The Milwaukee Admirals 4-1 win over the Chicago Wolves was another good step forward. It’s a four game winning streak for the Admirals now. They’ve won four-straight out of five games this season in the Amtrak Rivalry. And the Admirals have won eight from their last eleven games. Through that span I don’t think there was a better wire-to-wire performance from them than last night.
Ignore that silly delay from the Wolves and simply acknowledge the game itself for a moment. The Admirals hopped out of the gate, scored an early goal, allowed a goal seven-minutes later, and answered right back with a goal of their own fifty-four seconds later. The Admirals would never allow another goal. They continued to play a physical game that appeared to get under the skin of the Wolves and, dare I say it, would Wolves the Wolves.
With the game being as physical and chippy as it was there were some unnecessary penalties taken from both sides but look at the results. The Admirals went 2/5 on the power-play. The Wolves went 0/5 on the power-play. Not only was that Admirals penalty kill perfect on the night they barely allowed shots on goal – much less quality shots. If a lengthy bus ride from Chicago to Milwaukee that delays a hockey game isn’t enough of a mental pulverizer I have to imagine seeing chance after chance on the man-advantage, coming and going without a clear chance to score, is.
I spoke plenty late Sunday night on the Admirals turnaround from a season ago when it comes to how impressive the season-to-season difference has been for this team adapting to roster changes stretching the team to the limit. But what happens when this Admirals team, which was already on a solid run, starts getting bigger pieces back? We all got a nice look at just that when team captain Colton Sissons returned to the lineup last night. He didn’t miss a beat. The team’s leading scorer and top line center in Sissons absence, Frédérick Gaudreau, moved back out on the wing to accompany Sissons and the surging Kevin Fiala. That line combination was fantastic and also stuck together on the power-play to deliver the Admirals two power-play goals.
If the Sissons factor wasn’t enough purely on that front than I turn your head to how fun it was watching the Admirals penalty kill purely from the forward roles. Sissons and Gaudreau were paired up. Félix Girard and Joe Pendenza were paired up. And Max Reinhart and Adam Payerl were paired up. That is a lot of trust in the forwards to play responsibly on defense and also cheat, as the Admirals and their AHL best 8 shorthanded goals would suggest, to attack offensively on the penalty kill. Sissons is a great faceoff worker. Girard has been loading up on defensive zone faceoffs in the absence of Cody Bass. The depth of this team and quality of this team down the middle was given a massive boost in all aspects of the game by seeing the captain return. And the scoreline kind of sums that up a lot more concisely than I care to attempt.
Last season the early Swedish sensation appeared to be Pontus Åberg when he scored 5 goals through the month of December. There were some pretty flashy ones yet his game sort of stumbled and it’s taken him until his sophomore season right now to really elevate his game above and beyond that mark. So what of this season’s Swedish freshman, Max Görtz? If you aren’t keeping better tabs on him he has been phenomenal. He currently has a five-game point streak in which he has scored 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists). His month of December has seen him produce 12 points in 11 games. His October and November were a little on the slow side but it appears he, like Fiala, is really picking slack up as the Admirals roster has thinned out. So, basically, just what the doctor ordered.
Another individual who I feel is worthy of a ‘shout out’ is Jimmy Oligny. He was everywhere last night. It seemed as if anytime there was a scrum that needed to be dealt with or a hard-nosed defensive play to disrupt the Wolves the number #47 and a Nordic beard straight out of Skyrim was involved. Oligny’s work rate is yet another small example of the current state of the Admirals. Everyone is stepping up and playing stellar hockey. Even the guys who may have been overlooked last season are shining.
It wouldn’t be fair to hop into the post-game audio yet without tipping a cap to Admirals goaltending once again, either. In his last twelve starts Juuse Saros has earned eleven wins. He has thirteen wins and three losses this season with a 2.41 goals against average, 0.919 save percentage, and shutout. The next closest rookie netminder to Saros in AHL wins this season is Tristan Jarry of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with eight wins. Saros only trails league leaders Peter Budaj (Ontario Reign) and Michael Leighton (Rockford IceHogs) by two wins to take a share of the league lead with fifteen wins. Saros is 13 years younger than Budaj and 14 years younger than Leighton.
After the game I joined Dave Boehler and Mario Tirabassi to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I then chatted with Sissons, Görtz, and Gaudreau. Here is what they had to say after the game.
Comments on the comments? Do you notice any stylistic changes to the Milwaukee Admirals approach to games this season as opposed to last season that has allowed for better success?