After a healthy road spell to start the season it is going to be nice to have hockey on home ice for the next five-games. The Milwaukee Admirals start this homestand with two contests this weekend: tonight with the Chicago Wolves and tomorrow night against last weekend’s enemy the Iowa Wild.
The focus is of course the Amtrak Rivals for tonight. The Wolves enter with a record of 4-4-0-0 (8 points, 0.500 points percentage). They have won their last two-games in regulation and let the offensive fireworks out: winning 7-3 at home over the Rockford IceHogs last Saturday and 4-2 at home against the Cleveland Monsters. That rout over the IceHogs specifically saw them rolling on the power-play with a 4/7 night with the man-advantage.
Who then was leading the charge during those games for the Wolves? A major component was defenseman Brad Hunt with 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) in those two-games. And, thankfully for the Admirals tonight, Hunt is currently topside with the St. Louis Blues while Robert Bortuzzo is on injured reserve. The other man leading the way for the Wolves last weekend, Ivan Barbashyov, is in the lineup. Barbashyov scored 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) in the Wolves wins over the IceHogs and Monsters.
I feel the biggest story of the Wolves start to the season has come on defense and between the pipes. In half the games they have played this season they have limited teams to 2 goals or less and have only conceded more than 3 goals in a game once. Now that Ville Husso has been assigned to the Missouri Mavericks (ECHL) the duo in net for the Wolves between Jordan Binnington and Pheonix Copley is now set in stone. They’ve since responded. The two goalies this season have a combined 2.41 goals against average and 0.924 save percentage. The Wolves have allowed 30.5 shots on goal per game this season but they are getting security from between the pipes – a story that wasn’t totally the case a season ago.
Leading the Wolves in scoring right now is Hunt with his 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in 8 games. With him up with the Blues the active leader in scoring for the Wolves is Kenny Agostino who has 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists) in 8 games. His buddy that throws everyone in the media off due to the similar sounding last name, Andrew Agozzino, only has 2 points (0 goals, 2 assists) in 6 games so far with the Wolves.
The Admirals won 2-1 in the first tilt of the season back on 10/19/16 in Chicago. Hunt helped to setup the Wolves lone tally with a power-play goal for Agostino. Yet, his absence isn’t the lone missing component from that opening Amtrak Rivalry game as Austin Watson was the man who scored the game-winning power-play goal and he remains with the Nashville Predators.
So, both teams will have a slightly different make-up to them than in the first game. Everyone at this point is starting to gel better as a team. And the Admirals are in for the next two weeks looking to settle into the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and start cementing an actual home ice advantage to the new surroundings. This chapter of the Amtrak Rivalry should be a fun one. Do note: puck drops at 7pm on Fridays, 6pm on Saturdays. That’s perhaps the biggest note for catching this weekend’s games.
UPDATE. The Wolves will have their top scorer and defenseman Hunt for tonight’s game. He was reassigned this morning following last night’s 6-2 loss for the Blues on the road against the Dallas Stars. He was a healthy scratch last night.
Expectations for tonight’s game? Will the Milwaukee Admirals be able to keep the good vibes from their 7-3 win in Rockford going? Are we in for the Matt White – Vladislav Kamenev – Frédérick Gaudreau show again? Also, do you have any UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena comments or questions?
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