. With help from the Allen front office and ECHL league office, Costello is ready to go for opening night. If you haven’t seen the story about Costello’s transition from player to coach written by Rick Gosselin, it is a must read. Here is the link: https://rickgosselin.com/minor-league-hockey-legend-moves-behind-the-bench
– The opening day rosters for all 28 ECHL teams were released yesterday. Allen has 21 players on its roster which is the fewest in the ECHL. According to Elite Prospects, no other team has fewer than 23 players and two teams have 28 (Orlando and South Carolina). How does this happen? The first step is the number of players on the active roster. It can be a maximum of 21 players (for first month and then reduces to 20 for the remainder of the season) but they must fit under the salary cap. Allen could only fit 19 under the salary cap and then could have two players on reserve for a total of 21. An unlimited number of players can be placed on the 14-day injured reserve. Allen has no players on the IR but 20 of 28 teams have put players on IR with Orlando having the most with five. Here is the ECHL press release with all of the opening day rosters: https://www.echl.com/en/news/2022/10/echl-announces-season-opening-rosters
– So, Allen starts the season with 19 players on the active roster and two on reserve. The two on reserve are forwards Marcel Godbout and Stephen Baylis who are out with injuries. The travel roster for the trip to Tulsa will be the 19 players on the active roster.
– Here is the Americans opening day roster:
|North Vancouver, BC
|St Louis, MO, US
|St. Louis, MO, MO
|Leduc, AB, AB
|La Prairie, QC, QC, Canada
|Richardson, Tx, TX
|Center Line, MI, MI
|Ottawa, ON, ON
|Kanata, Ont, ON, Canada
|Beverly, MA, MA
|Fort Frances, ON, ON
|Colorado Springs, CO, CO, USA
|Keller, Texas, TX
|Detroit, Michigan, United States
– I attended practice yesterday and it is clear this team will play with pace all over the ice. There is a lot of speed, especially with the young players that were brought in, but fans will notice Costello’s emphasis on quick transitions from defense to offense.
– What is the makeup of this 2022-23 Allen team of 21 players.
- 11 Canadian players
- 10 US Players
- 1786 ECHL games – 15 have ECHL experience led by Asuchak (418), Combs (280), Pochiro (279)
- 562 AHL games – eight have AHL experience led by Hargrove (259), Combs (162), Asuchak (64)
- 6’0″ average height – ranked 15th from the tallest
- 194 average weight – ranked as 9th heaviest
- 26.57 average age – oldest team in the ECHL
– The are many players that will provide leadership in the Allen locker room this season. Most of the players on the team have worn a letter during their junior and/or college careers. The on-ice leadership for the 2022-23 season will have Spencer Asuchak as the captain and four players sharing the role of alternate captain (two per game). Those wearing the “A” will be Jack Combs, Colton Hargrove, Kris Myllari and Colton Saucerman. Two of them will wear the “A” at home and two on the road and they will then switch on January 20 (jersey reversal day).
– Allen has eight ECHL rookies on the roster. Several have pro experience (SPHL, Europe) in leagues that games don’t count for rookie status in the ECHL.
– Looking at past stats is useless in a game preview given both Allen and Tulsa have very different teams this season. Allen did beat the Oilers 5-1 in its only preseason but that doesn’t translate very well. The Americans record against the Oilers over the last five seasons was 23-21-4-0 including 12-11-3-0 in Tulsa.
– Based on practice and discussions with coach Costello the lines and defensive pairings for the game will look something like this, in no particular order.
CHAD CHAT WITH COACH COSTELLO
“We will leave for Tulsa at 12:30 pm and drive straight to the rink, stopping along the way for coffee if we have time.”
“Both goalies will get a start this weekend. Luke Peressini will be in goal tonight, Logan Flodell get the start tomorrow (Saturday) in Wichita.”
“Zach Pochiro will be a full participant in our leadership group, I just didn’t have enough A’s to pass out. Zach will be in all of our leadership meetings and will wear an “A’ if we are ever short.
“I am nervous at home sometimes when I think of all that needs to be done but when I get the the rink all I feel is excited.”
“I have so much belief in our group. They have worked so hard to come together on and off the ice. They deserve a good start to the season, so I hope we can get a couple of wins this weekend.”
“I expect we will get additional players assigned from Belleville in the next couple of weeks.”
– Former Allen Americans players are on 20 different ECHL teams based on opening day rosters. Here is a list of former players that will start the season on reserve or injured reserve:
- Gavin Gould – Injured Reserve (South Carolina)
- Garrett Klotz – Injured Reserve (Rapid City)
- Josh Winquist – Reserve (Fort Wayne)
- Nolan Kneen – Reserve (Florida)
- Justin Kapelmaster – Reserve (Reading)
- Josh Thrower – Reserve (Atlanta)
- Kyle Neuber – Reserve (Florida)
– If you are attending the game in Tulsa tonight or plan to watch it on FloHockey, here are some Allen players to watch:
- #7 Colton Hargrove – A Dallas native who came out of retirement after becoming friends with Costello as they traveled to 3ICE tournaments this summer. Tonight will be Hargrove’s first ever ECHL game as he spent his first four pro seasons in the AHL (259 games) and then two years in Europe before retiring. A big strong player who is hard to get off the puck. If you are an admirer of the small details that make players excel, keep an eye on #7.
- #15 Liam Finlay – Finlay had three assists in Allen’s preseason and is fast and quick. Despite being a small player, elite prospects show him tied for the shortest player (5’7″) and fourth lightest (154 pounds) player in the ECHL, Finlay has a knack for getting to the tough areas of the ice. He has a combination of speed and quickness that allows him to get in front of the net. He is also durable, playing in every game (118 straight) his last three seasons in Denver. An ECHL rookie, Liam played two seasons in Europe right out of college before joining Allen this season.
- #67 Hank Crone – Crone had a goal and two assists in Allen’s preseason game. Another small quick guy (5’9″ 160 lbs.) full of confidence. Tonight will be his first pro game. At Northern Michigan University last season, Crone had 44 points (13G, 31A) in 32 games.
DID YOU KNOW: If you are a long-time follower of the Allen Americans, you will undoubtedly remember some of these opening night games from the past. The Allen Americans all time opening night record is not that good at just 7-6. The Americans are 4-4 at home and a 3-2 on the road. No matter when you started following the Americans, opening night games always bring back memories. Here is a recap of all 13 opening night games.
2009-10 – In the first game in team history Allen won 1-0 in Arizona. Christian Gaudet scored the only goal of the game late in the first period assisted by Bruce Graham and Nino Musitelli. Charlie Effinger was in goal for Allen and Chris Whitley was on the bench. Allen started on the road the first season because the Allen Event Center was not completed. The Americans played their first seven games in franchise history on the road. They returned to Allen after those first seven games 5-1-0-1.
2010-11 – Allen opens at home against Texas, scores three goals (Alexandre Quesnel, Dustin Donaghy, Judd Blackwater) in the first four minutes of the game and coasts to a 5-2 win.
2011-12 – Allen opens at home against Tulsa and gets beat 4-1 with Jim McKenzie getting the Americans only goal with just over a minute left in the game. Most notable in that game was a Gordie Howe hat trick by Tulsa’s Gary Steffes who had a goal, an assist and a fight with Allen’s Scott Langdon.
2012-13 – Allen opens the season at home and shuts out Arizona 4-0. Scott Howes had two goals in the game. The other goal scorers were Adam Pineault and Darryl Bootland. Steve Silverthorn was in goal and the backup was a rookie by the name of Aaron Dell. Dell would play sparingly the first few weeks of the season but eventually take over the starting role and lead the Americans to their first championship. What ever happened to that Dell guy?
2013-14 – Allen opened the season in Wichita and beat the Thunder 4-3 in a shootout. Allen had a 3-0 lead midway in the game on two goals by Darryl Bootland and one by Jonathan Lessard but let Wichita come back. The hero in the shootout was Kale Kerbashian who scored in the fifth round to win the game.
2014-15 – The worst opening night ever for Allen as they opened at home and got beat by Tulsa 9-6. Greger Hanson was the lone bright spot for Allen with a whopping 11 shots on goal, four points and a hat trick. Aaron Dell was in goal for the Americans and gave up seven of the nine goals. Whatever happened to that Dell guy? Actually, it was Dell’s only regulation loss in the 12 games he played for Allen that season. By the end of January, he was in the AHL on his way to the NHL.
2015-16 – Another opening night loss as the Quad City Mallards came to the Allen Event Center and beat the Americans 2-1. Allen’s lone goal was scored by Garrett Clarke with assists going to Justin Courtnall and goalie Joel Rumpel. You didn’t see those three in the box score very often let alone on the same play.
2016-17 – It was an opening night win as Allen was at home and beat Missouri 6-3. Kale Kerbashian had two goals and Riley Gill was peppered with 47 shots.
2017-18 – It was an opening night like no other as the Americans went on the road and beat the Rapid City Rush 8-3. The eight goals is the most ever scored by the Americans in a season opener. The five-goal margin of victory is the largest ever in a season opener and the first goal of the season was a shorthanded goal scored by Jonathan Lessard. Lessard and Zach Pochiro each had two goals for the Americans.
2018-19 – Allen opened the season in Kansas City and took it on the chin with a 5-1 loss while being outshot 43-21. The game was tied 1-1 after the first period as Casey Pierro-Zabotel scored the Americans only goal of the game. Over the last two periods the Mavericks out shot Allen 32-14 and outscored the Americans 4-0. The #1 star of the game with a goal and two assists for the Mavericks was Jared VanWormer who would go on to become captain of the Allen Americans.
2019-20 – Allen opened the season at home against Rapid City and came away with a 3-2 overtime victory. Jordan Topping tied the score 2-2 with 91 seconds left in the game and then got the game winning goal at 2:58 of overtime.
2020-21 – What was unique about this season is the opening game didn’t take place until December 12. Allen opened the season on the road in Tulsa and lost 4-3. The Americans scored first on a Jake McGrew goal at the 2:24 mark of the first period. Allen fell behind 3-1 early in the second period but scored two quick goals (Jake McGrew & Zane Franklin) to tie the score 3-3 going into the third period. Tulsa scored the only goal of the third period to make the final 4-3. C.J. Motte took the loss for the Americans.
2021-22 – It is hard to forget opening night on October 23, 2021. Allen opened at home against Wichita suffering its worst shutout ever (7-0) and it was in front of a big opening night crowd of 5443. Allen was 0-6 on the power play while Wichita was 3-5. Goalie Alex Gravel had to play the entire game for the Americans because Allen had to use an EBUG (Thomas Hodges).