Buckle up, folks. This is the Milwaukee Admirals last three-in-three of the season and it starts with two games against the Rockford IceHogs. If things fall into place correctly the Admirals could be in charge of the Midwest Division by supper time Sunday.
The IceHogs enter tonight’s game with a record of 26-14-4-2 (58 points). They hold a two point lead over the Admirals for the division lead and have played two games more than the Admirals have.
The way the schedule works out, the IceHogs only have tonight and tomorrow’s tilt against the Admirals this weekend before playing in Milwaukee next Friday. They’ll be more than familiar with us as the games storm ahead. Meanwhile, the Admirals have the Rochester Americans on Sunday and a road game against the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday before squaring back up against Rockford.
~Head to Head~
This season’s head-to-head currently favors the Admirals through eight previous games: 5-3-0-0. Only one of those games went past regulation and that happened the last time they met – a 1-0 shutout win for the Admirals in Rockford. That game also took place in a similar scenario as we see this weekend with a home-and-home battle. In fact, this will be the third time this season that it’s happened. The Admirals split the first set Nov. 14-15 and swept the IceHogs Jan. 8-9.
As far as scoring goes, the Admirals have managed to outscore the IceHogs 17-15 head-to-head. The power-play numbers head-to-head are: 8.6% (3/35) Admirals, 12.0% (3/25) IceHogs. The top scorers for each team head-to-head: Taylor Aronson, 7 points (1 goal, 6 assists)… T.J. Brennan, 6 points (4 goals, 2 assists) and Phillip Danault, 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists).
~UFC on Ice~
With seeing the same team so often as this you might expect some fisticuffs to break out at some point this weekend. So far this season we’ve had -inhale- Triston Grant vs. Joakim Nordström, Anthony Bitetto vs. Ryan Hartman, Mike Liambas vs. Garret Ross, Rich Clune vs. Cody Bass, Colton Sissons vs. Klas Dahlbeck, Garrett Noonan vs. Stephen Johns, Jonathan Diaby vs. Brandon Mashinter, Clune vs. Brennan, Félix Girard vs. Danault, Diaby vs. Bass, and -exhale- Ian White vs. Hartman.
I almost didn’t realize how often we’ve really gone to blows against Rockford this season. So, yeah, I think we’ll be in for a scrap or three this weekend.
~Notable Absentees Tonight~
Rockford will be short a few bodies tonight. Remember Adam Clendening? He was traded by the Chicago Blackhawks in a like-for-like trade with the Vancouver Canucks for Gustav Forsling. The Swedish defenseman remains with Linköping of the SHL and probably won’t join the IceHogs until next season. That mean an ECHL move needed to be made and the man called up from the Indy Fuel was Dillon Fournier.
The IceHogs will also be without the flashy Finn Teuvo Teräväinen who remains up with the Blackhawks. He had scored 23 points (6 goals, 17 assists) for the IceHogs prior to his move up. He has since scored 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) in the NHL.
Another player who we won’t have to worry about for both games this weekend is Mashinter. Why you ask? Because he was suspended by the AHL for two games after an elbowing incident against the Wolves. He wasn’t called for elbowing or a game misconduct during the game but you can watch and judge for yourself on the Wolves video highlights from that tilt.
~Between the Pipes~
What will be plenty of fun to watch in these two games is the goaltending. Both the Admirals and IceHogs have their tag teams in order. You have Magnus Hellberg and Marek Mazanec, aka Demolition. For the IceHogs they will have Scott Darling and Michael Leighton, aka the Legion of Doom.
Both netminders in Rockford have been putting in solid campaigns this year. Darling has a record of 11-7-2-0, 2.18 goals against average, 0.929 save percentage, and 2 shutouts. The veteran Leighton has had more games in net this season and, per the Chicago Sun Times, has been a calming force for the young team. He has a 12-7-4-2 record, 2.01 goals against average, 0.931 save percentage, and 4 shutouts this season.
Leighton has had the better numbers this season against the Admirals. He has 2 wins from 5 appearances with a 1.14 goals against average, 0.955 save percentage, and a shutout. In addition, his month of January was sensational: 4-0-2-0 record in 7 games with a 1.05 goals against average, 0.969 save percentage, and 2 shutouts.
Darling has actually been beaten up a bit by his former team in the 4 games he’s played this season: 1-3-0-0 record, 11 goals allowed, 3.10 goals against average, 0.904 save percentage. His January was also pretty solid but the results went against him: 2-3-0-0 record in 5 games, 2.22 goals against average, 0.928 save percentage, and 2 shutouts.
In the Milwaukee camp, both Hellberg and Mazanec have split the 8 games against Rockford this season and have looked great. Mazanec has 3 wins, 1.75 goals against average, 0.938 save percentage, and a 27-save shutout to his name over the IceHogs this season – that shutout happened the last time we met. Hellberg has a 2-2-0-0 record against the IceHogs this season with a 2.02 goals against average and 0.924 save percentage.
Expectations for tonight and tomorrow’s games against the Rockford IceHogs? Is it an advantage for the IceHogs to focus in on the Admirals for their next three games? Will the Admirals be in first place of the Midwest Division before Sunday’s final of the three-in-three weekend?