It feels it has been too long between games for the Milwaukee Admirals. They opened up the 2017-18 season last weekend in Iowa and took a pair of wins. The energy levels were high. The question now becomes whether or not a week between games will have lessened that or if it doesn’t even matter. The thing that kind of helps in the energy department today for the Admirals: their opponent today played less than 24 hours ago.
The Rockford IceHogs matched-up last night on home ice against the Iowa Wild. Once again, the Wild proved to be a tough opponent. The IceHogs did win their home opener at the BMO Harris Bank Center but the final score was 7-4. If you’re an Admirals fan you would have wanted the Wild to wear down or soften up the IceHogs last night. That was certainly a grinding effort put forward from both teams. Matthew Highmore scored a pair of goals in the space of 33 seconds of the first period in that game. Jean-François Bérubé earned the win in net for the IceHogs and stopped 27/31 shots on goal.
That was the IceHogs second game of the season. Their first was a 4-0 shutout on the road against the Cleveland Monsters. Bérubé shut down all 32 shots while the IceHogs had four goals from four different goal scorers in four different fashions: even strength, shorthanded, power-play, and empty net. This is already proving to be a nicely balanced team. And one that has seen a few changes over the off-season.
The biggest change for the IceHogs this season comes behind the bench. Ted Dent was fired after last season. Derek King returns as an assistant coach but the other roles have seen new additions. Jeremy Colliton was hired to be the new IceHogs head coach after three full seasons coaching Mora IK in the second tier of Swedish hockey – Allsvenskan. Joining the 32-year old head coach will be former member of the Milwaukee Admirals Sheldon Brookbank. The 37-year old finished his playing career after a brief spell in the AHL last season with Cleveland. This is his first season working behind the bench.
This new injection of life from the coaching side of operations in Rockford goes along with a few nice new additions that can really strengthen the team that finished dead last in the Central Division a season ago.
Goaltending was a sore spot for the IceHogs last season up until the addition of Jeff Glass. He is back this season but is now accompanied by Bérubé. Those two are both experienced professionals that can help calm things down for the group. Bérubé, in particular, backs a nice résumé that includes being an AHL All-Star, winning the AHL’s Calder Cup with the Manchester Monarchs back in 2014-15, and playing in the NHL all last season with the New York Islanders.
Away from goal comes an incredibly young team. The youngest of the two netminders is the 26-years old, Bérubé. There are then thirteen players at or below the age of 22 on the IceHogs roster. By comparison the Admirals this season have five players at or above the age of 30. It’s a rather odd difference to see that for once in regards to Milwaukee.
With that youth does come a lot of talent and skill for the IceHogs. Highmore is already making an impact in the first two games of his professional playing career. He scored twice last night and had a goal and an assist in his debut. There are then some real quality names that could make their way up to the Chicago Blackhawks this season: Carl Dahlström, Vinnie Hinostroza, Luke Johnson, Tomas Jurco, and Ville Pokka. They might not have a serious veteran presence on the ice this season, like a Jake Dowell or Brandon Mashinter, but those sorts of skilled forwards can make life difficult over the course of a game with the speed they can play with.
Something worth keeping an eye on today would be the ex-IceHogs bulldozer Pierre-Cédric Labrie returning to the BMO Harris Bank Center as a member of the Admirals. In Training Camp and this week Labrie said, “I’m looking forward to bang some of my buddies,” and that, “after three-years in Rockford I’ve been thinking about it all week.” It’s all a bit of fun. I’m sure there will be some pleasant banter before the game and after the game. But once that puck is dropped Labrie can dish some solid checks out that he wouldn’t have been able to in practices the past few seasons against the IceHogs. Should he also score it would also be that little bit more sweet.
Injury Updates: This week the Admirals had two of their leadership group down to injury. Trevor Smith missed the Admirals second game in Iowa due to an upper-body injury. The good news is that it wasn’t expected to be serious and he did skate on his own Friday morning. It’s a question mark if he will play or not. It is less of a question mark on Cody Bass who did not practice at all this week after getting into a solid fight with Ryan Malone. He still has some battle scars from that scrap. And it’s likely that Tyler Moy and Stephen Perfetto go in this evening.
What are your expectations from this evening’s match-up against the Rockford IceHogs? Is it likely, without Smith or Bass, that the Milwaukee Admirals will need to make this game a bit more rough and tumble to negate some of the IceHogs speed?
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