The Chatterbox, Vol. 46

Austin Watson scoring goals makes Johan Alm the happiest person ever. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

In the Milwaukee Admirals last three games they faced the two teams that are ahead of them in the Midwest Division standings. They beat the Rockford IceHogs twice, 4-1 in Rockford and then 2-1 in Milwaukee, last weekend. Then, last night, they denied the Chicago Wolves comeback bid by winning 3-2 in OT to make the strangle hold on the top three in the Midwest only a 3 point margin.

Still, the IceHogs and Wolves have played more games (17) than the Admirals (14). When you look at the winning percentages as of now: IceHogs (0.735), Wolves (0.676), and Admirals (0.786). No team in the AHL has a better winning percentage than the Admirals. The next closest are the Utica Comets who have a 0.765 winning percentage – and they, just like Rockford and Chicago, have played 17 games.

~Fact of the Day~

I’m going to give you a number and let you think about it for awhile. Six… Yeah, alright, you got it already. Magnus Hellberg has six wins from his first six starts this season. But here is something you might not have realized.

Hellberg has already recorded more wins this season than he did all of last season.

In 2013-14, Hellberg recorded only five wins out of twenty-one total appearances at the AHL level. On this exact date last year, Hellberg finished the day with his third win of the season to improve his record to 3-4-3-1.

~Highlight of the Night~

To me, the best play from last night’s game was Austin Watson‘s opening goal scored in the first period. The work from Watson, alone, is simple: skate as the trailing player for the backpost, catch the pass, and slam it on home. It was all the pieces around that goal that made it such a well worked goal by the Admirals.

Johan Alm starts this play off by stepping up on the right point to pin the puck deep and keep the Admirals spin-cycle along the boards going. Mark Van Guilder not only wins the race to the puck but follows its momentum behind the net and is smart enough to know exactly what the traffic is like in front of Matt Climie‘s goal  before he decides to push out from the Gretzky box to the left wing post. As Van Guilder skates out in front he protects the puck from Jake Chelios and spins off of him to lay off a no-look backhanded pass across the front of the net. That pass went right to the tape of Watson for an easy goal.

What made it so easy? The other moving chess piece on the play: Brendan Leipsic. As Van Guilder has the defense and goaltender watching him on the puck – Leipsic races from the right wing wall to the front of Climie’s crease. This not only works for a potential screen or rebound opportunity – but it also caused the defenseman covering him, Brent Sopel, to follow to lock him down. By the time Sopel reaches Leipsic’s spot on the ice Van Guilder’s pass to Watson is zipping past his run to guard Leipsic in front of Climie. Sopel’s brain and legs were in two different places when this happened. And he wiped out and took Climie with him. All Watson had to do was bury it for his sixth goal of the season.

The play started with Alm pinching to keep the cycle game going. And then all three forwards did the rest. It’s plays like this that can get a smile out of the coaching staff as they look back at all the moving pieces coming together for a direct result.

Speaking of coaches, after the game I caught up with Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I also requested to speak with all Swedish players on the team whose last name ends in berg. Here is what everyone had to say following the Admirals 3-2 (OT) victory over the Chicago Wolves.

Dean Evason discusses the Wolves third period that forced overtime:

Evason on the Ads missing out on odd-man breaks:

Evason talks about the performance of his netminder:

Evason freakin’ hates three-on-three overtime:

Evason on the new AHL overtime format (continued):

Pontus Åberg’s thoughts on three-on-three overtime:

Åberg’s thought process once he got the puck in overtime:

Åberg on how to maintain focus during the stamina draining three-on-three OT:

Magnus Hellberg talks about the Ads two missed breakaways in the third period:

Hellberg gets interview bombed by Triston Grant:

Hellberg on getting used to the AHL’s overtime format:

Hellberg on recording an assist on the game-winning goal:

~Scouting the Enemy~

If you’re looking for a Rockford IceHogs “Scouting the Enemy for today. Well, I’m afraid I’ve got some BAD NEWS. Actually, considering we only played them last weekend, not too much has really happened in IceHogs land that needs a full post to talk about. What has happened though, you ask?

  • Scott Darling was called up to the NHL right after Saturday’s game in Milwaukee
  • After the two defeats to the Ads they beat the Texas Stars the next day, 3-2
  • Darling was reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs two-days after his recall
  • Adam Clendening was called up and scored a goal in his NHL debut
  • Last night, they came back to defeat the Iowa Wild in OT by a final of 4-3

Nothing too crazy, eh? Just that same ol’ high powered team that we ran into twice last weekend with our former goalie in net. Be prepared to hyperventilate while watching or listening to this one and you’ll be fine. At least that’s my plan.

Comments on the comments? What are your reactions to last night’s game? What are you anticipating in tonight’s bout against the Rockford IceHogs?

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