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Meet Allen Americans Assistant Coach Aaron Gens

Monday, November 7th
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The Gens Family – Connor, Aaron, Leighton, Kellie

Allen assistant coach, Aaron Gens, is very familiar to most Americans fans from his two plus seasons as a player from 2014-16. His playing career was cut short when he suffered a spinal cord injury in a game in December of 2016 known as SIH (Spontaneous Intracranial Hypotension). This is a condition in which the fluid pressure inside the skull is lower than normal because of leakage of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The major symptom of SIH is debilitating headaches that are worse when standing up. SIH is rare (5 people per 100,000) and often misdiagnosed. Aaron still deals with side effects from SIH. He has become a resource for other players dealing with long term issues related to head and neck trauma.

Aaron’s accomplishments as a defenseman in Allen included two Kelly Cup championships (2015 & 2016). In 2014-15 he was an Ironman, playing in all 72 regular season games and all 25 playoff games. Here are some of his stats from that season:

  • ECHL most assists by defenseman, 48
  • ECHL most points by defenseman, 56
  • ECHL 2nd most PIMS by defenseman, 186
  • ECHL 2nd All-Star Team

– Despite suffering a career ending injury early in his third season in Allen, Aaron is still ranked in the top 10 all-time in many career statistical categories:

  • 5th all-time assists by defenseman (73)
  • 5th all-time PIMS by defenseman (273)
  • 6th all-time points by defenseman (92)
  • 8th all-time games played by defenseman (155)
  • 8th all-time goals by defenseman (19)

– I still remember contacting Gens for a player profile story when he signed in Allen in the summer of 2014. It took a few days for Aaron to get back to me, but his response was all you need to know about him. First, he apologized for the delayed response and then he summed up what makes him tick, hockey, fishing and hunting.  “Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you, I have been training and fishing in Alaska for the last month.” His priorities have changed since then so family now comes first, but hockey, fishing and hunting are still very important.

– Here is some background info on Aaron Gens from that original player profile in 2014.

Born (Februay 24, 1987) and raised in Baudette, Minnesota which is literally across the Rainy River from Canada, playing hockey and fishing is just what you do. Baudette is known as the “Walleye Capital of the World” as Willie the Walleye, a 40-foot, two-ton walleye welcomes you to the town of 1100.

Willie the Walleye

Aaron left home at 16 to start his junior career and what a change it was. Going from Baudette, where low temperatures in the winter average below zero and record low temperatures are minus 50 (not wind chill but actual temperature) he signed to play junior hockey in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He spent his entire junior career playing for the Santa Fe franchise. In 2007-08 when the team moved to Topeka, he followed the team and helped Topeka win its first ever division championship. He exploded offensively with 58 points and set a franchise record with a plus-minus rating of +41. His efforts earned him many awards, including the team’s “Defenseman of the Year” and “Most Valuable Player.” The NAHL recognized him as “NAHL Defenseman of the Year” and Aaron was named to the All-NAHL All-Star team. His performance also earned him a Division I college scholarship at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF). A perfect place for a guy that loves hockey, fishing and hunting.

Aaron had a great hockey career at UAF where he played for four years and had 72 points (12G, 60A) in 140 games. He was the club’s leading scorer among defensemen his junior and senior seasons.  He was also successful in the classroom as he graduated with honors, earning a degree in Business Administration (marketing).  After finishing his college career (2011-2012) he signed an AHL contract with the Lake Erie Monsters and played with them for seven games at the end of their season. The 2012-2013 season proved to be a special one for Aaron as he was able to fulfill a lifelong dream, Gens said this about that season, “Playing with my brother (Matt) in Evansville (ECHL) brought something I never thought would come my way. There was a type of chemistry that can’t be explained. We grew up talking about it and skating with each other in the summer and when the dream came true to play with him, it was better than we had ever imagined.”

Old time Allen fans will remember Matt Gens as he played for both the Odessa Jackalopes (2010-2011) and the Evansville IceMen (2011-2012) when they were in the Central Hockey League (CHL).In 2013-14 Aaron played for the Reading Royals and had 22 points (5 goals 17 assists) in 46 games. After signing with Allen in 2014, this is what Gens had to say, “I am so excited to be coming to Allen. The Americans have quickly become one of the top franchises in minor pro hockey. I feel I can add scoring from the blue line and contribute to what should be a very skilled defensive unit. Coach Martinson is a great coach with a winning record, and I am looking forward to playing for him. I can’t wait to meet all of the great people in Texas and get the season started as we build towards bringing another championship to Allen.”

Aaron comes from a big family. Both of his parents, Dave and Mary Lee are ministers and he has three brothers and two sisters. All of his family are musicians. Many Allen fans got to know Dave Gens as he came to Allen several times during the regular season to watch his son play. But where Dave really became a celebrity was during the 2015 playoffs where he followed the team all over the country in his Toyota Prius. Remember, in that championship season, Allen played Tulsa in the first round, Rapid City in the division finals, Ontario (California) in the conference finals and South Carolina in the Kelly Cup finals. The last two rounds went seven games. Dave put on a ton of miles watching Aaron and the Americans win their first Kelly Cup. Hockey has been a big part of Aaron Gens’ life, growing up in a hockey town and starting to skate at two years old. He owes a lot to hockey as it has brought him a college education, a professional career and yes even a spouse. He met his wife, Kellie in 2012 when he was playing in Evansville, and yes, she was on the Evansville version of the Ice Angels, called the Icicles. Kellie and Aaron are now the proud parents of Connor (4) and Leighton (1).

Since his playing days Aaron’s journey included a couple of years away from hockey as he was rehabbing from his injury. He was a project manager for an aerospace company during that time, but then returned to hockey as the Hockey Programs Manager for the Dallas Stars at their facility in McKinney. He also started coaching a travel team (16U). His team won a state championship last season.

While you will see references to Gens being a rookie coach, which is true at the professional level, he has over 20 years of experience with player skills development. Growing up in a small town, he was helping with the younger youth teams when he was 13-14 years old. He started his own hockey camp in Fairbanks while he was still in college. The Complete Defenseman Camp, focused on off-ice specific training and on-ice defensive skills. He also helped run a summer hockey school, Lake of the Woods Hockey School, in his hometown for 10 years. He has worked at many other hockey camps over the years. He was a professional coach for both Minnesota Hockey and USA Hockey.

Taking on the role of assistant coach for the Allen Americans is a natural progression and working with Chad Costello is a big plus. Chad and Aaron work very well together in building practice plans, systems and structures. They have complimentary skills that help with skill development before and after practice. I think it is fair to say Costello is a man of few words and Gens is a man of many words, which is a great combination with situational communication. When on the bench during games, Gens is much more focused on team defense. It is early in the season, but so far, the team defense is much improved from last season. Allen is ranked #2 in average shots allowed (24.0) and #7 in average goals allowed (2.60). Last season Allen was ranked #26 in shots allowed (35.3) and #20 in average goals allowed (3.39).

As the assistant coach, Gens is at all practices and behind the bench for all home games. He does not travel with the team to road games. If you know anything about salary for assistant coaches in the ECHL, it is not a living wage for a family of four. Aaron is an entrepreneur who has recently created a sports marketing and consulting business called, Victory Sports Group. There are several components to his new business including private on-ice and dry land training for youth hockey players.

If I had to describe Aaron Gens as a coach some of the words that come to mind would include, passionate, kind, warm, caring, fair, tough, accountability, demanding and honest.

Upcoming Home Games

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PUCKS N' PAWS/BISCUIT'S BIRTHDAY BASH
Sunday, March 3rd
PUCKS N' PAWS/BISCUIT'S BIRTHDAY BASH
Puck Drops:
2:10 PM CST
Credit Union of Texas Event Center
Wichita Thunder
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Friday, March 8th
RED OUT NIGHT (Wear Red)
Puck Drops:
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Credit Union of Texas Event Center
TOP GUN NIGHT
Saturday, March 9th
TOP GUN NIGHT
Puck Drops:
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Credit Union of Texas Event Center
Kansas City Mavericks
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Allen Americans
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Credit Union of Texas Event Center

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