I’m not sure what it is lately about the Milwaukee Admirals in the opening minute these last two games. Was it that Félix Girard hypnotized the Admirals on Wednesday night? Was it that the Charlotte Checkers came in on a hot streak and showed instantly why that was? Not sure I can put my finger on it but the Admirals were completely flat on both nights.
What I am sure about is the team’s resilient attitude, which shined early and often to start this season, is coming back. In both Wednesday night and last night’s game the Admirals have rallied back from opening minute goals and ended up recording five unanswered to close out the night.
In particular, when the Admirals were behind 3-1 to the Checkers after the first period last night there was a real sense of here we go again. The two power-play goals allowed at the end of that frame along with the sleeping on the opening shift of the game reminded me of that great quote from head coach Dean Evason from five games ago: “We don’t give teams anything until we give teams everything.”
As bad as that opening period was. As flat as the better majority of the second period was. The Admirals never looked out of it and the Checkers didn’t do enough of a job in delivering the killer blow. If anything I feel like the Checkers seemed to attempt to rest on that first period as best they could from the second period to the end. But, when Adam Payerl started plugging away at the end of the second period and setup Vladislav Kamenev to score his second goal of the game, things shifted. There was 1:25 remaining in the second period when that was scored and it cut the deficit to one.
While the 6-3 scoreline can suggest run roughshod from then on out that still wasn’t the case. The score gets skewed by the pair of empty netters at the end of the game. Actually, the Admirals really knuckled down against the Checkers in the final twenty-minutes. The Checkers outshot the Admirals 16-11 in that third period. It wasn’t until there was 4:27 remaining in regulation when one of the sweetest looking passing plays you ever did see happened to make it 3-3 with a tally from Kevin Fiala – you could watch it all day and it wouldn’t get old. Justin Kirkland would power out on the left wing and then let a wrister soar into the top shelf near post on Alex Nedeljkovic with 2:53 remaining.
It’s been a mixed bag for awhile now with the Admirals. And, frankly, the last two games have shown a pretty solid spectrum of all those highs and lows. What is most important that I’m seeing is that the mistakes are gradually being weeded out, poor turnovers are being minimized, and that the offense -because the “defense first” mentality is sinking in- is starting to make good strides.
An overlooked area at the moment is also that the Admirals are finally running on a clean bill of health as are their parent club. Both should be benefiting from having that be the case. Having a roster as deep and as strong as the Admirals possess right now is a luxury not all AHL teams can actually say they have. Considering the three-game homestand was demanded of the Admirals to start creating a home-ice advantage to set the benchmark for the home heavy end to their season? They’re using that strength well to earn regulation wins in comeback fashion. All that is needed next is to sustain the success.
A final note of last night’s game. “Slap Shot” night to me was absolutely fantastic. Everything about it: the specialty uniforms only being worn for one game, the amount of fans that wore their Chiefs jerseys, the Hanson Brothers coming down and being just a joy for all the fans -and Admirals players- they chatted with, and then having a game end up being almost as nutty or theatrical as the film that played afterwards on the jumbotron. If the promotion were done all the time? It might be taken for granted or become a tad dull. But gosh would I love seeing it done just like that again every few seasons because it was a blast.
After last night’s game I did speak with Evason. I then had to do a double take with Kirkland because he wanted to talk about assistant coach Scott Ford after the initial interview ended. Then Fiala was roped in for a chat following the news that he was being recalled by the Predators. And then I got the scoop from the man whose jersey sold for the highest amount last night, Mike Liambas.
Comments on the comments? Are the Milwaukee Admirals starting to fit the puzzle pieces back together? How important is it for the health of the team to create consistency with the lineup and therefore the night-in and night-out play? Would you be in favor of more Slap Shot nights such as last night in the future?
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