Get your late night coffee ready, Milwaukee. The West Coast swing starts tonight for the Milwaukee Admirals. They play against the Stockton Heat tonight and then will see the San Diego Gulls and Ontario Reign on Friday and Saturday. All three of these teams have a better record than the Admirals. With the Rockford IceHogs continuing to motor forward while the rest of the Central Division’s Top Four remain a good margin ahead: the Admirals absolutely must keep the pace.
The Heat enter this game with a record of 29-20-2-3 (63 points, 0.583 points percentage). They are in fourth place in the Pacific Division standings and have gone 9-4-0-0 across their last 13 games – that includes a 5-4 loss in Milwaukee last month.
That game played between the Admirals and Heat was a wild one. The Heat held leads of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2. It wasn’t until past the midway point in the third period when the Admirals claimed their first lead of the game and stuck again 1:19 later with a shorthanded goal from Trevor Smith. That two goal cushion would be necessary. Andrew Mangiapane would score on that same power-play chance that the Admirals scored from and the game stayed at 5-4 until the finish. Both sides have changed a good bit since then.
Mangiapane, for example, is done for the season after the team announced he would be having shoulder surgery. That is a major blow for the Heat. The 21-year old forward was leading the Heat in scoring this season with 46 points (21 goals, 25 assists) in 39 games and had also played 10 games in the NHL with the Calgary Flames.
The Admirals, of course, have completely altered the look of their team since that last meeting. Even the goaltender for that game, Jake Paterson, was shuffled out following the acquisition of Troy Grosenick. Pierre-Cédric Labrie scored that initial go-head goal for the Admirals. He’s since been replaced by the likes of Tyler Gaudet and Brandon Bollig who have come to the Admirals from the Pacific Division. Gaudet, with the Tucson Roadrunners, played in 6 games against the Heat and had 2 assists. Bollig has played against the Heat in 7 games this season as a member of the San Jose Barracuda, didn’t record a point, had a plus/minus of -3, and 12 penalty minutes – stemming from 2 fights against Oleg Yevenko.
Without Mangiapane the Heat still can pack a punch in attack. Both Morgan Klimchuk and Spencer Foo have 18 goals this season. Their current leading scorer on the active roster is defenseman Rasmus Andersson who ranks sixth in the league for scoring by a defenseman with 37 points (8 goals, 29 assists) in 50 games.
In net, you’re guess is just about as good as mine considering everywhere I look says the Stockton Heat currently have four goaltenders in house: Ryan Faragher, Jon Gillies, Mason McDonald, and Tyler Parsons. When the Admirals and Heat first met it was Parsons getting the start and he stopped 23/28 shots on goal before exiting late in the game with an upper-body injury. Gillies stepped into his place for the rest of the game and went 2/2 in save attempts.
Gillies is the lone goaltender on the Heat that qualifies for league statistics having played in 31 games and logging 1749:24 of time in net. He has gone 14-12-2-2 this season and has a 2.61 goals against average, 0.915 save percentage, and 4 shutouts.
What are your expectations for tonight’s game? With how the rest of the Central Division keeps piling up points do you feel that playoff hockey for the Milwaukee Admirals is out of reach? Will this road trip go a long way into whether or not the Admirals have a chance to stay in the hunt?
Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along on Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.