IceHogs: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

The Hershey Bears were at the start of their three-in-three weekend when the Milwaukee Admirals won 4-1 last night at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Tonight, the Rockford IceHogs arrive to Milwaukee and they are smack dab in the middle of a three-in-three weekend as well. While the Bears and IceHogs finish the weekend against each other tomorrow evening – the Admirals finish their’s tonight. It’s a good chance to empty the gas tank as the Admirals once again are due for another lengthy break between games. Their next game? Friday, in Rockford, against these IceHogs once again.

If you’re wondering what has last changed since we last Scouted the IceHogs – not much. Last night they won a 3-2 shootout at home against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Their record on the season now stands at 3-1-0-0 (6 points, 0.750 points percentage). The lone loss for the IceHogs on the season took place last Sunday when the Admirals came into the BMO Harris Bank Center and won 5-3. Though, the Griffins certainly pushed them last night – much to the benefit of the Admirals.

(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

The IceHogs and Griffins game last night was taxing. The Admirals limited the Bears to sixteen shots on goal over the course of the entire game. The IceHogs had that many shots on goal in the opening period – alone. Not to mention, the Griffins had thirteen shots on goal in that same period. It was a hot mess as the two traded first period goals – Anthony Louis getting his second goal of the season for the IceHogs. More could be said in the second period as the IceHogs pelted thirteen more shots against Griffins goaltender Jared Coreau with Luke Johnson netting his first goal of the season. It’s once the game headed to the third period when the tables turned, the IceHogs were outshot by the Griffins 12-5, and the IceHogs allowed a late power-play goal to Eric Tangradi while the Griffins had their net emptied with 1:28 remaining in regulation. Backbreaker. It could have been over then. It wouldn’t end in overtime. And former-Griffin turned IceHog, Tomas Jurco, had the only goal in the shootout.

That game actually didn’t last that much longer than the Admirals home opener against the Bears last night to be honest. Even with the overtime and shootout that game only lasted eleven minutes longer. But.. it’s how those minutes were actually played that makes a difference.

Admirals fans know too well how a Griffins team can really chew up and wear a team down over sixty-minutes. The IceHogs, trying to play defensively and to close out the game, didn’t get the job done as planned. They wilted. And that’s something the Admirals passed with flying colors last night: adding to their lead, maintaining a two-goal cushion, and putting on a defensive clinic. The Bears had two shots on goal in the third period… two. There was no final push from the Bears. They had a power-play with an empty net and extra attacker situation of their own late in regulation. And the Admirals didn’t even allow a shot on goal from it.

The battle today then, despite both taking wins last night, is more of a who rebounds best from last night? The Admirals certainly have room for improvement. They could still afford to be smarter with the puck, limit turnovers, and be a bit more careful in neutral zone transitions when trying to establish the offensive zone. And, flipside, the IceHogs create chances for themselves but they aren’t often finishing them – and after last night could probably learn from a defensive effort the likes of which the Admirals produced in order to maintain a lead.

Tactically? This game could be a quite fun chess match. Rivalry? Absolutely. The Admirals faced the IceHogs in Rockford and are the only team to have defeated them. They play them tonight and will see them immediately on the schedule next Friday in Rockford. It’s three games crunched together between two of the top contending teams this season in the AHL’s Central Division. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if tonight or the follow up on Friday has a playoff feel to it because the match-ups and familiarity will be second nature. It’s a heck of an “iron sharpens iron” way to begin the season for both sides.

What are your expectations for tonight’s game? Can the Milwaukee Admirals continue their run tonight and take down the Rockford IceHogs?

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