It hasn’t been pretty. It hasn’t been flashy. It honestly hasn’t been all that entertaining to watch unfold in-game. But, fact remains, the Milwaukee Admirals keep finding ways to get the job done.
The 2-1 win against the Chicago Wolves was yet another example of an Admirals group being able to adapt with momentum shifts and style changes in-game and do it all without shooting themselves in the foot.
The defensive effort in particular last night was the key to success. While the Wolves haven’t been at their best, make no mistake about it, the team defense of the Admirals made the Wolves look slow and dysfunctional. The style of games where the Grand Rapids Griffins were out battling the Admirals this season? Last night was the Admirals version of that script.
The offense has averaged exactly two goals per game in the last week over the course of four games. The Admirals lost the first two games of that spell but have clawed out victories from their last two games. To be producing so little but still find results as things aren’t at their best is a sign to me of the quality this group has. I still look back to the difficulties last year’s squad had when the roster really thinned out and players were having trouble getting into a groove. It’s early. It’s happening pretty darn good right now as far as a roster stretching goes. And the results and performances have still been solid.
I would like to highlight a specific moment in last night’s game that stood out to me more and more as time was expiring in regulation. Remember when the Admirals made a massive mistake on zone entry during a power-play? Jordan Caron had a shorthanded breakaway from the Admirals attacking blueline but Juuse Saros stopped him cold. Remember that?
At the time, the Admirals were leading 1-0. The Wolves -despite missing this opportunity- would go on to score a wacky power-play goal but think about their scoring opportunities away from that power-play goal. This was as good as it could possibly get and everything past it was tough sledding. Saros came up huge right at the midway point of the game to get his team off the hook for a poor mistake and the Wolves weren’t handed a gift of an opportunity like that ever again.
~Here Comes The Kid~
Speaking of solid performances, I feel as if the last few weeks has provided everyone here in Milwaukee with the Kevin Fiala we were expecting when the season started. Last night in particular was one of the first times this season when I viewed Fiala as an explosive presence on the ice. It’s the style he was playing last season when it appeared he hit the ground running after his move from HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) to North America. It appears as if his motor and wheels are fully synced again.
The amount of points he has right now offensively might not entirely be reflecting how good he’s been but in his last three games he has fired a team-leading 13 shots on goal for the Admirals. The next closest to him during the last three-games are Pontus Åberg (12 shots on goal) and Max Reinhart (11 shots on goal). If you’re going to get the offensive game going all it takes sometimes is to put that puck on net. Fiala has been battling himself between the ears I feel for the start of this season but his play is starting to really shine. It’s very encouraging to see.
~There Goes That Other Kid~
During last night’s post-game press conference with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason I was planning on asking about the upcoming 2016 IIHF World Juniors and what might happen with the likes of a Fiala or a Vladislav Kamenev. As it turns out, Kamenev is officially en route to join Team Russia in the host country of Finland today while Team Switzerland will be without the services of Fiala who’ll remain here with the Admirals.
For those in the dark about the World Junior Championships, they’ll be starting up on Boxing Day (December 26th) with the Group Stage completing New Year’s Eve (December 31st), the Playoff Rounds beginning January 2nd, and the Tournament ending with the World Junior Championship Final on January 5th.
Kamenev joins a Team Russia squad that is slotted into Group B which is comprised of: Belarus, Czech Republic, the host nation Finland, and Slovakia. It will be the second consecutive year in which Kamenev has represented his country in World Juniors. He recorded 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) in 7 games in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships while claiming the silver medal as Russia fell 5-4 to Canada in the Final.
Russia’s schedule to keep an eye on will unfold as follows for the Group Stage: 12/26/15, vs. Czech Republic… 12/28/15, vs. Finland… 12/29/15, vs. Belarus… 12/31/15, vs. Slovakia.
So, why is Fiala not joining Kamenev in all the World Junior Championship fun you ask? Truthfully, I do not have the answer to that one. According to what I assume to be a projected roster for Switzerland on the official website for World Juniors – Fiala wasn’t included at all on the December 7th version of the listed roster. It’s curious why he isn’t going to take part and as to how that decision came to being. Was Fiala not up to par with the competition at forward? Was Nashville protective of him staying here in the States to keep developing with the Admirals? Not sure, really.
After last night’s game I chatted with Evason, Åberg, Fiala, and Saros. I also spoke with Adam Payerl to get a better sense of what he’s seeing from the Admirals offense lately, Fiala’s game, and what it’ll be like seeing his linemate Kamenev heading up to the World Juniors. Here’s what they all had to say following last night’s Amtrak Rivalry win.
Comments on the comments? What’s your take on why Kevin Fiala wasn’t included in Team Switzerland at the World Juniors? Also, FYI, the Admirals have swapped out Zach for Zac in the wee hours of the night in a move that I’m sure will make sense at some point in time.