Chatterbox, Vol. 223

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Milwaukee Admirals lost by a rough final score of 6-2 against the Rockford IceHogs last night at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. It was an odd combination of the Admirals showing flashes of their ability while also being exploited mightily for the first time on the season. The IceHogs played with tons of energy and pace. The Admirals, at times, didn’t seem to know how to combat it. It could have been better. It could have been worse. But, regardless, it is a game that can act as a very nice building block for a week ahead that leads up to playing in Rockford on Friday night.

The key moment of last night’s game for me came at the start of the third period. The Admirals have a nice start. They earn a power-play and then operate quick and score through a rebounder by Tyler Kelleher six-seconds into the man-advantage to make it a 3-2 IceHogs lead. The energy in the crowd is up. The team is fired up. And, 1:58 later, the IceHogs have restored that two-goal cushion all over again as David Kämpf won a footrace against Emil Pettersson to rush to the net and get -what would be- a backbreaking goal. It took the air out of the sails. And I’m not sure the Admirals necessarily had the same sense of urgency after that.

It’s not to say that the Admirals were flat out bad last night. They weren’t. They had moments and flashes of brilliance that has worked during the course of the four-game winning streak that opened up this 2017-18 season. It just wasn’t a consistent performance. It’s with that where you can tip your cap to the opponent and move on because they had plenty to say in the result. I’m still impressed by that Jeff Glass save robbing Kelleher. It was incredible. But it’s a moment of a few moments of “what if” where the Admirals could have connected. The IceHogs high work rate just seemed stifle the Admirals throughout the game. And that same energy and tenacity is how Luke Johnson and Vinnie Hinostroza could work a shorthanded goal as they did. They went after the Admirals last night and made it work.

To a question that came to mind as I was driving home after that one last night: would that game have been different if the Admirals stuck with Anders Lindbäck over Matt O’Connor? Frankly, I don’t think it would have made a difference who was in net last night when the IceHogs were zipping around as they did. O’Connor perhaps would like some goals back but even that Hinostroza shorthander was a laser of a shot. The Johnson from the side of the net in the second period? Yeah, I’m guessing that was avoidable and one he’d be thinking about a little bit. But lots of other goals against O’Connor were breakdowns defensively or just unfortunate. He needed to get a game in. It’d have been hard to kick back for three or more weeks without getting into a game. Him being in net as the team suffers that first loss just feels like a touch of Jonas Gunnarsson syndrome – aka rotten luck.

The Admirals run as the last unbeaten team in the AHL came to an end. Now they are one of only five others in the league with a single loss to their name: Toronto Marlies, Rockford IceHogs, Providence Bruins, and the San Antonio Rampage. It only feels fitting that the Admirals and IceHogs, in that mix, will have been the teams to have taken that solitary loss from each other. And, with them playing again in Rockford this coming Friday, it should only mean further refinement in how both play. The IceHogs just provided the Admirals with a lot of helpful tips on things they can better work on moving forward. The Admirals get to work on it for a week before putting it to good use and seeing how it works, once again, against the IceHogs. Should things work for the positive? I don’t think I’d enjoy being in the Chicago Wolves position the very next night.

Last night’s post-game interviews were with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason as well as Trevor Smith and Andrew O’Brien. Here were the soundbites from the Admirals locker room after the first loss of the season.

It’s only been five games into the 2017-18 season but how do you feel the Milwaukee Admirals are performing out the gate? Was last night’s loss a warning of how things could fall flat on their face or did the Admirals just have an off night against a game opponent?

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