Did the Milwaukee Admirals go out and thrash the team with the lowest record in the AHL last night? No. Was it the best performance of the season? No, not really. What the Admirals did in their 1-0 shutout victory of the Cleveland Monsters wasn’t anything special. It was just good hard work from everybody involved. It often feels like the more simplified the Admirals can play the better the results are. Last night showed some rewards for good structured defensive play. And, hey, the Admirals are now on a winning streak beyond two games for the first time since the opening four games of the season. Things are beginning to slowly click.
Juuse Saros was the star man from the off last night. The thing is – he was tasked with many difficult saves which is a credit to the defense in front of him. Yes, he came up huge on Terry Broadhurst in the third period on a break down the right wing. That was terrific. What mainly stands out for me than any save from Saros though was the Admirals shot blocking tonight and relentless effort on defense. The Monsters might have worked the zone at times and pinned the Admirals in their own half along the way – but they never appeared to have the Admirals scrambling or panicking with that pressure. It really was a team effort in earning that shutout last night. Saros was confident and smooth from the start of the game. The Admirals defense was right there helping him, too. Considering Saros first two games played against the Monsters were some of the more sloppy efforts of the season? You can actually feel a real sense of growth and development from the team from November to now. Saros saw 30 shots back on 11/16/17 in Cleveland and allowed 5 goals. The quality of those shots and scoring chances were very high. Last night he faced 27 shots on goal and didn’t allow a goal against. The Broadhurst brothers had a two-on-one chance in the first period that resulted in a shot off the post as well as the third period break -but- those were the best and cleanest chances the Monsters had all night.
Let’s also give some real credit to Joonas Korpisalo of the Monsters, as well. He was outstanding. It took a rifle by Trevor Murphy from just inside the right wing circle to beat him – and it barely did that as Korpisalo still got a piece of the shot. Korpisalo isn’t too far off Saros’ current position in the sense he is an NHL back-up playing behind a guy who is so darn good it is often difficult to find time in net. He showed really well for the Monsters. In fact, he kind of always has against the Admirals: 2-3-1-0 record in 4 starts over 3 seasons with a 1.85 goals against average and 0.932 save percentage.
For the eleventh time this season: there was a fight. I was tempted to circle this one in Scouting the Enemy but just assumed it could play out. Cameron Gaunce was in the lineup for his first game against the Admirals since he was given a boarding major and game misconduct that injured Yakov Trenin back on 11/18/17. Trenin has since missed 21 games due to injury that required surgery following the hit. Gaunce was suspended for three-games by the AHL for the incident. It seemed that he would have to answer the bell at the first chance of asking. And, full credit to Gaunce, he did inside of seven-minutes paired up with Cody Bass. The two slugged it out really good in what was Bass’ third fight of the 2017-18 season. The scrap ended with out getting quality punches landed and, I feel, a showing of respect by Bass back to Gaunce as he gave him a pat on the head as the officials stepped in. That chapter is closed. And, for Admirals fans, Trenin has been back skating for the past four weeks with the team and is slowly getting closer to a return. The hope would be for some time around the AHL All-Star break. Which would be a welcome addition as Bobby Butler nears an exit for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Focus now moves to a two-game trip to San Antonio for games on Friday and Sunday. After the Admirals battle it out with the San Antonio Rampage they travel right to a Wednesday Night Rivalry game of their own against the Grand Rapids Griffins to finish out a three-game road trip. It’s about to get busy but the Admirals are heading in the right direction before this trip.
After last night’s game myself and Nicholas Hatch had the chance to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason as well as Juuse Saros, Trevor Murphy, and Derek Army. These were last night’s post-game interviews following the team’s shutout victory at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
What were your thoughts on last night’s game? Are the Milwaukee Admirals starting to finally turn a corner? How important is it for the Admirals to start earning leads, playing with a lead, and finding ways to close out games? Can this road trip potentially stall this wave of momentum for the Admirals?
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