Given how Saturday night’s game finished I was expecting the Milwaukee Admirals to play rather fired up on Sunday. That did happen but, blink blink, they went down 2-0 in a matter of moments in the first period. It could have become a “here we go again” moment but the Admirals didn’t just comeback over the course of the game. They came back in that period and proceeded to make a statement.
The Admirals 7-2 win was a solid performance from all levels of the team. I believe the offense needs no precise explanation other than the scoreline but lost in that is how well the defense played. The penalty kill was a perfect six-for-six and was confident enough to fetch a shorthanded goal. Outside of the two goals scored for the Stars, one of which was an Admirals error, the Stars had no real threatening chances to speak of once they had their 2-0 lead after seven-minutes of work. That’s a massive credit to the Admirals defense and that same aspect helps a great deal in the offense being able to contribute as it did.
Now, about that Pontus Åberg kid. What has been doing for a touch over a year now has been pretty special. It was March of last season when things really started to explode for him. Conveniently, the amount of games played from the start of March through to the end of the 2015-16 regular season and everything Åberg has done for the Admirals in the 2016-17 season comes out to the amount of a full AHL regular season. Since March of last season Åberg has scored 74 points (42 goals, 32 assists) in 76 AHL regular season games. That includes 20 power-play goals. He has been the Admirals most explosive player.
Åberg really has all of the tools to translate to the NHL right now. The only reason why he isn’t comes down to the amount of numbers currently playing up top for the Nashville Predators. They have plenty of names sitting out as healthy scratches right now. Yet, the time given to Åberg is being used very well and he has found an identity for himself. That fire he had at the end of last season has been burning all of this season. He said it himself after yesterday’s game that he is playing for a contract next season. It would be wise for the Predators to make sure he stays under their banner.
Another player who stepped up nicely last night was Vladislav Kamenev. Who knows if the second period would have opened up so much for the Admirals if Kamenev didn’t level things at 2-2 in the first period? What I appreciated so much of both Kamenev’s goals was his patience. The opening goal for the Admirals by Kamenev came during a delayed penalty and Kamenev waited to find a lane through traffic, hesitated on a slap shot, and then found a perfect placement for a wrister. The equalizer for him wasn’t traffic oriented so much but he stopped right at the top of the circle and must have been right in his wheelhouse. The wrister he produced was inch perfect to the far post. After that performance for himself he is now tied with Frédérick Gaudreau and Trevor Smith for the second most points on the Admirals.
Justin Kirkland made his return to game action yesterday after missing the Admirals last eight. There were a few nagging issues for him but him being back was a very welcome sight. I’m sure that return back on ice, which resulted in the Stars opening goal, was a harsh “welcome back” to game pace. That said, he seemed to settle back down and was the beneficiary of a highlight reel assist from Åberg.
I found the final goals of last night’s game to be amusing because, hey. the Stars head coach Derek Laxdal was angry about the Admirals in December running up the score with their top guys still on the ice. The Admirals did run the score up a bit at the end of that game but they did it with their perceived fourth line at even strength and on the power-play. That power-play had Mike Liambas setting up Justin Florek for his second goal of the night to see the Admirals power-play go three-of-three and complete a perfect night for Admirals special teams.
The contest did end on a sour note. Adam Payerl really had no need to clock Darren Dietz as he did. The game was in its final minute, the Admirals had the game soundly won, and Payerl was rightfully assessed a boarding major and a game misconduct. The AHL always reviews game misconducts for potentially further supplemental discipline. I wouldn’t be surprised if Payerl misses a game out of this coming weekend’s three-in-three.
After the game, I did get to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason as well as Åberg, Florek, and Kirkland. There were the comments after the Admirals dominant win Sunday at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
Comments on the comments? The Milwaukee Admirals are starting to get better as the season is ending. They will now get a good bit of rest time along with significantly reduced travel compared to those around them in the playoff picture. Is this current stretch for the Admirals what they need to really start a run before the playoffs start?
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