Beyond the Bradley Center: Home Cooking for the Holidays, Lots of Rockford & Peoria on Tap

2012-2013 Milwaukee Admirals: 26 G.P., 12-11-2-1–27 pts., 73 goals scored, 79 goals allowed, T-11th place in the Western Conference. Leading scorer: Taylor Beck (4 goals, 14 assists, 18 points). Best Recent Win: Dec. 16, 4-3 over Hamilton. Worst Recent Loss: Dec. 15, 3-1 at Peoria. Key Upcoming Matchup: Dec. 19 vs. Rockford.

Talk about a kick in the teeth. With the NHL is locked out, the AHL schedule-makers gave Milwaukee a league-high run of road games to start the season, leaving many area hockey fans like myself suffering from hardcore hockey withdrawal.

But the balance payoff comes here in December as Milwaukee curls up by the warm fire at the Bradley Center with nine of their next 11 games on home ice, (11 of 14 if you include last weekend). The only roadies in that stretch are a pair of short jaunts to Rockford and Peoria.

Milwaukee will get extremely familiar with those two division foes in the next few weeks with four more games against the Rivermen on tap by Jan. 13, and another four against the IceHogs by Jan. 12.

With most of these games at home, the opportunity is certainly there for coach Dean Evason’s young squad to turn the corner on the season and go for on a run to get into a playoff spot. Its been so far so good for Milwaukee this season, as an above .500 record in Milwaukee’s brutal schedule to date is borderline great (as I stated in my feature on theAHL.com this week).

What cannot happen is a repeat of last year’s January swan dive. Milwaukee stands in fifth place (last) in the Midwest Division. However, the Admirals are just a point out of the top spot currently occupied by Grand Rapids. Strange stuff indeed.

Last year Milwaukee actually held the top spot in the west ever so briefly before fading in January and February. That early cushion allowed the Admirals the chance to pull off their remarkable standings comeback to finish the season and earn the fifth seed.

Peoria and Rockford are currently a point ahead of the Admirals, while Milwaukee has a game in hand on both teams. Now is as good a time as any to climb over their rivals and become a legitimate contender.

So Roundtable . . . Are you looking forward to all of these holiday home games? Is second place or better in the Midwest Division by Jan. 13 a reasonable expectation? How much pressure is on Milwaukee to play well at home, considering their current position of 12th place in the Western Conference?

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