For the first time in three weeks the Milwaukee Admirals are rolling into a game on the back of a win. Sustaining momentum is the next great mystery for the Admirals to solve. They have a record of 8-10-3-0 this season after coming off of a win. That all came while Bobby Butler was in the lineup. This will be the Admirals first game without their top scorer as he competes in the Winter Olympics. Their opponent is a Rockford IceHogs team who are directly in front of the Admirals in the standings. The time to claw back is now in the first of a three-in-three weekend.
The IceHogs record entering this game is 25-18-3-3 (56 points, 0.571 points percentage). They are in fifth place in the Central Division standings and have gone 4-3-2-1 across their last 10 games. They last played on Wednesday night on home ice where they won 3-1 over the San Antonio Rampage.
The Admirals this season have done well against the IceHogs but even more so at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The Admirals have a record of 4-2-0-0 against the IceHogs this season but are a perfect 3-0-0-0 in Rockford and have yet to score less than 5 goals in a game there this season. This does include production by Butler that will not be available now. He had 6 points (4 goals, 2 assists) in 6 games against the IceHogs.
When looking around in head-to-head scoring there are a good few names on the IceHogs roster that have since been recalled to the Chicago Blackhawks. That includes their top three scorers against the Admirals this season: Erik Gustafsson, Vinnie Hinostroza, and David Kämpf. There is also no more Laurent Dauphin – as he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes. Tomas Jurco is also up on recall with the Blackhawks.
So, this is a weakened IceHogs team -but- one that still works as a team to successfully compete against a Rampage group that can be really tough. That is a credit to the collective that are there but also a few key contributors.
The IceHogs top two scorers this season are first-year pros. Matthew Highmore leads the charge with 31 points (20 goals, 11 assists) in 49 games. He is tied with Daniel Sprong of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for second in the league for most goals scored by a rookie (20) and both trail Warren Foegele of the Charlotte Checkers by a single goal for the top mark. Highmore’s efforts in Rockford are closely followed by Anthony Louis who has 29 points (9 goals, 20 assists) in 44 games. Louis is tied for seventh in the AHL amongst rookie assists (20).
When looking between the pipes for the IceHogs they are also lacking a bit of previous names from this season’s past match-ups with the Admirals. Jeff Glass is with the Blackhawks. Matt Tomkins is with the Indy Fuel in the ECHL. That means the lone goaltender on the IceHogs roster to have played the Admirals this season is Jean-François Bérubé – who has gone 0-2-0-0 with a 3.61 goals against average, 0.879 save percentage, and allowing 7 goals in the 2 starts against the Admirals.
If it isn’t going to be Bérubé in net that means the duties could shift to 23-year old Collin Delia. The California native has split this season between the Fuel (ECHL) and IceHogs (AHL) but has done quite well over his last 5 starts with Rockford: 3-1-1-0 record with a 3.08 goals against average and 0.874 save percentage. The numbers might look poor but that comes from the lone blip on the radar across those starts in which he allowed 5 goals on 12 shots against the Chicago Wolves back on 2/3/18. Delia was subsequently pulled after the second intermission -but- followed that game up with a near flawless effort on Wednesday against San Antonio stopping 33/34 shots.
What are your expectations for tonight and the three-in-three weekend? How will the Milwaukee Admirals play and produce without Bobby Butler in the mix for the coming weeks ahead? Who fills that void? Where do you expect the Admirals to be when Butler returns?
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