OVERALL…The Admirals enter this week’s action with a 36-18-4-7 record and 83 points, which is good for first place in the hotly contested West Division where first through seventh is separated by just eight points. The Ads hold a tenuous one-point lead over second place Houston, while Texas sits in third with 80 points. Peoria and Chicago are tied for third with 79, followed by San Antonio in sixth with 76 points and Oklahoma City in seventh at 75. After just two games last week the Admirals play four games in five nights this week beginning with tonight’s game against the Aeros. Tomorrow and Friday the Ads will do battle in San Antonio before finishing the week by hosting Lake Erie on Saturday night.
SCOUTING THE AEROS…The Admirals travel to the Toyota Center tonight for the third time this season and the fifth meeting between the two clubs overall. The Ads are 3-0-0-1 so far this year against Aeros, including 5-4 win in Houston the last time they met. The Aeros sit just one point back of the Admirals in the standings and sport a 38-25-1-5, which is the most wins in the conference. Houston is led offensively by winger Jon DiSalvatore, who paces the club with 22 goals and 51 points, while defenseman Maxim Noreau is second on the team and third among AHL blueliners with 46 points (10g-36a). The Aeros have put their eggs in the basket of rookie netminder Matt Hackett, after Minnesota traded veteran netminder Anton Khudobin to Boston. In 35 games this season Hackett is 16-13-4 with a 2.25 goals against average, a .919 save percentage and a pair of shutouts.
LAST WEEK…The Admirals split a pair of games last week, dropping a 2-0 decision to Rockford on Friday before rebounding with a 2-1 win over Peoria on Sunday. The Hogs and Admirals were scoreless through two periods, but Rockford managed a goal on their only power-play opportunity of the night and then added an empty netter to secure the win. Mark Dekanich stopped 32 of 33 shots thrown his way, but still suffered the loss. On Sunday, Mark Van Guilder and Mike Bartlett scored just 11 seconds apart to give the Ads a 2-0 second period lead and then Dekanich stood tall the rest of the way, finishing the night with 31 saves, to secure his 23rd win of the year.
PLAYING BY THE RULES…In their two games over the course of the last weekend the Admirals were whistled for just one penalty, a hooking minor against the IceHogs on Friday. In eight games this year the Ads have had four or fewer penalty minutes and Sunday’s penalty free game was their first since January 8, 1992. Not surprisingly, Milwaukee is the least penalized team in the league with just 831 PIMs on the year.
ROSTER MOVES…The Admirals have signed forward Jamie Bates to a professional try-out contract (PTO). Bates has split time this season between the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL and the San Antonio Rampage. The Toronto, ON native has posted six points (2g-4a) in 15 games with the Rampage and 31 points (12g-19a) in 23 contests with Las Vegas.
QUICK STRIKES…Mark Van Guilder’s second period goal against the Rivermen on Sunday snapped a team scoreless drought of 104:36 that spanned three games. However, it took just 11 seconds to get their next tally when Mike Bartlett snuck behind the Peoria defense and Brett Palin found him in stride for the breakaway goal. It was the second fastest back-to-back goals of the season for the Ads, just one second slower than when Bartlett followed up Blake Geoffrion’s tally on January 28th against Rockford.
SNAPPED IN TIME…The Admirals win over Peoria on Sunday was important not just because it kept the team in first place, but it also prevented them from setting a franchise record with five straight regulation home losses. The Ads had dropped their previous four games at the BC, scoring a total of four goals in those losses. The four home losses are the most consecutively by the Admirals since March of 2000, but it is still well short of the franchise record 13 straight home losses they suffered from January 23-March 12, 1988, that included a pair of shoot-out defeats. In spite of their recent struggles, the Admirals hold a 17-8-2-3 mark at the BC and still have ten home games to go.
ALL GOOD THINGS MUST END…The Admirals loss on Friday night to Rockford coupled with a 4-2 defeat to Manitoba in their previous game marked the first time since November 21 and 23 that Milwaukee has dropped consecutive games in regulation. The Admirals loss to Oklahoma City on Nov. 23 dropped their record to 9-6-1-3, but in the next 45 games they posted a 26-12-3-4 mark including a pair of four-game winning streaks. Three times during the stretch the Ads lost on back-to-back occasions, but earned a point in at least one of the games by sending it into overtime or a shoot-out.
ROAD WARRIORS…The Admirals have established a new team record for most consecutive road contests earning a point with 11. The streak began back on January 15 in Winnipeg and since then the Ads are 8-0-2-1 away from the Bradley Center. That broke the record of points in ten straight on the road back in 1994 when they won four times and lost in six shoot-outs over a ten-game span. The Ads, whose 44 points on the road are third best in the league, embark on their final extended trip of the season tonight against the Aeros.
OVER THE AIR AND ON THE WEB…For the fourth consecutive season Sportsradio 1250 WSSP will serve as the Admirals flagship station with Aaron Sims calling all of the hard-hitting end-to-end action. In addition, the team has a one-hour hockey magazine dubbed “Milwaukee Admirals Center Ice” that airs every Monday from 6-7 pm on WSSP. Fans can watch all Admirals games, home and on the road, live on the internet via NeuLion. Simply go the Admirals website at milwaukeeadmirals.com and click on the AHL Live banner.