The Abbotsford Heat are heading into the Calder Cup Playoffs on a high, finishing off the regular season with a 8-1-1 record in their last ten games. They secured home ice advantage last week so the last three games of the best-of-five series will be played in Abbotsford.
The Milwaukee Admirals are also heading into the series feeling very confident. In their last 10 outings in the regular season, they went 6-3-1 and outscored their opposition 26-17.
Milwaukee dominated the four-game season series against the Heat. Abbotsford pulled off a 2-1 shootout victory to kick off their battle with the Admirals but then dropped three in row. The Admirals outscored the Heat 16-7 this year.
"We've had our struggles in Milwaukee this year," head coach Troy Ward told the Abbotsford News. "They have really good stick skills, and obviously the way they pushed through at the end (to make the playoffs) is an indication of their ability.
"But it is a good match-up, in terms of the fact I think they're a very good team. When you're playing your very best hockey right now, you might as well play the best (team)."
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
|Krys Kolanos |
The 2011-12 season has been a renaissance year for Krys Kolanos. The winger signed a tryout agreement with the Heat last fall in an attempt to show that he still could be an impact player at the professional level. He had missed a full season recovering from hip surgery and while he knew it could be his last opportunity to revitalize his career, he was confident in his abilities. His performance in the early stages of the season earned him an AHL contract. That motivated him even more and by February, Kolanos had signed a two-year, two-way deal with the Flames.
In 47 games this year, Kolanos has potted 30 goals and posted 61 points. In his last 10 games of the year, Kolanos scored 11 goals and 18 points. The Calgary native played 13 games with the Flames this season, recording one assist.
The Flames acquired the blueliner in the off-season as a free agent and while they knew the 29 year-old would be a great addition to the depth chart, management could not have predicted the incredible impact Wilson would have on the Heat.
He was the Heat's fifth leading scorer with 16 goals and 43 points to his name - good for sixth overall on the AHL's top scoring blueliners list. Despite playing a ton of minutes against the opposition's top players, Wilson ended the season with a plus-nine rating. When captain Quintin Laing wasn't in the lineup, it was Wilson who donned the 'C'.
Wilson was named the Team MVP and Top Defenceman at the Heat's annual end-of-the-season awards presentation.
|Chris Mueller |
The Admirals leading scorer put together a career season this year, scoring 32 goals and 60 points through 73 games. He recorded 12 multi-point games in the 2011-12 campaign and was quite proficient on the power play, scoring 11 of his goals with the man advantage.
In his final 10 games of the regular season, Mueller accrued seven points (four goals, three assists) and an even rating.
Signed as a free agent in December of 2010 by the Nashville Predators to a one-year, two-way deal, Mueller has played his way up the depth chart and the Preds opted to re-sign him last summer. His performance also earned him a couple of call-ups and four games in the NHL this year. He was held pointless but managed four shots on net.
|Jeremy Smith |
Netminder Jeremy Smith has been a pillar of strength for Milwaukee this year and was particularly impressive down the stretch drive as the Admirals were fighting for a postseason position. After returning from a stint with the Nashville Predators, Smith allowed just three goals on 81 shots in his final three games - almost single-handedly pushing his club into fifth place in the West.
Through 56 games, Smith went 31-19-2. His GAA sat at 2.17 and his save percentage was .922 when the regular season concluded. He had a 8-1-1 record in his final 10 games played.