The Chatterbox, Vol. 77

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

Colton Sissons’ face here is almost exactly the same as mine late in the third period. (Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

As has been the case for me when it comes to “The Chatterbox” this season. I always like to wait, soak in the game, think, think some more, and allow myself to get a better perspective on what took place from the game. It’s a good thing in an instance like this that I’ve done that more this season because if I wrote what I felt in the moment following the Admirals 8-4 loss to the Chicago Wolves there honestly wouldn’t be much to say. I felt blank.

With time to have absorbed what had happened in what is one in a long line of recent Admirals defeats I think I can now safely open up and discuss what that Admirals game was. That was just about as close to an on-ice adaptation of Red Wedding from Game of Thrones, without a fighting major, as you will ever get. There were serious George R.R. Martin levels of punch to the gut “you have to be kidding me” moments that hit, hit some more, and ended with a ferocious and powerful thud that was the final horn to sound the end of the game.

This is an Admirals team that, in its current capacity, is good enough to hold the West Division leading San Antonio Rampage to a 3-0 deficit through two periods of play. This is an Admirals team good enough toe battle back from 3-1 down against a gritty and structured Chicago Wolves team to make it 3-3. So why oh why is it incapable of earning wins? The lack of a solid answer to that question does my head in because there can be so many different answers to that question on various nights.

I titled yesterday’s game story rock bottom for the simple fact that it has to be there. That was it. The Admirals can’t possibly get to a lower depth than what happened from that game. The real story begins tonight when the Admirals and Wolves face-off again. Where do the Admirals go from last night?

After the game I spoke with Dean Evason, Mike Liambas, Eric Robinson, Gary Steffes, and Anthony Bitetto. Here is what they had to say following last night’s game.

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Rock Bottom; Admirals lose 8-4 to Chicago

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

Eric Robinson scored the first goal of his professional hockey playing career tonight. Unfortunately it came during a depressing 8-4 loss for the Milwaukee Admirals. (Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

The Admirals lost 8-4 against the Chicago Wolves Friday night. The rough keeps getting rough for the Admirals who have now lost four straight and have only one win from their last ten games.

“We scored four goals in this hockey game,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “That’s enough to win. We shoot ourselves in the foot to not allow ourselves to be in that hockey game.”

This game started with the dreaded Admirals power-play allowing its tenth shorthanded goal of the season. Nathan Longpre’s shorthanded rush and pull back to the right wing wall sucked in three Admirals while no one picked up the on-rushing Jeremy Welsh. Longpre passed across and it was a breakaway that ended forehand to backhand for Welsh’s fifteenth goal of the season and sixth scored against the Admirals.

The Admirals were able to level things up after some solid net front work out of the Pontus Aberg, Joe Pendenza, and Austin Watson line. Watson swatted a puck off the stick of Joel Edmundson and it fell to Pendenza who quickly backhanded a shot towards goal. His shot ended up deflecting off the leg of Brett Regner who was camped out in front of goaltender Jordan Binnington and the puck fell to Aberg for a quick wrister and his sixteenth goal of the season.

After Mike Liambas was given an elbowing minor for a check in neutral ice on Colton Parayko – the Wolves special teams was able to retake a first period lead. Pat Cannone passed from the left wing wall into the front of the net where Shane Harper whirled off a backhander to the opposite wing. The pass from Harper was immediately stabbed past Marek Mazanec by Magnus Paajarvi for his sixth goal of the season.

It took the Wolves only twenty-seven seconds into the second period to make it a 3-1 game. Parayko’s shot from the right point was spilled into the path of Adam Cracknell who continued to whack away at the puck until it was forced across for his fifth goal of the season.

Eric Robinson scored his first career goal as a professional hockey player to pull the game back to a one-goal deficit. Robinson skated into a soft spot in the zone as his linemates worked away on the forecheck. Mark Van Guilder passed from behind the net and Robinson took it first-time and wired his shot over the blocker of Binnington for his first pro goal.

“It was a good feeling,” said Eric Robinson. “It’d be nicer if we won. Hopefully I can take that confidence into the next couple games.”

The Admirals enigma wrapped inside of a mystery and packaged into a riddle, aka their power-play, finally made good to end a previous drought of 0/39 that ran for eleven games. On chance number forty, Colton Sissons threw a shot pass looking for a stick-blade en route to the net. Gary Steffes was able to get the deflection and received an even bigger redirect courtesy of Wolves defenseman Regner. The puck deflected off Regner’s leg and past Binnington for the ever elusive Admirals power-play goal. It was Steffes’ second career AHL goal and first scored since 2/9/13 as a member of the Lake Erie Monsters.

Less than three minutes later it was a Wolves lead. Jacob Doty scored his first career AHL goal after a hard shot from the left point deflected off a stick and proceeded to flutter on past the glove of Mazanec and in.

Mazanec’s night would come to an end moments later as he conceded his fifth goal of the night. Cracknell scored from the bottom of the left wing circle after taking a swipe on a puck that skipped over to him. His shot beat Mazanec near post for his second of the night and sixth of the season. Mazanec stopped 17/22 shots on goal before getting replaced in net by Magnus Hellberg with 9:32 remaining in the second period.

“I have no idea,” answered Evason when asked about what’s happening to Mazanec in net. “We’re still trying to figure it out. He’s trying to figure it out.”

The Admirals did what they had to in the third period which was to score first in the hopes of chipping away on the Wolves two-goal lead. Zach Budish whipped a wrister from the right wing boards the kicked off the pads of Binnington. Mike Liambas was able to swat the rebound with a backhander that flipped past the blocker side of the Wolves netminder for his fifth goal of the season.

The inability of the Admirals to gather or maintain momentum within games has been an issue of late. With the game at a 5-4 deficit the Admirals seemed primed to get on a third period run like that of the San Antonio Rampage on Wednesday night. Then a puck went airborne in the Admirals defensive zone with Paajarvi camped under it and waiting to fire. He managed to slam a slap shot off the puck’s initial bounce and beat Hellberg high to the blocker for his second goal of the night and seventh of the season to immediately restore the Wolves two-goal lead.

With a late power-play the Admirals went for the extra attacker with 2:35 remaining. That was instantly punished after Welsh forced a turnover and spun a backhander from his own zone into the empty net for a shorthanded goal. It was his second shorthanded goal of the night, sixteenth goal of the season, and sixth goal scored against the Admirals.

For a laugh, the Admirals pulled Hellberg for the extra attacker once more only to allow the hat trick tally for Paajarvi that finished this game off at 8-4 Wolves. The goal for Paajarvi was his eighth of the season. And the loss for the Admirals was their worst of the 2014-15 campaign.

Ramblings: Kevin Fiala was assigned to the Admirals yesterday before getting recalled once again under emergency conditions earlier today. Tonight’s scratches for the Admirals were Felix Girard (upper body) and Jimmy Oligny (healthy). After the game head coach Dean Evason said that Girard will not be back with the Admirals for the rest of this season due to injury.

When the Admirals claw back to tie the game at 3-3 what happened to the team? What will it ultimately take for the Admirals to jolt back to life? Are you concerned in the Admirals goaltending right now?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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Wolves: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Remember when Rich Clune called the Chicago Wolves a soft hockey team that couldn’t compete with them at all? I’m willing to bet the Wolves do. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

It feels like ages ago since we last played the Chicago Wolves back on the first of this month. I think that speaks volumes to this current rough patch for the Admirals. They’re currently on a run of one win from their last nine games. Not good. Not good at all.

The good news is that it feels like the results are coming. There have been good in-game performances from the Admirals lately and it feels like all that is missing is a start to finish effort from the team. I don’t feel the team has put themselves under pressure during this bad run of late. No one is kicking themselves. But I also feel a weekend sweep over the Amtrak Rivals could be just the moral boost everyone on the team needs for the final push to end the 2014-15 season.

~Short & Sweet~

The Chicago Wolves enter tonight’s game with a record of 31-25-6-1 (69 points). They are in fourth place of the Midwest Division and trail the Admirals for third place by five points. Their current Western Conference standing sees them on the outside of the playoff picture at the moment in eleventh place.

In the last ten games the Wolves have gone 4-5-1-0 (9 points). They are coming in off of two big wins on the road over the Oklahoma City Barons, 2-1 (OT) and 4-1. Considering how rough it was playing in OKC for the Admirals that last game produced by the Wolves is jaw-dropping. The Wolves outshot the Barons 48-25 in three periods of play.

~Trigger Man~

When talking about the Wolves the conversation has to immediately go towards Ty Rattie. It’s not been as polished of a season as he produced last year as a rookie. He scored fifteen of his nineteen goals this season during the 2014 portion of the calendar.

What should be concerning though is that he has goals in each of his last two games. He has 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists) this month while averaging 3.9 shots per game over the last two months.  Rattie is heating up and he might be the igniter for Chicago this weekend.

~Almost Pulkkinen-worthy~

There isn’t just Rattie to worry about there is also Shane Harper that will need to be clamped down. Harper leads the Wolves in scoring this season with 43 points (29 goals, 14 assists). He ranked second in the AHL for goals scored this season trailing only Teemu Pulkkinen. Not too shabby.

~In Net~

Jordan Binnington and Matt Climie have continued to work in concert this season. Binnington has played in 37 games with a record of 20-13-4-1, 2.39 goals against average, 0.914 save percentage, and 2 shutouts. Climie has played in 30 games with a record of 11-12-3-0, 2.27 goals against average, 0.915 save percentage, and 2 shutouts. Pretty similar if you overlook the records, right?

This season against the Admirals both have played 4 games and that’s where things aren’t similar at all. Climie has yet to win a game and has allowed 12 goals: 2.89 goals against average and 0.876 save percentage. The youngster Binnington has fared far better against the Admirals as he has won all 4 games he has factored while allowing half the goals that Climie has: 1.46 goals against average and 0.933 save percentage.

~UPDATE~

The Nashville Predators have recalled Kevin Fiala under emergency conditions from the Milwaukee Admirals.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tennessee (March 27, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Friday that the club has recalled 2014 first-round selection (11th overall) Kevin Fiala from Milwaukee (AHL) under emergency conditions.

Fiala, 18 (7/22/96), became the fourth 18-year-old in franchise history when he made his NHL debut in a 3-2 victory over Montreal on Thursday, logging 11:25 and putting three shots on goal. He has also amassed 17 points (9g-8a) in 26 American Hockey League games since making his North American professional debut with the Admirals on Jan. 21. The native of St. Gallen, Switzerland, started the 2014-15 season with HV-71 of the Swedish Hockey League, posting 14 points (5g-9a) in 20 games – tied for the fourth-most goals and assists, and sixth-most points among SHL junior players – before being assigned to Nashville’s AHL affiliate on Jan. 15. Fiala also represented Switzerland at the 2015 World Junior Championship, being named one of the nation’s three best players for the tournament while tying for fifth among all skaters in goals (4g-1a-5pts, 6gp).

The 5-10, 180-pound winger was a finalist for the 2014 SHL Rookie of the Year Award after tying for the lead in points among all under-18 SHL players with 11 (3g-8a) in 17 games for HV-71. He also represented his homeland at the World Junior Championship, Under-18 World Championship and World Championship in 2014, becoming just the third player ever to participate in all three tournaments in the same year (Andrei Kostitsyn and Vadim Karagan, Belarus in 2003). Fiala led the Swiss in points at both the under-18 tournament (4g-5a-9pts, 5gp), was named one of the nation’s three best players in the process, and World Juniors (1g-4a-5pts, 5gp) as the team’s youngest member. At 17, he was the youngest member of Switzerland’s entry at the World Championship by three years, posting three assists and a team-best +3 rating playing alongside Predators defenseman Roman Josi.

Fiala is one of six members of the 2014 Draft to already appear in the NHL, along with teammate Viktor Arvidsson (112th overall); Aaron Ekblad (FLA, first overall), Sam Reinhart (BUF, second overall), Leon Draisaitl (EDM, third overall) and David Pastrnak (BOS, 25th overall).

He speaks five languages – Czech, English, French, German and Swedish – and is on Twitter @KevinFiala22.

The Nashville Predators, who became the first Central Division team to reach 100 points with their win over the Lightning last night, play the last of their 2014-15 regular-season games against Eastern Conference opponents tomorrow in Washington, D.C. (11:30 a.m. CT, FOX Sports Tennessee, 102.5 The Game).

This move comes less than a day after he was reassigned to the Admirals. My guess? It was nothing more than a paper transaction with him sticking close to the team while they knew he’d be needed right back the next day. At least that’s just my assumption for a move that fast. Otherwise I hope Fiala used some of Viktor Stålberg‘s frequent flyer miles from this season.

Expectations for the weekend set against the Chicago Wolves? How crucial is the win on home ice tonight?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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Kevin Fiala Reassigned To Milwaukee

(Photo Credit: Christina Shapiro)

The Kid is back with the Milwaukee Admirals. (Photo Credit: Christina Shapiro)

Kevin Fiala has just been reassigned by the Nashville Predators to the Milwaukee Admirals following an emergency call up stint that saw the 18-year old make his NHL debut on Tuesday night.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tennessee (March 26, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Thursday that the club has reassigned forward Kevin Fiala to Milwaukee (AHL). Fiala was recalled prior to Tuesday’s game under emergency conditions.

The Nashville Predators play the Lightning tonight in Tampa (6:30 p.m. CT, FOX Sports Tennessee, 102.5 The Game) in the first contest of a two-game road trip. The road trip concludes on Saturday when the Preds travel to take on former head coach Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals in the Nation’s Capital (11:30 a.m. CT, FOX Sports Tennessee, 102.5 The Game).

For those that had the chance to watch Fiala’s debut you’d have seen pretty much the same play that you’ve been accustomed to seeing out of him in Milwaukee these past few weeks. His game has really calmed down and he is looking every bit as advertised lately. Sometimes you almost forget his age. Reminds me almost exactly of some Filip Forsberg kid a year ago. And I’m thinking the exact same maturation process is going on with Fiala most likely expected to start his 2015-16 season in the NHL.

Unclear what this move might mean for someone such as Gary Steffes who had just signed a PTO contract ahead of yesterday’s Admirals game. For as well as he played I would just assume keep him on-board if you can. Admirals could use as much firepower as they can get right now.

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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The Chatterbox, Vol. 76

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

The face you make when you realize you’ve blown a 3-0 lead. (Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

Shall I go back to the well and say, “last night the Admirals played a really solid game, and did lots of great things, but just failed to earn the result,” or should I come up with something new? That’s a serious question. I feel like I’ve been saying or writing that ad nauseum when talking about the Admirals lately.

Fact of the matter is that the Admirals once again missed out on a victory. They -again- performed very well and did so against an opponent that is really good. The reality is that the Admirals earned the result that they got last night. The work rate through two periods was superb and, come the third period, they had to accomplish more or at least the same caliber of play that gave them a 3-0 advantage through two periods. They didn’t. And the San Antonio Rampage, rolling on a five-game win streak, did all the right things they needed to do to chip away and equalize that game. From there, in overtime, three-on-three overtime, or the shootout, it’s a game of chance. It never even should have come to that point and it did.

Where does the blame fall last night? Heck, where does the blame fall for this current run of form dating back to February?

Honestly, I don’t think the finger pointing game matters. Viktor Stålberg did his part while logging AHL time this season before going back where he belongs. Brendan Leipsic was doing great work in his rookie season as a pro but was wheeled out of Milwaukee in a deal to help the Nashville Predators. In return, the Admirals ended up seeing Kevin Fiala turn up in his place. That was a pleasant surprise. Then Viktor Arvidsson gets called up on an emergency basis followed closely by Fiala.

The offense, which had been struggling, put together a 3-0 lead on a hot West Division leading Rampage team with the likes of Eric Robinson and Gary Steffes plugging in while players like Félix Girard and Miikka Salomäki are injured. It was a team effort and a solid show of the Admirals all-around capability to execute.

How did that all go away? Detail. The Admirals detail on simple plays, such as clearing pucks out of their own zone and passing up ice – things that worked tremendously through the first two periods, were a total mess. Can credit be given to the Rampage for upping the pressure and correcting their own mistakes playing against the Admirals? Absolutely. Is that a reasonable excuse for blowing a 3-0 lead in the final period of regulation? No, and there never should be one.

Is this team not tough enough? Is it lacking a killer instinct? Is the team getting pushed around? Is it the coaching staff itself? Is it the goaltending, or is it the defense, or is it the offense? All those are great questions but in the next ten games the 2014-15 Milwaukee Admirals will need to show everyone exactly who they really are. There is no avoiding it. The Admirals are plummeting and could see their run of twelve consecutive playoff seasons come to an end if this is simply who they are. It’s on everyone in that locker room to look at the day at hand and make it count. Ten games remain this season. So who are the Admirals? Are they lions or lemmings?

After the game I spoke with Dean Evason, Colton Sissons, Joe Pendenza, Marek Mazanec, and Rich Clune. Here is what they had to say following last night’s 4-3 shootout loss.

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Ads Collapse In Third; lose 4-3 in shootout

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

Austin Watson set a career high for goals in a season tonight. Sadly it came in a crushing shootout loss. (Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

The Admirals lost 4-3 in a shootout against the San Antonio Rampage Wednesday night. Despite a solid opening two periods of hockey for the Admirals the Rampage overcame a 3-0 deficit in the third period to force overtime before winning tonight via the shootout to extend their winning streak to six-games. The Admirals streak is now a losing variety of three.

“When things happen negatively like they do, and like it has, it’s hard to catch the momentum swing flying the other way,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “We did a lot of good things for two periods and once we get a little negative it just keeps snowballing.”

Austin Watson put the Admirals on the board in the first period and, by doing so, set a new career high for goals scored in a season with his twenty-third. Joe Pendenza attempted a wrap-around shot that pushed the puck out in front of Rampage netminder Michael Houser. Watson was able to find and pop in the loose puck to establish a new career high and make it a 1-0 game.

The Admirals power-play drought was nearly snapped within five seconds of their first chance of the night. It was the newest Admiral Gary Steffes who put a wrister into the net but the goal was disallowed because Triston Grant was in the crease. The veteran Admiral was tripped by Jonathan Racine en route to his net front drive. The play around him developed so fast that I doubt Grant new a thing about the Steffes shot and goal. The play was reviewed and waved off for Grant’s presence in the crease.

The first period would still see the Admirals claim a second goal. After absorbing some pressure defensively, the Admirals were able to break out of their zone and beat the Rampage on the rush with Pendenza’s ninth goal of the season. Watson started the play in his own defensive zone and teed up Pontus Åberg through neutral. The Swede delivered a no-look pass square to Pendenza in stride who swooped in down the left wing and beat Houser five hole from a quick wrister to make it a 2-0 Admirals lead. It was the first time the Admirals had scored twice in the first period since 2/15/15 against the Lake Erie Monsters.

“I actually wasn’t sure that [Åberg] saw me there as I was coming up the wing,” said Pendenza. “I was kind of anticipating him maybe dumping it or shooting it. He’s one hell of a passer so I’ll take it.”

In the second period the Admirals third goal of the night gave Houser the hook sign from the Rampage bench to end his night in net. Johan Alm from the left wing corner was able to pick out Colton Sissons who cranked a wicked wrister past Houser for his twenty-second goal of the season. Houser stopped 14/17 shots on goal before giving way to Sam Brittain in net. It was the first time all month that Houser wasn’t between the pipes for San Antonio.

Marek Mazanec’s shutout bid was denied early in the third period after a howitzer of a one-timed shot by Rocco Grimaldi beat him high blocker side. Former Admiral Greg Zanon migrated from the point down behind the net before delivering the primary assist for Grimaldi. It was his twelfth goal of the season.

Just before the halfway point of the third period the Rampage reduced the Admirals lead to one goal. Dany Heatley was camped in front of Mazanec and buried a puck that trickled out from behind the net. It was a quick and easy tap-in finish for Heatley’s seventh goal in the AHL this season.

It took less than three minutes before the Rampage would score yet again and tie the game up at 3-3. Quinton Howden delivered a drop pass for Blake Parlett as the two crossed paths with the defenseman stepping up from the blueline. Parlett beat Mazanec to the near post for his eighth goal of the season. It looked as if Mazanec never expected that shot to go blocker side. And the Admirals lost a 3-0 lead in 8:32 of ice time in the third period.

“We did a great job for like forty-three minutes and then we just fell asleep,” said Marek Mazanec. “Hockey game is sixty minutes and we need to play all sixty minutes.”

The best opportunity from overtime came with Eric Robinson nearly scoring his first career goal as a pro. He had blitzed down the slot looking for a backdoor feed. The pass hit him on the tape and the shot alluded Brittain but hit the right post and out.

The shootout would end after three rounds with the Rampage scoring twice on Mazanec. Grimaldi was the first shooter to take an attempt and he swooped left, came right, and hit crossbar and down for a goal. Next up was Åberg and Brittain stopped him with a glove save. Heatley and Sissons both attempted five hole shots and both were denied. Lastly, with a chance to win it, was Logan Shaw who buried a puck past the blocker of Mazanec to end the shootout and finish the Rampage comeback bid with a win.

Ramblings: Ahead of Wednesday night’s Admirals game the Nashville Predators had recalled Kevin Fiala on emergency basis Tuesday afternoon. He made his NHL debut last night in the Predators 3-2 (OT) win. Fiala logged 11:25 of ice time, had three shots on goal, and was a -1 player in his first career NHL game. In addition to the Fiala news yesterday the Admirals signed forward Gary Steffes to a PTO contract from the Allen Americans of the ECHL. He played tonight for his first AHL contest since 2/17/13 as a member of the Lake Erie Monsters. Tonight’s scratches for the Admirals were Felix Girard (upper body) and Jonathan Diaby (healthy). The Admirals power-play drought has now reached 0/38 over its last ten games.

Thoughts on tonight’s game? What happened in the third period? Where did the Admirals attention to details go? Can the Admirals rebound this weekend against the Chicago Wolves or could they find themselves out of the playoff picture by Sunday?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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Rampage: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Kevin Pyle // PHOTOPYLE.com)

Gary Steffes is the forward Milwaukee deserves, but not the one that it needs right now. (Photo Credit: Kevin Pyle // PHOTOPYLE.com)

The question tonight is a familiar one. Is tonight the night that the Admirals get rewarded for their work? Recent games game been positive for the Admirals but, fact remains, they’re still losing games. In March the Admirals have pulled in a record of 3-7-1-0 (7 points) from 11 games. It looks bad but there is lots of good being done. Is tonight the night that things start trending forward?

~Short & Sweet~

The San Antonio Rampage enter tonight’s game with a record of 39-20-5-1 (84 points). They now sit atop the West Division by 2 points over the Oklahoma City Barons. Haven’t looked at the conference standings in awhile? It’s tight all-around and the same can be said for the division leaders battling out for the top three spots. The Utica Comets lead the Grand Rapids Griffins, and the Rampage, by a single point. That’s the gap from #1 to #3 and the same gap can be said from #8 to #11. Admirals need to avoid plummeting into that vortex.

It’s been a hot run for the Rampage. They have won 5 straight games and are 8-1-0-1 (17 points) in their last 10 games. This current winning streak for the Rampage started after they were shutout 4-0 by the Lake Erie Monsters. Since, they’ve outscored opponents 25-12 on this current winning streak including a 9-3 thrashing of the Charlotte Checkers and a pair of overtime victories.

~When Last We Met~

As you might recall, when the Admirals and Rampage locked up in San Antonio it was a tight game and a good game for the Admirals. The game ended with a 4-3 (OT) loss for the Ads but they outshot the home-side 35-24. The problem? That’s been the trend lately. Lots and lots of shots but not enough results coming from them.

It’s not as if the Rampage did any sort of rope-a-dope to the Admirals, either. Huge credit should be given to the Admirals defensively for limiting the Rampage in shots during that game. Looking at San Antonio’s recent winning streak they have only been outshot in a game once. Every other game? It has been all Rampage all the time as far as putting pucks on net are concerned. They’ve averaged 33.8 shots per game while limiting their opposition to 26.8 shots per game during the win streak. That Admirals defense, as I’m sure they did last time, will need to expect a wave of offense looking to wear them out.

~The Usual Suspects~

The top scorers for the Rampage haven’t changed all that much since last time. Bobby Butler still leads the way for San Antonio with 55 points (25 goals, 30 assists) in 62 games. Butler is currently tied for sixth in the AHL in scoring with Nick Cousins (Lehigh Valley Phantoms) and Tim Kennedy (Hershey Bears).

Following Butler in scoring are three other players on the 40+ points plateau: Mark Mancari, 42 points (12 goals, 30 assists)… Brett Olson, 41 points (13 goals, 28 assists)… Connor Brickley, 40 points (21 goals, 19 assists).

~Netminding~

Michael Houser is still the main man in net for the Rampage at this point. He has a record of 17-9-3-1 this season with a 2.80 goals against average, 0.902 save percentage, and a shutout. He has played all 10 games that the Rampage have played this month and has won 8 games with a 2.15 goals against average and 0.923 save percentage. Could we see Rob Madore‘s Cincinnati Cyclones goaltending battery-mate of this season Sam Brittain instead? I doubt it.

~In House~

What will the Admirals forward lines end up being tonight and how will all these recent shots get converted into actual goals? Perhaps recent PTO signing Gary Steffes could help. It is his first chance in the AHL since the 2012-13 season and he has exploded for 73 points (44 goals, 29 assists) in the ECHL this season. Steffes has tallied 16 points (9 goals, 7 assists) in 10 games in the month of March alone.

What I like about the Steffes signing is that it is a short term solution to the current Nashville Predators injury bug that has taken two of the Admirals more active offensive skill players. While Steffes might not be a Kevin Fiala or Viktor Arvidsson he is also not Fiala or Arvidsson. He hasn’t had the proper chance to really prove himself at the AHL level and this could be the icing on the cake for Steffes in an ECHL season that has been massive from him. He’ll be eager to please the Admirals and hungry to earn an AHL spot here, there, or anywhere and the Admirals are the possible launch pad for him to do that.

He could only be here for a few games or more. Who knows. But he is here now and that’s more AHL daylight than he’s seen in a long time. Can his play translate with the Admirals? We’ll just have to wait and see.

It should also be yet another chance for Eric Robinson to show his value to the Admirals. Personally, it has been a small sample size of 2 games but I’ve really liked what I’ve seen out of Robinson. He moves around really well. Last time out he had a few really nice looking scoring chances and appeared that the coaching staff felt more than happy to keep giving him ice time. He hasn’t looked overwhelmed or out of his depth yet. Like Steffes, he’s also trying to prove himself worthy of an AHL level contract. Having a pair of hungry competitive players should be a nice boost despite some of the bigger names getting recalled on emergency basis.

Expectations for tonight’s game? What are the keys to the Admirals earning a win over a hot San Antonio Rampage team tonight? Who would you feel more confident starting in net tonight, Magnus Hellberg or Marek Mazanec?

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Fiala Recalled, Admirals Sign Steffes to PTO

Fiala-RookieGame-JDiamond

Kevin Fiala will be joining Viktor Arvidsson as the next emergency call up made by the Nashville Predators. It is Fiala’s first career NHL recall. (Photo Credit: Jim Diamond)

The banged up Nashville Predators are in need of more reinforcements from the Milwaukee Admirals. The latest call up under emergency conditions will be none other than the first round selection by the Predators in the 2014 NHL Draft, Kevin Fiala. That also comes with the news that the Admirals will be signing forward Gary Steffes to a PTO contract.

Press Release via Milwaukee Admirals:

Milwaukee, WI–Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Tuesday that the club has recalled 2014 first-round selection (11th overall) Kevin Fiala from Milwaukee (AHL) under emergency conditions.

Fiala has amassed 17 points (9g-8a) in 26 American Hockey League games since making his North American professional debut with the Admirals on Jan. 21. The native of St. Gallen, Switzerland, started the 2014-15 season with HV-71 of the Swedish Hockey League, posting 14 points (5g-9a) in 20 games – tied for the fourth-most goals and assists, and sixth-most points among SHL junior players – before being assigned to Nashville’s AHL affiliate on Jan. 15. Fiala also represented Switzerland at the 2015 World Junior Championship, being named one of the nation’s three best players for the tournament while tying for fifth among all skaters in goals (4g-1a-5pts, 6gp).

In addition, the Admirals have signed forward Gary Steffes to a professional try-out contract (PTO). Steffes has played this season with the Allen Americans of the ECHL where is his second on the team with 73 points via a club-best 44 goals and 29 assist in 63 games. The Grand Blanc, MI native is also an impressive +31 while raking up 59 penalty minutes.

Steffes will join the Admirals for their game on Wednesday night when they host the San Antonio Rampage at 7 pm at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Fiala’s recent play has been spectacular to watch with the Admirals. I feel as if his comfort level to the North American game has improved game-by-game. At first, the speed in which the game and defense closed on Fiala seemed to catch him off guard and he’d either loose the puck from a stick check or pass lightly to nowhere in particular and turn the puck over that way. These last few weeks he has been producing some solid performances all-across the board. He’s looked better defensively. He gets involved in some of the more physical play. And, of course, has amazing stick skills.

Fiala will make his NHL debut tonight in Nashville when they go head-to-head against the red hot Montreal Canadiens. He’s getting his first look up in the NHL and joins Viktor Arvidsson as the second emergency recall made by the Predators in the past week. Fiala will be playing on a line with Mike Fisher and Craig Smith.

Meanwhile, this recently injury spell up top has put the Admirals in a slight bind. Félix Girard is still hurt. Mike Liambas is still nursing through a lower-body injury but has played through it. Eric Robinson was signed to an ATO and thrust into his first two career games as a pro. And now a new PTO signing is needed. That’s where Steffes comes in.

Steffes is an undrafted 27-year old native of Michigan who has spent this season playing for the Allen Americans in the ECHL. His stats there this season have been ridiculous: 73 points (44 goals, 29 assists) in 63 games. He has only ever had one spell in the AHL prior to this PTO contract from the Admirals and that came with the Lake Erie Monsters during the 2012-13 season where he scored 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) in 16 games. He played the following season with the Bakersfield Condors in the ECHL before exploding this season.

Thoughts on the moves? Do the recent call ups of younger Admirals signal anything for some of the more tenured guys in Milwaukee? What is your take on the signing of Steffes and can his offensive output in the ECHL translate to the AHL?

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The Chatterbox, Vol. 75

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

This is Kevin Fiala seconds before a skate caught him in the high neck area. He is a lucky lucky man that he only needed five stitches and nothing more. (Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

Since the month of February the Milwaukee Admirals are 7-11-3-1 with only one win from their last eight games. Think about it. Eleven regulation losses. That is as many as the Admirals suffered the entirety of the 2014 portion of this season.

The real reason why this stretch has been so difficult to watch is that there have been so many positives accomplished during these games but the results are not coming. With the Admirals 4-3 loss last night there was yet another case of the way things have been going lately. The Ads score not just an equalizing goal but a highlight reel goal that made the crowd explode.

It was a phenomenal goal. Individual brilliance. And then the puck drops. The Stars are instantly in attack mode. Goal allowed in less than a minute. It’s a crushing thud of disappointment.

The Admirals outshot the Stars 41-23. They’re putting pucks to the net and generating offense but the team isn’t finishing or generating second and third chance opportunities off of those shots. The offense is coming up empty and the power-play is a hot mess. The Admirals are 0/35 in their last nine games on the power-play. The way that the Admirals make mistakes and get burned off of them? That’s precisely what a power-play is designed for and the Admirals are earning these chances on the power-play (good) but not converting (bad). As I said. It’s a hot mess. The chances are there though. They just need to be capitalized on.

After the game there was a story that developed which I will either find out later on or not at all. This is all that I know that happened. Typically, we media folks jog on down outside of the locker room for the post-game interview with Admirals head coach Dean Evason before going into the locker room for player interviews. Evason was outside the locker room the moment I arrived after walking across the ice. Not unusual, but staying there as long as he did was. He then proceeded to walk behind the curtain and, as far as I heard, went to the AHL officials room and had a conversation with league officials. I’m certain that I saw the on-ice officials leave during the time I waited. And I waited for just about an hour before getting the polite request to call it quits for post-game interviewing.

I’d have loved to hear from Evason as to what was discussed because I have no idea what could have been discussed at an hour’s length in regards to last night’s game. We media types generally get around five minutes of a Q&A with Evason after the game to dissect the game and all its intricacies. I can’t even begin to speculate what happened, what was said, or what was being discussed. I’d love to find out. Though, I wouldn’t be that surprised if I never do either.

In place of the Admirals head coach tonight it was the assistant coach Stan Drulia stepping in at the hour waiting’s mark on Dean Watch 2015. Also, Austin Watson and Kevin Fiala were able to chime in. Here is what everyone had to say following the game.

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Late Drama Not Enough; Admirals lose 4-3

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

Kevin Fiala is really good at hockey. (Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

The Admirals lost 4-3 against the Texas Stars Saturday night. This was another just another game in which the Admirals did all the right things that they needed to get the result but ultimately lost.

After Triston Grant and Austin Watson were both sent to the box, the Texas Stars were able to score from a five-on-three power-play via Greg Rallo’s twenty-first goal of the season. The Stars were cycling the puck heavily along the right wing before Travis Morin passed to his opposite wing for Rallo who buried his one-timed shot past Magnus Hellberg.

Kevin Fiala threw his name in the hat for the Admirals Goal of the Season in the first period. Fiala was matched up one-on-one with Jamie Oleksiak and burned him with a crafty move that turned the defenseman inside out and put Fiala in all alone on Jack Campbell. The finish was just as good as the deke before it. Fiala calmly out-waited Campbell off the left wing before pulling in a shot on the forehand for his ninth goal of the season.

Mentioned in the rant column of today’s “Scouting the Enemy” was a section on Admirals mistakes. Allowing teams to answer back so quickly after scoring was one of those mistakes and it struck again after the crowd was in a frenzy for Fiala’s highlight reel goal. Only forty-three seconds after the Admirals scored a defensive breakdown had Devin Shore alone in the slot for a one-timer that knuckled through Hellberg to put the Stars right back into the lead. It was Shore’s first career goal as a pro.

In the second period Stars captain Maxime Fortunus scored his eighth goal of the season to make it a two-goal game. A puck kicked out from the left wing faceoff circle right back for Fortunus who hammered a shot immediately. The puck fluttered clean past Hellberg on the glove side.

The Admirals third period push would come in the closing minutes with an extra attacker on the ice. With 3:03 remaining they emptied their net. With 2:07 remaining they used their timeout. And then, with 1:52 remaining, Austin Watson scored his team leading twenty-second goal of the season as the Admirals crashed numbers on Campbell in net.

It felt like when Scott Glennie put away the empty net goal with a minute remaining in the game that the drama was all over. That just wouldn’t be the case. Mark Van Guilder batted a puck out of the air in front of Campbell to score his ten goal of the season with 0:44 seconds remaining in regulation to make it a one-goal gap yet again.

For all the pressure that the Admirals put on the Stars in the closing seconds they had one last chance to send this game into overtime. Watson very nearly sent this game past regulation with a wrist shot that buzzed through traffic and narrowly missed hitting its intended target. It didn’t. And the Admirals, who once again performed quite well, fell short.

Ramblings: Tonight’s scratches for the Admirals were Felix Girard (upper body) and Jimmy Oligny (healthy). Jonathan Diaby made his return to the ice after being a healthy scratch for the Admirals last three games. Tonight marked the return to Milwaukee ice for Scott Ford for the first time since game two of the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs when the Admirals lost to the Toronto Marlies 5-2 on 4/26/14. After the game Kevin Fiala received five stitches after a skate hit him high on the neck. The Admirals power-play went 0/6 tonight and are currently on a run of 0/35 over their last nine games. The Grand Rapids Griffins point streak of nineteen games finally came to an end with a 4-3 loss on the road to the Lake Erie Monsters.

Thoughts on tonight’s game? What is wrong with this Admirals power-play? Is it safe to tip your cap to Jack Campbell in net and move on to the next game?

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