Urgency is never hard to find in the playoff word search. In a five game series you could capitalize it and underline it and it likely wouldn’t be enough. This is what the Marlies face in the first round. Their sense of urgency must be peaking because they face a team they have not beaten this year. The Marlies were only swept twice this season. The Syracuse Crunch managed it in a two game set and these Milwaukee Admirals that they face in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
“They are a skilled team with speed in the middle of the ice. There are no easy teams in this conference. They are aggressive and forecheck amongst the best teams we have played. We’ve got to play with discipline against them.” says Head Coach Steve Spott, who made his first year in the league seem like his fifth amassing 45 wins. He isn’t just writing in pencil when he talks about cutting down on the penalties. This is must be a Marlie commandment.
In January versus the Admirals in a 3-2 loss, the Marlies, who were ending a 14 day road trip, were 11 times on the penalty kill. You would have to guess that Head Coach Dean Evason is having his boaters work extra on the power play this week as the Marlies are the most penalized team that made it into the playoffs.
In the other game these two teams played, the contest was one the Marlies put in the round filing bucket almost immediately. It was a 5-1 afternoon where not much went right. However, there was some learning that happened that day about how good this Admiral team was at using their speed and skill to get opportunities started at one end and finish them at the other.
The Nashville Predators have spent a good deal of their existence making sure their players, at all levels, are thinking about responsible play. It hasn’t always produced electrifying offense. This work up in Milwaukee however, is a little different. While still thinking team, they have a talented left winger in Mikka Salomaki from Finland, whose 50 points this season were difference makers in a number of outcomes. He is one of five 40 plus point getters on the Admirals. They acquired Calle Jarnkrok, the Center out of Grand Rapids and he has 9 points in the 6 games he has played. Long time AHL vet Joe Piskula steadies the defensemen with his plus 20, while d-man Anthony Bitetto took a big leap in development this year notching 30 more points than his first year.
The six foot three Marek Mazanec works the crease for the Admiralty. His 2.44 GAA was solid for his 18-10-0-1 record.
There is a lot to account for when facing this team and this Friday and Saturday night in Milwaukee is almost the least of it. In a five game series in the AHL the travel budgets dictate that you can’t travel for just one game. So the series is a 2-3 that Toronto chose to start in Wisconsin and end at home. That means a swift start in suds city is critical.