Numb. That’s the feeling for me after last night’s 3-2 overtime loss for the Milwaukee Admirals to the Chicago Wolves. I’m not even sure if the previous run of up-down since November has anything to do with that, either. Last night was actually a really good game for both sides. It just so happened that the Admirals came out on the wrong side of an overtime game for the third time in December. It was still good. It wasn’t bad. And there are still pieces in motion that keep seeing this team evolving as this season approaches 2018.
From the start of last night’s game, in a building packed with 6,657 fans, there was a great energy about the Admirals and Wolves. The pace was great right up until a bit of penalty trouble started to hit the Admirals. Even then, the Admirals managed to work out of fifty-three seconds of five-on-three penalty kill in the first period. In total the Admirals penalty kill was perfect on the night out of five chances for the Wolves on the power-play. That wasn’t something that seemed to stop them in their tracks. If anything they seemed to gain momentum out of their kills.
When it came to how the Admirals scored their goals last night – it was also impressive. The opening goal scored by Bobby Butler all started with heads up pressure and not allowing the Wolves to get out of their own zone. The Admirals forecheck proceeded to grind down the Wolves along the wall and snap play right back on net – where Butler would score.
That’s pretty much exactly how the game-tying goal would come, too. It wasn’t anything flashy – it was just direct. Pierre-Cédric Labrie put a shot to the front of the net and Cody Bass snapped a stick down on the puck to beat Maxime Lagacé. It’s that moment more than any last night that I think sums up that this team is trending the right way. 3:17 remaining in regulation and Brandon Pirri scores what felt like a backbreaking goal late. Before you even have a chance to say “oh well” the Admirals responded. You never like being put in positions such as that but it is in those moments where real character of a team can rise and show itself. It did last night. And it helped to see the Admirals earn a point.
What I don’t want to marginalize by any means though is that last night was still a loss. I suppose if there is a serious negative to start pointing at it is the way the Admirals are getting worked on home ice. They have a record of 5-5-2-0 (12 points, 0.500 points percentage) at home. They have scored 27 goals and conceded 37 goals against. They have been averaging 27.25 shots on goal per game while allowing their opponents to wrack up 32.33 shots on goal per game. The Admirals need to start making the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena a fortress and a place that teams find imposing to play in. When that home schedule starts to balance out it will need to be a focal point if the Admirals want to be better than sitting in that bubble spot in the Western Conference playoff picture.
After last night’s game I spoke with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I also had the chance to hear from Cody Bass and Justin Kirkland to get their take on last night’s game against the Wolves and what can be changed ahead of the follow-up game on Friday.
What were your thoughts on last night’s game? Are the Milwaukee Admirals starting to trend in the right direction or are they still floundering? Is the ability to gain points at home at all concerning?
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