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Milwaukee Musings: Ads Stay Atop Division Against Tough Odds

As has been talked about ad nauseam for the past few weeks, injuries and call-ups have not been kind to the Milwaukee Admirals. They’re missing six of their top ten scorers to Nashville and have critical depth pieces—Jachym Kondelik, Spencer Stastney, and Markus Nurmi—out with injuries.

But somehow, someway, this rag-tag group has gone 5-4-1 in their past ten games and still sits atop the Central Division with 12 games remaining. Bolstered by trade deadline acquisitions like Isaac Ratcliffe, surprising tryout signings like Tye Felhaber, and the return of key cogs such as Jimmy Huntington, the Admirals are doing their best to win the division against all odds.

2022-23 Nashville Predators AHL/ECHL Stats

Quick Hits

  • Since last Tuesday, forwards Michael McCarron and Egor Afanasyev were assigned to and recalled from the Admirals
  • Forwards Gordie Green and Cole Coskey were released from their professional tryout contracts (PTOs)
  • 2022 first-round pick Joakim Kemell was assigned to Milwaukee after finishing his Liiga season with JYP
  • Defender Jordan Gross was recalled to Nashville to replace the injured Roman Josi, and Matthew Cairns and Chris Cameron were both signed to PTOs; Cameron played in two games for Milwaukee earlier this season/

Milwaukee Admirals (2) vs. Chicago Wolves (6)

The Admirals opened the week against the lowly Chicago Wolves with Yaroslav Askarov between the pipes. Six minutes into the first period, Chicago gained the offensive zone, and as Milwaukee’s defense let Malte Stromwall penetrate the slot, he fired a shot through Askarov and into the net.

In period two, Askarov made some incredible saves, and the Admirals responded with Anthony Angello knocking in a Tye Felhaber pass on the power play. A minute later, Angello set up Austin Rueschhoff for another tap-in goal to give Milwaukee its only lead of the night.

After that, things went south quickly. The Wolves blitzed Milwaukee for another five goals, making their neutral-zone play look silly and their defense deeply ineffective. The Admirals’ blue line isn’t the best at limiting shot attempts, but you could sense a lot of wear and tear and a lack of fresh legs in this contest.

Milwaukee Admirals (2) vs. Grand Rapids Griffins (1)

On Saturday, Milwaukee welcomed Joakim Kemell to the lineup for his first AHL game and skated in front of Devin Cooley in the net. In a back-and-forth first period, Grand Rapids opened the scoring with the help of former Admiral Matt Luff, but moments later, John Leonard dangled the Griffins’ defense and beautifully set up Zach Sanford for an easy tying marker.

Although the middle frame was scoreless, Grand Rapids looked like the better team for much of the rest of the night. But, Devin Cooley was at his best, stopping 27 of 28 shots and further proving that it would be smart for Milwaukee to re-sign him for the 2023-24 season. Through 22 games this year, Cooley has a 0.910 save percentage and has stopped 4.505 goals above average; his weakness, unsurprisingly, has been high-danger shots where he’s posted just a 0.835 save percentage in nine games tracked.

Late in the third period, Tye Felhaber continued his impressive run with the Admirals, catching Alex Nedeljkovic off guard with a game-winning shot from the wall.

Milwaukee Admirals (3) @ Grand Rapids Griffins (1)

Facing off against Grand Rapids again on Sunday, the Admirals bent but didn’t break against the Griffins’ pressure in the first period. Yaroslav Askarov was clearly at his best, demonstrating the goaltending Milwaukee needs to help this depleted offensive group.

Regardless, Grand Rapids opened the scoring in period two when Matt Luff capitalized off of a Jimmy Huntington turnover. Later in the period, Isaac Ratcliffe connected with Tye Felhaber on an incredible cross-zone, power play pass before the latter tied the game. That kind of chemistry is critical in developing secondary scoring while the likes of Tomasino, Sherwood, and Evangelista are in Nashville, and Ratcliffe’s nine points in nine games with the Admirals is a huge development for their depth come playoff time.

With just a few minutes remaining in the final frame, John Leonard forced a turnover on the penalty kill and charged down the ice, waiting out the Griffins’ pressure to deliver a wonderful shorthanded assist to Roland McKeown for the game-winner; Anthony Angello eventually iced the game with an empty-net goal.

The Admirals have to feel good about securing four out of six points last week. Their depth scoring is emerging at a time it’s needed most, and new parts of their game are developing, particularly their penalty kill units that now boast a league-best 85.1% success rate.

The Week Ahead

  • Wednesday, March 22 @ Toronto Marlies
  • Friday, March 24 @ Laval Rocket
  • Saturday, March 25 @ Belleville Senators/

All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com, theAHL.com, or manually tracked.