When the chips were down and the Milwaukee Admirals needed to luck out on three consecutive calls of all-in at the Central Division poker table – they were in trouble. The Admirals would get eliminated on Tuesday night but followed up with successive defeats to the Iowa Wild to end the 2017-18 season. The 4-2 loss yesterday meant that the Wild would leap the Admirals for fifth place in the division across the finish line. That only added one final low to a season of countless ups-and-downs.
The fate of the Milwaukee Admirals was out of their control last night. First, they needed to win against the Chicago Wolves. But, most importantly, they couldn’t see the Rockford IceHogs so much as earn a single point on the road against the Iowa Wild. It was tight rope walking and yet there were flashes last night in which it seemed it was all going to come good.
By the time the Admirals had to go empty net and extra attacker: the IceHogs were leading 4-3 in Iowa. By the time Harry Zolnierczyk scored with 29.6 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime in Milwaukee: the IceHogs had scored an empty netter to cement their place into the 2018 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs and eliminate the Admirals from contention. It was a gut punch and it would be followed later on by the Admirals losing in a place they just haven’t done so much this season – in a shootout.
The Milwaukee Admirals weekend got off to a rough start. In fact, if not for the Texas Stars scoring three goals in the third period to beat the Rockford IceHogs 4-3 on Saturday night – the Admirals would have been eliminated from playoff contention then and there. The Chicago Wolves beat the Admirals soundly. And, yesterday, the Admirals played a decent game but weren’t getting rewarded for it only to see the Iowa Wild take a 2-1 lead with 4:36 remaining in regulation.
This is when the Admirals could have caved in, broke mentally, and succumbed to what has been a season defined by ups and downs. What happened instead was Fred Allard scoring 1:23 later to force overtime and then Trevor Smith scoring 1:33 into the overtime period to secure a win and extend the Admirals playoff hopes to Tuesday night.
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.
Why? Why, time after time after time after time, is it always the Grand Rapids Griffins? The only evidence that I have at this point are the results over time -but- I firmly believe the Milwaukee Admirals mentally get shutdown within these games as they happen. There will be some good spurts. They might even win some regular season games. But when the chips are down and it is time to deliver with everything on the line – nothing.
The Admirals archenemy in Grand Rapids swept them out of the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs the last two straight seasons. They might have just solidly struck a nail in the Admirals 2017-18 coffin with last night’s 6-2 blowout. The Rockford IceHogs found the strength to rally back in the third period and beat the San Jose Barracuda. The Admirals could not do the same against the Griffins. The gap has widened and time isn’t on the Admirals side one bit for games like last night.
Last night could well have been a night perfectly placed to make the Milwaukee Admirals fall. They had a good amount of time between games and the Texas Stars are an opponent that has really worked them hard with pace and quality defending this season. It started sluggish but turned into a small slugfest for both power-play groups. The Admirals tightened up enough at even strength to secure a 5-3 win and keep their playoff lives very much alive.
The Milwaukee Admirals were in action for practice this morning. The team is set for two-games at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena this weekend. It starts tomorrow night against the Texas Stars and ends with the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday. The Admirals are continuing to battle for their playoff lives but time, and the Rockford IceHogs, are starting to run away from them.
Last night, the Iowa Wild made the trek up from Des Moines after having battled Friday and Saturday against the Grand Rapids Griffins. No one in our area enjoys using the term “tired” as an excuse but it is one I feel the Wild can easily be afforded without shame. The Milwaukee Admirals pounded them 7-2 and did so taking advantage of some serious mental lapses on the part of the Wild and otherwise just burning them with added energy and pace.
During the Milwaukee Admirals three-game losing streak it wasn’t that they were playing poorly. What was happening was their offense was stuck in neutral most of the time. The opponent last night was the Rockford IceHogs who had previously held the Admirals to twelve shots on goal inside of regulation in consecutive games. It was starting to feel like last night’s game was falling ever so slightly slat again. And then Anthony Richard scored twenty-five seconds before the end of the second period. It was the jolt the Admirals needed.
For much of last night’s game I was confused. Both the Milwaukee Admirals and Grand Rapids Griffins were stumbling around, sputtering, crashing into themselves, and having issues connecting passes. It looked an awful lot like a pre-season game more than it did two teams towards the end of a regular season with playoff implications hanging in the air. And then the Griffins scored. And scored again.
The Admirals were flat at a time when they couldn’t be. The Admirals lost 2-1. They are now 6 points back from the final playoff spot and even then would still need to inch above where the Griffins are based on regulation wins. There are 11 games remaining in the 2017-18 season for the Admirals. They’re running out of time for lag, lulls, and an inept offense.