The Milwaukee Admirals won 3-0 against the Stockton Heat at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Friday night.
After a two game losing skid, that caused a punishment level practice on Wednesday, the Admirals rebounded emphatically tonight with a shutout performance over the Heat that checked every box it needed to.
“Our practice was work, we competed, we battled, we played defense,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “That’s what we asked the group to do. We played defense today.”
Marek Mazanec was strong in net and stopped all twenty-two shots he faced. Yet, the defense was key to helping see not only his night go well but everyone’s night. The Admirals demanded getting their defensive effort back. It was stellar all night.
The grinding practice for the Admirals on Wednesday was followed by an off-day for the group to reflect individuals and as a team. That trickled into today as pre-game skate was canceled and the coaching staff left the locker room to their leadership group to get the team prepared for pre-game warm-ups. The first time the coaching staff and team were together in two days came during pre-game skate.
“They gave us the systems like they usually do, it was up on the board, but we took over a little bit,” said Admirals captain Trevor Smith. “That’s how it should be all year long, anyways. It is our dressing room. The coaches give us what they need system-wise. They’ve been great about that making sure we’re prepared every game. At the end of the day, we’re the guys on the ice and we need to preform the right way.”
After a defensive deadlock to open up the first period it seemed that Rick Pinkston and Austin Carroll thought it would be a good idea to have a fight for the sake of a igniting their teams. The post-whistle scrum built between the two and both showed very well in the scrap.
It was an awkward return to Milwaukee for Jamie Devane. In the second period, after seeing Mike Liambas hit Mike Angelidis, Devane went after his old team and tried to get Liambas into a fight. The only problem was that Liambas wanted no part of a scrap following a clean hit and Devane, who threw his gloves theatrically prior to anything being done, did. This saw Devane sit for an unsportsmanlike conduct.
“He’ll fight but, at that point in the game, there is no reason for Mike Liambas to fight,” said Evason. “Mike has come a long way with recognizing what is going on in a game. Probably five-years ago he would have not even thought about it and just fought.”
With that the Admirals had their first power-play of the night. It nearly went bust when Pontus Åberg and Kevin Fiala were caught in a slow change at the bench while a puck was nearly their skates. They made the swap cleanly and then saw a puck scramble out into the right wing path of Trevor Smith who smacked a shot by David Rittich for a power-play goal and his twelfth tally of the season.
As the second period horn sounded it seemed like Angelidis wanted some of Liambas for his earlier check. He instead was cut-off by Jimmy Oligny who proceeded to get some solid shots in before finishing the tilt off with a takedown. That fight, unlike the first one, felt like it had an obvious winner and that was a 10-9 round for Oligny.
It took the Admirals less than two minutes of the third period to extend their lead to 2-0. Andrew O’Brien took a stab on net while ranging down towards the left wing wall. His shot came high of the face-off circle and found its way through traffic to sneak by Rittich’s glove-side for his first goal of the season and first as an Admiral.
A late power-play offered the Heat a chance. That chance ended and the moment that it did Adam Payerl was off to the races on an odd-man rush with Fiala down the right wing. Payerl looked to be passing off to his right but the puck deflected off a skate and past Rittich for a goal to make it a 3-0 from Payerl’s seventh of the season.
The game would finish at the 3-0 scoreline with the Admirals improving their record to 24-14-2-2 (52 points, 0.619 points percentage). Mazanec’s shutout was his third of the season and third in his last six games. Mazanec now has recorded eleven career AHL shutouts as a member of the Admirals. He now only trails Brian Finley’s fifteen shutouts on the Admirals all-time AHL list.
“Frankly, that practice worked,” laughed Mazanec. “It was a good message. It worked. We sticked together. Boys defended really hard today. They gave me a chance to be successful. They didn’t give up any quality chances. They made it very easy for me.”
The Admirals will be looking to follow this game up tomorrow night at 6:00 PM CST when they face-off against the San Jose Sharks. As important as tonight’s game was it now comes down to sustaining what was delivered on the ice tonight.
“That’s exactly what we challenged [the players] after the game,” said Evason. “We have to be monotonous. It has to be again and again and again. This game is done. This game is finished. Yeah, it feels good. – way better winning than losing – but its gone. Tomorrow we have to bring the same game.”
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played on Tuesday night there were no roster moves made around the organization. Of note though is that Miikka Salomäki has started skating once again in Nashville and could see a conditioning assignment with the Admirals in the near future. Tonight’s line combinations for the Admirals were: White-Smith-Åberg, Florek-Kirkland-Fiala, Richard-Kamenev-Gaudreau, Liambas-Army-Payerl, Oligny-Carrier, Pinkston-Murphy, O’Brien-Dougherty. Tonight’s scratches were: Jonathan Diaby (healthy), Sean O’Donnell (healthy), and Adam Pardy (upper-body).
What is your reaction to tonight’s game for the Milwaukee Admirals? Was this the response that the coaching staff would have hoped for after Wednesday’s punishing practice?
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