The Milwaukee Admirals lost 7-1 on the road against the Rockford IceHogs Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
As far as the last two games of the regular season are concerned they aren’t exactly how the Admirals would have preferred to enter the playoffs. After getting punished for mistakes last night at home the Admirals were roughed up on the road by a team that simply played with far more desperation from the opening puck drop. The Admirals didn’t have anything to play for. The IceHogs, looking to punch themselves in as third seed of the Central Division, did. The game essentially played out to that script.
Before this game even came to a close the Grand Rapids Griffins lost 3-2 at home to the Bakersfield Condors. That result meant the Griffins finished fourth in the Central Division and have been punched in as the Admirals opening round opponent in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Aaron Irving was making his professional playing debut tonight as a member of the Admirals. It didn’t take him more than two shifts to get a rude introduction to life at the AHL level. Vinnie Hinostroza dangled the 20-year old defenseman nearly out of his skates, sent him darting the wrong way, cut inside, and snapped a low shot that flew underneath the pads of Marek Mazanec for his seventeenth goal of the season.
Following a dazzling series of passes from the IceHogs, that nearly set up a goal, Ryan Hartman slightly bumped into Mazanec in the net. The two jousted slightly with their sticks before Hartman skated off. Jimmy Oligny must not have appreciated what he saw and proceeded to drop his gloves and give Hartman a one-punch slug. The result of the melee was a slashing minor and fighting major to Oligny with a slashing minor, unsportsmanlike conduct minor, and a ten-minute misconduct.
As momentum can tend to go from exchanges such as this you would have hoped for the Admirals sluggish start to have swayed for the better following Oligny’s quick scrap. Instead the IceHogs scored twenty-four seconds after the fact to take a 2-0 lead through another swooping play off the left wing that saw Jonathan Carlsson shake left, go right, and caught Mazanec cheating too far to the near post and went against the grain for his second goal of the season.
With penalties off of the Oligny and Hartman situation trickling Pontus Åberg was slapped with a slashing minor on a relatively harmless play through the neutral zone. This gave the IceHogs a five-on-three power-play that saw them work right to left on the point, from Dennis Rasmussen to Ville Pokka, and get a net front tip by Mark McNeill for his twenty-fourth goal of the season to make it a 3-0 IceHogs lead in the first period.
In the second period a pair of former teammates paired up for a scrap. Mike Liambas and Oligny started grappling behind the net and that turned into a series of punches with a take down by Liambas. By earning his second fighting major of the contest Oligny was given a game misconduct and given the boot.
Before the second period could come to a close the IceHogs were able to smack in a fourth goal. Tyler Motte dragged a puck in towards the net which popped off Mazanec’s pads and fell perfectly in-line with the oncoming rush of Chris DeSousa to tap in the rebound for his seventh goal of the season.
The start of the third period was complete and utter shambles for the Admirals defense. The IceHogs scored twice in the matter of ten-seconds to push their lead up to 6-0. First game a net front deflection tally for Hartman for his fifteenth goal of the season. Then a winding drive from center to left by McNeill to beat Mazanec for his second goal of the game and twenty-fifth scored on the season.
There was a slight smudge of silver on an otherwise brown colored lining tonight. Max Görtz was able to pop in his eighteenth goal of the season to deny Mac Carruth the shutout bid in an all IceHogs contest. Trevor Murphy was able to provide the dish wing-to-wing and Görtz’s debut regular season to North America ends with him finishing second only to Kevin Fiala on the Admirals individual scoring list.
With 6:10 remaining, and tempers for the Admirals boiling over, Fiala started to engage in some cross-checks in front of the Admirals crease and a scrum quickly broke out as well as a scrap between Adam Payerl and Tanner Kero. Payerl hammered Kero with several shots before the referees came in to save the 23-year old of the IceHogs from more punishment.
As penalties mounted and mounted late in the game the IceHogs cashed in on their second five-on-three power-play chance of the night. Hinostroza was able to push in a rebounder off of a Pokka shot that Mazanec shrugged aside to his right. Hinostroza was right there for the quick follow-up, his second goal of the night, and eighteenth of the season.
The Admirals regular season officially ends on a touch of a sour note but they come away with a record of 48-23-3-2 (101 points). Their 0.664 points percentage is the third best in the Admirals AHL history behind the 2005-06 team (0.675) and 2008-09 team (0.669). Their winning of the Central Division was the Admirals first divisional title since the 2010-11 season.
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals played last night there were no official roster moves made. Janne Juvonen has joined the team recently from the Lahti Pelicans of Liiga (Finland) but has yet to sign an entry level contract for the Nashville Predators or amateur try-out contract (ATO) as a member of the Admirals. Juvonen was a seventh round draft choice of the Nashville Predators in the 2013 NHL Draft. Tonight’s line combinations were: Reinhart-Gaudreau-Åberg, Fiala-Kamenev-Payerl, White-Girard-Görtz, AJ-Pendenza-Devane, Oligny-Irving, Näkyvä-Dougherty, Murphy-Elliott. Tonight’s scratches were: Patrick Mullen (rest day), Cody Hodgson (upper-body), Taylor Aronson (personal reasons), Anthony Richard (lower-body), Corey Potter (rest day), and Johan Alm (lower-body). The Admirals opted tonight to rest two of their veteran defensemen as a way to allow Jack Dougherty and Aaron Irving to log some ice time. For Irving tonight was his professional playing debut.
What is your reaction to this mess of a game? Are these last two games blips on the radar or a cause for concern? Does the idea of playing against the Grand Rapids Griffins in the first round concern you at all?
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