The Allen Americans, who set the Central Hockey League on its ear last spring by skating to within an overtime goal and a victory of the Ray Miron President’s Cup championship, expect to compete for another regular season conference title in 2010-11. The second year franchise, a Double-A equivalent affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, is coming off of a very strong second place finish (42-17-5) in the league’s Southern Conference and an exhilarating post season run that took them deep into the playoffs, and will open the new campaign against the Texas Brahmas on Friday and Saturday nights, Oct. 15 and 16 at the Allen Event Center.
Standout goaltender Chris Whitley will be the man between the pipes for the Americans once again. Whitley posted a 31-8-1 record with a 2.60 GAA and had a “cup of coffee” in the American Hockey League last season.
“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.”
Head Coach Dwight Mullins is pleased to have Whitley return in the Amerks’ net.
“Chris established himself as an elite goaltender in our league last season, and Adrien is just beginning his pro career and will start to get his feet wet,” said Mullins. “As a team, we’re excited about the core group that is returning, and about the players who we recruited. We’ll play the same style as last year – we’ll have an up-tempo team with a lot of guys who can skate well and play with a lot of pace. Obviously, we want to mix that with a physical element, so we feel we have a good blend (of talent).”
The Americans will feature much of the speed and power that highlighted their balanced offense that a year ago ranked eighth in the 15-team circuit. Dynamic winger Nino Musitelli, who played on Allen’s top line (with winger Bruce Graham and center Justin Bowers) was the squad’s third 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.
Musitelli will have a familiar target for his set-up work in All Star Graham. The 6-6, 235-lb. behemoth 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.
The team’s second line will feature fan favorite winger Colton Yellow Horn, who tallied 10 goals and 25 points after joining Allen in mid-December. The 5-6, 175-lb. Yellow Horn 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.
The Americans will also benefit from the return of pivot Jarret Lukin, who contributed 14 goals and 32 points during the regular season, and five goals and 14 points during the team’s post season run. Also returning are left wing Tobias Whelan, a 6-foot, 190-lb. playmaker who scored 18 goals and 33 points in the regular season before adding four goals and seven points in the playoffs. A healthy dose of grit will be supplied by returning forwards Liam Huculak, a 6-5, 225-lb. banger who accumulated 111 penalty minutes, and Britt Dougherty, a 6-2, 215-lb. battler who accumulated 85 penalty minutes.
The club further bolstered the forward corps by adding free agent David Nimmo, a 6-2, 220-lb. former CHL Rookie of the Year who scored 51 points for Amarillo last season, and Ryan Garbutt a 6-1, 185-lb. All Rookie Team selection coming off his first professional season at Corpus Christi in which he led all first year skaters in scoring with 22 goals and 50 points. Allen also obtained 6-2, 195-lb. Andrew Davis, who tallied 19 points for Missouri and Rio Grande Valley during the 2009-10 CHL campaign. Additional newcomers include left wingers Bobby Bolt and Alexandre Quesnel, plus centers Dave Bonk and Judd Blackwater.
Defensively, the Americans may be hard-pressed to duplicate their effectiveness of a year ago, when they surrendered only 183 goals to rank second in the league, just. The blue line squad, which recently lost shutdown defenseman Brandon Straub to an AHL promotion to Grand Rapids, boasts Erik Adams as its only returnee. The 6-foot, 205-lb. Adams played solid defense while contributing 17 points during the regular season before “exploding” for three goals and six points in the playoffs.
Newcomers to the blue line include hard-nosed David Simoes, a 5-foot-10, 205-lb. pugilist who racked up 171 penalty minutes last season, and has spent 601 minutes in the penalty box during the last three CHL seasons. Also joining the Americans’ case for the defense are the Tyler Myers-size Todd Orlando (6-foot-7, 225 lbs.), plus Iain Mcphee (6-2, 209), Mark Hinz (5-11, 175), Danny Ehrman (6-0, 205), and Justin DaCosta (5-10, 180).
The 2010-11 version of the CHL features new franchises in Fort Wayne and Evansville, Indiana; Bloomington and Moline (Quad Cities), Illinois; Dayton, Ohio; and Prescott Valley, Arizona.
The league also renamed its conferences, with Allen competing in the 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.