The 2015-16 regular season ends today for the Milwaukee Admirals. Don’t let last night’s result skew things. This season has been nothing short of special.
This time a year ago the Admirals were set for an early off-season. The string of twelve consecutive playoff appearances ended with a last place finish in the Midwest Division and a record of 33-28-8-7 (81 points, 0.533 points percentage). Now, the Admirals are Central Division champions with the second best record in the Western Conference standing at 48-22-3-2 (101 points, 0.673 points percentage).
It has been an incredible turn-around. One that has seen players involved a season ago take big steps forward: Frédérick Gaudreau, Félix Girard, Jimmy Oligny, Kevin Fiala, Taylor Aronson, Marek Mazanec, and Pontus Åberg. One that has featured new blood on the team making very positive impacts: Juuse Saros, Max Görtz, Max Reinhart, Vladislav Kamenev, and Adam Payerl. And one that saw the great additions as the season developed: Matt White, Stefan Elliott, Patrick Mullen, and Corey Potter. It’s all come together to form a solid team. There aren’t necessarily players there being named to individual AHL end-season awards but that comes from how balanced the Admirals of 2015-16 have been. There isn’t one player elevating himself above the team. Everyone complements one-another really well.
The Admirals loss last night, combined with the Ontario Reign winning on the road against the San Diego Gulls, means that the Western Conference crown has been handed to last year’s Calder Cup champions who played a lesser schedule against questionably lesser opponents. The regular season was about achieving the best points percentage. And now that portion is over. What’s there to play for today now that the Western Conference title isn’t to be had? Simple: today’s game. Because no one, and I mean no one, wants to head into the playoffs on a sour note.
The Rockford IceHogs enter tonight’s game after having won in 4-0 shutout fashion on home ice against the Grand Rapids Griffins. The two teams entered last night’s game tied for third place in the Central Division with the Griffins owning the tiebreaker over the IceHogs. By taking down the Griffins last night the IceHogs elevated themselves away from a potential first round match-up against the Admirals. That is, unless, the following happens tonight.
The IceHogs have a record of 39-22-10-4 (92 points, 0.613 points percentage). The Griffins have a record of 44-29-1-1 (90 points, 0.600 points percentage). If the Admirals defeat the IceHogs in regulation tonight and the Griffins, who are hosting the Bakersfield Condors, win in any fashion what so ever then the Admirals first round opponent would be the IceHogs. Both the Griffins and IceHogs would have a 0.605 points percentage and the Griffins, just as they did heading into last night’s showdown, would own the tiebreak.
So, the fun of today’s game is a mixture of the one-ice product in Rockford and what is happening in Grand Rapids. Who will the Admirals be hosting next weekend for the first round of the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs? We will find out tonight.
For what it’s worth: the Admirals record against the IceHogs this season, entering tonight’s finale, is 6-4-1-0 with five-games that went past regulation… the Admirals record against the Griffins is 3-5-0-0 with all games ending in regulation and the Admirals getting held to one-goal or less four times.
~Who What Now?~
The IceHogs have three players coming into tonight’s game with 40+ points: Vinnie Hinostroza, 48 points (16 goals, 32 assists)… Mark McNeill, 46 points (23 goals, 23 assists)… Ville Pokka, 43 points (10 goals, 33 assists). They’re followed closely by Tanner Kero who has averaged 0.64 points per game this season: 38 points (20 goals, 18 assists) in 59 games.
According to Elite Prospects right now the IceHogs have a merry band of goaltenders. Out of all of them though the one to really put your sights on is Mac Carruth who has stepped up in place of Michael Leighton who is currently stationed with the Chicago Blackhawks as a certified practice goalie for their playoff run. Carruth has played in 16 games with the IceHogs this season. Since 3/20/16 he has made 10 appearances and has a 1.97 goals against average, 0.939 save percentage, and 2 shutouts.
Expectations for tonight’s game? Should certain players be getting the night off for the Milwaukee Admirals or would it be better to keep the throttle down en route to the playoffs next weekend?
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