It was back to practice for the Allen Americans yesterday as they get ready to take on the Rapid City Rush on Saturday (7:05 pm) and Sunday 2:05 pm). Rapid City’s record over the last month is a dismal 4-9-0-0 (.308). The Rush have fallen to sixth place in the Mountain Division. Despite the record the Americans don’t want to look past Rapid City to next week when Allen plays Idaho, the top team in the ECHL.
– Rapid City is a well-coached and a hard-working team that has given Allen fits at the CUTX Event Center. Looking at regular season games the Americans have lost five straight home games to the Rush including three straight earlier this season. You have to go back to the 2020-21 season the find the last time Allen won at home against Rapid City. In the opening round of the Kelly Cup playoffs last season Rapid City closed out the series (4-1) by beating Allen 5-1, 4-1 and 6-3 at the CUTX Event Center. You add it all together and Allen has lost eight straight at home against Rapid City. Getting four points this weekend against the Rush will not be easy.
– Justin Young was injured in the second game in Utah on Friday when he blocked a shot and missed the game on Saturday. Young did not practice yesterday and will likely not play against Rapid City but could be available for the trip to Idaho next week.
– The ECHL has started announcing its monthly awards. This morning it was announced Toledo’s John Lethemon was named the Goalie of the Month for February. Have to believe with the stats the “Four Sure Gang” put up in February they have to be in contention for the monthly awards.
– I mentioned yesterday that Kansas City is playing five games this week compared to two for Allen so the Americans could lose a lot of ground the Mavericks. After beating Wichita at home 4-1 on Tuesday, Kansas City traveled to Iowa last night where they beat the Heartlanders 5-4 in overtime. The rest of the week will be tougher for the Mavericks as they will entertain Idaho at home on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
– With the win in Iowa last night Kansas City passed Wichita for second place in the Mountain Division. Both have 56 points, but Wichita has played two more games. Allen is in fourth place with 53 points. Adding more intrigue to the weekend is Wichita plays two games at home against Utah. If you want to play best case and worst case for Allen check this out:
- Best Case: Allen sweeps Rapid City, Utah Sweeps Wichita and Idaho sweeps Kansas City. The Americans end the weekend all alone in second place in the division with 57 points and .528 points percentage.
- Worst Case: Rapid City sweeps Allen, Utah Sweeps Wichita and Kansas City sweeps Idaho. Allen ends the week nine points out of second place and in a tie with Rapid City and Utah for fourth, fifth and sixth place in the division with 53 points. Allen’s points percentage would be back to .491.
All Allen can do is take care of its business by getting four points against the Rush. If the Americans accomplish that they will be in no worse than the fourth-place position and will likely gain ground on the teams ahead of them.
– I get numerous questions about the possibility of Allen getting help from Belleville for the playoffs. There are a couple of factors that will impact how this plays out. First to be qualified for the ECHL playoffs an AHL contracted player must play a minimum of five ECHL regular season games. Defenseman Xavier Bernard (18 games) and goalie Kevin Mandolese (6 games) are the only players in Belleville currently qualified. Allen has 20 games remaining so still time to get more players qualified.
The second factor that has an impact is whether or not the affiliate makes the playoffs. Both Ottawa and Belleville are currently outside a playoff position but still hoping to make the playoffs.
– In the NHL the top three teams in each of four divisions make the playoffs. In addition, two wild card teams (by points) in each conference make the playoffs. Here are the current Eastern Conference wildcard standings. The top two teams make the playoffs.
- 1. Islanders (70 points)
- 2. Penguins (69 points)
- 3. Sabres (66 points)
- 4. Panthers (66 points)
- 5. Capitols (66 points)
- 6. Senators (64 points)
- 7. Red Wings (64 points)
It looks like a steep uphill battle for Ottawa to get a wildcard spot, but it should be noted the Senators have the best 10 games record (6-3-1-0) of all seven teams on the list.
– The AHL playoff format has 23 of 32 teams making the playoffs so it is hard to be out of contention for the playoffs. In the seven team North Division, where Belleville plays, five teams will make the playoffs. Belleville is currently in last place, but with 18 games remaining there is still plenty of time to get the fifth and final playoff spot. Here are the current North Division standings by points and points percentage:
- .713 (77 points) – Toronto
- .567 (59 points) – Syracuse
- .557 (59 points) – Utica
- .549 (56 points) – Rochester
- .500 (53 points) – Laval
- .481 (50 points) – Cleveland
- .454 (49 points) – Belleville
You can see the standings are close, but it will be an uphill battle for Belleville. The Senators are currently five wins under .500 and both Ottawa and Belleville have been dealing with numerous injuries this season. The last I looked between the two teams they had nine goalies on their rosters.
– If Allen makes the playoffs and the affiliate teams do not you have to expect they would like to see some of their young players get playoff experience in Allen. The question remains will they try to get any other players qualified for the ECHL playoffs. The answer to that question will likely depend on injuries and how close is Belleville to making the AHL playoffs.
– The odd stat of the day. There were four games in the ECHL last night, three of them ended with a score of 5-3, the fourth was 5-4.
– If it seems like scoring is up this season the facts bear that out. Average goals per game this season is at 6.53 with 25 % of the season remaining. It is the highest average in the last six seasons. The average since 2017-18 (excluding 2020-21 when only 14 teams played) was 6.36 ranging from 6.32 to 6.41. It may not sound like a big difference from 6.36 to 6.53 but the .17 goal per game difference over the course of the 2022-23 season would by an increase of 175 goals.
– While the Mountain Division is the closest division in the ECHL with the exception of Idaho, the other divisions have some breathing room between the last playoff spot and fifth place. The difference between fourth place and the home ice advantage second place also varies widely.
North Division: Fourth place Worcester is 11 points ahead of fifth place Adirondak. The difference between second place (Maine) and fourth place is six points.
South Division: Fourth place Greenville has a five-point lead and two games in hand over fifth place Atlanta. The difference between second place (Florida) and fourth place is two points.Central Division: Fourth place Fort Wayne has a five-point lead over fifth place Wheeling. The difference between second place (Cincinnati) and fourth place is 18 points.Mountain Division: Fourth place Allen has a three-point lead over fifth place Rapid City and Utah. The difference between second place and fourth place is three points.– Last season just one ECHL team finished the regular season with a points percentage above .700, Toledo finished at .708. This season there is one team above .800 (Idaho, 817) and one team above .700 (Newfoundland, .708). The only other team close is Cincinnati at .698. Jacksonville and Toledo are next in line at .673. The odds of the Kelly Cup going to one of these five top teams is over 80% based on results since 2005. FYI, the three teams that won the Kelly Cup since 2005 and finished outside the top five in the regular season finished in sixth or seventh place.DID YOU KNOW: The ECHL Stats post today is about the active players with the most PIMS since 2017-18. The most PIMS by an Allen player since 2017-18 Spencer Asuchak with 336 minutes.Five active ECHL players (at some point in 2022-23) have more than 600 penalty minutes since 2017-18:706 – Mike McKee, Tulsa654 – James Melindy, Newfoundland628 – *Travis Howe, Jacksonville624 – **Arvin Atwal, Cincinnati607 – Yannick Turcotte, Adirondack*Currently in AHL (San Diego)**Signed in Europe in January