The Milwaukee Admirals Tuesday-Wednesday setup was always going to a test following their 6-2 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday. I expected some push back on the Admirals part. What I did not expect was seven first period goals scored in those contests against the Chicago Wolves and Cleveland Monsters. The Admirals, when they get it right, are so much fun to watch play. Their pace out of the gates on defense and offense to beat the Monsters 6-3 was outstanding.
The only buzzkill came down in the state of Texas where the Rockford IceHogs won again to make things that much more difficult. There are five-games remaining for both the Admirals and IceHogs and the difference remains five points for the fourth spot in the Central Division. The Admirals might be playing their best hockey of the season -but- so might the IceHogs. It is beginning to feel like the Admirals will run out of time.
I had a feeling last night’s game could either be a trap game or a blowout. The Admirals had their emotional roller coaster shootout win against the Central Division leading Chicago Wolves the night before and could have underestimated a Monsters group that went into Des Moines and earned a shutout of the Iowa Wild.
That said, there are levels to this game and those results against those opponents are different. The travel back was also different. And I thought the Admirals early really had more jump in their step. It cost the Monsters badly in the first period and they couldn’t recover.
The opening goal scored last night was a thing of beauty. The Admirals for the last few seasons primary game is to attack with speed in transition. Alex Carrier was clearing a puck hard around his left-side defensive position all the way up towards the blueline for Frédérick Gaudreau. The Monsters over-committed on their attack and once Gaudreau had the puck along the right wing – it was only Brady Austin trailing on defense with Kale Kessy chasing from the initial Monsters attack. Gaudreau saw Harry had loads of room to run down a home run pass – shoved it forward – Zolnierczyk caught up to it – and BANG. That shot was absurd. Zolnierczyk was in full stride, saw he could be getting clamped down by Austin, and stepped into a slap shot from above the left wing circle. Matiss Kivlenieks had plenty of time to see that shot coming and still couldn’t stop it. What a rocket.
This same level of pace and skill came when Fred Allard scored. That was a Nashville Predators style of goal with Allard joining the rush to provide a quickfire option. What’s amusing is that this play develops from the right wing with Allard going down the middle, Bobby Butler on the puck to the right wing, and those two were outnumbered by three Monsters defenders. It was a great feed by Butler and a snap one-timer for Allard on a blink-blink play.
That is, more often than not, how the Admirals would like to play. How they have been playing with a varying degree of results is by going hard to the net. The line of Tyler Gaudet, Mark McNeill, and Yakov Trenin have been doing this with regularity. It hasn’t always meant generating offense but the pace they put on forecheck work tilts the ice in the Admirals favor.
Operating along those lines allowed for three of the Admirals following four goals. Trevor Smith worked to the net front – got a redirect. Brandon Bollig set a big time screen on the doorstep – Tyler Moy shoots on net and gets rewarded from a puck Kivlenieks never saw. Petter Granberg scoots up from the left point, shoots at net front traffic, and clanks one in off of McNeill. This all comes from committing bodies towards the crease, winning battles for positioning, and putting shots on target.
By no means though was that an easy game though. That second period from the Monsters really forced Troy Grosenick to battle his butt off and he did a terrific job. The Monsters generated thirteen shots and grabbed a goal late in the second stanza and probably should have inched closer to the Admirals lead. A lot of credit should be given to Grosenick, coming in after not having played in almost three weeks, and holding the fort the way that he did.
So, the Admirals get their win. Unfortunately the IceHogs responded back a few minutes later by earning a 4-2 win on the road against the San Antonio Rampage.
You can easily make a case that the IceHogs have a harder road to the end of the regular season than the Admirals do. The IceHogs have only a single home game remaining and will play four on the road including two-games coming up against the Texas Stars, one against the Iowa Wild, and end their season against the Chicago Wolves. That lone home game? It’s against Chicago.
The unfortunate reality here is that the IceHogs badly need to start losing games but they just aren’t. The Admirals are playing probably their best hockey of the season. The IceHogs are doing even better and have won five straight games and gone 10-1-1-1 in their last thirteen games. The Chicago Blackhawks season is kaput. Reinforcements are cycling back down to the IceHogs after time in the NHL. That isn’t happening for the Admirals.
“We’re not dead yet,” was what an Admirals player -who shall go unnamed- said to myself last night. Belief is still high and it should be considering how well the team has been playing. All that the Admirals can control is what’s in front of them next. They can’t worry about what the IceHogs are doing. The Admirals can’t make this happen if they don’t take care of their own business first. That will be the case once again this weekend. It starts with another clash in Chicago on Saturday.
After last night’s game myself and Nicholas Hatch spoke with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. We then heard from Grosenick, Zolnierczyk, and Moy. These were last night’s post-game interviews from the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
What were your thoughts on last night’s game? Do you appreciate the attacking edge the Admirals have played with since that hard defeat to the Grand Rapids Griffins? At this rate, do you think the Rockford IceHogs are going to falter enough for the Admirals to make it into the playoffs?
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