Last week, the Admirals finally caught a break, but not before they extended their losing streak to six games. Traveling to Manitoba for a three-game series, Milwaukee turned in two mediocre performances on Thursday and Friday against the Moose.
Heading into Sunday, there wasn’t much indication their downward slide would stop anytime soon, but the Admirals played an impressive (but not perfect) game to pick up their first win since November 6.
Milwaukee Admirals (2) @ Manitoba Moose (6)
Still missing players due to injury and call-ups, Milwaukee went with their now-familiar 11-forward, 7-defender lineup on Thursday and Connor Ingram between the pipes. After a scoreless first period, the Admirals were blitzed by four Manitoba goals in the second.
It was another display of a common occurrence this season: Connor Ingram being hung out to dry by the team in front of him allowing odd-man rushes and too much traffic in front of the net. Despite that, Ingram has still saved 1.600 goals above average through eight appearances.
Manitoba opened the third period with a power-play goal on a night where the Admirals’ power play fizzled out and went 0-for-4. Milwaukee was able to respond with a laser wrist shot from Matt Luff and a tap-in goal from Rocco Grimaldi but ultimately fell to the Moose 6-2. Connor Ingram faced 36 shots—one more than his average on the season (35), which is the second-highest shots-per-game rate among qualified AHL goalies this season.
Milwaukee Admirals (3) @ Manitoba Moose (4)
On Friday, Milwaukee welcomed Cole Smith back from Nashville to fill out a 12-forward lineup for the second half of their back-to-backs against the Moose. But another penalty-filled first period helped Manitoba get out to a quick 2-0 lead (the Admirals did stay out of the box the rest of the night).
In period two, after allowing Declan Chisholm to score his second of the night, Milwaukee responded well. Cody Glass finally scored his first of the season on a great wrist shot in the slot, and Graham Knott pulled off some nice stickhandling in the same area to bring things to 3-2.
Knott, who we anticipated wouldn’t fill much beyond a bottom-six role, impressed us this weekend while centering Egor Afanasyev and Anthony Richard; Bobo Carpenter, up from the ECHL, made an impact too—particularly with his speed. Afanasyev tied things up in the third period, thanks to another power-play setup from David Farrance, and (to their credit) Milwaukee played hard, angry hockey for most of the night.
Unfortunately, with just under a minute to go in regulation, Connor Ingram gave up a goal from a weird angle deep in the zone, leading to the Admirals’ sixth consecutive loss.
Milwaukee Admirals (5) @ Manitoba Moose (2)
Sunday started and ended much better for the Admirals, but there were bumps along the way. Rocco Grimaldi wasted no time giving Milwaukee a lead with his second goal of the weekend. It’s good to see him leading that first line despite his probable frustrations over being demoted:
Manitoba’s power play, which got another five opportunities in this game, tied things up early in the second period. Cole Schneider and Matt Donovan responded with two quick goals, giving the Admirals a huge sigh of relief and a 3-1 lead.
The defense has improved in several aspects, including David Farrance and Marc Del Gaizo. Both looked more comfortable at moving the puck and challenging rush chances while paired with veteran defenders Matt Tennyson and Josh Healey, respectively.
Donovan also impressed in his own zone. The 31-year old has looked out of place at times this year but shut down many zone entry attempts, allowing a controlled entry just 46.15% of the time.
The Admirals had some good chances (notably one from Matt Luff) and so did the Moose, including some brilliance from Cole Perfetti. But notably, the Admirals made strides in shutting down the Moose’s rush chances and transition play thanks to a 1-3-1 forechecking system they’ve implemented, hoping to stand opponents up right at the blue line
Cole Smith added a fourth goal on a 5-on-3 in period three, and Rocco Grimaldi sealed things with an empty-net goal (and his second of the night) to give Milwaukee a much-needed victory. There were many positives to take away from this one, but Connor Ingram still had to bail the Admirals out too much, and they still took too many penalties while going just 16.7% on the power play.
The week ahead will be a critical test of what the Admirals have learned to improve and could likely make or break their season.
This week, the Admirals released forward Matt Bradley from his PTO and received Mathieu Olivier back from Nashville. The team also assigned defender Dylan Blujus and forward Robert Carpenter to Florida of the ECHL.
Milwaukee hosts Grand Rapids tonight before traveling to Rockford for two games against the IceHogs on Friday and Sunday.