Admirals struggle against Comets in 3-0 shutout loss

Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Admirals

The fans at the BMO Bradley Center arrived on a chilly Milwaukee evening hoping to see the Admirals dominate one of the bottom teams in the league. In reality, they saw the opposite.

Comets Shutout the Ads

Although the Utica Comets are at the bottom of the Western Conference, they clearly looked like the better team in last night's 3-0 victory over Milwaukee. It appeared that the Comets were a step ahead from the get-go, creating far more scoring chances early on than the Admirals.

Milwaukee was minus a forward for a majority of the game after Miikka Salomaki received a five minute major and a game misconduct. He was tossed for a hit from behind late in the first period on Peter Andersson. Andersson was turned towards the glass behind his own net when Salomaki hit him straight into the boards.

"To be honest with you, [Salomaki] probably could have stopped," said coach Dean Evason. "I think if Miikka sees his numbers he's got to let up. He's a bull in a china shop, it's his game. That's what he's going to do, so that's going to happen to him sometimes... We can't take that out of his game."

The Admirals survived the five minute penalty kill, but not much longer. Darren Archibald beat Marek Mazanec top shelf to score his first of two on the night right after things returned to 5-on-5 action. A little over four minutes later Kent Huskins capitalized on a pretty fastbreak by the Comets to give them a two goal lead. By the end of the second the score was 3-0 due to Archibald tipping a slapshot right in the slot.

Overall the second period was a very flat one from Milwaukee, as the Admirals had very few offensive chances and were being outshot 23 to 12. The Comets took advantage of some defensive lapses by the Admirals, as some players like Archibald on the third goal were left all alone.

The third was rather forgettable. The Ads did get their first and only power play opportunity on the night, but were only able to get one shot on goal. The Comets' shorthanded unit ranks 28th in the AHL, so Milwaukee was probably disappointed they weren't able to get a few more opportunities.

Comets goalie Joacim Eriksson sealed his fourth shutout of the season with an outstanding glove save on Joe Piskula and a late stop against Filip Forsberg. He was only tested 21 times but looked very sound when he was.

This was one of the Admirals' more frustrating games, and Evason said the players let each other know the effort needs to be there.

"There were a few guys speaking rather vocally when [the coaches] walked in the room," he said. "We've got a good group and they'll address what happened tonight... We got outworked, we got out-competed. They played a great game."

"I don't know if we were tired or just didn't match their energy level but they outworked us for sure," said Taylor Beck. "We didn't have sustained pressure at any point of the game."

The Admirals have a quick turnaround as they'll host the Chicago Wolves tomorrow afternoon. After their performance last night it could be a good for them to get a chance to get back on the right path.

"We'll watch some tape and we'll look at some video but it will be hard to really work tomorrow with the 1:00 game on Sunday," said Evason. "We'll try to concentrate on the PP and special teams."

Top Forwards Return

When your top AHL talent gets called up, it is exciting for both the players and the fans who get a look at some of their prospects at the NHL level. It's less exciting for the AHL team, which has to play without some of their best players. Thankfully for the Admirals both Taylor Beck and Colton Sissons were back in Milwaukee, two of the team's top scorers this season. Sissons made his presence known quickly upon his return, scoring a goal in the Ads win over the Hamilton Bulldogs on Wednesday. [NOTE: Sissons has since been called back to Nashville for tonight's game against Anaheim]

Beck was sent back down Friday morning but made it back in time to play. He has played seven games with the Preds this season, but is yet to get a point. He sees every opportunity he can get on the big club as a great opportunity.

"Its always a good experience," he said. "I learn a lot each day, whether its in practice or in a game. I keep applying that to my game here and we'll see what happens."

Beck was also glad to see Simon Moser and Sissons get their first call-ups to Nashville.

"I was extremely happy for both of them," said Beck. "They've been my line-mates for a majority of the year and to be a part of their first game was great."

The Ads will be without Moser over the Olympic Break despite Nashville being off due to playing in Sochi on the Swiss team. AHL.com has a nice feature on Moser's journey and team Switzerland today.

Playoff Race

The Admirals are still in position to make the playoffs for the 12th season in a row, currently sitting 6th in the Western Conference. However, the red-hot Rochester Americans are right on their tail, as they've won eight of their last nine games. Rochester is now only two points behind Milwaukee.

Here's what the top ten in the Western Conference look like as of today:

Team GP W L OTL SL Pts.
*Abbotsford Heat (1) 48 30 14 3 1 64
*Grand Rapids Griffins (2) 48 29 15 2 2 62
*Toronto Marlies (3) 47 28 15 2 2 60
Texas Stars (4) 48 28 15 2 3 61
Chicago Wolves (5) 47 26 16 3 2 57
Milwaukee Admirals (6) 46 22 14 6 4 54
Rochester Americans (7) 45 23 16 3 3 52
Rockford IceHogs (8) 49 22 21 4 2 50
Iowa Wild (9) 45 20 16 5 4 49
Oklahoma City Barons (10) 48 20 22 1 5 46

Milwaukee's two games against Chicago this week could help push the Admirals ahead of their Amtrak rival, and a  win against the Iowa Wild on Friday would give the team more of a playoff buffer. Rochester plays Grand Rapids in Buffalo tonight. A victory for the Amerks would put them in a tie with Milwaukee for the 6th spot.

What's Coming Up?

The Ads are right back at it on Sunday afternoon against the Chicago Wolves at 1 pm, the first of three games between the two teams in the next two weeks. On Friday they take a break from the Wolves, hosting Iowa, before the quick trip down to Chicago for two games at the Allstate Arena on Saturday and Sunday.

This Wednesday is the AHL All-Star game in St. John's, which has a bit of a twist this season. Instead of having an Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference game the top AHL players are all teaming together to take on Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League. Sissons will be the lone representative from Milwaukee in the game.

As for here on the site, we'll have a weekly Admirals feature during the Olympic Break to meet your Predators fix for the next 16 days. The top players may be over playing in Russia (and the rest of the NHL enjoying a much deserved break) but the AHL will still be going strong.

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