The Allen Americans did not suffer through anything that remotely resembled the feared “sophomore jinx” during the club’s just-completed second season. If anything, coach Dwight Mullins and his skaters took the Central Hockey League by storm after last year’s Ray Miron President’s Cup march to the finals and a six-game defeat at the hands of Rapid City.
Truth be told, that setback appeared to inspire rather than deter this gutsy franchise, which in 2010-11 skated to a big lead in the Berry Division en route to an amazing 47-16-3 win-loss-overtime loss mark and a 97-point performance that gives them home ice advantage throughout the post season.
The Americans, who are primed for another long playoff run, open this year’s playoff run with a best-of-five series against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (56 points) on Thursday night at the Allen Even Center. They enter the post season with a standings point total that is 13 better than those of Turner Division co-champs Rapid City and Colorado, and 20 points better than that of Berry Conference runner up Bossier-Shreveport
Allen, whose 24 road victories tied a league mark, also filled the net during the campaign with 271 goals, 21 more than runnerup Colorado. They were powered by a trio of 30 (plus)-goal scorers in forwards Colton Yellow Horn (33 goals and a team high 88 points, which ranked 8th in the league), Bruce Graham (34 goals, 73 points, 14th in the CHL) and Nino Musitelli (34 goals, 70 points, top 20). They also received 20-plus goals from forwards Jarret Lukin (21), Dave Bank (20) and Judd Blackwater (20). Other double digit goal scorers also include forwards Tobias Whelan (17), David Nimmo (16), and Liam Huculak (12), while defenseman David Strathman lit the lamp 13 times.
Defensively, Allen’s 211 goals allowed ranked somewhere in the middle of the 18-team circuit that is sending all but two squads into the post season. Strathman was joined by Erik Adams, Justin DaCosta, Mike Berube, Scott Langdon, Greg Gallager and Jonathan Zion to form a deep blue line corps.
For the second straight year, starting goalie Chris Whitley stood tall, ranking eighth in the league with a 2.86 goals against average, .904 save percentage, one shutout and a record 24-10-2. Whitley’s backup, Scott Campbell, has compiled a credible 11-2 record.
“We’re confident, but we all know what happened to the first place team (in our division, Odessa) last year,” said Mullins, whose club defeated the Jackalopes in the second round a year ago. “We have to respect that. We talk about it a lot. I don’t want to compare apples to apples, and we just want to mind our own farm.
“The playoffs are a whole different story, especially first two rounds (best-of-five series). If you’re not ready going in, you could be in for a difficult time.”