As the north Texas temperatures sear into triple digits with the force of a blast furnace – indeed, a midsummer night’s scream — the Allen Americans are also generating some heat of their own by formulating the blueprint for their 2010-11 roster.
Fresh off a very strong second place finish (42-17-5) in the Central Hockey League’s Southern Division and an exhilarating post season run that brought them to within an overtime goal and a Game 7 victory of a Ray Miron President’s Cup title, the Americans are grinding and mucking as they strive to put a very colorful, competitive and compelling team on ice for opening night.
When the Amerks face off in earnest against the Texas Brahmas on Saturday night, Oct. 15 at the Allen Event Center, they will have at least seven of the skaters who took them into late-May. Stellar goaltender Chris Whitley heads the attractive cast of returning Americans alumni.
“I’m hoping to complete what we almost did last year, which is to win a championship,” said the 6-1, 215-lb. Whitley, who started all 20 playoff games and posted a 10-10 record while breaking CHL records for most saves (636), most appearances (20) and most minutes (1205) in a single post season. “We were so close, and I still think quite often how close we were to winning in our first year as a team.
“Allen was always the team I was going to return to if I didn’t pursue my teaching career,” added Whitley, who during the regular season posted a 31-8-1 record with a 2.60 GAA, and played in the American Hockey League. “I had a few offers in Europe, but (the Allen offer was the best one). The decision was also made easy when some key guys re-signed.”
Whitley will be joined by fellow 2009-10 holdovers such as:
- Dynamic winger Nino Musitelli, who played on Allen’s top line (with winger Bruce Graham and center Justin Bowers) and was the squad’s 3rd leading scorer with 63 points. The 5-8, 180-lb. Musitelli also contributed 26 points in the club’s post season run, and three of his 13 playoff goals were game-winners.
- Shutdown defenseman Brandon Straub, one of five Allen players who saw time in the American Hockey League last season. The 6-4, 225-lb. blue liner was a physical presence while logging 185 penalty minutes.
- Leading scorer and All Star Graham, a 6-6, 235-lb. behemoth who scored 31 goals (including nine game-winners, tying him for the league lead) and 79 points during the regular season before adding nine goals and 20 points in the post season.
- Energetic winger Colton Yellow Horn, who tallied 10 goals and 25 points after joining Allen in mid-December. The 5-6, 175-lb.
- Yellow Horn really hit his stride during the post season with 10 goals (including his first pro Hat Trick in the finals against Rapid City) and 20 points.
- Gritty forward Liam Huculak, a 6-5, 225-lb. banger who accumulated 111 penalty minutes. Huculak also netted the club’s first post-season playoff goal.
- One of last year’s key holdovers, defenseman Tobias Whelan, was swapped to Mississippi for hard-nosed defenseman David Simoes. The 5-10, 205-lb. Simoes racked up 171 penalty minutes last season, and has spent 601 minutes in the penalty box during the last three CHL seasons.
- Offensive defenseman Tobias Whelan, a 6-foot, 190-lb. puck-carrying blue liner who scored 18 goals and 33 points in the regular season before adding 4 goals and 7 points in the playoffs.
One of last year’s key holdovers, defenseman Tyler Wooddisse, was swapped to Mississippi for hard-nosed defenseman David Simoes. The 5-10, 205-lb. Simoes racked up 171 penalty minutes last season, and has spent 601 minutes in the penalty box during the last three CHL seasons.
The Americans also acquired the rights to rookie forward Ryan Garbutt, completing the trade of defenseman Kurtis Dulle to Corpus Christi during the regular season. Garbutt, a 6-1, 185-lb. All Rookie Team selection, is coming off his first professional season in which he led all first year skaters in scoring with 22 goals and 50 points.
In addition, Allen obtained the rights to forward Andrew Davis from Rio Grande Valley, completed the trade of defenseman Jason Seerey last November. The 6-2, 195-lb. Davis tallied 19 points for Missouri and Rio Grande Valley during the 2009-10 CHL campaign.
The CHL has also been busy this summer by welcoming former International Hockey League franchises Fort Wayne, Bloomington, Dayton and Quad City into the fold. To commemorate the addition, the CHL has renamed its conferences.
Allen will compete in the renamed Berry Conference (formerly the Southern Conference) with the Arizona Sundogs, Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, Laredo Bucks, Mississippi RiverKings, Odessa Jackalopes, Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, Texas Brahmas, and Tulsa Oilers. The conference is named after N. Thomas Berry, Jr., who currently serves as the Commissioner Emeritus for the CHL and has been involved in the sport of hockey for close to a half-century. He was commissioner of the International League, and was the principal investor in the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association.
The Turner Conference, named after the late Joseph Turner, includes the Bloomington Prairie Thunder, Colorado Eagles, Dayton Gems, Fort Wayne Komets, Evansville IceMen, Missouri Mavericks, Quad City Mallards, President’s Cup Champion Rapid City Rush, and Wichita Thunder. Turner was a standout amateur goalie and later played for the Detroit Red Wings before serving in World War II, where he was killed in action. The Turner Cup, which the IHL has awarded as its league championship and was won last year by Fort Wayne, also bears his name.