Eight Is Great; Ads win 2-1 in shootout

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

The Admirals won 2-1 in a shootout against the Rockford IceHogs Friday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. It took until the third period before the action really shot off. Both defenses were great tonight but the tip of the cap belongs to Marek Mazanec who stopped 28/29 shots and both shootout attempts en route to the Admirals eighth straight win.

“We didn’t anticipate this game being a patient game,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “We anticipated it being more of an aggressive game as opposed to the Chicago game but it turned out to be a lot like that. Both teams kind of counter punched a little bit. We were able to hang in there and get in the shootout.”

This game was a stalemate from the opening puck drop until five-minutes into the third period. A pass off the left wing wall by Max Görtz picked out Viktor Arvidsson atop the slot. His shot was fended off by Mark Visentin but pushed aside to Frédérick Gaudreau at the side of the cage for a rebound goal. The tally for Gaudreau is his fourth of the season and first not scored on the power-play. By picking up the primary assist on the goal Arvidsson set the new benchmark for longest points streak in the AHL this season at eleven-games.

With 3:42 remaining in regulation the IceHogs had a goal disallowed. A puck was thrown in on Marek Mazanec and fell to the glove side of him. He didn’t see it. Jeremy Morin did. Fortunately for the Admirals the tight space of the situation forced Morin to try and use his skates to get the puck onto his stick and he wound up kicking it in. The play would be reviewed and the call on the ice stood as a no goal due to the use of a distinct kicking motion.

Sadly, this temporary high of the Admirals maintaining a 1-0 shutout would be squashed moments after the video review. Ryan Hartman zipped around the cage and threw a wrap-around from Mazanec’s right side and the puck got underneath him for his fifth goal of the season.

Then came controversy as a shot by Kevin Fiala appeared to sneak through the pads of Visentin and go in with less than a minute remaining. The goal light came on, Kirill Gotovets swiped the puck out of the goal, and then the whistle blew. As the referees saw it, or rather didn’t, those events that were just listed didn’t happen in that order. They blew it. Plain and simple.

“It’s a tough call,” said Evason. “We see it all the time in the NHL. It’s the intent to blow the whistle. It’s clearly in. We get the luxury of watching on the big screen. One referee probably hurts. If there’s a second guy he maybe makes that call in the neutral zone. But they talked so it’s tough. It’s frustrating some times but you got to live with it. We’ve had calls that come our way. That one didn’t but it didn’t hurt.”

The game was then sent to overtime where the Admirals picked up a power-play chance with three-minutes left in the frame due to an IceHogs too many men on the ice penalty. That came and went so the shootout was required. Kevin Fiala stepped up first and delivered with a slick bit of puck handles before wristing home blocker side. Erik Gustafsson stepped up for the IceHogs but flubbed up his late backhander attempt and missed entirely. Gaudreau then stepped up and fired in a snap shot to make it match point for the Admirals. Garret Ross was aiming blocker side the entire time and Mazanec shut him down to provide the Admirals the shootout win.

Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played they recalled defenseman Garrett Noonan from the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL). Tonight was Noonan’s first game in the AHL since 4/18/15. The move came following a lower-body injury that Johan Alm sustained against the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday. Joining Alm on the scratch front due to injury was Stevie Moses who didn’t play due to an upper-body injury. Kevin Fiala marked his return to the ice following his two-game suspension by the AHL and missing Wednesday night’s game due to an upper-body injury. Tonight’s line combinations were: Arvidsson-Gaudreau-Görtz, Fiala-Reinhart-Bass, Åberg-Kamenev-Payerl, Devane-Girard-Robinson, Allen-Oligny, Näkyvä-Aronson, Noonan-Murphy.

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Posted in Game Recaps | 6 Comments

AHL Announces New All-Star Game Format

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Could Viktor Arvidsson be en route to becoming the Milwaukee Admirals representative at this year’s AHL All-Star festivities? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The NHL and AHL is often a “like father, like son” relationship in which the two try to mirror each other as closely as possible. Coming on the heels of the newly announced NHL All Star Game format that will be sweeping through Nashville in late-January the AHL has followed suit with a brand new format for their AHL All-Star Classic.

Press Release via AHL:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … American Hockey League President and Chief Executive Officer David Andrews announced today a new game format for the 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Classic, scheduled for January 31 and February 1 at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena in Syracuse, N.Y.

The 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Challenge will take place on the evening of Feb. 1. Instead of a traditional 60-minute game, the league’s all-stars will be divided into four teams, one representing each of the league’s divisions (Atlantic, North, Central, Pacific). The teams will then play a round-robin tournament featuring six games of nine minutes each; the first half of each game will be played at 4-on-4, and the second half at 3-on-3. The two teams with the best records at the end of the round-robin tournament will face off for the championship, a six-minute game played at 3-on-3.

Click here for a full infographic explaining the 2016 AHL All-Star Challenge.

“We have been working on developing an All-Star Challenge concept since last spring, and this tournament idea is the result of many discussions with players, coaches and general managers around the league,” said Andrews. “We all believe that this will be an exciting showcase event for our players and fans alike as we highlight the skill, energy and excitement that has been a hallmark of the AHL for 80 years.”

Rosters for each team will be composed of 11 skaters and two goaltenders each. All 30 AHL teams will be represented by at least one All-Star player. The coach for each team will be the AHL head coach whose team has the highest points percentage in each division at the end of play on Dec. 31.

The 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 31 will keep its traditional format, with the All-Stars from the two Eastern Conference divisions squaring off against the All-Stars from the two Western Conference divisions in seven skills events.

Tickets for the two-day 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Classic are on sale now. Ticket prices range from $40-60 and can be purchased either in person at the Syracuse Crunch office located in the War Memorial Arena at 800 South State Street in Syracuse, by calling (315) 473-4444 or through all Ticketmaster outlets.

The 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Classic in Syracuse will feature the top young talent in the American Hockey League: Of the 679 players to take part in the AHL All-Star Classic since 1995, more than 93 percent have competed in the National Hockey League, including Patrice Bergeron, Ben Bishop, Troy Brouwer, Ryan Callahan, Zdeno Chara, Logan Couture, Jiri Hudler,Tyler Johnson, Chris Kunitz, Ryan Miller, Gustav Nyquist, Zach Parise, Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, Bobby Ryan, Cory Schneider, Patrick Sharp, Jason Spezza, Eric Staal, P.K. Subban and Mats Zuccarello.

In operation since 1936 and celebrating its 80th-anniversary season in 2015-16, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and for the 14th year in a row, more than 6 million fans attended AHL games across North America in 2014-15.

In plain text that’s all sort of bamboozling. Luckily for you, and me, the AHL has created the following handy dandy infograph to make things a little easier to understand:


In a nutshell, each division will have its own team and all divisions will get to play against one-another in a round robin format. The games are nine-minutes long with the first half being played four-on-four and the second half being played three-on-three. The top two divisions that come out with the best standing after those games are played will duke it out to win this year’s newly christened AHL All-Star Challenge. The Championship round will be six-minutes of three-on-three. You can listen to AHL President and CEO David Andrews discuss the new changes on Sirius XM’s NHL GameDay right here.

The short and sweet of it for me is that this, like the NHL’s updated format, is a welcome change. It’s different. It’s fun. But, no matter how many times they’ll attempt to recalibrate the All-Star Game, it is still the All-Star Game. Hockey being the contact sport that it is makes watching the All-Star Game something of an alien experience. No one wants to get hurt. Therefore no one ever really attempts to adequately defend. Changing formats isn’t exactly going to change that. It’s just going to make watching the same old high scoring All-Star hockey feel quicker because it is being segmented into small slices.

Thoughts on the recent changes to the NHL and AHL All-Star Game? Do changes like this make you more or less excited to watch?

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IceHogs: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Greg Hamil)

(Photo Credit: Greg Hamil)

Before games were played in the AHL on Wednesday night the Milwaukee Admirals had the third longest points streak in the division, the Chicago Wolves had the second longest points streak in the division, and the Rockford IceHogs had the longest points streak in the division. As of today the lone streak standing goes to the Admirals. You can give an assist to the Grand Rapids Griffins for ending the IceHogs run Wednesday night.

~The Oinking Enemies~

The IceHogs enter tonight’s game with a record of 9-4-1-1 (20 points). Their 0.667 points percentage slots them in fourth place of the Central Division which is just behind the Admirals who have a 0.679 points percentage.

With the IceHogs  ten-game points streak (8-0-1-1) now over you’d expect them to be attempting to get right back on track tonight after a sloppy performance in Grand Rapids. Even the goals the IceHogs scored on Wednesday night were rough to watch. As was them allowing the game-winning goal 34 seconds after tying the game halfway through the third period. They should be very hungry to right the wrongs from that game.


This will be the third meeting between the Admirals and IceHogs this season. The first game took place in Milwaukee and ended with a 4-2 IceHogs win. The second contest happened in Rockford and ended with Trevor Murphy‘s first career pro goal to give the Admirals a 3-2 win in overtime.

You can easily argue that the Admirals are a much different team than the one that lost to the IceHogs in Milwaukee the first go around. The sad truth is, despite not being at their best, the Admirals almost pulled that game out of the bag. They tied the game up a 2-2 with 9:41 remaining in regulation only to have a bizarre puck kick up off of Vladislav Kamenev and unleash Marko Dano for the game-winning breakaway goal only 1:21 of ice time after the game was equalized.

The last time these two met featured what was in my eyes Marek Mazanec‘s best performance with the Admirals. He was brilliant. Mazanec stopped 35/37 shots and allowed for the Admirals to keep the game tight until winning in overtime. It was shortly after that effort that Mazanec was recalled by the Nashville Predators to fill in while Carter Hutton was placed on injured reserve. If there were ever a good night to give Juuse Saros a rest it might be tonight to see if Mazanec can deliver the goods against the IceHogs once more.

~Who What Now?~

The current leading points scorer on the IceHogs is defenseman Ville Pokka with 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists) in 15 games. That production from the blueline is impressive but it takes a backseat to what Bryan Bickell has been able to do since arriving from the Chicago Blackhawks. Bickell has only played 5 games in the AHL this season but has scored 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists). He’s been on a tear and has scored at least a point in each game he has played since his assignment to the IceHogs.

In net, it has mainly been the Michael Leighton show for the IceHogs. The veteran goaltender has played in 12 games this season and has a record of 8-3-1-0, 2.38 goals against average, 0.921 save percentage, and a shutout to his name. The last time the Admirals and IceHogs played though it wasn’t Leighton in net it was a student of Ben Vanderklok by the name of Mark Visentin in net. In that game he matched up with Mazanec very well by stopping 37/40 shots on goal – taking the overtime loss in the process. That was the last time he started in net as these last three games have belonged to Leighton.

~Just So You Snow~

In non-game topic news, Southeastern Wisconsin is expected to be hit with some snow tonight right around game-time. The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch yesterday for the occasion and upwards of three-inches of snow is possible in downtown Milwaukee. Make sure you drive smart, be safe, and plan accordingly.

UPDATE. It’s now become a Winter Storm Warning that can deliver up to nine-inches of snow. So. That’s fun.

Thoughts on tonight’s game? Will the Admirals points and/or winning-streak end tonight? Would you attempt to start Mazanec over Saros or continue to let the young Finn do his thing?

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Garrett Noonan Recalled to Milwaukee

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Garrett Noonan is back in Milwaukee for his first taste of AHL hockey during the 2015-16 season. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

With Johan Alm expected to be out of the lineup this weekend the Milwaukee Admirals have recalled defenseman Garrett Noonan from the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL.

Alm was injured following a collision with Jacob Doty at the end-boards of the Admirals defensive zone during the first period of Wednesday night’s game. He didn’t return due to a lower-body injury.

This sets the stage for Noonan to attempt to follow in the footsteps of Eric Robinson and carry over solid work in the ECHL and provide it at the AHL level. Noonan has had a great start with the Cyclones: 6 points (3 goals, 3 assists) in 12 games with a plus/minus rating of +7. He’s also averaged 1.7 shots per games and has 15 penalty minutes. Those penalty minutes include a fighting major that he picked up in his third game of the season.

The lack of a forward being included in this roster move tells me that Kevin Fiala should be fit for action tomorrow night against the Rockford IceHogs. Should Fiala be in the lineup the Admirals would be at twelve forwards with Stevie Moses the lone man out due to an upper-body injury that he sustained in last night’s game. Should Fiala still be questionable a move to bring Joe Pendenza up from Cincinnati as an option at forward would make sense. Considering he isn’t lumped into this move with Noonan tells me the Admirals are confident Fiala will play.

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Chatterbox, Vol. 92

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

All Eric Robinson seems to do is score points this season. Cincinnati? Milwaukee? He’s doing work. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

If you were to tell me that the Milwaukee Admirals would get this hot -this fast- following such a poor start I’d have loved to see my face as you told me. I imagine my eyebrows shooting up so hard North that they’d have flown off. That’s the level of surprise I’m in right now. And don’t take that as a negative either. It’s not because I never thought this team had it in them. Far from it. I just wasn’t expecting them to rebound from their lackluster early performances in a fashion like this.

The Admirals 5-3 win over the Chicago Wolves did a lot of things. The Admirals points streak is up to eight-games. The winning streak is up to seven-games. The Admirals snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Wolves that dated back almost a calendar year. You might remember that as the game when Rich Clune called the Amtrak Rivals a “soft hockey team” in his post-game interview on the ice. Since then? Not so soft. Case and point being that the Admirals beat Wolves netminder Jordan Binnington for the first time in his career. He had beaten the Admirals in all seven starts last season when he was an AHL rookie and on this year’s season opener. Oh, and for funsies, the Admirals snapped the Wolves points streak of nine-games by taking them down in regulation. So many positives. So much time. So let’s keep going!

~Splitting The Deck~

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Admirals current record is 9-4-1-0 (19 points). Their 0.679 points percentage now has them in third place of the Central Division and sixth place in the Western Conference. You can cut the Admirals season to this point in half by looking at what happened in October and what has happened since the calendar turned to November. In October the Admirals went 2-4-1-0 (5 points) in seven-games for a 0.357 points percentage. In November the Admirals have done nothing but win all seven-games they’ve played: 7-0-0-0 (14 points). What’s caused this turn-around is really a question that can have a multitude of answers depending on what area of the ice you’re looking at. The defense is playing much better which translates into offense. The offense is starting to get rewarded on the amount of shots they’re throwing to the net as the success rate of goals to shots on goals improves. It’s a mixed bag of improvements that gel together into this current run of form. Once again using the October and November split as an example you can get a small gauge as to some of the statistical trends taking major swings.

In October the Admirals: were outscored by opponents 27-15, outshot their opponents 231-216, went 6/36 (16.6%) on the power-play, went 23/32 (71.9%) on the penalty kill, and scored the game’s first goal two times.

In November the Admirals: have outscored by opponents 27-13, outshot their opponents 230-219, went 9/35 (25.7%) on the power-play, went 22/27 (81.5%) on the penalty kill, and scored the game’s first goal five times.

Those numbers are nice to see but I think the simplest answer to the turn-around is that this team is playing like a team. Those first few cringe-worthy games saw a lot of individualistic plays being done. While that hurts to see I found the biggest red flag being the inability to connect passes. It was simply awful and helped trigger many counter attacks or, worse, allowed for more sustained attacks that the Admirals had to weather through. That isn’t really happening anymore and I think it is part instruction and partly this team’s chemistry starting to really improve. The ability to learn from mistakes and get better is shining through but also there are a lot of players playing off of one-another that just wasn’t anywhere to be seen in October.

At the moment, it’s not about one player carrying the load or looking as if he has to be “the guy” to deliver the offense night in and night out. Right now it isn’t even about one line that needs to do all the work. Each line, offense and defense, is bringing it. The understanding of what needs to be done to have success is there and I think this team fights for just that.

~Juuse You See, I Say Juuse~

What can’t be lost in the current winning form of the Admirals is the foundation of it all which starts in net. You see those numbers up top where the Admirals almost perfectly flipped being outscored from October to being the ones outscoring their opponents in November? That’s what happens when there is a platform from which to launch offense from. That’s what happens when a defense gets better. But it’s also what happens when Juuse Saros just so happens to bail out his team when he’s tasked with doing so.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

When looking back on last night’s game I feel the true standout moment came in the first period. The Wolves top line of Ty Rattie, Pat Cannone, and Danny Kristo were on the ice and the group put on a skill show that did everything but one thing: score. That shift felt like an eternity to watch as pass after pass connected, dekes were dangled, and shots poured to the net. Yet, nothing came of it. At the time of the shift shots on the scoreboard were quiet 2-2 for both teams. After the shift ended it was 9-2 Wolves. They had seven shots from one shift. All shots were high quality scoring opportunities. And, after everything ended, the score read 0-0.

When a moment such as that comes and goes it invokes a massive exhale. Not just for fans I suspect, either. Saros had all kinds of heat on him and shielded his team from getting burnt repeatedly. Should it have been the Wolves getting on the board early after a shift like that it could have been a different result on the night. Them bringing what was easily their best shift of the night and coming away without a goal did a lot for the landscape of the game.

~Howitzer Boy~

When looking at the Nashville Predators you’ll come across great performances for the likes of Miikka SalomäkiAustin Watson, and Colton Sissons happening recently. It has been a great sight to see and a showcase for the level of hard work, style of play, and consistent effort required to be in the NHL.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Now, when looking at the type of game that Viktor Arvidsson has last night you can’t help but feel his time will come. He was absolutely phenomenal. I could list as many superlatives for his game and I don’t know if it would do it justice. He was playing at 110% speed shift after shift after shift. Then Stevie Moses picked up an unfortunate upper-body injury that sat him out for the rest of the game. Guess what that meant? Double-up shifts for Arvidsson. Did his performance drop by doing that? No. All the hours I hear that he spends in the gym working, time committed to be a pro, and all-around ability for both sides of the puck shined in his effort last night. His motor was running at enough revolutions to red-line and kill mine around the first period. He carried on like that, and more, until the game was decided.

Another thing that I love about Arvidsson’s style of play is how it really sets the table for the rest of the group. It’s part of the identity that I felt the Admirals took a dent from last season when they lost Salomäki’s relentless play. When you have one player working that hard it raises the bar for everyone to be earning their ice time by matching that level of effort. When a group gets on the same page and starts collectively firing on the sorts of cylinders Arvidsson or a Salomäki is it breeds success. It almost becomes an infectious competitive attitude where shift after shift needs to be at that high a level. If there was ever a better case for leading by example without being vocal about it – it was Arvidsson’s game last night. Ending a shift by non-verbally saying “follow that” and watching the entire team match it. To use another superlative. It was just incredible to watch.

~Mr. Reliable~

I would sometimes casually throw out that a Watson type of guy was Mr. Reliable these last few seasons. He isn’t the flashiest player on the ice but finds himself up there in scoring while being a well-rounded player. I think it is still early to give any sort of awards out but consider a front runner for Mr. Reliable to Max Reinhart.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

For those in need of reminding, Reinhart was acquired by the Predators from the Calgary Flames organization in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. I assumed at the time this was meant to strengthen the center position and make for even stronger in-house competition down the middle. While that might not be happening on the NHL end of the spectrum I do think his ability his lending itself well to the AHL.

During the poor start to the season Reinhart, like most, wasn’t scoring but, unlike most, wasn’t shooting himself in the foot. During this current seven-game winning streak a lot of his work is starting to really show: 7 points (5 goals, 2 assists), 1 shorthanded goal, 1 game-winning goal, and has averaged 3.3 shots on goal per game. He might not stand out on the ice hustling at the speed of light like an Arvidsson but I’m hoping his work isn’t getting lost among the name talent on the Admirals because he’s been doing great.


Another player who could use a spotlight is Frédérick Gaudreau. It’s not fun thinking back to how last season ended but one of the more bright spots was the play of Gaudreau as the season grinded to the finish line. It’s been great to see that wasn’t a blip on the radar because he’s carried that into this season and then some.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Gaudreau was someone last season I would describe as a fringe player. He was either a healthy scratch or playing his trade with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. In total, he produced 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in 43 games for the Admirals and 7 points (5 goals, 2 assists) in 14 games for the Cyclones last season. Jump ahead to this season where Gaudreau is being utilized as the Admirals first choice center on the power-play. This season he has 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) in 13 games with the Admirals. All of his goals have been scored on the power-play. Only howitzer boy himself, Arvidsson, has more on the Admirals power-play with 4 power-play goals. Gaudreau has been a really welcome sight to see for the Admirals and is yet another versatile threat that can be used down the middle, on the wing, on the power-play, or on the penalty kill.

~DANGER Eric Robinson DANGER~

The circumstances that have allowed for Eric Robinson‘s inclusion into the Admirals lineup this season is slightly unfortunate. First you have the team violation against Moses that allowed for Robinson to play against the Iowa Wild (11/5/15). Then Kevin Fiala was suspended by the AHL which meant Robinson would fill in for both games of the Charlotte road trip (11/13/15 – 11/14/15). And last night he was back in due to Fiala being sidelined due to an injury he sustained against the Lake Erie Monsters.

That’s all doom and gloom, sure, but with those circumstances is an opportunity for Robinson to show he has a case to stay in a talent packed Admirals forwards group. All he’s done in every game that he’s played in the AHL this season is score: 4 points (3 goals, 1 assist). This comes after scoring 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists) in six-games for the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL. His scoring touch is translating at the AHL level.


I made mention of an upper-body injury to Mr. Moses that removed him from the rest of last night’s game. Sadly, he wasn’t the only Admirals player to exit stage left due to an injury. Johan Alm was crumpled up in a collision with Jacob Doty at the end-boards of the Admirals defensive zone during the first period. He didn’t return for the rest of the game due a lower-body injury.

After my follow-up questions after the game, I suspect that the Admirals will be looking for reinforcements from Cincinnati either today or tomorrow with Joe Pendenza and Garrett Noonan your likely candidates. It could be that Fiala suits back up and plays Friday night but the safe option is to have the numbers there in case he isn’t able to go. If that’s the case? Both kiddos from the state of Massachusetts  should get recalled to the Admirals.


Prior to last night’s game I once again was able to do a pre-game interview with Admirals head coach Dean Evason. If you didn’t listen to that ahead of the game you can hear it right here. As always, I did speak with Evason once again in the post-game interview scrum (hi Dave). I then spoke with Arvidsson, Saros, Gaudreau, and Robinson.

Comments on the comments? Is this current run by the Admirals a small flash in the pan type of run or a sign of their performance level that can be sustained for the length of this season? Are the Admirals a different team when Fiala isn’t in the lineup?

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Posted in Chatterbox | 3 Comments

Make It Seven; Admirals win 5-3

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Milwaukee Admirals winning streak has made it to seven following a 5-3 victory against the Chicago Wolves Wednesday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

From the second period forwards this game had everything but a fight and a shorthanded goal to offer up. The second period started scoreless, saw the Admirals lead 3-0, and then head into the second intermission tied at 3-3. After goals were waved off for both teams in the third period Frédérick Gaudreau’s power-play goal would provide enough breathing space until Max Reinhart’s empty netter closed the game out. The Wolves nine-game points streak is done. The Wolves eight-game winning streak over the Admirals is also a thing of the past.

“Real good test,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “We talked about [the Chicago Wolves] being a veteran group that stays patient. We challenged our group to play a patient game, to play a mature game, to play a veteran game against a veteran team. We thought we did that.”

As far as first period highlights go there was only one standout sequence worth plunging into. The Wolves top line of Ty Rattie, Pat Cannone, and Danny Kristo put on a passing display that led to seven shots on goal from a single shift. Massive credit can be given to Juuse Saros who came up huge in net for the Admirals a number of times from that passage of play alone. His work helped see both teams enter the first period scoreless.

“[Juuse Saros] continues to have big moments in hockey games were we’re not so good and he is,” said Evason. “He’s got a mental strength in him that he just tightens up and plays the game hard and intense and gets the job done when maybe we’re not doing it in front of him.”

In the second period the Admirals finally made the Wolves pay for putting them on the power-play so often. On power-play chance number four of the game, Frédérick Gaudreau won the opening faceoff draw and the puck fell back into the slap shot of Viktor Arvidsson who hammered a puck past Jordan Binnington to score his fifth goal of the season. Arvidsson now has a ten-game points streak which ties Wolves’ captain Cannone for the longest points steak in the AHL this season.

A little over two-minutes after breaking the scoring open the Admirals gave themselves a two-goal cushion. Stevie Moses spin-around wrister fell out in front of Binnington and to the tape of net-front man Cody Bass for a follow up shot. Bass’ follow up actually managed to get past Binnington and tickle towards the goal line but Max Reinhart was in the right place at the right time to push the puck across to score his fifth goal of the season.

As far as replacements go Eric Robinson is making it difficult for the Admirals to send him back to their ECHL affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones. With no one around him on the left wing Jamie Devane picked out his linemate for a one-timer that Robinson fired high and past the blocker of Binnington to score his third goal of the season. Robinson has scored a point in all four-games he has played with the Admirals this season.

The Wolves would answer back to the Admirals three goal onslaught less than a minute after Robinson’s goal. A real crafty piece of stick handling by Peter Harrold allowed him to carve his way on the right wing side of Saros before teeing up Rattie opposite post for a tap in. The goal for Rattie is his seventh of the season. He has scored a goal in six out of the seven games he’s played with the Wolves this season.

Well, who doesn’t love a little bit of controversy? After a clear cut penalty against Max Görtz for a high stick Wolves forward Cody Beach hit Arvidsson from behind into the boards after the whistle. It could have been called for boarding or even an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty considering it came after the whistle blew. The only man that would go the box would end up being Görtz and the net result would be a puck heading into the Admirals net off a Wolves power-play. A point shot hit off the pads of Saros and right to the free man Kristo on the left wing side of the cage for an easy goal – his seventh of the season.

That Wolves power-play kept bringing the damage against the Admirals as a second period that started scoreless, and became 3-0 Admirals, would end tied up at 3-3. Gaudreau would head to the box on a delay of game penalty after playing the puck with a broken stick. With that penalty almost fully killed off Reinhart got overly aggressive attempting to win a puck in neutral ice and picked up a tripping call. The Admirals made it through the eight-seconds of five-on-three penalty killing thanks to a big shot block by Bass and cover by Saros. Unfortunately, it was the second penalty against Reinhart that would end up costing them as a patient play by veteran blueliner Chris Butler allowed him to pick his spot on the wrist shot and beat Saros up and over the blocker-side shoulder to tally his first goal of the season. The power-play goal from the Wolves was their sixth scored from eleven chances against the Admirals in two-games this season.

Just past three minutes into the third period it looked like the Wolves comeback would keep pushing forward and give them their first lead of the game. Jacob Doty looked to have scored his second of the season but the officials waved it off because of reasons. The same could be said moments later when an Arvidsson howitzer rolled through Binnington but the officials said Bass hit the goaltender. The video replay shown did not show any contact made between Bass and Binnington. It was a clear wash of “who knows” for the boys in stripes.

“[Cody Bass is] screening him,” said Evason of the Admirals no goal call. “He’s in front of him. I can see if he fell into him or he was right in his crease but it’s too bad. Cody Bass does all the right things. He checks before he goes in there to see where his feet are. He obstructed the goaltender from seeing it but not from playing it.”

Following a crosscheck by Wolves defenseman Butler the Admirals regained the lead from a power-play goal. Gaudreau had somehow missed the net from a point blank chance right wing side of Binnington’s cage. Luckily, he’d get a chance to redeem himself by getting another opportunity on the right wing and labeled a wrister off of the Wolves netminder and in to score his third goal of the season.

With 1:08 remaining Binnington hit the Wolves bench to bring out the extra attacker. The Wolves were clawing for a late equalizer but with seconds remaining Reinhart backhanded a shot from the neutral zone to score the empty netter, his second goal of the game, and sixth goal of the season.

The Admirals have finally solved the mystery that is Binnington in net. Prior to this game he won won each and every start he’s ever had against the Admirals posting eight wins, 1.47 goals against average, and 0.936 save percentage. The loss is his first ever against the Admirals and the win by the Admirals was their first over the Wolves in almost a calendar year.

“It was pretty impressive how we obviously got up three-nothing, the gave them three back, but there was no panic,” said Eric Robinson. “It just shows that we have a lot of mental toughness. We trust our systems, we trust ourselves, even with a couple of calls we’d have like to have go our way. We didn’t get too upset, we focused on the job, and got it done.”

Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played Saturday night they received Marek Mazanec back from the Nashville Predators so that they could activate Carter Hutton from injured reserve. The counter move that came from that was Brandon Whitney being reassigned from the Admirals down to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. Kevin Fiala’s two-game suspension by the AHL was fulfilled following the completion of the Admirals contest in Charlotte Saturday. Unfortunately for him he is currently sidelined due to an undisclosed injury and was scratched for tonight’s game. Speaking of injuries, Johan Alm left the game with a lower-body injury and Stevie Moses left the game with an upper-body injury. Neither returned to the game following their injuries and aren’t expected to feature next time out for the Admirals. Trevor Murphy’s four game goal scoring streak came to an end tonight.

Thought’s on tonight’s game? Was this the nuttiest game of the season? How clutch was Juuse Saros in the first period and late in the third period? What can you say about Viktor Arvidsson’s effort in this game?

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Wolves: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Ross Dettman // Chicago Wolves)

(Photo Credit: Ross Dettman // Chicago Wolves)

The Milwaukee Admirals current run of form is a seven-game points streak backed by a six-game winning streak. For how rough the first few games were to watch it is an outstanding turn-around by the coaching staff and players. While this current streak is fantastic to see out of the Admirals the unfortunate reality is that it isn’t even the second longest points streak in the Central Division right now. The longest points streak active in the division goes to the Rockford IceHogs who have a ten-game points streak (8-0-1-1 record). The team entering the BMO Harris Bradley Center tonight, the Chicago Wolves, have the second longest at nine-games (7-0-1-1). Simply put, something is bound to give tonight.


It’s worth looking back to the first Amtrak Rivalry game of the season. It was opening night for both teams and expectations for both were suspect. What were we going to get? Who was going to be more polished? Was a team going to stumble out of the blocks? Or, were both teams simply going to match-up evenly and grind through a tight contest? Spoiler Alert. The Admirals lost badly on the road to the Wolves 5-1. So, there was the answer.

The major talking point from the first game of the season was the Admirals discipline. They allowed the Wolves to go on seven total power-plays and conceded four power-play goals. In the first period alone the Admirals allowed three power-play goals. Oddly, the lone Admirals goal came during the run of first period penalty killing when Vladislav Kamenev scored against Jordan Binnington on a chance I’d best describe as a softy that Binnington would normally stop.

It was cruise control from then on for the Wolves. The damage the Admirals did to themselves was capitalized upon by the Wolves in the first period and second period. It clearly wasn’t a result that the Admirals could be happy with but it provided some glaring weaknesses in their game that I feel they’ve tightened up on since.

~The Amtrak Rivaly~

 The Wolves overall record on the season is 8-1-1-1 (18 points). Their points percentage of 0.818 has them sitting not only on top of the Central Division but the entire Western Conference. They only trail the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins insane points percentage of 0.923 for the best record in the entire league. Few are being able to stop the offense and fewer are being able to solve their defense.

Let’s start with the aforementioned Binnington in net. One of the things to watch with the Wolves this season is how they handle their battery in net which can be viewed as a 1-A and 1-B setup rather than a first choice and second choice goaltending partnership. At the moment Binnington has seen the net more but by only a single game over Pheonix Copley. When you have two goaltenders that can serve as the first choice goaltender it presents more of a problem that it does a bonus. How do you keep the two rolling without messing both up? It was a situation that manifested itself with Magnus Hellberg and Marek Mazanec here not too long ago. It will be a talking point of the Wolves all season long.

When looking at the Wolves goaltending you’ll see pretty average statistical numbers by both: Binnington (0.902 save percentage and 2.61 goals against average) and Copley (0.908 save percentage and a 2.58 goals against average). What does that mean? It means look less at the goaltending and more at the defense of the Wolves. Both goaltenders have faced a combined 304 shots on goal for an average of 27.6 shots against per game. The Admirals goalies have faced a combined 395 shots on goal for an average of  30.4 shots against per game. As great as the Wolves goaltenders can be it hasn’t been about them anywhere near as much as it has been the team playing out in front of them to start this season.

With great defense comes a solid foundation upon which you can attack. That’s been the biggest weapon the Wolves have had to start this season. While both goaltenders goals against average is in that 2.5 range the Wolves offense has been averaging 3.9 goals per game.

That scoring is coming from the entire team. The Wolves have four players with double-digit points in scoring already: Pat Cannone, 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists)… Danny Kristo, 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists)… Ivan Barbashyov, 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists)… Ty Rattie, 10 points (6 goals, 4 assists). Beyond them there are eight players with 5 points or more. Fortunately, two of those players are with the St. Louis Blues at the moment: Jeremy Welsh and Magnus Pääjärvi.

For comparison’s sake, when looking at how many members of the Wolves are scoring up above 10 points this season, the Admirals don’t have a single player with 10 points of offense yet and they have played two-more games than the Wolves have. The Ads leading scorer is Viktor Arvidsson with 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists). He started his season in the NHL but is currently on a nine-game points streak. Should he record a point tonight he will tie the Wolves’ Cannone for the longest points streak in the AHL this season at ten-games.

Another noteworthy getting excited about comes from the Admirals blue line. Trevor Murphy has only played in eight games for the Admirals this season. That limited action is due to a combination of a groin injury and Anthony Bitetto‘s conditioning assignment that kept him in Milwaukee for fourteen consecutive days. You might be fearful that such a swift outing of the lineup might catch out a young defenseman like Murphy but he’s been ridiculous since returning. He has scored a goal in four consecutive games, has a pair of assists, has a power-play goal, and marked his return to the ice that sparked this run by recording his first career professional goal on a game-winner in overtime on the road against the IceHogs. It’s also fitting to mention Bitetto in Murphy’s current season because last season Bitetto led all Admirals defenseman with 4 goals in 70 games. Murphy already has 4 goals in 8 games. It’s been an impressive sight seeing the Admirals defense starting to contribute offensively.

It’s also worth acknowledging just how good Juuse Saros has been playing in net for the Admirals. This month he has won all five starts in net while recording a 1.60 goals against average, 0.945 save percentage, and a shutout. There is a tie for the AHL lead for wins at 8 and for second place at 7. Saros sits at 6 wins this season with overall numbers that really put him on the cuff of the AHL’s top ten in goals against average and save percentage. As far as AHL rookies go he only trails fellow Central Division netminders Joonas Korpisalo (Lake Erie Monsters) and Eric Comrie (Manitoba Moose) – both of whom have played less games than Saros. The young Finn has been looking every bit the hype that fans were hoping for and I can only imagine him learning and improving with each and every game.

What are your expectations in the second meeting of this season between the Admirals and Wolves? Can the Admirals start getting this Amtrak Rivalry back in their favor? What will be the key to the Admirals extending their streaks tonight against the Wolves?

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Mazanec Reassigned to Milwaukee

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Nashville Predators have reassigned Marek Mazanec to the Milwaukee Admirals and activated Carter Hutton from injured reserve. It has not been made official yet but one would anticipate that Brandon Whitney will be reassigned from the Admirals to the Cincinnati Cyclones soon enough as the goaltender reshuffle works itself out.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (November 15, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Sunday that the club has reassigned goaltender Marek Mazanec to Milwaukee (AHL) and activated goaltender Carter Hutton from Injured Reserve.

Hutton, 29 (12/19/85), has a 1-1-0 record with a 3.44 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage in two appearances for the Predators this season.

The Nashville Predators play the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. as they conclude a five-game home stand (TV: Fox Sports Tennessee; Radio: 102.5 The Game). Tuesday’s game is a Nissan Tuesday where fans can purchase a pair of Upper Bowl tickets for $60, or a pair of Lower Bowl tickets for $120, and receive a free Gold car flag. Tickets to Tuesday’s contest are limited and available by visiting NashvillePredators.com or by calling 615-770-7800.

Mazanec did not see game action in his call up to the Predators. Though, he did have an outstanding seat for last night’s 7-0 win that saw a combined 156 penalty minutes between the Predators and Winnipeg Jets. That might be a slight shame considering the game Mazanec played before getting called up I felt was his best ever performance as an Admiral. Still, when you have Pekka Rinne one tends to play Pekka Rinne.

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Winning Streak Hits Six; Ads win 3-1

(Photo Credit: Jacob Kupferman // CSM)

(Photo Credit: Jacob Kupferman // CSM)

The Admirals won 3-1 on the road against the Charlotte Checkers Saturday night to push their points streak up to seven-games and their winning streak up to six-games. In the midst of a challenging first period the Admirals skated off the ice with goals from Eric Robinson and Viktor Arvidsson. It would be all they needed on the night as Juuse Saros held the fort and was thirty-seconds away from getting a shutout to end the weekend.

It felt like the Checkers were in firm control of the action in the first period but, thankfully, that control didn’t impact the scoreboard. With 4:59 remaining in the first period Eric Robinson slipped through the Checkers defense, caught a pass from Jamie Devane, and scored up and over the shoulder of Rasmus Tirronen to tally his second AHL goal of the season. Robinson has scored a point in all three-games he’s played with the Admirals.

With a late power-play in the opening frame the Admirals gave themselves an early two-goal cushion. The Ads worked themselves into a quickfire Swedish two-on-one with Max Görtz sliding a pass to Viktor Arvidsson over on the left wing. Arvidsson whipped a wrist shot against the grain and beat Tirronen to the far post to score his fourth goal in the AHL this season and extend his AHL points streak to nine-games.

In the second period, following a big check along the boards, Conor Allen and last night’s two-goal scorer for the Checkers Mike Cornell dropped the gloves. There was some grappling between the two but some solid shots landed for Cornell who I’d give the edge in my fight card to. Score that one 10-9 for Cornell.

The second period also provided yet another Admirals goal. Directly off of a faceoff win for Vladislav Kamenev the puck fell back to Trevor Murphy who wristed it home from distance. The Admirals top scoring defenseman all of last season was Anthony Bitetto with four goals scored. Murphy has four goals, all scored one-by-one these last four games straight, and he has only played eight-games this season.

After a late icing call in the third period the Admirals and Juuse Saros lost the shutout bid with thirty-seconds remaining in regulation. The Checkers won the faceoff and a long shot by Drayson Bowman deflected off of Kamenev and past Saros for his first goal of the season. The Checkers took away the shutout but the Admirals took away all points available to gain in Charlotte this weekend.

Give a huge tip of the cap to Admirals netminder Saros. It’s funny to think with an ice surface bad enough to warrant a comparison to the grass surface of Solider Field that a shutout was even possible. Saros was only a half a minute away from the feat. The puck was skipping everywhere tonight but Saros was able to stop thirty of thirty-one shots on goal including some dandies that kept the Admirals afloat in the first period. He now has six-wins this season including wins in his last five consecutive starts.

Ramblings: The Admirals utilized the exact same personnel and lines from yesterday’s game against the Charlotte Checkers: Arvidsson-Gaudreau-Görtz, Åberg-Kamenev-Payerl, Devane-Girard-Robinson, Moses-Reinhart-Bass, Näkyvä-Aronson, Allen-Oligny, Alm-Murphy. This was game was also the last of Kevin Fiala’s two-game suspension by the AHL.

Reactions to tonight’s game? What have you noticed that is different between the Admirals right now and the team that started this season? How good has Juuse Saros been? Now that Fiala’s suspension is over what sort of direct response do you want to see out of him next game?

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Roller Coaster; Admirals win 4-3 in Charlotte

(Photo Credit: Charlotte Checkers // flickr)

(Photo Credit: Charlotte Checkers // flickr)

The Milwaukee Admirals have extended their winning streak to five-games after a 4-3 roller coaster of a game on the road against the Charlotte Checkers Friday night. The Admirals and Checkers flipped between leading and a level scoreline twice from the second period to the final horn. Juuse Saros and the Admirals were just able to survive a final second flurry from the Checkers with the extra attack on to earn the victory and also extend a points streak up to six-games.

For only the second time during the Admirals four-game winning streak they allowed the game’s opening goal. Out of a ball of players stationed in the right wing pocket Derek Ryan was able to get the puck, turn, and pass back to the point. When Mike Cornell wound up to shoot Zach Boychuk glided in front of Juuse Saros in net to provide a perfect screen as the shot entered low and in for Cornell’s first goal in his first game of the 2015-16 AHL season.

With 4:22 remaining in the first period the Admirals were able to equalize through Jamie Devane’s second goal of the season. Félix Girard took a shot in neutral ice as he dished a pass up to Eric Robinson on the right wing. Robinson’s shot came in hot and must have surprised Drew MacIntyre in net as he tumbled backwards from a stand-up position. Devane arrived down the left wing side of the net to push across the loose puck to make it a 1-1 game.

The Admirals took their first lead of the game in the second period when Trevor Murphy polished off a rebound opportunity to tally his third goal of the season. Stevie Moses had the initial shot in the slot for the Admirals but MacIntyre was able to fend it off. Unfortunately for MacIntyre he placed the rebound into a charging Murphy who skated up from the blueline to bury the garbage. Murphy now has scored a goal in three consecutive games.

Checkers defenseman Cornell would repeat his first period feat in the sandwich stanza. Heavy net front traffic screened Saros who never saw Cornell’s wrist shot from the right point. The puck flew in clean past four bodies out in front, as well as Saros in net, to give Cornell a second goal in the contest.

The 2-2 second period scoreline would last less than two-minutes. The Admirals caught the Checkers in the middle of a line change and Murphy hit a home run pass to Viktor Arvidsson on the attacking blueline for a breakaway chance. Arvidsson’s initial shot hit MacIntyre flush but the rebound trickled in-line with Arvidsson’s run towards the right wing side of the cage. He had the net open to score off his own rebound. Arvidsson now has three goals in the AHL this season.

2:33 into the third period the Checkers would tie the game up at 3-3. David Wohlberg won an attacking zone faceoff and Justin Shugg hammered a shot directly from the draw. There might not have been the screen like the first two-goals scored but Saros probably never saw that shot coming. The goal for Shugg was his second scored this season.

As was the ebb and flow of this game the Admirals weren’t letting the game stay level for long. 2:22 after the Checkers equalized in the third period a Cody Bass dump in fell nicely back in-line with Max Reinhart for a slap shot. MacIntyre dropped low. Reinhart blasted his shot high and scored his fourth goal of the season to make it a 4-3 Admirals lead.

The Checkers finally got MacIntyre to the bench to bring on the extra attacker with forty-five seconds remaining in regulation. A late frenzy around Saros in net almost saw a last second equalizer as the puck was pinballing around the crease. Fortunately for the Admirals, the Checkers would airmail a pass up and out of their own zone while Girard was being tabbed with a delayed penalty for interference. The puck made it down to the opposite end of the rink as time expired to give the Admirals points in six-straight games and push the winning streak up to five-games.

Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played on Wednesday the team received the news that forward Kevin Fiala would be suspended for two-games in relation his game misconduct for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Lake Erie Monsters. Admirals’ radio broadcaster Aaron Sims confirmed that Fiala did not join the team for this weekend’s trip to Charlotte. In his place, the team recalled forward Eric Robinson from the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. Sims also finally provided confirmation of Robinson’s contract status: he signed an AHL deal with the Admirals this summer and is not with the team on a professional try-out basis but a full standard player contract. With those roster notes taken into account the Admirals line combinations were once again bare bones with no players available to scratch: Arvidsson-Gaudreau-Görtz, Åberg-Kamenev-Payerl, Devane-Girard-Robinson, Moses-Reinhart-Bass, Näkyvä-Aronson, Allen-Oligny, Alm-Murphy. The Admirals streak of scoring a power-play goal ended at nine-games. They went 0/3 on the power-play tonight.

Thoughts on the Admirals performance tonight in Charlotte? Was this the grittiest effort by the Admirals this season to keep being able to answer back after the Checkers tied the game up?

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Posted in Game Recaps | 1 Comment