The Chicago Wolves enter tonight’s game with a record of 39-20-5-3 (86 points). They are second in the Midwest Division and fourth in the Western Conference.
It feels as if it has been forever since we’ve seen the Amtrak Rivals. To this point, here is the season series.
Oct. 19 vs. Chicago: L, 3-2 (OT)
Nov. 15 vs. Chicago: L, 4-3
Nov. 22 vs. Chicago: W, 3-2 (SO)
Dec. 22 @ Chicago: L, 2-1 (OT)
Jan. 11 vs. Chicago: L, 2-1
Feb. 9 vs. Chicago: L, 4-3 (SO)
Feb. 15 @ Chicago: W, 3-2 (OT)
Feb. 16 @ Chicago: L, 3-2
Yep. It has been forever hasn’t it? Including tonight, the Admirals and Wolves will face each other four times in the final nine games of the Ads season.
The season series has gone the way of the Wolves so far: 6-0-1-1 (14 points). They have gained a point from every game. What makes this match up so frustrating for the Admirals is – look just how close they are to reversing those defeats or taking a minimum of one point. Every single game of this season’s Amtrak Rivalry has been won by a single goal. Quite remarkable.
Since we’ve last played the Wolves they have competed in sixteen games and have gone an impressive 10-4-1-1 (22 points). Their goal differential from open play, during that span, is +14 (52 GF, 38 GA).
Much credit for such a goal disparity can be given to the goaltending and, in Chicago, they have one of the best in the AHL – Jake Allen. This season he has played in forty-seven games, has won an AHL best twenty-nine games, has a 2.16 GAA, 0.925 SV%, and five shutouts. He is in the top three of almost every single major AHL category for goaltending: wins (1st), goals against average (3rd), save percentage (3rd), shutouts (3rd), saves (3rd), and minutes (1st).
Against the Admirals this season, Allen has played in six games and won five of them. He has a 2.10 GAA and a 0.919 SV% in those games. Interestingly, it is his battery-mate Matt Climie who has the better statistical numbers in the match up: 1.92 GAA and a 0.922 SV% in two games.
They are led in scoring by first year pro Ty Rattie who has 45 points (29 goals, 16 assists in sixty-six games this season. He is coming off of his hottest goal scoring month of the season: 8 goals in twelves games through the month of March. It seems like he is only getting better as his rookie season progresses.
The Admirals enter tonight’s game with a record of 32-22-6-7 (77 points). The are third in the Midwest Division and sixth in the Western Conference.
Though the division leading Grand Rapids Griffins may have ended the Admirals month of March on a down note- it was still a massive month for the team. They went 8-3-0-1 (17 points) from twelve March contests. The offense, which scored 28 goals from twelve games in February, produced 45 goals in March.
I think the major reason for the Admirals’ success in the last month comes down to the cohesiveness of the team’s forward depth. It seems all four lines have really been pounding out great game after great game.
The line combination of Taylor Beck (LW), Francis Wathier (C), and Austin Watson (RW) were a blindingly bright spot for the Ads in March. They combined for 22 points (7 goals, 15 assists) last month. Watson alone enjoyed his best points production of the entire season last night playing mostly as a winger – 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) with a point streak that lasted seven-games.
Another combination that always seems to have worked well this season also had a great month of March: Mike Liambas (LW), Mathieu Tousignant (C), and Joonas Rask (RW). They work traditionally as the team’s fourth line -but- generally start the game because their style perfectly sets the competitive tempo for the rest of the lines to follow.
Prior to March, Tousignant had 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists). In March he produced 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists). He’s done well enough to bounce around the lineup during some games – and even factored into the Admirals power-play unit last game as a net front presence. It has been very impressive to see his workmanlike attitude finally find its way to the scoresheet.
UPDATE: This afternoon the Milwaukee Admirals have reassigned Josh Shalla to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. With the Admirals he has played in twenty-six games and scored 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists). As a member of the Cyclones he has played in twenty-two games, scored 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists), and had the greatest blooper ever.
What are your expectations for this game? Is this a possible first round playoff teaser? Would you want to face the Amtrak Rivals in the opening round of the playoffs?