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Milwaukee Musings: Please, More Rockford

Two wins for the Admirals when they needed them most.

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Milwaukee had two huge dates with Rockford last weekend and came up with two dominating wins. The Admirals now find themselves one point out of the playoffs behind Rockford (72) and Manitoba (72).

Milwaukee hits the road this week, visiting Rockford, Chicago, and Grand Rapids; consider all three must-wins.

Headlines & Standings

Central Division Standings - 3/27
theAHL.com
  • On Tuesday, Milwaukee released forward Hugo Roy from his PTO and signed him to a three-year AHL deal. This was originally reported as a two-year deal starting next year, but he must have been signed to be sent to Atlanta for playing time.
  • Also on Tuesday, Milwaukee assigned forwards Hugo Roy and Zach Magwood and defender Filip Pyrochta to Atlanta.
  • The final news from Tuesday: Nashville re-assigned defender Matt Donovan to the Admirals. Big addition for this final stretch.
  • On Monday, Nashville assigned forwards Austin Watson and Miikka Salomäki to Milwaukee on a long-term injury assignment. Anticipate each to play 2-3 games before returning to Nashville.
  • Last Wednesday, Milwaukee signed Nashville draft pick Tommy Novak to an amateur try out for the remainder of 2018-19.

Weekly Game Recap

March 22: Milwaukee Admirals v. Rockford IceHogs

Box Score - 3/22
theAHL.com

It’s been proven fairly well that good starts are key to Milwaukee’s success this season. They actually gave up the first goal in this one but responded almost immediately on the power play with a tip by Blackwell off a Carrier shot.

Then, a remarkable forecheck by Yakov Trenin led to an offensive zone turnover and a nice five-hole goal by Joe Pendenza. The next goal, which I will break down below, was Di Giuseppe from start to finish.

The IceHogs added one in the third, but Anthony Richard responded nearly a minute later to put the game away.

March 23: Milwaukee Admirals @ Rockford IceHogs

Box Score - 3/23
theAHL.com

This one started with another dominant Admirals period and Anthony Richard doing Anthony Richard things. Tommy Novak picked up his first point on a nice feed to Colin Blackwell (again, what a find for this team), and Cole Schneider picked up an easy rebound in his return to end the first period up three.

The second started with another Di Giuseppe goal off a rebound, and Schneider added his second of the night after Rockford scored two to make it 5-2.

In the third, Joe Pendenza and Yakov Trenin continued their expert chemistry with a textbook forecheck, Eeli Tolvanen added one to make it 7-2, and Mathieu Olivier added a super extra insurance goal with about three minutes to go.

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Phillip Di Giuseppe: It’s been a weird season for Di Giuseppe. The waiver claim was very likely a product of the injury bug, but it took him some time to get acclimated to Milwaukee. He’s on fire now: three goals and four points in his last three games. On top of that, he looks much more engaged.

Take a look at this play above: Di Giuseppe comes in hard on the forecheck and uses effective body contact to force a turnover, he maintains possession behind the net but doesn’t panic when pressured with two defenders. He holds off to make sure Frédéric Allard can seal off the point before ringing it around the boards. As the play develops up top, he heads straight to open ice in front of the net with his stick on the ice and establishes position over the defender. It’s a simple play, but he finds himself in excellent position to put home the rebound.

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Frédéric Allard: The eye-test has been kinder to Allard as of late, and he has made some good plays that haven’t shown up on the score sheet, but it seems his shoulder injury really took something out of him.

Allard has three points in 15 games since returning from injured reserve on February 17. Now that the defense corps has returned to its normal starting five for the rest of the season, the stability should help.

As things come to form down the stretch, anticipate these pairings: Carrier–Donovan, Tinordi–Allard, Siemens–Plant / Pedrie / Osburn.

Final Thoughts

Milwaukee has nine games remaining in the 2018-19 season: five at home and four on the road. Three of those matches come against Rockford. There is a pretty simple theme to this week’s post: good, but is it good enough.

Simply put, these two wins over the weekend were huge—necessary, in fact. But, they mean nothing if the Admirals can’t follow things up with similar performances.

Rachel pointed out some players that really starred in this weekend series and have been showing us excellent capability all season but not consistently:

  • Anthony Richard — Milwaukee’s Viktor Arvidsson; his effort is matched by the team on most nights
  • Phil Di Guiseppe — (as noted above) At the AHL level, he has excellent on-ice vision. He can understand where a play will go and finds himself in good position to make a second (or third) play on the puck.
  • Pendenza and Trenin — Simply a great duo
  • Troy Grosenick — He finds his way around screens and is rarely beat in this way unless an opponent is able to tip a puck in.

With the reinforcements Milwaukee has coming from Tennessee (Watson, Salomaki and Donovan), there is little excuse for them not to hunker down and crank out some hard-fought wins these next few weeks. I still anticipate them to be on the outside looking in come playoff time, but at least they are making it exciting.

All statistics are courtesy of theAHL.com and eliteprospects.com.