The nature of ECHL hockey (AA) guarantees lots of change under normal circumstances but the last 48 hours have been off the chart. Here is a recap:
– Goalie Antoine Bibeau was reassigned to Allen from Charlotte by the Seattle Kraken (November 15). It is the third time Bibeau has been in Allen though he was only with the Americans long enough to play one game. He was assigned on October 18 and recalled October 20, reassigned again November 2 and recalled November 5.
– Allen traded forward Jackson Leef to Greenville for forward Gavin Gould. He arrived in Allen yesterday.
– Chad Butcher was placed on family leave and went home to deal with some personal issues.
– It was announced that coach Steve Martinson had tested positive for COVID and will miss the Americans road trip to Rapid City for games tonight, Friday and Saturday.
– It was announced that Jack Combs, who is currently on injured reserve, will be in charge on the bench assisted by co-captain Chad Costello.
– Goalie Frank Marotte, defenseman Eric Roy and forward Branden Troock were placed on the COVID related Commissioner’s Exempt List. This list is for players ineligible to play based on the ECHL COVID-19 and return to play protocol. While on the exempt list players don’t count as a roster spot or against the salary cap. My understanding is unvaccinated players cannot be placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List and must remain on the team’s roster so the total number of players impacted could be more than the three on the list.
– Being so shorthanded, Steve Martinson made a trade with Worcester for two players for future considerations. He acquired forwards Tyler Poulsen, who played with the Americans briefly in 2017-18 and JD Dudek. Logistics of getting players relocated after a trade are complicated under normal conditions but Worcester is in the middle of a six game road trip in Canada so getting the players from Montreal to Rapid City with all the rules, presented more obstacles.
– When Allen takes the ice tonight it will be without coach Steve Martinson and will play one man short, with six defensemen and nine forwards, which is miraculous given all that has transpired in the last 48 hours. Defenseman Ben Owen will join the team on Thursday. While Martinson will not be physically in Rapid City there is no doubt he will be very involved in the game. Everything from putting together the game plan, setting the lines, special teams and giving direction to Combs and Costello between periods based on what he sees as he watches the game from back in Allen.
– Darian Skeoch is supposed to serve the second game of his two game suspension tonight. My understanding is because of the situation with the Americans, Skeoch’s suspension will be postponed to a later date.
Nolan Kneen will play in his first game for the Americans since he suffered a season ending injury in a game in Utah last March 14.
– Here is my best take on the players for the series in Rapid City, Allen’s travel roster includes two goalies, seven defensemen and nine forwards. Jack Combs is on injured reserve but is with the team as the bench coach. Those not making the trip are Frank Marotte, Eric Roy, Branden Troock, Chad Butcher and Dawson Butt.
#34 – Antoine Bibeau
#35 – Hayden Lavigne
#3 – Darian Skeoch
#4 – Kris Myllari
#15 – Josh Burnside
#20 – Ben Carroll
#23 – Ben Owen (arrives in Rapid City on Thursday)
#24 – Nolan Kneen
#25 – Phil Beaulieu
#5 – Gavin Gould
#10- Jackson Leppard
#13 – Chad Costello
#18 – JD Dudek
#19 – Jared Bethune
#26 – Spencer Asuchak
#28 – D-Jay Jerome
#29 – Kelly Bent
#41 – Tyler Poulsen
– With all that has happened off the ice you would assume it will be a tough night on the ice for the Americans. They have lost four straight games, four of the top seven scorers won’t be in the lineup and three players will be playing their first game for the Americans. Throw in the fact Steve Martinson is back in Allen and the team will be coached by the players and it sounds like a recipe for a tough night. I rarely make predictions in the blog as I am usually wrong when I do but I have a feeling the team will over perform tonight. With Antoine Bibeau in goal and a leadership group that wants to show the team can play well without Martinson, this team is going to come together and play well. It should be fun to watch.
– Allen and Rapid City are both trying to turn around poor starts. Allen’s overall record is 2-5-2-0, with a road record of 1-2-0-0. Rapid City has an overall record of 3-5-1-0, with a home record of 2-3-0-0. These teams have the worst records in the Mountain Division so this three game series is key to avoid ending up in last place after Saturday night.
– Allen has the advantage in average goals per game (3.1 vs 2.6) but the Americans will be missing players that have score 46% of their goals this season. Rapid City has the advantage in goals allowed (3.3 vs 4.7).
– Rapid City has the better power play (28.6% vs 17.2%) and penalty kill (85.7% vs 73.5%). Shorthanded goals could be a factor in this series. Allen has given up twice as many shorthanded goals (6) as any other team in the ECHL, Rapid City just one. Allen has scored five power play goals this season and given up six shorthanded for a -1 when they have a man advantage. Special teams will have to improve if Allen expects to win in this series.
– Antoine Bibeau has played one game for Allen and it was the Americans best game of the season. They beat Wichita 3-1 on the road and allowed just 21 shots. If Bibeau can give the team confidence in goal and repeat his performance from his only ECHL start, Allen could be a surprise tonight.
– The referee scheduled tonight is Trevor Wohlford (#38).
DID YOU KNOW: Allen played Rapid City in the finals of the Central Hockey League (CHL) championship in the Americans first season in 2009-10. The Americans took a 2-1 lead in the series and took a 2-0 lead after the first period in game four before losing the game 4-2 and the series in six games. It was quite an initial season for the upstart Allen Americans. Allen forward Justin Bowers led all CHL players with 30 points (12G, 18A) in the playoffs.