Back to the scene of the "crime" as they say. The last game at the Allen Events Center (November 28th) was a pivotal event in the short history of the Brahmas newest rivalry.
16:48 into the first period with the score tied 1-1, James Hiebert went after a loose puck on a breakaway and was met by Allen goalie Charlie Effinger, who had skated out from the crease to a point between the top of the face off circles. Effinger lowered his left shoulder, leaned in and met Hiebert's left shoulder, before dramatically falling to the ice. Hiebert, who remained upright, was immediately attacked by Allen defenseman Ryan Fairbarn, who dragged him down to the ice and pulled him into the crease where he held him down until the linesmen could pull him off. See the photo series here.
Fairbarn got off with a two-minute Roughing call, while Hiebert was given a five-minute Charging Major and a 10-minute Charging Game Misconduct, followed by a two-game league suspension. Effinger, who finished the period, did not play for the second and third period and was place on Goaltender IR for undisclosed reasons for two weeks. He has not started since.
The two teams met again on December ninth. During the pre-game warm-ups, Allen defenseman Brandon Straub and forward Britt Dougherty mixed it up with Hiebert and Luke Sellars after Straub picked the inevitable fight. See the story here, the photos here and the video here. The four were each given five-minute Fighting Majors and 10-minute No Category Game Misconducts. All four received league suspensions (Straub - five games, Dougherty - two games, Hiebert - three games, Sellars - two games). All four are available and expected to play on Saturday night.
Is there still some bad blood between the teams? You betcha. Will the game be physical? Bet on it? Is Hiebert still a target? What do you think?
The two teams met twice in the pre-season, splitting wins. They’ve met four times thus far in the regular season, with the series tied 2-2; each team earning a shootout victory. The Americans have a (slight) 13-12 goal advantage.
Then there's the North Texas Vintage Series. This is game one of two (the second will be on January 8th at NYTEX). The two-game series will feature the Texas Brahmas as the Fort Worth Wings (1967-73, 1973-82 as the Texans) and the Allen Americans as the Dallas Blackhawks (1967-82). Both teams will be donning throwback jerseys representing their historic predecessor. More about the series here.
The Brahmas are 6-6-3 on the road thus far this season. The Americans are 8-2-1 at home.
The Brahmas are coming off a 5-2 road win against Arizona on December 19th. They have won seven of their last 10 games. The Americans are coming off a 5-1 road loss to Odessa. In fact, they have lost their last three games in a row (all against Odessa) but have won six of their last 10 games.
Allen’s top three scorers include Justin Bowers (C) with 38 points (11 G, 27 A, +12), Bruce Graham (F) with 33 points (12 G, 21 A, +11) and Nino Musitelli (F) with 25 points (7 G, 18 A, +7). Bowers leads the home ice scoring with 21 points (7 G, 14 A, +10). Their leading defensive scorer is Ryan Fairbarn with 12 points (5 G, 7 A, 0).
Allen’s top goons are defenseman Brandon Straub (82 PIM) and forward Britt Dougherty (70 PIM). Dougherty, you may remember, put Corpus Christi defenseman Tyler Sheldrake in the hospital with four broken lumbar vertebrae in his lower back with a big hit on December 5th.
Chris Whitley (13-5-2-1 ) is expected in net for Allen. Whitley has lost his last three starts in a row (all against Odessa) and four of his last six. He is ranked eighth in the league with a 2.81 GAA and 10th with a .910 save percentage. Charlie Effinger (4-2-0-1) has not played since his run-in with Hiebert on November 28th.
The Brahmas top three scorers are Jordan Cameron (F) with 28 points (8 G, 20 A, +6), Grant Jacobsen (F) with 19 points (12 G, 7 A, +2) and Kevin McLeod (D) with 19 points (10 G, 9 A, 0). McLeod is the Brahmas leading defensive scorer.
On November 28th, McLeod registered his first professional hat trick in the Brahmas overtime loss on the road in Allen. He leads both teams in the four contests with four goals.
On special teams, the Brahmas remain are ranked 14th in the league with a 10.91 percentage and ninth on the penalty kill with an 82.95 percentage. They are second in the league in short handed goals with eight.
I'm unsure as to who will start in net for the Brahmas. Joe Palmer (7-3-2-1) has been outstanding in his starts versus the Americans going 2-0 with a 1.97 GAA and a .938 save percentage. He is ranked fifth in the league with a 2.52 GAA and sixth with a .914 save percentage. Brett Jaeger (7-7-1) is ranked 13th in the league with a 3.05 GAA and 17th with a .892 save percentage.
As of this writing, forwards Mick Berge, Bill Loupee and defenseman Erik Adams are on Injured Reserve and not expected to play.
For the Brahmas, forward Jason Deitsch has remained on Injured Reserve since November 20th. It is unknown if he will play. Justin Kinnunen is still out on leave granted by the league.
The game begins at 7:30pm and will be broadcast on CHL-TV if you can't be there.
Photo Credit: Robert Keith