The Admirals were shutout 6-0 by Jake Allen and the Chicago Wolves Saturday night in Rosemont. The Admirals sat out a few of their top players for this game, held things together through the first period, and were promptly throttled the rest of the night by the Amtrak Rivals.
“That’s obviously not the way we wanted to end [the regular season] with the outcome today,” said assistant coach Stan Drulia following the game on 1250 Sports Radio WSSP. “But, we’ve had a really good finish here. The guys are playing really good hockey. The regular season is now behind us and we have to move forward.”
In the first period the Wolves came out with speed. They had their chances, outshooting the Admirals 17-6 in the opening frame, but goaltender Scott Darling made some incredible saves to keep things scoreless through the first period. You can consider that, all things considered, as a small victory for the Admirals – who sat out some top players in tonight’s contest.
The Wolves eventually got their reward from a shorthanded goal. A poor exchange between Anthony Bitetto and Taylor Beck in neutral ice led to a Sebastian Wannstrom breakaway. The Swede went backhand-forehand and managed to reach around the outstretched body of Darling for his fifth goal of the season. That was the Wolves twelfth shorthanded goal of the season and the thirteenth shorty that the Admirals have allowed all season.
Ty Rattie continued his impressive rookie campaign by reaching the thirty-goal plateau. Admirals d-man Jonathan Diaby had a puck knuckle up on him in the attacking blue line. Rattie poked it free and was off to the races with Charles-Oliver Roussel in pursuit. Rattie stayed to the right wing and fired to the short-side to beat Darling. Rattie becomes the first member of the Wolves to hit thirty goals since Mark Mancari did it in the 2011-12 season.
Rattie wasn’t done there. A great transition by the Wolves led to a one-two played about between Christian Hanson and the stellar rookie. When Hanson’s pass reached the tape of Rattie – there wasn’t much space between himself and Darling but still found a move to beat him five hole for his second goal of the game and thirty-first of the season.
In the third period the bounces just kept falling right for the Wolves. Roussel’s attempted clearing attempt fell to Eric Selleck. The moment that puck appeared in front of him he was letting a shot loose. That rapid choice to fire surprised Darling and a puck went sailing past his mask and in for Selleck’s fifth goal of the season.
The rout continued when Shane Harper picked the pocket of Joonas Rask on the backcheck. His lead pass to the center-lane drive of Michael Davies was pinpoint. All Davies had to do was flip it up and over the big frame of Darling, which he did, for his thirteenth goal of the season.
With Scott Ford just exiting the box following a successful Admirals penalty kill – Selleck scored his sixth goal of the season and second of the game. The initial point shot by Jani Hakanpaa was kicked out by Darling right to the net front presence of Selleck. The net was open, Darling couldn’t recover, and it became a massive 6-0 scoreline for the Wolves.
The game would end there and meant that Jake Allen, this year’s Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award winner as the league’s most outstanding goaltender, took the lead for shutouts this season with seven. Entering tonight’s game he was tied with Darling at six-shutouts. Allen may not have needed to do too much tonight but he stopped all twenty shots he faced tonight. His performances against the Admirals this season have just been lethal.
The win for the Wolves, paired with a shootout loss by the Griffins, meant that the Amtrak Rivals won the Midwest Division tonight. Grand Rapids led the division for 167-days until tonight’s decisive switch in the standings.
The loss by the Admirals meant their streak of consecutive forty-win seasons ended at ten-straight. The loss also meant they will be the sixth seed in the Western Conference standings and are going to play against the Toronto Marlies in the first round of the playoffs. The first two games will be played in Milwaukee on Friday and Saturday.
“We’ve been preparing the last week for three teams that we thought we could possibly play,” said Drulia. “Now we have it narrowed down. We know exactly what’s going on. We know what our schedule is. There is no easy match up. But we’re excited. We are really looking forward to it. I thought our young guys and our group have come a long way this year. They’ve played all seventy-six games to get this opportunity to get to the playoffs. We’re excited about that.”
Ramblings: After rolling out the expected playoff line combinations last night we saw a different look tonight in Chicago: Beck-Sissons-Moser, Wathier-Van Guilder-Watson, Salomaki-Tousignant-Saponari, Pimm-Pendenza-Rask, Bitetto-Piskula, Vainonen-Ford, Diaby-Roussel. That meant no Forsberg, Jarnkrok, Cehlin, Liambas, Jarvinen, Rodney, or Valentine tonight.
Does this loss concern you? Would the result have been different with the Swedes and top defensemen playing? What are your expectations for an opening round playoff match-up against Toronto?