At the moment that I’m writing this I just enjoyed a lovely drive from Rockford back to Racine. And with that lengthy piece of night time driving I really had the chance to digest the Milwaukee Admirals 3-2 shootout win over the Rockford IceHogs that little bit more. Heck, I think it took the post-game interviews for my heart to start beating normally again. This year’s Admirals team, in short, is just special. This year’s Admirals team, in length, is the following.
The IceHogs delivered one of the most physical games that the Admirals have played in all season. It was a hard hitting game and I think it would be a safe bet to assume the IceHogs delivered more hits than shots on goal – or at the very least quality scoring chances forced. Despite that, the Admirals really did start settling down into a good groove in the second period and started to tilt the ice heavily. All to no reward, too.
Marek Mazanec has a somewhat negative spotlight on him at the moment and his purpose of being back with the Admirals is to change that. He needs the ice time. He needs to get his confidence back up. He needs to get back to battling for pucks and be a sharper goaltender than the NHL level requires him to be. It had to be among the very first shots he faced in the game but he ends up allowing a power-play goal. It deflected out in front of him, off his own defenseman’s stick, and past the blocker shoulder. The IceHogs then burned through the Admirals with pace in a counter attack to beat Mazanec blocker side from a rush play. It was 2-0 IceHogs despite them nearly being doubled up in shots.
Mazanec looked really good in that game. He was square to shooters and was helping out his defensemen a ton with keeping the puck cycling in and out of the zone. Mazanec’s last outing for the Admirals saw him make a pair of blunders passing the puck around his net but it may have been the strongest element to his game last night. It was a redeeming performance.
Yet, for all the good that the Admirals did. They were still down 2-0. Good effort from the likes of Harry Zolnierczyk playing at a high rate of speed on the night. Good all around game again from Admirals captain Trevor Smith. And yet another terrific effort by the defensive pairing of Adam Pardy and Alex Carrier. All that. Nothing to show for it.
It’s at that moment where you could have just as easily seen an Admirals team that became complacent. “Perhaps it just isn’t our night,” said a fictitious Adam Payerl. “The pucks just aren’t bouncing our way,” said a very fictitious Petter Granberg. “Oh, mon Dieu,” possibly exclaimed the real Félix Girard.
Things weren’t bad. They weren’t. They were good. Not great. All that seemed to be lacking in the game was quality finishing or getting a loose puck around the net from a rebound or a blocked shot. Those just weren’t coming despite shot after shot onslaught by the Admirals that ended up seeing the game finish with a shot disparity of Admirals 38, IceHogs 16. The Admirals held the IceHogs to 16 shots in 65 minutes of hockey. That is insanely good defensive effort and offensive pressure being mounted to keep the ice tilted. There just weren’t finishes to them. Until, that is, the last five minutes of the game.
The first goal from Frédérick Gaudreau came on the power-play. It was a break that the team needed and one where you could get a collective sense of “finally” from the group. Perhaps lost in that was also a small sense of “uh-oh” on the part of the IceHogs. And what makes the Admirals as special as they are is that their fight to win games is always at such a high level regardless of the situation and, likewise, they stay calm throughout the process. If the Admirals seem to find a sign of a team wilting a bit they keep the pressure on. When the Admirals worked a puck loose around Mac Carruth and kept fighting in the scrum to get a rebound past him – that was just that. Vladislav Kamenev found the loose puck and smacked it home to make what was a 2-0 “Oh, mon Dieu” game with five minutes left in regulation into a “there goes those Admirals again” …game.
I’m pretty certain I’ve made the joke either here in a post or through social media but I am starting to just get used to this year’s Admirals team being able to comeback from whatever hole they happen to get themselves into. 2-0 down? Well, they already came back from 3-0? Why not? I’ll give you this much, though. Leaving it to the final minutes like in that game with Rockford made it more tense in that respect -but- they still did it. I’m starting to give up on asking just how are they constantly able to do that and just start accepting that they do it all the time now – it’s just a force of habit. This year’s Admirals are more resilient than a cockroaches.
I keep thing at some point these sorts of games will and probably should end on a sour note. It’s just that this team isn’t having it right now. These last four games in particular have had the make-up of a playoff style hockey game. Everything is so tight and well structured from a defensive standpoint and it comes down to which offense can grind out the result. The Admirals have won all four of those games. This is a ten-game point streak and a five-game winning streak that might just be seeing the Admirals starting to get to another gear. It’s almost worth pulling yourself back a bit to just take it all in.
After the game I ended up speaking with Milwaukee Admirals assistant coach Scott Ford. I also was able to chat with Marek Mazanec and Cody Bass. These were their comments after the shootout win in Rockford.
Comments from the comments? What does the resiliency of this year’s Milwaukee Admirals say to you? Do you view the Admirals ability to comeback as a positive or a negative that they’re tip-toeing past at the moment?
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