I flagged last night’s game as one of the most important moments in the Milwaukee Admirals season after I took in Wednesday’s practice. The team had lost two straight games and it was the manner in which they lost that was the most devastating element: the Admirals were their own worst enemies time and time again.
That Wednesday practice was a combination of punishment and tough love. A message of “defend first” and “play as a team and not as individuals” was worked into each and every player until it sank in deep. But just because that practice was hard and physically, mentally, and even emotionally draining didn’t mean the Admirals were simply going to come out and be cured of their ailments. They were facing a Stockton Heat team that were very much in a similar position and needed to rebound.
To further emphasize the lesson at hand I find what the Admirals coaching staff decided to do next was a rather interesting one. I was fully aware that Thursday was meant to be a day of reflection and soul searching. What I wasn’t aware of was that the team scrapped morning skate and that the first time that the players and coaches really interacted since Wednesday’s practice was at pre-game skate at 6:30 PM CST. The coaches left systems meant for the game plan on the board and gave the locker room over to the men who wear the letters on the front of their jerseys. And the Admirals went out and took care of business from there.
For all that took place after the loss Tuesday night I find the Admirals earning a 3-0 shutout over the Heat to be an outstanding result. It needed to be good. It ended up being darn near perfect. There were still moments of heart in mouth for the Admirals that could have been cleaner defensively or less “flashy” on one-on-one skill plays moving the puck forward. It still was never allowed to truly hurt them. Every time there was a mistake someone was covering or quick to assist and create pressure once again.
What is now as equally as important as last night’s game is what sits in front of the Admirals today. Getting back on the right side of the win column is one thing through a performance like that but it can all be squashed if the Admirals fall back into bad habits and get thrashed 5-1. Last night’s game would become an oversight to a larger issue. It isn’t about getting one game under the belt. The first one of that was the key. It is getting a sustained run back in the form in which the team knows they can play when they’re all on the same page. They did it last night. They need to do it again tonight against a San Jose Barracuda team that did something the Admirals haven’t done in years: win on the road in Grand Rapids.
It won’t be an easy test, again. The Admirals must stay contained and focus on what they’re doing to achieve what they did last night. The message was sent on Wednesday. It was received on Friday. Now the real path that the team needs to be following begins.
After last night’s game I caught up with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason – who I accidentally got to drop an f-bomb. I then chatted with Trevor Smith, Marek Mazanec, and Jimmy Oligny just as the concert was beginning. So, apologies if there is a lot of background noise. These were all of last night’s post-game interviews.
Comments on the comments? How is everyone feeling about Marek Mazanec as the Milwaukee Admirals goaltender for the rest of the season? It hasn’t been too long but what are your initial impressions of Andrew O’Brien?
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