The start of the Amtrak Rivalry begins tonight in Chicago. The Milwaukee Admirals, who have won all four games they’ve played so far, are one of two teams in the AHL that are currently unbeaten. The other team that hasn’t taken a loss is last season’s Calder Cup winners the Texas Stars.
Quick refresher course. The Admirals have score no less than three goals per game heading into tonight. They’re coming off of their strongest win of the season – a 4-0 shutout on the road against the Iowa Wild.
As for the Wolves, they have played every single game (tonight included) on home ice. They enter with a record of 3-0-1-0 (7 points) and have allowed no more than two goals in their opening four games. And are coming off of a two games in two days thrashing of the Lake Erie Monsters… featuring an 18-save shutout by Matt Climie in a 4-0 win… and then seven different Wolves scored goals in the following night’s 7-2 beat down. To put it simply. Tonight. This is the test.
~Hooray For No More Jake Allen~
What should make everyone feel all the more excited with tonight’s game is that Jake Allen is no longer in net for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. The winner of last season’s Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award for the AHL’s best goaltender currently finds himself right where he belongs in the NHL.
Against the Admirals last season, Allen won 7 games from 9 starts and had a 1.51 GAA with a 0.939 SV%. He also shutout the Ads twice in the final month of the regular season.
Who carries the reigns then for the Wolves in net? It’s early days just yet but the 31-year old veteran Climie has shouldered the brunt of the opening slate. He has won all 3 games he has started, has a shutout, a 1.00 GAA, and a 0.945 SV%. Expect a match up tonight between him and Marek Mazanec as these two should be going with the hot hands.
Backing up Climie is 21-year old Jordan Binnington – who spent almost all of last season playing for the Kalamazoo Wings in the ECHL: 23-13-3 record, 2.35 GAA, 0.922 SV%, and a shutout to his name. He did play in one game for the Wolves last season: allowing 3 goals but picking up a 4-3 win against Rockford. He is the goalie of record in the game in which the Wolves dropped their one and only point of this current season: a 2-1 (OT) loss against the Charlotte Checkers.
When you check out this year’s Midwest Conference, the talent pool all across the board is pretty well loaded for all teams this season. Looking at the Wolves roster is just a reminder or the depth that the St. Louis Blues organization has at its disposal.
Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaškin are on the Wolves again this season. The two combined for 77 points (46 goals, 31 assists) last season. Both were in their first full-season of professional hockey. And both have hit the ground running this season with each having 4 points in the Wolves opening 4 games of the season.
Elsewhere, defensemen Jani Hakanpää and Joel Edmundson are back after completing their rookie seasons. The good news in terms of tonight. Both have missed the opening games of the Wolves season due to injury: Hakanpää (thumb) and Edmundson (back). No word on their status ahead of this game. Fact of the matter remains that, when they get back, they only make this Wolves roster that much better.
~Austin, Son of Wat~
Shifting gears to our side of things. If you are looking for someone to step up tonight for the Admirals in the Amtrak Rivalry. Look no further than Austin Watson. He was the joint top scorer in this match up last season with Taylor Beck with 6 points from 12 games. And, in his career against the St. Louis Blues AHL affiliates, Watson has 14 points (9 goals, 5 assists) in 24 games.
Playing as a right winger this season and last season has proved to be a boost for Watson. He has 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists) in the Admirals opening 4 games and has seemed to have developed a great on ice chemistry with Mark Van Guilder. Barring an injury, call up, or trade – I just don’t see these two moving around this season. The combo of 29-51 works and it should continue working well tonight in Chicago.
Thoughts for tonight’s first Amtrak Rivalry game? What are your expectations? Can the Admirals escape Chicago tonight still unbeaten? What is your scoreline prediction?