Admirals Only AHL Team Without Regulation Loss
It's been quite the impressive start for the Nashville prospects down on the farm. The Milwaukee Admirals (6-0-2) continued their point streak this week with three straight victories to keep Milwaukee as the only team in the entire league that is still without a regulation loss.
On Wednesday the Ads took on the Texas Stars for the second game in a row, the first being a 4-2 come-from-behind victory. The second game seemed to follow the same pattern. After the Stars went up by two the Admirals roared back in the third with goals from Anthony Bitetto and Austin Watson to tie things back up and send the game to overtime.
Things weren't looking good for Milwaukee at the start of extra time. The Stars kept the play in the Admirals zone for over a minute, firing shot after shot on goaltender Marek Mazanec. However, the Admirals finally managed to tip the puck away on get on their own rush. Mark Van Guilder decided instead of heading of on a change he would try for one last opportunity with under a minute left to play. When Charles Roussel's shot rebounded of Christopher Nilstorp's pads Van Guilder was in perfect position to tap it in for the victory.
"We just got a break," said Van Guilder. "I thought that maybe if one of the [defensemen] joined us we could catch them."
"I thought I should probably change, but this is probably my last chance to make up for a couple bad shifts in a row."
Friday night featured rival Rockford coming to town for the last game of Milwaukee's home streak. This time around Milwaukee scored the first goal of the game for the first time since their season opener. After Mark McNeil evened the game up at one, Miika Salomaki's first AHL goal and Anthony Bitetto's backhand gave the home team a comfortable lead. They held on to win 3-2.
Of all three games, the game away from home was the strongest victory for the team. It was also against the weakest of the three teams in the Iowa Stars, who are 5-4-0 on the year. Despite falling down 2-1, Milwaukee once again showed their ability to mount a comeback in a game filled with penalties. After tying the game on a Taylor Beck snipe in the second the Admirals got goals from Bryan Rodney and Patrick Cehlin and an empty netter from Van Guilder to coast to a 5-2 win.
Mazanec Still Undefeated
So much for worrying about the loss of Magnus Hellberg. Marek Mazanec has filled in to a tee, going 4-0 since Hellberg's call-up. He's near the top of the league with a 1.97 goals against average and .933 save percentage. Overall, he's looked very sound. With Hellberg possibly up for a long amount of time due to Pekka Rinne's injury Mazanec will have plenty of games to show his ability.
Dean Evason said from the start that the team had a lot of confidence in Mazanec, even saying that they viewed the goalies as 1a. and 1b. So far it looks like Mazanec is proving them right (UPDATE: Mazanec called up by Nashville with Hellberg being sent back down).
Bitetto Scoring and Roaring
Anthony Bitetto is showing a lot of promise in his first full AHL season. The former 6th round pick is on a point a game pace with four goals and four assists in his eight games. Bitetto not only leads the entire Admirals team in points, including forwards, he also is ninth in the league in points for a defenseman.
Bitetto isn't just an offensive defenseman, he also is due for at least one big hit a night. He currently leads the team in penalty minutes per game, usually resulting from the frequent tussle. He may never make it to the NHL, but he's turned into a steady AHL defenseman at least.
Power Play Still Dismal
The power play is still a problem for the Ads, despite the successes they've experienced. They are far from the worst, which may be surprising to some watching. That being said, Evason hopes his unit can take advantage of a few more man-up opportunities. They are 21st in the league, scoring on only four of their 21 opportunities.
"We are getting tremendous looks," said Evason after the Texas game. "For whatever reason we are not finishing. The structure is fine, our entries aren't great as far as getting set up... If we can get two or three real good looks we should be able to score. We've had a couple real good opportunities. We haven't hit the net. We'll stay with the power play, we're certainly not going away from our structure."
Other Items To Note
- Although he has picked up a few points the past few games, Taylor Beck has had some unfortunate defensive lapses. Austin Watson on the other hand has looked very good on the defensive end of things.
- Joonas Jarvinen played his first game of the season against the Wild on Sunday, while Bryan Rodney scored a goal in his first game after a two game suspension. His suspension was a result of a check to the head of Texas Stars defenseman Travis Morin.
The Ads have the rest of the week to prepare for a tough three games in three days. all on the road. The players will get to enjoy some warm Texas weather as they take on the Texas Stars on Friday and Saturday and the San Antonio Rampage on Sunday afternoon.
Texas has cooled down since their red hot start, largely due to the two losses to the Admirals. The Stars did not only blow a two goal lead in both those games, but they blew another the game before as well. That's obviously not a trend the coaching staff is happy to see. San Antonio is a not so intimidating 4-5-0 and will be playing the night before as well. It will be the first of four meetings between the two teams.