Tag: Abbotsford Heat

Beyond the Bradley Center: Turning Points and Paul Fenton talk

2012-2013 Milwaukee Admirals: 49 G.P., 23-20-3-3–52 pts., 128 goals scored, 142 goals allowed, 11th place in the Western Conference (3rd Midwest Division). Leading scorer: Taylor Beck (10 goals, 27 assists, 30 points). Best Recent Win: Feb. 17, 3-1 vs. Abbotsford. Worst Recent Loss: Feb. 16, Charlotte 8 at Milwaukee 2.

A handful of times during an AHL season, most teams get to enjoy 3-game-in-3-nights stretches where all three games are at home. For coaching staffs and players, these dates get circled on the calender as possible big weekends, or at least a chance to pick up some much needed points. This past weekend Milwaukee got through just fine, picking up a sliver of ground with four out of six points.

However, this weekend meant a whole lot more. On Friday Milwaukee staged a miracle comeback to steal a game away from San Antonio. Then on Saturday night in front of a large, and unlikely to leave early crowd, the Admirals posted a stinker losing 8-2 to Charlotte in a game that actually could have been much worse. Yet, Milwaukee turned things around one day later by beating Abbotsford 3-1, taking two big points from a team that also got pounded the previous night.

In hind sight games like these ones have the chance to stand out as “turning points.” The question is will we look back at this weekend and think this was where Milwaukee turned around the ship, or will we look back and think this is where it sunk?

In other news, ESPN.com and TSN reporter Pierre LeBrun put a nice plug in for Predators Assistant/Milwaukee Admirals General Manager Paul Fenton in a post about possible future NHL GMs on Friday:

4. Paul Fenton, Nashville Predators: A day-oner with the Preds’ franchise, Fenton was director of player personnel for the first eight years before being elevated to assistant GM in June 2006. Nashville GM David Poile has told me several times over the past few years that he believes Fenton has what it takes to be a good GM, and I wholeheartedly concur. Let’s face it: Fenton has been front and center in the organization’s drafting and developing of players, and if there’s a team that relies heavily on developing its own talent, it’s the Predators, who haven’t had the luxury to spend like the big boys. They do things the right way and they don’t rush talent. Fenton, 53, clearly has an eye for identifying and developing talent, and he’d make a fine GM.

I completely agree with this assessment and am actually surprised that his name hasn’t been mentioned more often for openings (of course unlike coaches, these openings don’t come around quite as often). While I am busy making plugs for team personnel, I think current Nashville assistant coach Lane Lambert is fully deserving of an NHL head coaching job, and I expect him to find one in the not-so-far future.

So Roundtable . . . A couple months down the road, will we look back at this weekend as a turning point? What are your feelings about Paul Fenton? Does he deserve a head G.M. gig in the NHL?

Beyond the Bradley Center: The January Swoon Redux

2012-2013 Milwaukee Admirals: 40 G.P., 17-17-3-3–40 pts., 100 goals scored, 114 goals allowed, 13th place in the Western Conference (Last Midwest Division). Leading scorer: Taylor Beck (6 goals, 21 assists, 27 points). Best Recent Win: None. Worst Recent Loss: Jan. 20, 2-0 at Abbotsford. Key Upcoming Matchup: Jan. 25 vs. Oklahoma City.

Can you remember the last time Milwaukee won? I know I can! It was on January 6, when the Admirals posted a 3-2 win in a shootout over Grand Rapids. It came as part of a weekend where Milwaukee picked up five out of a possible six points, and also just happened to come on the day the NHL lockout ended.

One thing I remember about that weekend was how good Austin Watson was. He scored the game-winner against Chicago in the final two minutes on Thursday night and then the Admirals’ only shootout goal against Oklahoma City two nights later.

For Watson its been an up-and-down first professional season. He was dominant for Milwaukee in November, scoring 11 points. But the the rookie went dormant on the score sheet for a seven-game stretch in December. Watson, whose never been known as a huge goal scorer, has struggled offensively to tally goals in January (who hasn’t for Milwaukee), going four games without one during the Admirals recent swoon.

Watson got a big goal in Milwaukee’s loss to Houston and now leads the Admirals with 14 on the season. Though there is a lot of outside pressure on Watson, which I chronicled in my feature today on MilwaukeeAdmirals.com, Milwaukee will need him to contribute even more for Milwaukee to end their second straight January tailspin.

A good place to start a turnaround would be Friday night at the Bradley Center against Oklahoma City. Clearly, Milwaukee hasn’t responded well to the end of the lockout. But the rest of the AHL isn’t going to feel sorry for the Admirals, especially the Barons. Five of OKC’s top six scorers, a staggering 80 goals and 200 points, have moved on to the next level.

Perhaps a game against the Barons is exactly the wake-up call Milwaukee needs.

So Roundtable . . . What do you think of Austin Watson first season? Do you think a game against Oklahoma City will help end the January slide?

Milwaukee Journeys to Abbotsford to Face a Familiar Foe

There is one team in the AHL not like the others—the Abbotsford Heat.

Located just over an hour’s drive east of Vancouver, British Colombia, Abbotsford is most geographically isolated city in the AHL.  The nearest league city to the Heat is Winnipeg, Manitoba, which is located three Canadian provinces further east, or over a day’s drive by bus.  (Check out the Map of all the AHL team locations here)

Therefore when teams travel to Abbotsford, it is often for a two-game stint in order to reduce travel expenses.  This weekend Milwaukee has unenviable task of making the western trek.

But what makes this year’s trip even more peculiar is that it represents the final meetings between Milwaukee and Abbotsford this season.

“There’s parts of our schedule I don’t like, and parts I like, and it’s going to be that way every year,” Admirals coach Lane Lambert said.  “It’s bizarre that we play the same team four times in the first month of the season and then we don’t see them again.”

So far the Admirals have burned the Heat, winning both of their home games by a combined 9-3 count. Milwaukee has counted for half of Abbotsford’s losses so far this season.

“Obviously we’ll be very familiar with each other by the time the final buzzer goes next Saturday,” Lambert said.

Speaking of familiar, one player on the Heat Admirals fans should recognize is former Wisconsin Badgers defenseman Joe Piskula.

After playing five games in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings in 2006-2007, Piskula’s career stagnated with the Manchester Monarchs.  The Antigo, Wisconsin native is hoping a change of scenery to the Canadian Northwest may reinvigorate his once promising career.

So what do think Roundtable?  Should the AHL balance the schedule out more?  Or does the league’s special case of Abbotsford make the scheduling quirk ok?

Five Observations From Opening Night

1)  Milwaukee may not score a prettier goal all season than Linus Klasen’s first career AHL tally on the power-play.

The Admirals worked their 5-on-3 power-play to perfection on opening night, moving the puck around the perimeter, and spreading out the Abbotsford defense.  Milwaukee finished it off in style scoring a goal off of a gorgeous tick-tack-toe play as a pair of one touch cross-ice passes set up an empty net for Linus Klasen.  Klasen finish the play off with an exuberant celebration–a sweeping fist pump to stamp the exclamation point.

“It always nice to score a couple of goals,” Klasen said.  “Especially, getting those kinds of goals because I had open nets to shoot at, but it is nice to produce right away.”

2)  Milwaukee might not score an easier goal all season than Matt Halischuk’s first career Admirals tally.

The credit for this goal goes to Abbotsford goaltender Leland Irving, who decided to be forgiving to an Admirals player trying to make an impact with his new team.  After dropping his stick, Irving inadvertently coughed up the puck to Admirals forward Matt Halischuk, who tossed the puck into the empty net.  You have to wonder if Halischuk said something to Irving to force the turnover, because Irving never looked up to see who he was passing to.

3)  Linus Klausen is for real as a dangerous offensive player.

Though Klausen is unlikely to see the time and space all season like what he saw on opening night, the talented Swede will be a player to watch for during his time in Milwaukee.  Klausen is a gifted stick handler and play-maker, a wizard in the offensive zone.  The only thing holding him back being his diminutive size, but playing on a line with more physical forwards Nick Spaling and Andreas Thuresson, Klausen seems like a natural fit.

“I have to keep playing my style of game and not try to change too much,” Klasen said of the things he needs to do to be an effective player in the AHL.  “Maybe I will need to the shoot the puck more and work harder in the defensive zone, but I need to (focus on) what I do best out there.”

4)  The play of Blake Geoffrion and Ryan Flynn will steadily improve.

On opening night the two former WCHA rivals, Blake Geoffrion and Ryan Flynn, looked like rookies in the AHL, as both players still need time to bring their college games up to AHL speed.  But I thought Geoffrion, in particular, finished the game off with a strong third period, getting involved more in the fore-check and creating a few quality scoring chances.  Look for Geoffrion and Flynn to be improving players in the coming weeks as they adjust their level of play to professional of hockey.

5)  Playing back-to-back games on the road is a tough draw, especially the first weekend of the season.

I can’t help but feel for the Abbotsford Heat.  Playing back-to-back road games is hard enough.  Doing it the first weekend of season is a tall task.  The Heat were the better team in the first period, but then fatigue hit in the second period resulting in several bad penalties, and four Admirals goals.  However, it was up to Milwaukee to take advantage of a tired team.  The Admirals did so with a 6-2 win on opening night.