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Admirals Continue to Grow, Play the Right Way

by Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

While the Nashville Predators were busy putting together a franchise record nine-game home win streak, their American Hockey League affiliate was coming up with an impressive string of victories of their own.

The Milwaukee Admirals won nine-consecutive games last month, spanning from Jan. 3 to Jan. 23, also setting a franchise record. Those victories came after a rocky December that saw the club win just three outings, catapulting them back to second in the Midwest Division, just two points behind division-leading Rockford.

“It was really important,” forward Brendan Leipsic said of the win streak. “Stringing together nine-straight wins, all the guys were playing really well. We got good goaltending and timely scoring and we were playing the right way…I think we’re on the right track now.”

It’s a good time for the Ads to get back on track with the postseason looming ahead in the coming weeks. Head Coach Dean Evason hopes that what his team is learning from the highs and lows of the campaign will pay off in due time.

“When the puck is dropped, we ask our guys to play every shift the same way and every game the same way,” Evason said. “It’s not a bad thing for teams and for players to go through adverse situations and then go through positive situations. Obviously we’ve had a little bit of both this season, which ultimately sets us up well for the future as far as the playoffs and future of our players as well.”

Arvidsson Named CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month:

Just one of the many factors of an exceptional January for the Ads was the play of Viktor Arvidsson, recently recognized by the AHL for his showing.

The rookie forward tallied six goals and added seven assists in just 12 contests over the course of the month, including a six-game point streak during the span.

“I felt really good,” Arvidsson said of his play. “The team played well and we had nine wins in a row and a bunch of players played really well for the team. [When the team is] playing well, the individuals [are even better].”

“He’s been awesome,” Leipsic said of Arvidsson. “The last month, he’s really been on a bit of a roll. He plays every shift at 100 percent. He never takes a shift off, he’s got a great shot, he’s hungry on the forecheck and he’s kind of doing it all.”

Arvidsson’s coach has been impressed with the forward’s progression over the course of the season. Evason and his staff were initially a bit leery of Arvidsson’s play at the start of the campaign, but the bench boss believes that the rookie has taken great strides to better himself on the ice.

“What we’ve seen here the last little while is how strong and how big [Arvidsson’s] playing,” Evason said. “He’s going to the dirty areas, he’s finishing all his checks, and he’s doing all the right things to have success here in North America. He’s literally the first guy in the gym every day. He’s constantly working on his body, and he understands that that’s an area that he needs to continue to improve on to play here and play the type of game that obviously gave him an opportunity to have success here of late. He’s just playing a real hard game. He’s not shying away from the physicality at all, and in turn, he’s taking pucks to the net and he’s being able to produce points because of it.”

Leipsic Learning the Curve:

Brendan Leipsic, along with goaltender Magnus Hellberg, represented Milwaukee at the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic recently, potting a hat trick in the game. Leipsic, who leads the Ads in points with 32 (4g-28a), has also gone through some growing pains this season, much like any young player, according to his coach.

“The learning curve that he’s gone through here is turning the puck over,” Evason said. “Learning when to try to beat people 1-on-1, learning when to be safe, sound and put the puck in good areas and make good decisions with it; he’s had to go through some growing pains there.

“Ultimately, we sat him out a couple of games because he just wasn’t understanding when to do it, and that’s just a process, and it’s a process for a lot of young guys. I think if you were to ask him, he understands that if he’s going to play in the National Hockey League, he has to recognize when he can show his skill and be creative and be a little bit risky and when he can’t.”

Much like his teammate Arvidsson, Evason believes that Leipsic continues to improve constantly, and that he’ll one day become a complete package.

“[Leipsic’s] such a gifted player,” Evason said. “He has great vision and he’ll score, clearly, in the future here. His passing ability is phenomenal and his fluidity when he has the puck is unbelievable down the offensive zone… We’ve seen progression from him from the start of the season.”

Play the Right Way:

After putting together win streaks and trudging through losing streaks through the first five months of the season, the Admirals feel that they’re gaining a better understanding of their team and what makes them successful more often than not. With the postseason just two months in the future, those in Milwaukee are hoping that this is the point in the journey where the consistency will start to come with regularity.

“[We need to keep] fine tuning our game, making sure each area of our game is where it needs to be for playoffs,” Leipsic said. “These games come quick and it’s obviously just focusing on one game at a time. You don’t want to look too far at the schedule, but if we just keep playing the way we’ve been playing the last little while, I think if we do that, we give ourselves a chance to be successful.”

For Evason, the progression that he’s seen in individual players like Arvidsson and Leipsic is also present within his club. He says the key to success is simple.

“Our thought process here has been to play the game the right way,” Evason said. “That’s all we want our group to do, play the game the right way. We’re not going to win every game obviously, the other team wants to win a bad as we do, but we feel that if our group plays the right way as far as not turning pucks over, playing as a team, not trying to beat people 1-on-1, we think we have a good opportunity to have a real good hockey club going forward.”

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