After a string of not so hot performances the Milwaukee Admirals will find themselves back in the grinder that is the Rockford IceHogs rivalry. Perhaps this year better than any other might be showcasing the best of what it has to offer. These games are playoff style hockey games. With both deadlocked on top of the Central Division standings again it only adds to that desperation factor. This is the last IceHogs game this season in Milwaukee. The next two games of this season series will be played in Rockford. I would say to expect for an intense one but, regardless of standings or playoff implications, these two bring enough of that out in each other. This season it’s just taken on a different level.
Right now the Admirals record is 32-16-3-0 (67 points, 0.657 points percentage while the IceHogs record is at 29-13-5-4 (67 points, 0.657 points percentage). The two are tied on points percentage for the lead of the Central Division and trail only the Ontario Reign (0.667 points percentage) in the Western Conference standings.
This season the Admirals have the head-to-head match-up against the IceHogs with a record of 6-2-1-0. For those of you with weak constitutions here is a fair bit of warning for tonight’s game: six-games out of the nine-games played have been decided by one goal… five-games have gone to overtime… two-games have required a shootout… and the last three-games played have required overtime.
That’s not to say we couldn’t be in for a thrill ride or a clunker, though. Those three other games that weren’t separated by a solitary goal ended in finals the likes of: 4-2, Rockford… 6-2, Rockford… 6-2, Milwaukee.
As far as tensions go the Admirals and IceHogs have combined for a total of 227 penalty minutes which includes six fighting majors and twenty-one roughing minors. They’re averaging a combined 25.2 penalty minutes per game this season. So, lads in the penalty box: exercise before this one because that door will be opening and closing a bit.
~Who What Now?~
The first point of interest when looking at the IceHogs roster, versus the way it looked when the Admirals last played against them, is that they’ve added a player that is actually older than 34-year old goaltender Michael Leighton with 37-year old, and two-time Stanley Cup winner, defenseman Rob Scuderi.
There is a reason why Scuderi is where he is right now. His age has finally crept into his game. The prototypical stay-at-home defenseman now has some really slow wheels and his play with the Pittsburgh Penguins this year saw him get shipped to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Trevor Daley. After 17 games this season with the Blackhawks Scuderi was placed on and cleared waivers before being assigned to the IceHogs. He’s played a pair of games since arriving to the AHL outfit one week ago.
A great way to reinforce a point on how versatile the IceHogs offense comes can be found by looking at their individual scoring list. The top five scorers on their active roster are separated by 2 points: Mark McNeill, 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists)… Ryan Hartman, 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists)… Jake Dowell, 28 points (8 goals, 20 assists)… Vinnie Hinostroza, 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists)… Ville Pokka, 26 points (6 goals, 20 assists).
Not to be ignored, the IceHogs also have three players with very comparable points per game numbers as those top scorers such as Bryan Bickell, Marko Dano, and Tanner Kero.
In net, the main man remains to be Leighton and the chance for AHL history to be made remains. Leighton is still tied with Johnny Bower at 45 career AHL shutouts for the most in league history. Bower has held the record since 1957. This season Leighton has made 39 appearances for a record of 25-6-7-3 with a 2.33 goals against average, 0.921 save percentage, and 4 shutouts.
What are your expectations for the Milwaukee Admirals tonight? Will the offense come back to life or are they setup for a rough outing against these IceHogs?
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