When the regular season comes to an end that incredible individual effort goal by Kevin Fiala to equalize late against the Lake Erie Monsters might be a moment worth remembering should the Milwaukee Admirals respond big off of that result. The Admirals offense hasn’t been playing up to its capabilities lately and those struggles caught up with them in Lake Erie on Tuesday when they were shutout 2-0. The Admirals were floundering again Thursday but Fiala’s goal forced overtime and the Admirals went on to win 4-3 in a shootout. This weekend’s slate of games against the Chicago Wolves will go a long way in showing just what that comeback performance meant for the Admirals. Did it snap them out of the recent funk or will they revert to regularly scheduled programming?
The Chicago Wolves enter tonight’s game with a record of 25-25-4-2 (56 points). Their 0.500 points percentage has them in sixth place of the Central Division and twelfth place of the Western Conference standings.
The Wolves are 3-5-2-0 in their last 10 games. After beating the Admirals 2-1 a week ago the Wolves have only played one game since and that was a 4-3 overtime loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins. Unlike the Admirals who clawed back late to force overtime and win – the Wolves allowed a 3-1 third period lead to crumble and let the Griffins score three unanswered goals to snag the win. That result has been hanging over their head since Sunday. They have had the whole week to let that game stew on the mind.
~The Amtrak Rivalry~
This season the Admirals lead the head-to-head against the Wolves with a record of 5-2-0-0. Coming into this weekend there are still five-games to be played in the Amtrak Rivalry. Should the Admirals sweep the weekend it would clinch the team’s first Amtrak Trophy since the 2012-13 season. That season the Admirals won the season series 10-2-0-0. They have yet to claim an Amtrak Trophy since the Wolves became the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues.
~Who What Now?~
The scoring leaders for the Wolves hasn’t changed much since these two last played but there will be an important returning face that wasn’t on-hand a week ago. Ty Rattie makes his return to the Wolves lineup after a two-week spell with the Blues. Rattie has now played 13 games in the NHL this season and has scored 6 points (4 goals, 2 assists). At the AHL level, Rattie has played 42 games and had produced 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists).
There is a slight eyebrow raise when you look at Rattie’s AHL numbers tapering off the last three-seasons. As a rookie Rattie scored 31 goals. As a sophomore he scored 21 goals. And, right now, he is sitting on 10 goals. The game is of course far more than just one individual out on the ice being able to hammer darts into narrow pockets of space for goals – but Rattie’s numbers have dropped off hard in particular this season. His individual production level, from his rookie season to this season, might well be enough to have turned the Wolves goal differential around. The Wolves are -22 as a team this season (149 GF, 171 GA).
In net the Wolves do have both of their top gun options available: Pheonix Copley and Jordan Binnington. That might be important with the game tonight in Milwaukee and the follow-up tomorrow night in Chicago. There is a good chance the Admirals face both and both have reason to be confident coming into the weekend.
Copley has been up, down, and around at the NHL/AHL level the past month. Despite only having a record of 1-1-0-1 in February for the Wolves his numbers were sharp: 2.58 goals against average and a 0.920 save percentage. It all culminated on 2/27/16 when he made his NHL debut as a member of the Blues. It was a relief appearance that saw him enter for Jake Allen and match up against none other than the Nashville Predators. He faced 6 shots on goal and allowed a goal to Colin Wilson.
Binnington was an Admiral Killer leading into this season, hit a wall, but came back last time out. When including the first game played of the 2015-16 season – he had made 8 career appearances in the Amtrak Rivalry for a perfect 8-0-0-0 record while stopping 202/217 of the Admirals shots on goal for a 0.931 save percentage to go along with a 1.82 goals against average. That was followed by a stretch of 0-3-0-1 against the Admirals where he stopped 115/129 for a 0.891 save percentage and a 3.66 goals against average.
That changed for Binnington last time out though. In fact, it even changed the game prior despite being a losing effort. Last weekend Binnington started both games against the Admirals and stopped 63/68 for a much more respectable 0.926 save percentage. He picked up the win in Chicago last Saturday where he only allowed a Colton Sissons goal from 27 shots. He performed so well last weekend that the Wolves opted to ride him through the entirety of their three-in-three and he stopped 39/43 shots on goal against the Griffins in an overtime loss.
What are you expectations for this weekend’s spin on the Amtrak Rivalry? Could these games play out precisely as they did one week ago?
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