The Milwaukee Admirals 4-3 overtime win last night over the Rockford IceHogs was a hot mess. In truth, there was far more bad than there actually was good. Here is the catch and the most gleaming aspect of last night’s game. The really good teams win despite the fact they didn’t play their best hockey. The Admirals did that last night and never found themselves trailing in the process. It wasn’t a great game, for many reasons, but the Admirals stuck together and found a way to get the result.
There are numerous topics that I could plunge into after a game such as that. Allow me to tackle the one that rattled my head the most though which was the officiating. Normally I step back and don’t want to step on toes as far as finger wagging the men in stripes in concerned -but- last night was astronomically bad.
The game took two hours and forty-one minutes to play. The Admirals have played two shootout games shootouts this season that took as long or less to play. They even had a shootout that went a full three rounds that ended just a minute longer. I get that there were some tempers and post-whistle scrums here and there. It is a rivalry. I get that. But the amount of putzing about to figure out what is happening over who gets penalized for what and for how long and under what circumstance was mind numbingly aggravating last night. Yes, IceHogs head coach Ted Dent is a known knucklehead who probably said one or all seven of George Carlin’s favorite words to get himself a game misconduct, but even I can get an idea as to why he’d have called over the officials -twice in the first period- to make sense of what’s going on.
If all that took place last night happened under the context of a three man officiating crew having to put a stopper on an ever building powder keg? I’d get it a little bit. There were some scrums here and there that better needed containing and shutting up sooner. But it was a four man officiating crew. As much as I loved the Trevor Murphy vs. Ville Pokka fight do yourself a favor, watch it again, and tell me how the officials handled that situation. It looked like aliens who had just descended upon the Earth and weren’t sure how to introduce themselves to the natives.
Funnily enough, as so happened, Murphy and Pokka were assessed game misconducts under the “secondary altercation” guideline of the AHL rule book (46.7). That rule dictates that: “a game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on any player who is assessed a major penalty for fighting after the original altercation has started.” Considering it happened rather organically with the pile up and was, not just geographically, the more central scrap taking place I don’t know how justified that implementation of the rule was or if it was the officials way of dismissing players rather than having a legitimate secondary altercation with either or the two players later in the game resulting in a second fighting major and a game misconduct for doing such – an unlikely circumstance as for Murphy that was his second pro fight and first of the season and it was Pokka’s first ever recorded fighting major in his career via Hockey Fights.
That, by a long shot, was hanging over my head as the game went on. If the play on the ice for either the Admirals or IceHogs felt directionless I suppose it would be fitting because there was hardly ever a chance for the two sides to get consistent runs of play without a whistle. Stop. Start. Stop. Stop. Wait, was that penalty correct or not? Start again.
While there are notes to be had of the Admirals more poor efforts on the night, passing – passing out of shots, it is hard to not admire four things that went right.
Frédérick Gaudreau goes right to the net – scores a goal. Gaudreau goes right to the net on the Admirals extended five-on-three power-play – collects a rebound and scores a second goal. Gaudreau swoops down the right wing and, failed pass or not, he puts a puck towards the front of the net – and scores a goal off the leg of the defending Carl Dahlström and records a hat trick. And, let’s not let one Québec native have all the fun, Alex Carrier goes to the net in overtime – and scores the game-winning goal off of a rebound from a Pontus Åberg shot. The Admirals do have plenty of skill. But when this team is at its best it is when they are playing a simple game that sees pucks cleared out their defensive zone, playing with pace North-South, and going right to the net. All that skill is useless when wild one against three dekes are attempted through traffic and the puck gets turned over. Where the Admirals were at their worst last night was puck possession and retention. They didn’t have that puck often or long. Fortunately, in a few moments when they were rolling forward, they were rewarded when the simple and direct approach to the net was applied. For the Admirals less often seems to yield so much more with their skill set.
So, for as scrappy or sloppy as last night’s game was, the Admirals did find recipe enough for success tonight when the face the Grand Rapids Griffins: defense first, keep it simple, and get pucks and bodies to the net. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.
After last night’s game I caught up with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I also chatted with Gaudreau and Carrier just prior to the duo getting packed up and ready for an overnight bus ride to Grand Rapids. These were last night’s post-game interviews with a bonus in the form of a pre-game chat that I had with former Admiral turned IceHog Michael Latta.
Comments on the comments? What did you think of all of last night’s stoppages and penalty calls? Was the game pacing unnecessarily flubbed up or did the officials manage the forest fire that is the Admirals/IceHogs rivalry well?
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