The Milwaukee Admirals were not necessarily poor when they lost 2-1 against the Chicago Wolves last weekend. They just flat out weren’t themselves in a 6-3 defeat on home ice against the Grand Rapids Griffins. And that needed to be squashed – fast. The Rockford IceHogs are a very comparable team this season to the Admirals. They are incredibly fast and can push a relentless pace for sixty-minutes. The Admirals desire to rebound wasn’t going to come easy. It wasn’t. But they got the result, a 3-1 victory, and more importantly a dash of their swagger back.
That game could have certainly gone differently, as well. The IceHogs have been attacking their way to the top of the Central Division. The Admirals had lost two straight and were coming off of their worst performance of the season. They get the boost of having Cody Bass returning to the lineup after having missed the last six-games, yes, but they lose their captain Trevor Smith due to an undisclosed injury. The lines were given a shake-up. Jack Dougherty remained out. Fred Allard stepped aside and Joonas Lyytinen entered into the fray for his first game in the AHL. It could have just as easily been a bit more of the same as we all saw on Wednesday night. But the Admirals were ready, they were fast, and most of all they were sharp defensively and in transition.
You can really find no better example of what Admirals hockey is meant to be than what went down as the game-winning goal scored by Vladislav Kamenev. It’s a transition play: defense to offense. The Admirals have plenty of speed and skill that can perhaps be best seen when in attack but it’s translatable to their defending, as well. Vinnie Hinostroza was closed down as the IceHogs were in a full-on attack. They set their pieces too deep and allowed the Admirals to create a turnover, launch a counter attack at top gear, and bury the opportunity with skill. Bass gets the turnover, Kamenev breaks behind the IceHogs, Bass hits the home run pass, and Kamenev worked a bit of magic on the breakaway move and backhanded shot against Jean-François Bérubé. Defense first. Offense second. And the attributes of speed and skill are necessarily to make both work effectively for the Admirals as individuals and as a team.
And then there is this character by the name of Anders Lindbäck. At the start of the season I had my expectations set kind of low. This was a goaltender that went unwanted in North America last season after a professional try-out (PTO) contract came and went with the Ontario Reign (AHL). Now that we’ve had the opportunity to really see him work for a good stretch of games – I’m sold. Yes, he has made some gaffes this week already. On Wednesday, Lindbäck passed a puck from behind his net straight to the tape of Matt Puempel, who is not a member of the Admirals, and allowed effectively an empty net goal moments after the Admirals had taken a 1-0 lead. Yesterday, Lindbäck really was terrific in net -especially that opening period- but caught a shot by Erik Gustafsson, dropped it, and allowed for an instant putback by Tyler Sikura that -once again- made it a 1-1 game – like on Wednesday. He’s not been without some fault to these goals against. The game against Grand Rapids was a bit harsh, as the team in front of him was poor, but he’s had some shaky moments. What’s important to note for that is his accountability of his mistakes and swift progressions. He might be 29-years of age but that doesn’t mean he can’t evolve or improve to get back to where he would ultimately like to be. He made a single mistake last night. Other that that? Lindbäck worked a thirty-save shutout for the Admirals against the IceHogs. He’s doing so well right now.
After last night’s game myself and Nicholas Hatch spoke with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason as well as the returning Bass and debutant Lyytinen. Here were the post-game interviews from the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
Thoughts on last night’s game? What were some of the biggest changes in how the Milwaukee Admirals played from Wednesday to Friday and can it translate into a win on Sunday? How did you feel Joonas Lyytinen did in his AHL debut? Where is your confidence level at with Anders Lindbäck?
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