2 June, 2004. That date marks the last time that the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins visited Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was Game 2 of the 2004 AHL Calder Cup Finals and the Milwaukee Admirals won that night at the Bradley Center by a final score of 8-4. There would be no other games played in that series back in Milwaukee. The Admirals swept the Penguins with a 2-1 overtime in in Game 3 and decisive 7-2 victory in Game 4 in the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza to earn their first Calder Cup.
We are nearing 14 years since that achievement by the Admirals. Since, the Penguins have made it to the Calder Cup Finals on one occasion in 2008 but would lose once again to Darren Haydar but this time as a member of the Chicago Wolves. The Admirals made it to the 2006 Calder Cup Finals with Pekka Rinne in net but would fall short in six-games against the Hershey Bears. It has been a battle for both to be more ever since but both saw their parent clubs go head-to-head in the most recent Stanley Cup Finals.
The Penguins are arriving to Milwaukee with a record of 33-17-4-1 (71 points, 0.645 points percentage). They trail only the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (0.686) in the AHL’s Atlantic Division and rank third in the Eastern Conference standings. They are in the third stop of a four-game road trip. The Penguins beat the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday 4-2 and then were shutout by the Rockford IceHogs 3-0 last night.
This is the second meeting of the season between the Penguins and Admirals. These two kicked off the month of December at the -now named- Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. The Admirals were able to earn a point past despite a hat trick effort by Garrett Wilson. Ultimately, Jean-Sébastien Dea would get the better of Juuse Saros in the overtime period to give the Penguins a 5-4 overtime win.
The current point of conversation for the Penguins is their goaltending. They don’t have Tristan Jarry or Casey DeSmith. Both are with the parent club in Pittsburgh. Michael Leighton is on the roster but hasn’t appeared in a game since 12/22/17. That makes the tandem right now Anthony Peters and Étienne Marcoux.
Peters started his season with our ol’ friends the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL before getting a professional try-out (PTO) contract on 12/28/17. He has since signed a standard AHL contract with the Penguins for the rest of this season and also for the 2018-19 season. Since joining he has appeared in 16 games and displayed a record of 8-5-2-0 with a 2.79 goals against average, 0.901 save percentage, and 1 shutout.
Marcoux is a familiar name for two reasons. He was with a fair amount of current Admirals players in last summer’s Nashville Predators Rookie Development Camp but also has played as a member of the IceHogs this season. He is signed to an ECHL contract with the Indy Fuel and is with the Penguins on a PTO basis. This is his fourth different AHL team this season but the Penguins were the ones nice enough to give him his first career AHL start. He stopped 19/21 last night in Rockford – a losing effort as the offense in front of him didn’t get a goal on the evening.
Then comes the real threat: everyone that isn’t a goaltender. The Penguins pack a serious punch. They rank seventh in the league with 180 goals scored on the season. You can thank the likes of Daniel Sprong who is one of the top scorers in the league this season and checks in as the third highest scoring rookie league wide. The soon to be 21-year old has produced 44 points (21 goals, 23 assists) in 45 games this season. He has also managed to play 8 games in the NHL this season with Pittsburgh where he has scored 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist).
What are your expectations for tonight’s game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins? Are the Milwaukee Admirals about to sweep a three-in-three weekend for the second time this season? What do the Admirals need to do in order to slow down a team like the Penguins who should be fired up after suffering a shutout loss last night in Rockford?
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