ALLEN, Texas – In this strange hockey season, the gaps between home games can seem significant especially with a few postponements added to the mix. In case you don’t remember the Americans last home game was over three weeks ago and their opponent was the same team they take on tonight, the Utah Grizzlies. In that game, on February 9, both Conner Bleackley and Corey Mackin scored shootout goals to give Allen a 2-1 victory over Utah.
The game tonight will be the fifth of the season between Allen and Utah but it is only the beginning. In a schedule that is hard to figure out the Americans, will play Utah 18 times (8 home, 10 away), more than they play Wichita (11 times) and Tulsa (13 times). Given the pandemic, it is a surprise that Allen is playing Tulsa and Wichita fewer times than normal while playing Utah and Rapid City (16) more times than normal. Playing one team (Utah) 18 times in a season is an all-time record by far.
Allen’s overall record is 16-9-1-0 (.635) and Utah’s overall record is 13-7-3-5 (.607). The Americans home record is 6-1-1-0 and Utah’s road record is 5-4-2-2.
Both teams are coming off a loss in their last game and have struggled since they last met on February 9. Allen’s record is 2-4-0-0 and Utah’s is 4-3-0-2. The Grizzlies have lost two of their last three games while the Americans have lost four of their last five games. It boils down to both teams need a win tonight.
Head-to-head, Allen has won three of the four previous meetings. Allen visited Utah for three games in three days at the end of January. The Americans won the first game 5-2, and the second game 3-2 in a shootout, before losing game three 4-3. Allen won the lone game played in Allen (February 9) 2-1 in a shootout.
Head-to-head stats show Allen with the edge in goals (13-9), but Utah with the edge in shots (117-108). Allen’s power play was 3-16 (18.8%). Utah’s power play was 5-16 (31.3%).
Special teams are always a big key but even more so in the game tonight against Utah. The challenge will be how Allen, who has the second-worst penalty kill percentage in the league (78.7%) can contain the best power play in the league which is Utah at 24.6%.
In the four previous games against Utah, the Americans allowed at least one power-play goal in all four. In their last five games (at Kansas City and Greenville) the Americans gave up too many power play opportunities (24) and too many power-play goals (8). So to recap, in the head-to-head games Utah’s power play was successful 31.3% of the time and in Allen’s last five games the opponent’s power play was successful 33.3%. Just not good enough to win.
Allen lost their last game in Greenville even though they scored the first goal of the game. Overall, the Americans still have one of the best records in the league when they score first (13-2-0-0). Utah’s record when scoring first is 8-2-1-1. The team that scored first has won all four games Allen and Utah have played this season.
If the game goes beyond regular time tonight, the odds favor the Americans. Allen is 1-1 in overtime games and 2-0 in shootouts. Utah is 1-3 in overtime games and 0-5 in shootouts.
Utah has the best power play in the ECHL, but struggles scoring five-on-five. Allen scores 20% of its goals on the power play. Compare that to the Grizzlies who score 33% of their goals on the power play.
Allen will have five players take the ice for the first time at home tonight, goalie Taran Kozun (#35), defenseman Chaz Reddekopp (#16) and forwards Kyle Topping (#9), Steenn Pasichnuk (#18) and Krystof Hrabik (#28). Haven’t heard if Kozun or Justin Kapelmaster will get the start.
Utah will have forward Ty Lewis back in their lineup after spending most of the season in the AHL with the Colorado Eagles. Lewis is a player to keep an eye on when watching the game tonight. He has been an Allen killer in the past, in four games against the Americans last season Lewis had seven points (4G, 3A). In the two games he played for Utah earlier in this season Lewis had five assists. Another player to watch is #20 Pat Cannone who has scored at least one point in his last nine games and is the Grizzlies leading scorer (tied) with 20 points.. The other Utah player with 20 points is rookie Matthew Boucher, who is tied for the ECHL rookie scoring lead.
The referee scheduled for the game tonight is #4 Sean MacFarlane, who is from Spokane and played goalie prior to becoming a referee. He started playing and officiating hockey at age 12 and has worked in the ECHL including the Kelly Cup finals, AHL and internationally.
Other News and Notes
– Wichita beat Rapid City 5-4 in overtime at home last night. Read more about it here: https://fieldpasshockey.com/thunder-spot-rush-four-complete-comeback-in-ot/
– In addition to the Allen game tonight, Jacksonville is at South Carolina and Wheeling visits Indy. Here is the ECHL Today with the previews: https://www.echl.com/en/news/2021/3/echl-today-march-3
– Former Allen goalie and current Florida goalie Jake Hildebrand was just selected as the ECHL goalie of the month for February. Jake was 4-0-0-2 in February with a GAA of 2.04 and a save percentage of .933. It’s two months in a row for former Allen goalies winning Goalie of the Month. In January Wichita’s Evan Weninger won the award.
COVID-19 & the Allen Event Center
– In case you didn’t see what the Allen Americans put out after Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced changes to the COVID rules yesterday here is the latest:
The Allen Americans are in contact with our building owner, the City of Allen & Allen Event Center staff regarding today's ruling by Governor Abbott.
As soon as we receive confirmation back from them per capacity for our home games March 17 forward we will communicate same. pic.twitter.com/ct4mM0mXh1
— Allen AMERICANS Professional Hockey Club (@AllenAmericans) March 2, 2021
Did You Know?
Allen’s record after 26 games is 16-9-1-0 with a points percentage of .635. Last season (2019-20) after 26 games Allen’s record was 19-4-3-0 with a points percentage of .788. In 2018-19 Allen’s record after 26 games was 6-18-0-2 with a points percentage of .269. The big difference between this season and last season is the number of home games. This season the percentage of home games in the first 26 was 31% (8 of 26). Last season the percentage of home games in the first 26 was 50% (13 of 26).
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