There was a chance for the Milwaukee Admirals to clinch a playoff spot all while relaxing last night. The Admirals needed the Texas Stars to defeat the Charlotte Checkers on the road in regulation. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as the Checkers won by a final score of 6-3. That leaves the business end of things to the Admirals tonight as well as the variety of games that are going to take place. Easiest thing to do though? For the Admirals to just take care of who is in front of them and not worry about what the Grand Rapids Griffins, Rockford IceHogs, or Lake Erie Monsters are up to.
With that thought in mind let’s look at some in-house news. I attended practice yesterday and got a good look at possible lines for today’s game:
Just so you folks don’t get confuse because there are now two players with the last name White, Matt White and A.J. White, I have made things easier for all of us to come to grips with. I’ll further that in answering the other question you probably asked when looking at the lines, “why is Kevin Fiala bracketed out of his normal line with Vladislav Kamenev and Adam Payerl? Well, that is because Fiala was skating on his own yesterday with the newbie from UMass-Lowell taking his place.
So, there is a slight chance that what you see up top are the lines for tonight’s game with Fiala missing a second straight game after violating team orders. Do I know what he did? No, and it isn’t something that the team publicizes as it happens. In due time the reality of the situation may come to light but that’s not the case for what happened to Fiala right now. This was his first instance of a team violation this season. Stevie Moses, Pontus Åberg, and Max Görtz have all been slapped on the hands with a violation of team rules and those came down to being late to or missing a practice or team meeting.
What of the newest White in town then? Well, lucky for us, I stopped by to get to know a bit more about the newest member of the Admirals yesterday as well as had a conversation with the CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month Juuse Saros.
~The Other Guys~
The San Antonio Rampage enter tonight’s game with a record of 29-33-8-0 (66 points). Their 0.471 points percentage has them in last place of the Pacific Division and thirteenth in the Western Conference ahead of only the Manitoba Moose (0.393) and Iowa Wild (0.377).
The Rampage might be a lowly team but right now they are on a five-game winning streak having collected wins at home over the Grand Rapids, Bakersfield, Texas, and last night on the road in Rockford. They have outscored teams during this five-game streak 15-5 with two shutouts from Spencer Martin who has since seen himself be rewarded with a swift demotion to the Fort Wayne Komets (ECHL).
Now, the winning streak is no joke. They’re on a roll. But this also happens to be a Rampage team that lost eight-games straight prior to this current winning streak. All of those losses came in regulation and in that time they had been outscored 28-16. Of note, that span included five straight losses on home ice. The Rampage fair much better on the road (0.542) than they do at home (0.397). But, in saying that, their road goal differential is still -16 (101 GF, 117 GA). That is the ninth most goals allowed by an AHL on the road this season. For comparison’s sake the Admirals have only allowed 82 goals on the road this season having played one less road contest than the Rampage.
If you’re like me you probably feel like it has been ages since the Rampage last visited Milwaukee. And you’d be right. The first game between these two came back on 11/24/15 in Milwaukee and ended with a 6-3 Admirals win. The two then met up in San Antonio when the new look Admirals defense, with Patrick Mullen and Stefan Elliott, formed and made their debuts to the team. On 1/15/16, Mullen made his debut and the Marek Mazanec recorded a shutout for a clean 3-0 win. 1/16/16 saw Elliott make his debut and the offense explode early for what would be a cruise controlled, and yet another, 6-3 Admirals win. Dating back to last season, when the Colorado Avalanche’s AHL affiliate was Lake Erie, the Admirals hold a four-game winning streak against this outfit.
~Who What Now?~
The Rampage have high end prospect Mikko Rantanen leading the charge of their offense. The 19-year old from Finland, who beat Kamenev’s Team Russia in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships Gold Medal Game back in January, currently has 55 points (22 goals, 33 assists) in 46 games with a plus/minus rating of +21 and 40 penalty minutes. He is the top scoring rookie in the AHL this season. The next closest to him is Austin Czarnik of the Providence Bruins who has 52 points (15 goals, 37 assists) in 60 games. It might be worth noting Czarnik’s rookie teammate on the Bruins Frank Vatrano who has a ridiculous 49 points (33 goals, 16 assists) in 33 games.
Rantanen is followed in team scoring for the Rampage by Maxim Noreau who has 41 points (12 goals, 29 assists) in 58 games. He is currently tied for fifth place among the highest scoring defensemen in the AHL.
In net, the Rampage currently have a tandem of Reto Berra and Roman Will. Berra has spent most of his time this season in the NHL with the Avalanche where he logged 14 games, earned 5 wins, and commanded a very respectable 2.41 goals against average with a 0.922 save percentage with 2 shutouts. In the AHL, Berra has played in 10 games and not found entirely the same individual success: 3.36 goals against average and 0.905 save percentage. He was the goalie of record in the Rampage’s win in Rockford last night stopping 26/28 shots on goal. Should they see fit to ride him again it would make sense. His battery-mate Will has a 3.42 goals against average and 0.896 save percentage from 29 games of AHL work this season.
What are your expectations for the Milwaukee Admirals tonight against these currently streaking San Antonio Rampage? Not to be out-done themselves – the Admirals do currently have a seven-game point streak. Will that streak continue on and see the Admirals get their playoff spot clinched this weekend?
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