How do I put this. The home opener was a horror show to watch the Milwaukee Admirals play. Last night’s return to home ice after a 3-2 overtime winning comeback against the Iowa Wild? It wasn’t honestly that bad. The biggest problem of course comes with the following headline: Rockford IceHogs win 4-2.
If you were to dissect last night’s game I’m sure there would be a lot more errors to be found but I actually take the game as a positive step for the Admirals. I don’t take the result as a positive. No one wants to lose. But the game itself showed some good signs of life out of the Admirals in more ways than simply scoring goals.
In the second period I felt as if the checking and gritty style of play the Admirals were imposing on the IceHogs was very good. Especially when thinking about last season – the Admirals tend to be the ones getting battered around more than the other way around. While the scoreline of the second period read 2-0 Rockford make no mistakes that it was still a strong showing of a dimension the Admirals don’t typically display anywhere near as much as they should. Beat the other team up on the boards and make them actually have to work for puck control.
When Kevin Fiala was lit up by a boarding major penalty by Chris DeSousa there were also immediate signs by the Admirals of not letting their teammates be bossed around. The main picture tells enough of the story. I also found the spat that took place a minute after the DeSousa boarding major between Félix Girard and Pierre-Cédric Labrie, which was spoken in 100% unadulterated bonkers angry French by the way, to have also been yet another sign by the Admirals that they are willing to push back if the opponent is going to push.
That game-winning goal scored by Marko Dano did have eerily similar feelings of how things were at the end of last season. It was such a bizarre and flukey play that broke down around Vladislav Kamenev and led to a breakaway. Juuse Saros made the dazzling breakaway save but the puck was still on the doorstep awaiting to be put away. Also like last year’s struggles was the idea of this odd goal being scored only a minute after the Admirals broke through with a power-play goal to equalize at 2-2. All that work, that momentum, the crowd getting back into it, gone in a flash off a wacky play. It’s easy to just call it unfortunate but it happened -so often- late last season that it is almost worth considering bringing a witch doctor in to bless the ice or something.
Final thoughts? This Admirals team is slowly starting to get pointed in the right direction and I feel the best thing that is about to happen is the schedule finally providing multiple games. Practice is good and everything but as Admirals head coach Dean Evason said after the game last night:
“Playing hockey games is good,” smiled Evason. “You can practice your systems, you can practice everything, your pace, all that kind of stuff – but you’re not doing it for real. It looks great in practice because we’re really pushing the pace, or we’re tight with our system, but we’re not playing anybody. So there is no question you can play hockey games, you get into a groove, you get your lines going, you can roll everything, and your systems you can teach with film. We’re looking forward to playing more games for sure.”
Frequent games. Better rythme. Sharpening up details. And getting consistency out of the group individual by individual. I believe this is a really solid team that will and should go through poor stretches like this here and there with such a young team. Once things start to gel at game speed, and those more skilled forwards start strutting their stuff, things will be on the up-and-up.
Also, for those who missed it, I also interviewed Evason and Bitetto prior to the start of last night’s game on uploaded those interviews to SoundCloud as well. The upload process on there is so quick that I feel I might try to do more pre-game interviews this season as a result. Thoughts? Yes? OK.
Comments on the comments by the coaches and players? Any more reflections you have on last night’s game? Do you think that a string of games is really the best medicine for the Admirals to get going at the moment?