The Milwaukee Admirals appear to be locked into some voodoo-like state against the Rockford IceHogs of late. It’s almost hard to fathom what your eyes are seeing as it all unfolds. Two games in just over a week’s time. Both at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Hardly any shots on goal from the Admirals – and they still win.
Last weekend, the Admirals won 4-1 with only 12 shots on goal. They recorded a new season low for shots in a single period (2) in that first period and didn’t record their tenth shot until 5:07 remaining in regulation where they would score from it as well as on the next two shots.
Last night, the Admirals earned a 2-1 shootout victory and actually recorded more shots on goal in overtime (4) than they did in the first (3) and second period (2). They hit the ice in the third period with 5 shots on goal. William Pelletier probably could have scored a double hat trick if there was anyone not named Anders Lindbäck in net. And the Admirals claim their ninth shootout win on the 2017-18 season which bests the previous AHL record for the team set back by the 2009-10 group.
It’s games like this which feel like an insanity test. Your brain is telling you that there should be far more wrong going on than there actually is. The Admirals were in far more trouble actually last night that in that last game played with the IceHogs. They had a week’s worth of rest and preparation for that game last night and it showed. They were relentless in puck pursuit, attack, but mostly in taking away passing and shooting lanes for the Admirals to ever find an offensive rhythm. Yet, the Admirals were still managing the game well enough to be in striking distance. They did last night what they weren’t able to do on Friday night against the Chicago Wolves: score first. That certainly helped but the IceHogs were relentless.
What stands out by miles last night was everything that #39 in net did for the Admirals. You could cut that game up and make highlight reel that spanned a solid chunk of time of high level saves from Lindbäck that kept the game either scoreless or tied at 1-1. It’s games such as that where you need your goaltender to be that security blanket until the errors offensively get sorted out. It worked well enough in the previous meeting against the IceHogs – not quite as much last night. The Admirals lacked energy to match the frenzied pace of the IceHogs. That put a spotlight even more on Lindbäck. I think Jack Dougherty said it best after the game, “He stole one for us.”
Since that NHL Trade Deadline passed and the Milwaukee Admirals added four new players, while swapping out three via trades, they have gone 5-1-0-0 with 3 shootout wins. It’s really only that road win over the Grand Rapids Griffins in that second night out as a new look team when everything felt pieced to perfection.
There are still lull moments but those moments haven’t bitten the Admirals to the point of no return as they did earlier in the season. The transition game of the Admirals still feels like it needs some work. The defense has done a pretty good job lately. Turning those good defensive efforts up out of the zone quickly, on the puck, and into attack – that’s been a problem. It’s something that was screaming in all of our faces during that IceHogs game last weekend and happened all over again last night.
This roster turnover for the Admirals was always going to have an adjustment process. I feel like that’s the area left to get smoothed out that can balance everything. Still, for working out a few kinks, five wins in six games is a good start. The Admirals don’t have any time to take games off. This is an on-the-fly process and most are handling it pretty good.
What comes now is a lengthy spell on the road out on the West Coast. These will be coffee at night games for all of us -but- a very opportunistic time for this new look Admirals team to get out on the road, bond, and become that much better of a team. What’s on tap are three teams all very much in the hunt for their playoff spots in the Pacific Division standings: Stockton Heat, San Diego Gulls, and Ontario Reign. The Admirals have a lot to dissect from some of their own play in recent games. They’ll need to be sharp for all 180 minutes they’re scheduled to play in California.
After last night’s game myself and Nicholas Hatch spoke with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason as well as Anders Lindbäck, Trevor Smith, Mark McNeill, and Jack Dougherty. These were last night’s post-game interviews from the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
What were your thoughts on last night’s game? Are you fine with the Milwaukee Admirals winning all of these recent games in shootouts as long as they’re getting the win or are you concerned there isn’t enough “kick” in attack for them to regularly win regulation games in order to get into the playoff picture? Do you appreciate how stacked the Central Division is this season when a team as good as the Rockford IceHogs is second from the bottom?
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