ALLEN, Texas – It is game day, a rare Monday night home game for the Allen Americans as they take on the Utah Grizzlies. All eyes will be on Allen because it is the only game scheduled in the ECHL tonight. The teams will play again tomorrow (Tuesday).
I am sure ECHL scheduling is complex but Allen has sure been busy at home this month. It started with four home games in five days to begin the month and now Allen is in the midst of another four home games in five days. Attending four home games in five days is asking a lot for even the most ardent Allen fans. The attendance on Friday was 3488 and on Saturday was 5005. After Sunday off the Americans now play Utah on Monday and Tuesday. Since joining the ECHL Allen has never played back to back home games on a Monday and Tuesday night. With the national football championship game tonight, two home games over the weekend and a school night, a real challenge for the Allen sales and marketing staff.
Utah has been playing the best hockey in the division over the last 10 games with a record of 7-2-0-1 compared to Allen’s record of 4-2-3-1. Utah is #3 in the division with a record of 19-11-4-2 and a winning percentage of .611. Allen is #1 with a record of 26-7-6-1 and a winning percentage of .738.
Allen and Utah will meet nine times this season with the first four in Allen and the last five in Utah. These teams met twice in October. You probably remember the first meeting which was the second home game of the season. Utah handed Allen their worst loss (tied) in history, a 10-4 beat down that wasn’t as close as the final score. Late in the second period, the Americans trailed 8-1. Allen came back the next night to win 5-4 in overtime.
Both teams got reinforcements from their AHL affiliates yesterday. Iowa sent Tyler Sheehy and Turner Ottenbreit back to Allen. Sheehy was leading the ECHL when he was recalled by Iowa at the end of December. Ottenbreit has been a leader on the blueline with 11 points in just 15 games. He is second among Allen defensemen in points per game (.70) and is second in plus/minus (+15).
Not to be outdone, Utah was assigned Josh Dickinson by their affiliate (Colorado) yesterday. Dickinson, the brother Dallas Stars player Jason Dickinson, scored nine goals in seven games for Utah at the start of the season and has been in Colorado ever since. Dickinson lit up the Americans in the two games in October scoring four goals including a hattrick in the 10-4 Utah win.
The advantage of having Sheehy and Ottenbreit back in the lineup is two guys that play hard every shift at both ends of the ice and can play in all situations. Sheehy makes the power play click. In the seven games, before he was called up, Allen was 9-36 (25%) on the power play and Tyler had the goal or an assist on seven of the nine goals. In the seven games while he was in Iowa the Americans power play was 4-33 (12%). The Allen power play did have a good night on Saturday going 2-7.
If you compare special team percentages, home for Allen, road for Utah, the Grizzlies have the better power play (20.3% vs 13.3%) and the Americans have the better penalty kill (83.1% vs 79.4%).
As usual, a good start, scoring the first goal and a first period lead makes both of these teams extremely hard to beat. Their combined record when scoring first is 30-4-2-0 and when leading after the first period is 23-3-2-0.
Allen is ranked #7 in average shots per game (33.18), Utah is #11 (32.03). In shots allowed Allen is #23 (34.85) and Utah is #3 (27.83). If you compare average goals for and against Allen is #3 in goals for (3.88), Utah is #6 (3.44). In goals allowed Allen is #10 (3.13), Utah is #4 2.78.
These two games against Utah will be a test for the Americans. They have been scratching out points (wins and overtimes) while not playing their best hockey. The team will definitely benefit from having Sheehy and Ottenbreit back but two key players, Spencer Asuchak and Josh Brittain are still out of the lineup. Faceoffs have suffered with Spencer and Josh missing.
The referee tonight will be Sean MacFarlane who was just honored by being one of the two referees selected for the upcoming All-Star game.
Coach Martinson has been very consistent in rotating goalies and by that method, it is Andrew Shortridge’s turn in goal tonight. At some point, Martinson will go away from a strict rotation. In Jake Paterson‘s last two starts his save percentage was .949 and .938. Andrew Shortridge has played two games since arriving in Allen with an identical save percentage in both games of .879. The third goalie, Dereck Baribeau played on Saturday after just returning from Iowa and had a .871 save percentage. His start before that was .853.
DID YOU KNOW: Gabe Gagne leads the ECHL in goals with 22. At his current pace, if he played every game the rest of the season he would finish with over 40 goals. If Gabe hits 30 goals, which is almost guaranteed, he will join an elite group of Allen Americans. In 10 seasons the 30 goal plateau has been reached only nine times with two players accomplishing the feat twice. Here is the all-time single season list of players with 30 or more goals.
44 goals – Gary Steffes (2014-15)
41 goals – Chad Costello (2014-15)
35 goals – Greger Hanson (2016-17)
34 goals – Zach Pochiro (2018-19)
34 goals – Bruce Graham (2010-11)
34 goals – Nino Musitelli (2010-11)
33 goals – Chad Costello (2016-17)
33 goals – Colton Yellow Horn (2010-11)
31 goals – Bruce Graham (2009-10)
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