All too often I start a game day blog saying how critical a game is for the Allen Americans. Probably an overused statement given Allen will hit the 50% mark of the season in the game tonight and there is a lot of hockey still to be played before playoff time. The game tonight at the Allen Event Center (AEC) is critical because the conventional wisdom has been once the Americans start playing at home the wins will come and they will climb the standings. Makes perfect sense since Allen has played more road games and fewer homes games than any team in the ECHL.
– Allen got off to a bad start to a homestand that will see it play 19 of 22 games at the AEC. If the Americans expect to gain ground on the Western Conference leaders, losing the first series to a team that has struggled on the road is not a good start.
– The hits keep coming to the roster. In the month of March alone and there are still five days remaining 11 players have been subtracted from the roster and six have been added. Add injuries to goalies Jake Paterson and Justin Kaplemaster, captain Dyson Stevenson, leading goal scorer Jesse Mychan and Colby McAuley and you can see what the team has been dealing with. Coach Martinson always says you can’t use injuries and call ups as an excuse as every team has to deal with them and Allen has a team good enough to win everytime it takes the ice. Players need to step up when given more ice time.
– As if the mounting March injuries and callups weren’t enough, yesterday defensive defenseman Kayle Doetzel left the team. I know many of you asked me what was going on. I asked coach Martinson what happened and he said. “Doetzel told me he was going home for personal reasons but was not more specific than that. When he told me he was taking all of his stuff with him I made sure he understood once he was suspended he couldn’t return to the team for 45 days. He indicated that was okay and it is clear he will not be back.” I know many have speculated he might be headed overseas but that is not in the plan from my reporting. Doetzel arrive late playing his first game on New Year’s Eve and has headed home after playing 28 games. Whatever his reasons for leaving I know Allen fans wish him the best of luck going forward and hope everything turns out the best for Kayle.
– There is some good news with the roster as Martinson will have two more forwards in the lineup tonight. Colby McAuley will see his first game action since being injured on January 31. Also seeing his first action and playing in his first professional game will be forward Tim Doherty. Doherty is a 6’0′ 190 pound, 25 year old, left shot forward who played for Penn State this season as a graduate transfer after playing for and getting his undergraduate degree at the University of Maine. Tim grew up in Rhode Island and played for the Boston Junior Bruins before going to college. In 123 collegiate games Doherty had 95 points (42G, 53A). Here are a couple of videos to help you get to know Tim Doherty. You can find them on YouTube under the titles, “In the Seats With Tim Doherty” and “Portsmouth’s Tim Doherty with big year at Maine despite shortened season.”
– Also new to the lineup tonight and getting his first action will be goalie Frank Marotte who just arrived from Bridgeport (AHL). Frank played in just two games in Bridgeport, both in relief roles so tonight will be his first pro start. You can find his profile in the blog yesterday.
There is a long (28 minute) get to know Frank Marotte video on YouTube with the title, “Raiders Report Episode 2 – Frank Marotte” that is worth looking at.
– The keys to the game tonight include some things Allen accomplished in the 5-2 loss against Rapid City on Wednesday. The Americans got off to a good start scoring the first goal and out shooting the Rush 13-8 in the first period and 35-23 for the game. Both of these team play well with a lead. When leading after the first period Allen’s record is 12-0-2-0 and Rapid City’s is 10-1-1-0.
– Special teams is a big key to the game tonight and was a factor in the Allen loss on Wednesday. The Americans had six power play opportunities including over two minutes of 5-on-3 and couldn’t convert. The Allen penalty kill was great (0-4) so the task for the Americans tonight is keep up the penalty kill effort and improve the power play. In aggregate Allen and Rapid City have two of the worst special teams in the ECHL (see below for stats on all teams).
– For a good part of this season Allen was almost unbeatable when scoring the first goal of the game and was ranked at the top of the league. While the Americans still win 79.5% of the points when scoring first with a record of 17-4-1-0 that is not much better than the leaguewide average of 77.1%. With a couple of recent losses when scoring first including on Wednesday the Americans have dropped to #8 in the ECHL in points percentage when scoring first. Scoring first is still a big predictor of who will win so the first goal tonight will be big. Giving the rookie goalie Marotte an early lead will be important.
– A full set of games in the ECHL tonight with all 14 teams in action. Here is the ECHL Today with short previews on all of the games: https://www.echl.com/en/news/2021/3/echl-today-march-26
– Had a couple of questions asking why Spencer Asuchak wasn’t wearing the “C” on his jersey on Wednesday. The short answer is because the Americans were wearing their road red jerseys and Asuchak’s “C” is on the white jersey which will be the home jersey until the switch in April. Sometimes when a team has a dark specialty jersey in a series they wear dark in all games so the visiting has to bring just one jersey on the trip. That is the case in this series. With Co-captain Dyson Stevenson out injured seems like a good idea to put the “C” on both Asuchak jerseys.
– The referee scheduled tonight is same as Wednesday, #7 Riley Yerkovich. He called 10 penalties on Wednesday but pretty much let the teams play.
– It is time for this odd stat of the day to end. In all six games this season between Allen and Rapid City the losing team scored two goals. Not sure the odds that streak can continue but I predict it comes to and end tonight. haha
DID YOU KNOW: Here is the ECHL Stats post from this morning which looks at special teams performance by adding together power play and penalty kill percentages. Allen’s total (97.8%) comes from a #7 ranked power play (17.0%) and #11 ranked penalty kill (80.8%).