Ads Return to Home Ice and Winning Ways

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(Photo credit to Scott Paulus)

The Admirals won 2-1 against the red hot Grand Rapids Griffins Wednesday night. An early goal from Colton Sissons and a late third period tally from Mark Van Guilder proved decisive as the Ads break a run of three consecutive losses.

“Grand Rapids is a real good team,” commented Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “They have so much speed and skill. We thought we did a real good job through the neutral zone. We limited their speed. We didn’t give them the odd man rushes that I think they’re used to. When we can play tight like that we should be in a good spot most nights.”

Slow starts have plagued the Ads so far this season. Facing a skilled Griffins team, the Ads made sure to buck that trend by scoring one-minute and fifteen seconds into the game.

The starting line of Salomaki-Watson-Rask kicked off the game by pushing the puck in the Griffins zone, generating shots and turnovers, and helped keep the puck deep as they changed lines. Moser-Sissons-Forsberg entered the ice and instantly attacked the net. After a few good taps at Griffins netminder Tom McCollum the puck went past him thanks to a final push from Colton Sissons. That’s Sissons sixth goal of the season and ties him up with Anthony Bitetto for the team lead in goals.

Grand Rapids, for as hot as they have been coming into the game, started pretty flat. They didn’t register a shot on goal until the twelfth minute of the game. Right after that Gustav Nyquist took a tripping penalty to stunt that momentum that wouldn’t creep back into the first period until the Griffins first power-play. Shots would finish 13-7 in the first period, but the best quality chances were coming off the tape of Admirals sticks.

The second period was cruising by without much drama. Through eight minutes in the second period shots were only 3-1 in the period in favor of the Griffins. For an Admirals team that faced a second period shots total of 20, 20, and 17 in the previous three road games… that’s fantastic defensive work against a team as lethal as the Griffins.

After a scramble in front of Magnus Hellberg, Mitch Callahan of the Griffins fired a loose puck near post at Hellberg. The light was lit but the celebrations were mute and the officials began conversing. There was plenty of pressure on Hellberg’s doorstep, but, upon further review, they called it a good goal to tie the game at 1-1.

Midway through the third period the Ads nearly capitalized on the power-play if not for the awareness of Landon Ferraro. The Ads power-play unit wasn’t having much luck tonight, going 0-4, but in the final seconds of a man-advantage Sissons tagged a puck through McCollum in net. The puck was in the crease making its way past the goal line. Right in front to bail out his netminder, Ferraro gave one firm smack at the puck to clear it out of danger and keep the game tied.

As the ice tilted for the Ads, Mark Van Guilder picked up the eventual game-winning goal to make it 2-1. The team was working hard in the attacking zone when Kevin Henderson’s shot to the net ricocheted off of McCollum and near Van Guilder. MVG, who was working traffic in front of the net, skated out, snagged the puck, and wristed low putting the puck beneath the flustered Griffins goalie for the go-ahead and decisive goal.
With the Griffins net empty, they did manage a few quality looks to the net amidst tight defensive pressure by the Admirals. Badge of honor goes to the game’s first star recipient, Sissons, who made two big shot blocks to close out the game… the last of which looked downright painful to watch.

Hats off to Hellberg. After having a rough -probably rusty- return to the net on the Texas leg of the four game road trip – Hellberg managed to stop 28-29 shots on goal to earn his first AHL victory since the second game of the season. While his stay up in Nashville might have opened his mind his reflexes and timing were just a bit off in his two appearances against the Texas Stars. He made a good start in a shootout loss to San Antonio, but still faced a total of 93 shots in three days of work after a lengthy lay off while up in Nashville.

“It was a great experience to be up [in Nashville], practice with the guys, and see how it was in the show,” said Magnus Hellberg. “At the same time you have to play games to develop. You kind of lose that feeling pretty quickly when you don’t play. I think in a way it was good that we got a lot of shots on us this last weekend – even though it was a tough one. I didn’t play my best game on Friday. I felt a little bit more like my normal me on Sunday even though we lost in a shootout. Today we won 2-1 and the boys battled hard. It was a step in the right direction.”

Tonight, the team looked really composed defensively against an outstanding Grand Rapids Griffins group that entered the game on fire by winning seven-straight games. There were many positives to take from tonight’s game. The top two lines tonight (Salomaki-Watson-Rask / Moser-Sissons-Forsberg) were outstanding on both sides of the puck. The penalty kill was sharp tonight going 3-3 in kills with great efforts by both Joe Piskula and Scott Ford on the back end denying several attempts to deal the puck around the cage and catch Hellberg off balance.

The negatives could still be a wavering in consistency during the second period. The road trip’s worst period seemed to be the second period and tonight that was also the case as they were outshot by the Griffins 15-3 in the period. No telling what the real cause is, but the response in the third period was rather good. Shots were in the Ads favor, 16-7, and the space to roam wasn’t really there for the Griffins.

This is what I call a well-deserved win for the effort out on the ice tonight.

Thoughts on the game? Has Sissons been the Ads best forward this season? Is Magnus Hellberg back up to speed? Why do you feel there is a drop off in the second period and what can be done about it? Will Filip Forsberg still be an Admiral come Friday night?

15 thoughts on “Ads Return to Home Ice and Winning Ways”

  1. Forsberg just looks amazing… They can keep Beck as long as they need up in NSH! Unfortunately, the Preds can’t seem to score a goal to save their life lately, so I see his days here are very numbered.

  2. Mark: I feel as if whether or not Forsberg plays for the Ads on Friday is going to be telling. The Predators will be facing the Penguins and Blackhawks Friday and Saturday. They could use this type of production and skill for match ups like that.

    When this happened, I figured it could be a quick fire wire way for Forsberg to log ice time with that three-in-three weekend in Texas. Yet, we’re another game down and he is still with the Ads. I so wish I could get in Nashville’s minds right now to see if they’re thinking short term or long term with him. If he’s here briefly, it might have had a positive effect to boost minutes and ‘get him going’ back up in the NHL. If this is a long term move, I think people should start remembering -while he is one of the top prospects in the organization- he is nineteen years old. There is certainly a ceiling for him but I think he could learn a lot playing a multitude of different roles and playing lots of minutes at the AHL level.

  3. …but who makes those decisions? Coach? GM? Combination of the two? If I’m Trotz, I’m concerned about my job and will do whatever it takes to win and win now, meaning Forsberg is back in the bigs ASAP. If it’s not his call, or solely his call, then I could see him in MKE a little longer to develop if NSH is already calling it a season, but it seems way too early in the season for that.

  4. Mark: I think it is a combination of the GM and coaching staff.looking to maximize an asset in Forsberg. Were they just looking to give him more ice time in various roles? Possibly. Were they looking to light a fire under him and see if he can produce at a higher clip that he was with Nashville this season? Absolutely. Whether that stands up as a short term long term thing though… I’m just fascinated to find out. Truthfully I had no belief I’d see him playing against Grand Rapids at home but I did (and boy does he look smooth on the ice in person).

    No way does an NHL team quit on a season in November. The types of teams that are even in that sort of mode obliterate their coaching staff and GM’s looking to take the team in a new direction long term. Nashville’s coaching staff, Trotz included, just have a hard hand to deal with. For awhile they had this incredible defense in front of Pekka Rinne but lacked a stable offense to push them over the top as a real threatening team for the Stanley Cup. They tried to add some pieces here and there in the offseason, looking for some sort of offense, but even last year it was evident the Predators are trying to rebuild a bit. The Forsberg trade highlighted that. I think the NHL level of the organization is where it’s going to hurt the most for a season or two but, with the young talent growing up from within, there is much to be exited about as some of these guys mature. Even Seth Jones will improve with time and game-to-game experience. If all of these young players can click together at the right time and make it up to the NHL together – it’ll be a brilliant job of GM work, scouting, and development. If it all goes to pot… well.. that’s an article I’ll need to write for another time! Hopefully not, though!

    I do wonder, though. If the Predators did made a change regarding the head coaching position… Peter Laviolette, Guy Boucher, or someone else?

  5. They strike me as a “stay within the system” type organization, but without ever having to face the situation before, it’s tough to say. With that being said, Lambert had a good run in his few season as the boss in MKE

  6. I think Forsberg deserves to be in Nashville, especially considering the performance of most of their forwards, but honestly I think right now it’s better for him to be playing with the Ads. He’s getting lots of playing time, confidence and in a good atmosphere. Nashville is not a fun place to be right now. Many people are definitely calling for the heads of Trotz and Poile. I’m in the Trotz has lost the team club.

    It’s great to see Hellberg playing so well. It’s not really surprising at all. The bad game last Friday was just rust. Honestly, if I was Poile, with the poor performance from Hutton, I’d have Hellberg and Mazanec and have them switch off games and send Hutton down to the Ads.

    Organizationally (Nashville and that affecting the Ads) I think the next few weeks are either going to be very “interesting” or silent. If it’s the latter, nothing will happen until after the season is over.

  7. Forsberg has “earned” his spot in Nashville how? He “deserves” to be there why? There isn’t enough smoke and Kool-aide to get any objective person to believe that.

  8. Apparently there are no objective people who commented here or in the Nashville Predators organization as it was announced he is going back to Nashville and Taylor Beck is coming back to Milwaukee.

  9. Firsttimer did you get an opportunity to watch him play at all? Was it in MKE or with NSH (and that’s a serious question, not trying to be sarcastic for a change)? Granted I only saw him play one game, but if we’re going off talent alone, he would be underutilized spending any significant time at the AHL level. The stats alone don’t do it justice… His puck handling, his forecheck, etc were some of the best I can remember seeing… Now maybe at the NHL level, it might not be anything to write home about, but from an AHL fan viewpoint, he definitely deserves to be back in NSH, especially if his competition in the NHL spot is Beck.

    Now, if you put talent aside, it would be completely understandable if you wanted to keep him down to develop his game to the North American style and give him some more minutes… but as has been mentioned before Nashville is hurting for goal scorers. Will Forsberg be their knight in shining armour? No, probably not. Is he a better option over some other players? Yes, absolutely!

  10. Mark, I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said in the above post. I do put talent aside. I’d be happy if nearly every young player saw a month or two in Milwaukee. Otherwise, that old adage about the road to Nashville going through Milwaukee is just a load of crap. I think the off season moves in Nashville were foolish. I would have spent the money on a clear top 3 forward and a “GREAT” backup tender. There are several guys in Nashville that don’t even belong here IMHO. I’d have liked to see Jones start down here for a few weeks this year too. If they want results down in Nashville, what would it hurt to send an entire line down there and keep them together? Send a message to their Vets.

  11. goon: I always ask the obligatory “injury update” after games to Evason. Mike Liambas has been out since the opening road game of the Texas three-in-three after sustaining a hit into the boards. No word on his injury status but it sounded like he won’t be back very soon. For now, I’m thinking Scott Valentine takes his role in the forward group. Also still out with injury is Patrick Cehlin… not too sure what happened to him but he’s in a similar boat to Liambas… probably won’t be back soon. /which is a shame because I saw Cehlin in the locker room last night and he has an epic Fu Manchu right now.

  12. Firsttimer, Seth Jones is not allowed to play in the AHL this year according to the deals the NHL has with the junior leagues. He is too young. He could only play for the Preds or would have to go back to the Portland Winterhawks.

  13. Fan in the Falls: Part of that agreement involves making that decision before they suit up for their tenth game. I was heavily following Olli Maatta’s story in regard to that and, once he suited up for game number ten, he officially became a full fledged member of the NHL. Not sure of the full specifics of how the NHL/CHL really work out junior and professional hockey contractual obligations and how it impacts the AHL, though.

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