This weekend has the feeling of one of the most important timestamps on the Milwaukee Admirals 2017-18 season. The team has been in a seesaw battle throughout the campaign but after the recent a four-game road trip ended with three consecutive regulation losses: everything has changed.
The Admirals will feature four brand new players on this three-in-three weekend that pits them against higher seated teams in the standings. The Rockford IceHogs visit to the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena tonight can set the tone for a pivotal weekend. Will this new look Admirals team hit the ground running or will there be more of the same scrambled play?
The IceHogs are seated directly ahead of the Admirals in the Central Division standings. They have a record of 28-23-3-3 (62 points, 0.544 points percentage) which has them in fifth place in the division. They finished off a month of February with a record of 4-6-1-0 but managed to win their last two games. The IceHogs last played on Wednesday and defeated the Texas Stars 2-1 at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
This season’s head-to-head has favored the Admirals who have gone 5-2-0-0 against the IceHogs. Oddly, those only defeats for the Admirals against the IceHogs have come at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. The IceHogs have scored 12 goals in 3 games in Milwaukee this season. This is also only the third meeting on the 2018 side of the calendar between the two. The Admirals have won both times out in 2018 where they smacked in 10 goals in 2 games in Rockford’s building. The last game between the Admirals and IceHogs came back on 2/9/18 when Justin Kirkland scored a hat trick in the third period alone to complete a 5-4 comeback victory.
There will be some very familiar faces in different places in this game. Brandon Bollig will be making his debut with the Milwaukee Admirals tonight after having played 146 games with the Rockford IceHogs where he also scored 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists) and had 442 penalty minutes. On the flip side, Cody Franson will be playing his first game in Milwaukee since 3/5/10 when he took home First Star honors with a goal and an assist as a member of the Admirals in a 3-2 shootout loss against the Lake Erie Monsters. Since joining the IceHogs the 30-year old defenseman has tallied 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) in 19 games – including power-play goal in the last meeting against the Admirals.
While the Admirals roster has been shaken up by means of the parent club to help them out. The IceHogs roster has been given a shake up mostly due to a lackluster season for the Chicago Blackhawks that has meant pieces being shuffled around often. There is no Matthew Highmore, Tomas Jurco, Erik Gustafsson, or Vinnie Hinostroza in Rockford as all are now up with Chicago. Ville Pokka was traded to the Ottawa Senators organization in exchange for Chris DiDomenico. The injury to Corey Crawford in Chicago has meant seeing Jeff Glass and Jean-François Bérubé rotating between the NHL and AHL as the season has gone on. In fact, one could say that Milwaukee and Rockford aren’t that far off in how much roster rollover has taken place. Now it just comes down to seeing which teams handle new pieces fitting in or leaving best.
Highmore is the top scorer for the IceHogs this season – but he was recalled on Monday. I would highlight forwards Anthony Louis, Tyler Sikura, and William Pelletier as players who will need to start making even bigger impacts with all the depth that has been lost in Rockford. The same can also be said of centers Tanner Kero and Luke Johnson. The pressure for the younger forward depth of the IceHogs is going to be needing to rely on their speed to get through the Admirals veteran forward group and attack the much younger defensive group in order to find success.
It is possible that Glass is the man getting the net tonight for the IceHogs. He had appeared in 14 games with the Blackhawks in the NHL this season and went 3-6-3 in 12 starts with a 3.31 goals against average and 0.898 save percentage. In 20 games with the IceHogs in the AHL he has had a record of 10-6-1-1 with a 2.85 goals against average and 0.907 save percentage.
On the other hand. Glass has yet to win a game in the AHL since his last NHL appearance for the Blackhawks. Actually, he has allowed 10 goals in 2 starts since returning to the IceHogs. The alternative is 23-year old Collin Delia who has won his last 3 starts and stopped 38/39 shots against the Stars on Wednesday. It’s possible they could look to repair Glass. I just assume the hot hand continues to be dealt. There isn’t as much mystery for the Admirals. Anders Lindbäck gets the start tonight. Troy Grosenick gets the start tomorrow night in Grand Rapids. And performance will dictate who gets the net for the last of this weekend’s three-in-three.
What are your expectations for tonight’s game and this weekend’s three-in-three? How are you feeling right now about the revamped or re-engineered Milwaukee Admirals? If this weekend continues to show sputtering form for the Admirals where will your stress level be at for the playoff picture potentially slipping away?
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