Happy Hockey Morning, Milwaukee. Today is the second and final School Day Game of the 2017-18 season. I’m not sure you could have picked out a better game for the atmosphere these AM games provide. The last time the Milwaukee Admirals and Manitoba Moose played against one another – this happened.
Needless to say: this game has that little extra attached to it. The Moose have been leading from the front of the Central Division for pretty much this entire season. The Admirals have gone through a mid-season overhaul and quickly saw success in the first run of games as a newly re-engineered team. Beating the Rockford IceHogs, Grand Rapids Griffins on the road, and then the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins was big. This might be the biggest test for the Admirals. Will the new pieces match them up to the Moose?
The Moose have a record of 35-16-4-3 (77 points, 0.664 points percentage) and lead the Central Division while also having the best record in the Western Conference. These two met at Bell MTS Place only two weeks ago for a pair of games. The Admirals won the first game 3-2 and then the frenzied last game saw the Moose win 6-3.
This season the Moose have gone 4-1-0-2 against the Admirals. In those victories they have produced 20 goals against the Admirals as well as earning a shutout. While the Admirals have changed greatly since they last met it is the Moose who are also changing things up. They have their “A” team setup of goaltenders back with both Eric Comrie and Michael Hutchinson who have been solid in the AHL this season.
Where this entire game needs to be diverted to in a lot of ways is to one man: Brendan Lemieux. In that last game he injured Jimmy Oligny on a late hit and then incited a post-game brawl by taking a shot on Anders Lindbäck after the final horn sounded in what was already a decisive win for the Moose. He has been nothing short of a punk this entire season -BUT- the Admirals cannot lose sight of the skill he has. This season he has scored 7 points (6 goals, 1 assist) in 6 games. For all the talking and antics the Admirals need to stay composed and shut him up with play on the ice not offering up penalties after whistles. It’s a method of action that has been used with great impact by the Griffins over time against the Admirals. This is a situation the Admirals need to learn to play past and be better than one lightning rod on the ice.
There are so many high level offensive weapons for the Moose. The one that always seems to impress me more and more as the season has gone on is Green Bay native Mason Appleton. This is his first professional playing season after his time with Michigan State. He isn’t just the top rookie scorer in the AHL at the moment. He is still within a shout of the overall scoring title by season’s end as he sits in third place with 51 points (18 goals, 33 assists) in 58 games. He has 6 points (3 goals, 3 assists) in 7 games against the Admirals this season. He’s a solid all-around player.
What are your expectations for this morning’s game? How will the Milwaukee Admirals respond to the Manitoba Moose in their first game since that post-game scrap? How crucial is it for the Admirals to defeat the Moose after the weekend they just had to prove that this new look group can hang with anybody?
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