Happy Days, everyone. The Milwaukee Admirals are back in your life. Note the schedule tweak that sees this game tonight starting at 6:00 PM CST and tomorrow afternoon’s game at 12:00 PM CST. Why such an early game on Saturday? Because, like the Admirals, the Lake Erie Monsters share a venue with an NBA team that gets priority. Call me crazy but I’m far more excited to see Vladislav Kamenev play hockey than LeBron James play regular season sportsketball.
With such extended breaks I feel some recapping would be a good thing. The Admirals have been standing at 40 games played with a record of 25-13-2-0 (52 points) and a 0.650 points percentage. To get an idea of why they’ve been stationary you should consider how jam packed the Admirals schedule has been. In the AHL’s Western Conference the Admirals, Monsters, Iowa Wild, Texas Stars, and San Antonio Rampage are the lone teams over 40 games played – five teams out of fifteen.
What have the others been up to during the Admirals rest period? The Rockford IceHogs and Grand Rapids Griffins continue to be brilliant. I spoke about it briefly in my Then & Now Report that the Charlotte Checkers have been on a huge tear alongside 21-year old goalie Daniel Altshuller. Those three teams current sit in front of the Admirals in the Central Division standings with the IceHogs leaping up and over the Pacific Division leading Ontario Reign for the best record in the Western Conference.
The Chicago Wolves, unlike the Griffins earlier this season, have kept on sputtering and are tip-toeing around a 0.500 record with their struggles projecting them down past even if they can’t find stability soon. The Manitoba Moose have been painfully bad and the currently not-as-bad Iowa Wild might be getting out of the Central Division basement if the two sides keep playing the way they have been lately.
~The Cleveland Show~
The Lake Erie Monsters enter this weekend’s set of games with a record of 20-14-4-3 (47 points). Their 0.573 points percentage has them right behind the Admirals in the Central Division standings, fifth place, and behind the San Jose Corporate Sellouts in the Western Conference standings at seventh place.
There is a sigh of relief in Lake Erie land. Why? Because they’re finally home. The Monsters endured a ridiculous ten-game road trip that lasted from 12/31/15 to 1/18/16. They didn’t play their first home game of 2016 until two-days ago when the Griffins beat them 3-2 in overtime.
How did the Monsters do on that epic marathon of a road trip? They went 3-5-1-1 which includes two meetings in Milwaukee and two shutout losses in back-to-back games against the Moose and Griffins.
I feel it is safe in saying the last time these two teams met was about as sloppy, exhausted, and uneventful of a hockey game you’ll have watched this season when it is all said and done. Heck, it says a lot when Marek Mazanec out and out referred to the game as boring. It shouldn’t have been surprising that the game played out as it did though. The Admirals were gassed having played seven games in eleven days. The Monsters were in the middle of that mammoth ten-game road trip. And the Monsters had just enough in them to polish off a 4-0 shutout win with Cincinnati Cyclones product Brad Thiessen in net.
I am going out on a limb and saying there is no chance that same game will be played this weekend. The Admirals are twelve games clear since they last played at home and have only two-games to show for it. In those games they smoked the San Antonio Rampage in their own barn 3-0 and 6-3. With all that rest and new introductions to the roster the Admirals played with an amazing amount of speed that overwhelmed the Rampage. It’s been a week since those games. The Admirals were rested and ready then. They’ll be even more rested and the new pieces will have had more time to practice and get used to the setup of the team.
That’s the Admirals side of heading into this weekend’s games. The same sense of relief can almost be said of the Monsters. Their road marathon is complete and they’re back home in Cleveland for the rest of the month. That acts as a great boost for them and, hey, they almost beat the Griffins their first night back on home ice – forced them to overtime – and, as we know, that’s not an easy task at all. This side should be fired up. Their fans were 4,024 strong on a Wednesday night to welcome them back and I suspect a louder rowdier crowd to form in The Q to give a further boost to the Monsters drive and fire.
~Who What Now~
When these two met last time a major talking point was between the pipes for the Monsters. Both of their AHL goaltenders were recalled by the Columbus Blue Jackets which left the duties to PTO contract signings to weather the storm. Thiessen did well and remains on the roster but is joined by the returning face of Anton Forsberg.
The Swedish goaltender returned to the AHL last Friday after a four-game spell in the NHL. In the four games since Forsberg’s return to the Monsters he has played three games, lost two, and has a 2.30 goals against average and 0.933 save percentage. Last time out he stopped 43/46 shots on goal against the Griffins in a tough luck overtime loss.
The Monsters current leading scorer is T.J. Tynan who has 25 points (3 goals, 22 assists) in 41 games. He’s followed by two other forwards at the 20+ points plateau with one of them on the roster and another one who currently finds himself playing for the Blue Jackets. Michael Chaput has 22 points (8 goals, 14 assists) in 38 games. Kerby Rychel has 20 points (5 goals, 15 assists) in 21 games but is up in the NHL where he recently notched his first career NHL goal.
Expectations for this weekend’s games? Will the down time help make the Milwaukee Admirals perform as well as last weekend or do you hesitate to say so considering the San Antonio Rampage haven’t won on home ice since mid-November? Can Kamenev continue scoring a goal per game since his return from the 2016 IIHF World Juniors?