The Milwaukee Admirals entered a crucial week riding four wins to start the month. After dispatching Chicago in a lengthy shootout, the Admirals took three of four points from the Texas Stars in a battle for first place in the Central.
Missing some key cogs to injury and some top contributors like Tommy Novak and Phil Tomasino to Nashville, this 2-0-1 week will be key to deciding the division’s top seed in a couple of dozen games. For now, Milwaukee holds the tiebreaker over Texas; this weekend, they have a two-game stint against Manitoba to build on their 6-0-1 record in February.
- Since last Tuesday, Phil Tomasino has been recalled to Nashville and reassigned to Milwaukee twice each
- Tommy Novak and Kevin Gravel were also reassigned to Milwaukee in a paper transaction and subsequently recalled to Nashville
- Milwaukee signed forward Matthew Santos last week to a professional tryout; he’s scored zero points in three games with the Admirals so far
- Yesterday, Yaroslav Askarov was named the AHL’s Player of the Week after allowing one goal and posting a 0.965 save percentage in two wins.
Milwaukee Admirals (2) @ Chicago Wolves (1)
In a battle of Russian goaltenders last week—Askarov and Pyotr Kochetkov—the Milwaukee Admirals did their best to let the Chicago Wolves set the pace for this game, allowing 14 shots in the first period. But the Ads weathered that storm and rebounded in the second, but neither team could find the back of the net through 40 minutes.
Askarov was spectacular all day, stopping 30 of 31 shots behind a leaky Milwaukee defense. But Chicago still struck first as Jamieson Rees pounced on a big rebound to backhand a shot into the net. A few minutes later, after a scramble in front of Kochetkov, Spencer Stastney delivered a crisp pass across the slot to Markus Nurmi, who buried the tying goal.
Good to see Markus Nurmi getting on the scoresheet in today's @mkeadmirals win. He's been cold lately, going the past 6 games without a point and 11 games without a goal.#Smashville #MILHockey— OTF: Preds Prospects (@OnTheFutureOTF) February 15, 2023
With no scoring in overtime, Askarov stopped every shooter in a 12-round shootout, and Michael McCarron scored after a fake slapshot-deke to give Milwaukee their fifth-straight win.
Milwaukee Admirals (2) vs. Texas Stars (1)
On Saturday (with yours truly in attendance), Milwaukee hosted first-place Texas in the first of a back-to-back series. The Admirals went with Askarov between the pipes as he’s clearly established himself as this group’s starting netminder; in 32 games, he’s posted a 0.913 save percentage (13th in the AHL), two shutouts (T-5th), and faced 912 shots (5th)—leading to a 9.464 goals-saved above average (GSAA) mark.
While the teams were even in shots after one, Texas supplied most of the pressure in the opening 20 minutes. However, with just a few seconds to go, Luke Evangelista’s forechecking pressure led to a Texas turnover, a Keaton Thompson shot, and a goal from #12 as the puck squeaked through Matt Murray’s legs.
#MILHockey was bailed out by their goalies a lot this week.— OTF: Preds Prospects (@OnTheFutureOTF) February 21, 2023
One area where they need to clean up, especially against tough teams like Texas, is their transitions thru the NZ. Turnovers like this just can't happen at the frequency they are. #Smashville pic.twitter.com/Drd09Jup2s
Period two opened with the Stars capitalizing on sloppy neutral-zone play from the Admirals, and Mavrik Bourque subsequently sniped a wrist shot past Askarov.
Milwaukee stayed disciplined throughout the night, giving Texas just one power-play chance, but it was clear the Stars were controlling possession at even strength. The Ads’ second line struggled as Tim Schaller and Cole Schneider ultimately recorded 45.5% and 43.5% Corsi ratings; Karl Taylor responded by moving Luke Evangelista from their wing to Kiefer Sherwood and Zach Sanford’s in the third period. Evangelista finished with a 58.1% Corsi, five shot attempts, three primary shot assists, and he went a perfect four-for-four on zone entries.
That line gave Milwaukee their most sustained pressure in the final frame, and they made sure it counted as Sherwood took a couple of swings to put home the game-winner from Spencer Stastney. With two points and a 25-save performance from Askarov, Milwaukee leapfrogged the Stars for first place in the Central.
Milwaukee Admirals (2) vs. Texas Stars (3)
In a rematch of Saturday night’s affair, Milwaukee and Texas showed why they’re as evenly matched as they come with a back-and-forth first period, which was highlighted by another Kiefer Sherwood goal set up by Zach Sanford.
Milwaukee kept their foot on the pedal in period two, but Riley Damiani put the equalizer past Devin Cooley after being gifted the puck by an Egor Afanasyev turnover. A few minutes into the third—before the Stars’ onslaught began—Michael McCarron tipped in a Keaton Thompson point shot to give the Ads a 2-1 lead. But moments later, Thompson and Jordan Gross got tangled up in the neutral zone, and Texas launched a rebound past Cooley, who could’ve done nothing to stop it.
NOT TODAY - Cools probs. pic.twitter.com/CgPfFKUSqw— Milwaukee Admirals (@mkeadmirals) February 19, 2023
The Ads’ backup goalie was unbelievable, turning aside 46 of the 49 shots he faced, but the Stars ultimately prevailed in overtime as Matej Blumel rocketed a slapshot past Cooley from the top of the faceoff circle—tying them and Milwaukee at 64 points each.
The Week Ahead
- Thursday, February 23 @ Manitoba Moose
- Saturday, February 25 @ Manitoba Moose
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com, theAHL.com, or manually tracked.