The Allen Americans enter the playoffs feeling they have something to prove despite their exceptional inaugural regular season. The Americans were disappointed at not capturing the Central Hockey League’s Southern Division title after holding first place for several months earlier this year, finishing second behind Odessa.
The Americans also are bent on winning the Ray Miron President’s Cup to reinforce the impressiveness of their strong regular season showing, earning 89 standings points (fourth-best in the league) behind the Jackalopes’ 101.
The Allen offensive attack is not explosive, but balanced, finishing eighth in the 15-team CHL. The unit is spearheaded by 6-foot-6, 220-lb. power forward Bruce Graham, the league’s sixth-leading scorer who led the team in goals (31) and points (79). Team captain and center Justin Bowers adds tremendous leadership savvy to go with his 23 goals (tied for second on the squad) and a team high 50 assists (12th-best in the CHL). Additional scoring firepower was provided by wingers Nino Musitelli (23 goals and 63 points, which ranked him in the top 25 league-wide), Colton Yellow Horn (10 goals) and Nathan O’Nabigon (15), and by centers Tobias Whelan (18) and Jarret Lukin (15).
Defensively, the Americans reflected Coach Mullins’ attention to detail on the back check and in their own end by surrendering only 183 goals to rank second in the league, just three more than regular season leader Bossier-Shreveport. The blue line is anchored by Tyler Wooddissee, Jordie Benn (brother of the Stars’ Jamie Benn), Erik Adams, Ryan Fairbarn, Chris Kaufman, Mike Salekin, Brandon Straub and the recently-added George Bradley. Fairbarn led the blue line bunch in goals (12), assists (28) and points (40), and was pushed by Wooddissee’s 11 markers and 34 points. The dependable Benn also chipped in with nine goals.
The Americans may be without Straub, who recently joined the Houston Aeros, Allen’s fourth player to be recalled by an American Hockey League squad.
In goal, the Americans have a dependable duo in the persons of Chris Whitley and David McKee. Whitley, who spent some time in the American Hockey League this season, recorded four wins and an overtime loss in his last five starts heading into the post season. The standout puck stopper won a league-leading 31 games against just 12 losses (eight in regulation), and his impressive 2.60 goals against average tied him for fourth best in the CHL. Whitley was also a CHL Rookie of the Year and Goalie of the Year finalist.
McKee, a native of nearby Irving, Texas, recorded a 3.95 GAA while compiling three wins in four appearances.
The Americans, who finished the regular season with a 5-3 victory over Amarillo in front of a sellout crowd at the Allen Event Center, open a best-of-seven series over 3rd place Laredo on Friday, March. 26. Game 2 is Saturday night, while Games 3-5 will be in Laredo. Games 6-7 (if necessary) will return to Allen.