With four games remaining in their regular season, the Milwaukee Admirals have clinched a spot in the AHL’s expanded playoff field. After knocking off Iowa in a shootout last Wednesday, the Admirals fell to the Wild in overtime over the weekend but are still in third place in the Central Division.
If they stay there, Milwaukee will face Manitoba in the new second round, skipping the play-in round. If Rockford manages to catch them (37-26-9 vs. 35-26-5), the Admirals will host Iowa in the aforesaid play-in.
- Last Thursday, Cody Glass was recalled to Nashville
- Last Wednesday, Nashville signed defender Adam Wilsby to a two-year, entry-level contract; per his agent, Wilsby plans to come to Milwaukee for the remainder of this season once his visa paperwork is finalized
- After going scoreless in his six previous games, Egor Afanasyev has racked up a goal and four assists in his last four games; he’s making a difference in front of the net and along the boards but can improve in getting into more high-danger shooting areas
- Brayden Burke doesn’t always wow you or make himself noticeable, but he’s added more depth to the Admirals' top six with nine assists in 11 games
- Milwaukee has opted to deploy Alex Biega with Matt Donovan often lately, forming a solid veteran duo; the former Toronto Marlie has chipped in two goals and five points in 11 games with the Admirals
Milwaukee Admirals (2) @ Iowa Wild (1)
On Wednesday, with a playoff spot not yet locked up, Milwaukee traveled to Iowa in need of two points to maintain their lead over fourth-place Rockford. Cody Glass was out of the lineup and on his way to Nashville, and the Admirals returned to Connor Ingram between the pipes.
The back-and-forth affair, which featured four times more power plays than goals, was controlled early by the Wild, but Milwaukee’s penalty killers mitigated two early power plays for Iowa. The Admirals couldn’t capitalize on four straight man advantages through the first 40 minutes, but Cole Schneider netted his team-leading 28th goal of the season just 66 seconds after Joe Hicketts opened the scoring for the Wild. Schneider is no longer the quickest skater on the ice, but he’s still leading this club offensively and coming up in big moments. His leadership in the locker room has been invaluable in creating a competitive culture in Milwaukee over the past few years, and he deserves praise for helping turn their season around amidst injuries, call-ups, and more.
Not Graham Knott goodnight to the Wild fans after sealing a shootout win for the @mkeadmirals ☠️☠️☠️#Preds #MILHockey pic.twitter.com/XDbjSkRLdR— OTF: Preds Prospects (@OnTheFutureOTF) April 14, 2022
After that, Connor Ingram was perfect, stopping 40 of the 41 shots he faced and earning first-star honors. A scoreless third period and overtime sent these two teams to a shootout where Schneider and Graham Knott scored to literally wave goodnight to the Wild and their fans.
Milwaukee Admirals (4) vs. Iowa Wild (5)
By Saturday, the Admirals needed just one point to clinch a playoff spot as they welcomed the Wild to town. Connor Ingram started again, Jimmy Huntington came out of the lineup, and Spencer Stastney dressed for his first professional game in place of Jake McLaughlin.
Grant Mismash opened the scoring early on with his sixth goal of the year thanks to a great zone-entry effort and cross-ice pass from Mathieu Olivier, but then Milwaukee crumbled. Through the first two periods, the Admirals stayed mostly out of the penalty box and their penalty killers were perfect when needed, but Iowa pumped in four-straight even-strength goals thanks to Adam Beckman, Mason Shaw, Dominic Turgeon, and Mitchell Chaffee.
Two-goal night for Cole Smith so far. Hits 20 goals in his first full AHL season.#Preds https://t.co/WHtwMC71q6— OTF: Preds Prospects (@OnTheFutureOTF) April 17, 2022
Just when it looked like their playoff clinching would be delayed, Milwaukee came up with one of their best periods of the year. They peppered Zane McIntyre with 22 shots and tied the game with three straight goals, including two from Cole Smith. Smith came into the organization unceremoniously as an undrafted college free agent but has carved out a role for himself as a legitimate top-six forward in the AHL. He’s now hit 20 goals in his first full professional season and is third on the team in goals and fourth in points. 22 of his 40 points were primary ones scored at even-strength, and he’s notched a primary point on 68.75% of the even-strength goals he’s been on the ice for.
Joe Hicketts ultimately secured the second point for Iowa shortly into the overtime period, but on a night where their defense was porous and Ingram wasn’t great, the Admirals showed what their best can be and secured the point necessary to clinch their playoff spot.
The Week Ahead
- Wednesday, April 20 vs. Texas Stars
- Saturday, April 23 @ Chicago Wolves
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com, theAHL.com, or manually tracked.