Disappointing is the word that comes to mind the most when I think back to last night’s 4-2 loss against the San Jose Barracuda at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. The Milwaukee Admirals had looked so good on Friday night when they earned a 3-0 shutout over the Stockton Heat that it seemed that the ship had been righted. The next test was seeing it set sail for a few games. I’m still not entirely sure if the Admirals crashed the ship of if the Barracuda sank it. Either way, it was a deflating feeling going from one day into the next.
What stood out to me the most was a Barracuda team that really threw their weight around against the Admirals and dictated the action. I never feel the Admirals are at their best when they are the ones left to chase the game. I don’t purely mean that as them being down on the scoreboard. I mean that as the Admirals are best suited as the team managing the puck and directing a North-South game that puts the opponent on their back heels a bit. That didn’t happen near enough last night. And what seemed to happen more often then not was the Barracuda making it a gritty and dirty style game where they were out-muscling the Admirals to the puck.
There were areas of last night’s game where you can see some great strides being made among both individuals and the team. There were also some spotty moments that act as reminders as to why the group was drilled so hard at Wednesday’s practice just to get a message of “defense first” across. It was a mixed bag game of the Admirals being good – but when they weren’t the Barracuda made full advantage of the bad.
I do hope like crazy that when the AHL reviews the “elbowing major” against Admirals captain Trevor Smith that there isn’t any further action taken. In the moment, much like how the officials see it, I was raising my eyebrows thinking it didn’t look good. When you start seeing replays? Adam Helewka was receiving a pass, had his head down the entire way, and Smith caught him clean with a right shoulder check through the chest and partially Helewka’s left shoulder. It was a clean play upon one replay – and for others with good angles in attendance it may have been squeaky clean as it happened live. But to call it an elbowing major when the elbow isn’t being used? A game misconduct? To quote someone you’ll hear say it in post-game interviews in a moment – I just don’t get it.
Ideally, after games like last night, a team wants to jump right back at it and redeem themselves or get the bad taste out of their mouth. That won’t be happening though. If the Admirals played the Barracuda game on Friday and the Heat game on Saturday – we might all be feeling way better going into the AHL All-Star break. Instead, it played out as it did and now there is a small lingering feeling of “still struggling” clouding over the group.
What I would say is that this All-Star break does come at an opportune time for the Admirals. They are struggling a bit. They’ve had some fatigued bodies – every team does. I think more than most teams though the mental exhaustion of all the road games combined with the roster fluctuations has made it hard for consistency to be a thing when the team’s constant is being on the road with bodies going up and down out of the lineup. Of their final 33 games of the 2016-17 regular season the Admirals will be playing 20 home games including homestands of 3 games or more 4 times. This current break will be about R&R. The rest of the season they have a chance to settle down like most other AHL teams in the league won’t have the chance to en route to the playoffs. The Admirals will need to make the time moving forward count. They can get on a serious run with the way the schedule is set in front of them.
After last night’s game I had the chance to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I spoke with Alex Carrier before he takes part in this evening’s AHL All-Star festivities. I also chatted with Anthony Richard and Frédérick Gaudreau. There were their comments after the game.
Comments on the comments? The Milwaukee Admirals end the season with a vast majority of home games still to play. Do you feel that getting the group healthy and logging time in Milwaukee is the best cure for this team to start playing consistently well?
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