Milwaukee Admirals vs. Texas Stars Series Preview

The Milwaukee Admirals and the Texas Stars face off in a series that starts tonight.

#FullStrength, and onward!

After being pushed to Game 5 by the Manitoba Moose, the Milwaukee Admirals have moved on to face the Texas Stars in Round 3. These are the conference semifinals--the winner of this series faces the winner of the Coachella Valley-Calgary series in the Western Conference Final. Remember, this series is a best-of-5.

Game 1: Friday, May 12 – Texas at Milwaukee – UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, 7:00 p.m. CT
Game 2: Saturday, May 13 – Texas at Milwaukee – UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena,, 6:00 p.m. CT
Game 3: Wednesday, May 17 – Milwaukee at Texas – H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, 7:00 p.m. CT
*Game 4: Friday, May 19 – Milwaukee at Texas – H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, 7:00 p.m. CT
*Game 5: Sunday, May 21 – Milwaukee at Texas – H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, 7:00 p.m. CT

*if necessary

The Stars swept Rockford in the second round, so they'll be looking to continue that momentum--however, they have not played in a week. Rusty? Perhaps. The Admirals and Stars have not faced each other in the playoffs in ten years. The Admirals will open up at home but travel to Texas to try to close out the series on the road. Texas has the better record and they won the regular season Central Division title.


For the Stars, Riley Barber led the team in the regular season with 64 points (32 goals, 32 assists). In a weird twist, Riley Tufte had 35 points (19 goals, 26 assists) and Riley Damiani had 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists) in the regular season. With three Rileys on the ice, are the Stars a challenge? Most certainly. Here's a Riley Damiani goal from Game 3 against Rockford. These Stars are tenacious and grind, but they have some talented shooters:

Mark Jankowski and Zach Sanford were very visible for the Admirals in the second round. I was very pleased to see Egor Afanasyev competing hard, and his feathery passes set up some beautiful chances. Fedor Svechkov was assigned to the Admirals after signing his entry-level deal, and I fully expect him to be eased in slowly to North American systems and ice--Svechkov has a ton of professional experience in the KHL and MHL, but he's not played on North American ice lately. I am hopeful Kiefer Sherwood will continue to excel for the Admirals, and it'll be good to see Phil Tomasino and Luke Evangelista buzzing around the net.


Will Butcher, Thomas Harley, and Ben Gleason are blueliners to keep your eye on for Texas. Harley is just 21, and while many thought he'd have made the big club in Dallas by now, he's skill honing his skills in the AHL. This isn't a bad thing. Harley is a roving d-man, playing a style that should be familiar to Nashville fans used to watching Roman Josi wander around with the puck, commanding the blue line, and even taking the puck 200 feet up the ice. In the right situation, Harley can control the pace of the game for the Stars...but so can Gleason and Butcher.

Spencer Stastney was the least likely hero for the Admirals, but his Game 5 game-winner is simply gorgeous.

Jack Matier was assigned to the Admirals from the 67s, but he likely will not see the ice unless there's injury. Jordan Gross probably does not get enough attention for his work in Round 2, but our friend Bryan has some of Gross's stats here. He should earn a nod for MVP if his performance continues against the Stars:


Yaroslav Askarov was as expected for Milwaukee. He went 3-2, and in the games Milwaukee lost, Askarov was not at fault--those were overtime victories and were basically toss-ups. Askarov put on his heart-attack moves for all of us to scream over, but he was quite solid in net. His glove hand has been improving all season. He was frequently criticized for "freezing" his glove hand, and it's clear that his work with Milwaukee's goaltending coaches has improved his catching. It also helps that he's a right-catch, which is rare in professional hockey.

Former UMASS goalie Matthew Murray is in net for the Stars. He posted a 18-10-5 record this season with a .911 Sv%. He's not a top-10 goaltending prospect in the same sense that Askarov, Wallstedt, and Woll are, but he's solid enough for the Stars. I don't think Murray should be underestimated, as he made some incredible saves in the Rockford series. He's a reliable backbone for Texas.

Final Thoughts

I'm really excited for this series. If the Admirals can come out of Round 3, I am confident they will go all the way to the Calder Cup Final. However, I'd say the same about the Stars. The team that wins this series has to face Coachella Valley or Calgary, and both of those teams are high firepower and full throttle. One of the best things about #FullStrength means that Coach Karl Taylor has a lot of options in case he needs to shuffle his lines. We didn't see a lot of that against Manitoba because Taylor rarely panics when things go awry (overtime wins, for example).

In his preview for the Moose series, our old friend Eric emphasized how excellent Milwaukee's transition game is: "Look to Evangelista (76.9% success rate), Huntington (93.3%), Tomasino (93.3%), and Sherwood (77.8%) to lead the way in gaining the offensive zone and establishing a cycle in this series." Eric says it best--when Milwaukee gains possession, they'll be an immediate threat in the offensive zone. Here, the Admirals have an advantage.

Remember to give the Admirals a follow on Twitter. The AHL TV app is the way to go in order to watch this series (and all the other AHL playoff games). It's worth your money. OTF will have a bit of coverage for the Admirals, the Renegades of Puck will briefly recap, and as always, #FullStrength.