The Milwaukee Admirals had already been on a tear before receiving some additions from the Nashville Predators last week. They were the last remaining undefeated team in the American Hockey League. They had set a franchise record for the best start to a season with six consecutive wins. That start included four road wins. All of that happened prior to the inclusion of Viktor Stalberg joining the Admirals on a conditioning assignment. As well as Rich Clune – who joined the team after clearing waivers after being sent down by the Predators to make room for Matt Cullen from injured reserve.
The first game that Stalberg played in Milwaukee was unfortunately the Admirals first loss of the season. It was a match up of the best team in the AHL, the Admirals, against the worst team by record, the Iowa Wild. If you think that’s odd. You should have seen pre-game warm ups. The Wild brought the wrong uniforms along on the road trip. That meant the Admirals had to quick swap into their black road uniforms.
The Wild won 4-2 to end the Admirals unbeaten run to start the season. You can really view the second period by the Wild as the back breaker. They scored twice on the power-play and played a strong defensive game that forced offensive chances to the perimeter rather than to the slot. The lowlight wasn’t even the loss, either. Stalberg ended up having a collision with fellow Swede Pontus Aberg that knocked him out of the rest of the contest in the third period. It also caused him to miss the following two games.
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Speaking of the following two games. It was a two-in-two with the Admirals’ Amtrak Rivals, the Chicago Wolves. It was a road and home tilt for the Admirals. And they had the added benefit that the Wolves schedule saw them playing a three-in-three, road-home-road, with a big contest against the Grand Rapids Griffins that ended in a 6-5 (OT) marathon. Stamina should have been on the Admirals side. At the very least it should have paid dividends for the Sunday finale.
In truth, there were next to no highlights from the Admirals road game against the Wolves this past Saturday. Mark Van Guilder was able to score off of a bizarre play only three-minutes into the game. The veteran Admiral had missed Anthony Bitetto‘s stretch pass at the blue line – but the feed was so hard that it rebounded off the end boards, saw Van Guilder as he continued his run into the zone, and resulted in a wrister for his second goal of the season. That was three minutes into the game. The rest may well have been a blackout because the Wolves won 5-1 on a night in which Clune made his Admirals debut.
How would the Admirals respond to their second straight defeat of the season? With force. The team suited up its bulldozers for Sunday’s game. In addition to the veteran presence of Triston Grant. In addition to the newly added Clune. The Admirals tossed out Mike Liambas and put him on a line with Clune – as well as inserted Jonathan Diaby back into the lineup on defense. If the Wolves weren’t already going to be tired. They would be after battling with the Admirals through the course of sixty-minutes.
With the muscle included into the game roster – it was the speed and skill of Viktor Arvidsson that was incredibly eye-catching against the Wolves. He really orchestrated the Admirals opening two goals to perfection. The first came on the power-play when he pinpoint delivered a shot-pass to a wide open Stalberg on the back post for a power-play goal. He followed that up with a quality shift with his linemates, Felix Girard and Grant, that ended in a rebound tally for Girard. Arvidsson’s efforts saw him record two assists and a game-high five shots on goal.
The Admirals ended up taking Sunday’s game against the Wolves, 4-1. And the man that took home first star honors was goaltender Magnus Hellberg. Considering he has been in the shadow of Marek Mazanec‘s great start to this season, only making two starts through the Admirals first nine games, Hellberg has looked phenomenal when called upon so far for the Admirals. He would have had his eighth career AHL shutout on Sunday if not for the Wolves scoring on the power-play, with their net emptied, with just 1:03 remaining in regulation. Hellberg has stopped 50/52 shots so far for a 0.94 GAA and a 0.962 SV%. He has won both starts he has been given this season. He previously won in a 2-1 shootout against the Lake Erie Monsters.
What was the bright spot from the past week in Milwaukee Admirals hockey? For me, it was the very last goal scored on this past weekend. The Wolves, who still had their net emptied, saw Clune chip a pass up to Liambas – who scored an empty netter after winning the neutral zone. Clune’s reaction was priceless. He looked more excited that Liambas scored than Liambas! It’s unclear just how long Clune will be around in Milwaukee this season. What is clear is that his presence, on and off the ice, is already a positive.