The Central Hockey League underwent significant change this offseason that will shape the way the Americans' season is structured this year. The league went from 14 teams down to just 10 - the Fort Wayne Komets and the Evansville Icemen both made the jump to the ECHL, while the Laredo Bucks and the Dayton Gems both ceased operations. The Americans will see the existing teams a few more times to fill out the holes left by those teams in the full season schedule.
For Allen, a change in the landscape of the CHL won't change expectations - nothing short of winning it all will be considered a success. The Americans have been to the playoffs every season of their existence, but have not been able to clinch a title. Last season saw the Americans have their earliest exit yet, losing to the cross town rival Texas Brahamas, 4-2, in the first round of the playoffs.
To help meet these expectations, the Americans brought in some NHL experience with the additions of Mike Modano, Eddie Belfour, Richard Matvichuk, and Craig Ludwig as minority owners. These guys should be able to help the team to find and cultivate top talent for the roster as well as helping to sell tickets to the games, filling the hockey void a delayed NHL season has left in the metroplex.
Along with being the CHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars, the Americans yesterday announced an affiliation deal with the Houston Aeros, the Minnesota Wild's AHL team. This should allow Allen to take full advantage of the push down of talent by locked out NHL players playing at the AHL level. Houston has already assigned defensive prospect Mike Montgomery to the team, and he's put up 1 G, 2 A in five games played already.
The other big change for the Americans was in the coaching staff. New head coach Steve Martinson and defensive coach Richard Matvichuk have lead the team to an impressive start to the season. They currently sit in first place with a 4-1-0 record. Special teams is also off to a very good start - the team's penalty kill (95.65%) and power play (34.26%) are both first in the league currently. Eddie Belfour has also been working with the goaltenders for the Americans, and Steve Silverthorn leads the CHL with a goals against average of 1.98.
The Americans brought back a few fan favorites in Jarrett Lukin and Mike Berube. Nino Musitelli, who took a one year hiatus from hockey last season, is also back in Allen. The former Miami Red Hawk is a big fan favorite, having been very involved in the community during his last stint with the team. Allen will also welcome back both Ludwig brothers, Tyler and Trevor. Favorite goaltender Chris Whitley was invited to camp but cut before the season began. The biggest shock to the roster was Colton Yellow Horn not returning to the team for this season.
The Americans next play on Friday, November 2nd at 7:05 PM at the Allen Event Center. They will face the Tulsa Oilers for the second of three meetings in four days. The last time they played on Wednesday night, the Americans beat the Oilers 6-4.
Best wishes go out to Tyler Ludwig, his wife, and proud grandpa Craig Ludwig on the birth of baby girl Sydney.