ALLEN, Texas – The Allen Americans training camp is in full swing as the team prepares for opening night Saturday at the newly named Credit Union of Texas Event Center, formally the Allen Event Center. The Americans will open the 2021-22 season against their fiercest rival, the Wichita Thunder.
– The biggest news last week was the announcement that Jack Combs will return to Allen to join forces with his good friend and longtime linemate, Chad Costello. As Steve Martinson stated in the press release announcing the signing of Combs:
“His chemistry with Chad Costello is simply the best I have ever witnessed at this level of hockey.”
Allen fans had a chance to witness this chemistry at the beginning of the 2014-15 season when Jack started the season with the Americans before leaving for Europe after 32 games. In those 32 games, Combs had 56 points (22G, 34A) and was selected for the ECHL All-Star game. Costello had 49 points (17G, 32A) in those 32 games. Two players with 105 points (39G, 66A) in 32 games to start the season tells you all you need to know about the chemistry between Combs and Costello. If they can stay healthy and play anywhere close to the way they played in the past, given Costello is now 35 and coming off a season-ending injury last year, and Combs will be 34 in January and has played just 65 games since 2017-18, it will be quite the show.
– I have had numerous questions and comments about Jack Comb’s history of leaving teams midseason for better opportunities elsewhere, usually in Europe. There is no doubt Jack has been well-traveled since turning pro in 2009-10. I count 25 different teams in 13 years which includes callups to the AHL. Jack has 79 points (40G, 39A) in 162 AHL games over six different seasons averaging .49 points per game.
Why is this season different?
A combination of his family with a young child, his age, playing with his best friend with a chance to win a championship, and living in Texas all contribute to staying all season in Allen. The bottom line is, in my opinion, Jack is in Allen to stay.
– Combs has been playing in Europe so is already in shape. He will join the Americans on the ice for the first time today.
– Here is another stat that shows what Jack Combs could bring to Allen this season. Here are the top three points per game seasons in Allen Americans history:
1.75 – Jack Combs (2014-15)
1.74 – Chad Costello (2014-15)
1.69 – Chad Costello (2016-17)
It is unfair to expect these gaudy per-game averages this season. However, when you consider if you look at Allen players with 50+ games in a season who have reached 1.25 points per game in a single season, it has only been reached seven times in the history of the Allen Americans and Chad Costello has three of the seven (the others were Bruce Graham, Colton Yellow Horn, Greger Hanson, and Alex Lavoie). If Combs and Costello can play 50 games and average 1.25+ points per game, Allen will have a great season.
– With opening day rosters due on Wednesday (3:00 pm EDT), Martinson has a couple of outstanding issues to deal with. The most pressing is at the goalie position which got some help. The plan was to have Frank Marotte return and a goalie assigned by Seattle. Marotte has signed a deal with the San Diego Gulls (AHL) and served as the backup goalie in the Gulls first game of the season on Saturday. While the Gulls show five goalies on their roster, injuries have complicated the situation. In talking to coach Martinson it is clear to everyone, including Marotte, that he is the depth goalie for San Diego and will be assigned to Allen when the Gulls injury issues as resolved. While the situation can always change it is expected Marotte will be assigned in the next couple of weeks.
The Seattle goalie that was assigned to Allen is Antoine Bibeau. Martinson has talked to him and he will be in Allen for the game against Wichita on Saturday. Martinson expects Bibeau to be one of the best goalies in the ECHL. This will be his eighth year as a pro, but his first ECHL assignment. He has played four NHL games (GAA 2.54, .907 save percentage) and 192 AHL games (2.73 GAA, .908 save percentage).
– The other unanswered question is when will Allen be assigned one or two forwards from Seattle that are expected. According to eliteprospects.com, Charlotte has 15 forwards on the roster but AHL teams dress 12 for each game so that is not a lot of extra forwards given all of the injuries that could occur. Since the Checkers have players from two NHL teams (Seattle & Florida) there will be more need to provide players to the NHL.
– This story written by Andrew Zadarnowski is a primer on the ECHL covering everything from the history of the league to the size and composition of the ECHL. He also tackles some topics that can be confusing, related to contracts, salary cap, active rosters, veteran limits, reserve, free agency, and gameplay rules. This story was written in June but if you haven’t read it, it is a good read no matter how experienced you are on all things ECHL. https://www.habseyesontheprize.com/2021/6/11/21438431/an-eotp-guide-to-the-echl-lions-trois-rivieres-contracts-two-way-team-roster-rules
– When it was announced in July that defenseman Miles Liberati would be returning to Allen for the 2021-22 season, it was expected he would continue where he left off in being a high-scoring offensive defenseman. Miles didn’t play last season but in 2019-20, playing for the Tulsa Oilers, he was the second-leading scorer in the ECHL among defensemen behind Allen’s Alex Breton. Liberati never reported to training camp.
With the burden and cost the ECHL Covid protocol rules place on unvaccinated players, you have to assume this is the reason Liberati has opted not to play.
When the opening day rosters go to the league office on Wednesday three players will show as suspended to retain their ECHL rights. Liberati who never reported to training camp, Zane Franklin who opted to go to college, and Josh Brittain who signed in Europe. Because these three players signed with Allen before they made the change, the Americans can retain their rights by suspending them.
Did You Know?
I posted this information about Steve Martinson’s ECHL coaching records on my ECHL Stats pages on Facebook and Twitter because he is approaching the top of the list in a couple of categories. It is important to note Martinson has spent just 12 of his 25 years in coaching in the ECHL. He has won championships in four different AA leagues (WCHL, UHL, CHL, ECHL). His most impressive record is his1088 professional wins, the most by any American pro coach and 156 wins behind Scotty Bowman for the most pro wins of any North American coach.
Here is where Martinson stands all-time as an ECHL coach:
– 5th in games coached (854)
– 4th in regular-season wins (483)
– 3rd in playoff wins (53)
– 2nd in playoff games coached (99)
– 2nd in ECHL championships
Martinson needs 10 more playoff games coached and three more wins to reach first all-time in both categories. With another Kelly Cup, Martinson will join John Brophy as the only ECHL coaches with three championships.
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