You can only practice for so long before that itch to get into game situations drives you a bit crazy. Last night was finally the Milwaukee Admirals chance to take the ice and test themselves. That opening couple of seconds might have come as a slight surprise. Thankfully the entire game that followed was a different story.
What impressed me the most about the Admirals 5-2 win over the Rockford IceHogs was the puck movement and puck pressure. Defending smart. Winning pucks. And then countering with pace and precision.
The team defense was solid and hounding the IceHogs the entire game. For a team that played the night before and pelted the Chicago Wolves with numerous shots on goal – the Admirals didn’t allow them to play an open ended game. The Admirals took away a lot of time and space which made for a relatively comfortable night in net for Juuse Saros.
Once the defense won back pucks the movement in transition by the Admirals from defending to attacking was a joy to watch. It was an area last season that was such a struggle as opponents would clog the neutral zone and win puck battles on the dump and chase. Last night’s work through neutral ice was composed, passes connected, and entering the offensive zone -and then holding it- was good. The passing felt incredibly precise for the Admirals first exhibition game of the season when you’d expect certain players to have timing wrong or still understanding the dynamics of new teammates. It either simply wasn’t there tonight or didn’t show in this game.
Another highlight for me was the defensive pairing of Conor Allen and Kristian Näkyvä. The two defensemen mirror one-another in terms of skill set and they seem to have a natural chemistry as a result. When figuring in Peter Laviolette‘s system, where defensemen jump up in attack, it’s important to not get burnt on a counter attack. Allen and Näkyvä didn’t fall into that trap where some other defensemen did on the night – which led to some odd-man breaks. The paring covered ice well enough to trek back defensively and both gauged the distance of “how far up ice is too far when helping out in the offensive zone” really good.
All in all, I was impressed by much of what I saw from the Admirals. They played a very smart game and there were lots of good individual performances to speak of. With how loaded the roster is it’s going to be an interesting next week to see just who stays and who goes as far as PTO contracts and the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL are concerned. For example, what does the addition of Steve Moses mean for guys like David Moss and Adam Payerl? Even players who went through Cincinnati last season like Joe Pendenza, Frédérick Gaudreau, Jaynen Rissling, Jonathan Diaby, and Garrett Noonan are all on that cusp of starting their seasons in the ECHL depending on how things play out. For the coaching staff I imagine this to be a wonderful problem to have. For the players this is a battle for roster spots. I have to believe that mentality factors into a performance like the Admirals had against the IceHogs.
After the game, I spoke with head coach Dean Evason. I also was able to chat with Saros and Gaudreau. Here is what they had to say after defeating the IceHogs at the MSOE Kern Center.
Dean Evason’s thoughts on the game:
Evason on dressing PTO players instead of guys such as Kevin Fiala:
Evason talks about gauging potential line combinations at the moment:
Evason on the roster at the moment:
Evason reveals the starting goalie for today’s exhibition game in Chicago:
Juuse Saros describes the start to the game:
Saros talks up his defensemen and gets Miikka-bombed:
Saros’ thoughts on the speed of the North American game:
Frédérick Gaudreau on the team’s performance:
Gaudreau on the quick start by the IceHogs and the Ads response:
Gaudeau’s thoughts on what he needs to do to make the Admirals roster:
Gaudreau on fellow French Fry Jimmy Oligny‘s fight and game:
Gaudreau raves about Saros’ ability in net:
I will sadly not be able to attend or cover tonight’s road exhibition game in Chicago. If there is any and all information I can get, grab, or find from it I will get a story together for Sunday morning.