The Milwaukee Admirals are keeping in the hunt for the 2018 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs but doing so with shootout sorcery. The Admirals have the fewest amount of regulation wins (22) of any team in the AHL with a points percentage of 0.510 or better. Even the Laval Rocket with a 0.429 points percentage, and likely out of the playoff picture of the North Division, have as many regulation wins as the Admirals.
Still, the Admirals need points right now by any means necessary. Their 10-1 record in the shootout has been a big difference in them still being within a shout of the final spots in the Central Division standings. The throttle needs to stay down. Whether it is in a shootout or not the Admirals need to take care of their business if they want to keep playoff hopes alive.
The San Diego Gulls aren’t necessarily in a similar position as the Admirals but, looking at the Pacific Division, they’ll want to keep piling up the wins too. The Gulls have a record of 31-20-3-1 (66 points, 0.600 points percentage). That seats them in second in the division ahead of the Ontario Reign (0.589) and Stockton Heat (0.582). Those two have been surging lately while the Gulls have gone 4-3-2-1 in their last 10 games.
In the first meeting of the season in Milwaukee the Gulls worked the Admirals into the ground. The Admirals had been coming off of a shutout defeat days prior and ended up getting spanked 5-2 by the Gulls at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. The line of Trevor Smith, Bobby Butler, and Harry Zolnierczyk late in the contest prevented that one from being a consecutive shutout. The Admirals were outshot 29-14 through the first two periods but fired back for 20 shots on goal in the third period where they received goals from Smith and Butler.
On the topic of Butler: Olympic Hangover is becoming a bit of a thing. When Butler left to join Team USA he was the Admirals top scorer. He played 5 games in PyeongChang, didn’t score a point, and was the final shot of the shootout that was stopped by Pavel Francouz that saw Team USA eliminated by the Czech Republic. Since returning to the Admirals he has had 3 assists in 7 games but has failed to score a goal. Should he not score a goal tonight he will have doubled his previous longest goal drought on the season.
Mike Liambas was unavailable for that first meeting of the season back in Milwaukee. He had picked up an injury while with the Anaheim Ducks and missed pretty well two months of the season before returning to the AHL ice in early-February. Since getting back to full fitness Liambas has played 14 games with the Gulls, 1 point (1 goal, 0 assists), and 34 penalty minutes which stems -mostly- from a charging major and a game misconduct back on 2/14/18.
The Gulls leading scorer on the season is Kalle Kossila who is a point-per-game player with 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists) in 42 games. He took home first star honors against the Admirals earlier in the season having scored 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist) on the night. He has also played 10 games in the NHL this season with the Ducks where he has scored a goal and an assist.
In net, the Gulls current tandem features Reto Berra and Kevin Boyle. It has been a really good and almost identical split between the two: Boyle (28 appearances), Berra (25 appearances).. Boyle (16-9-1-1 record), Berra (14-8-2-0 record).. Boyle (2.70 GAA), Berra (2.67 GAA).. Boyle (0.920 SV%), Berra (0.921 SV%).. Boyle (1 SO), Berra (2 SO). It’s remarkable, really.
Looking back though it was Berra who picked up the win back in December at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena for the Gulls. He wasn’t tasked with much until that third period -but- did stop 32/34 on the night. And, if you’re really thinking ahead, his shootout save percentage is much better this season than Boyle’s. Which is now a thing to scout up on because of frequency’s sake.
What are your expectations for tonight’s game? Can the Milwaukee Admirals get the job done tonight inside regulation or will this be another nail-biter? Are there certain things the Admirals need to change in order to get better results in-game?
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