584 days. That’s how many days took place between the last Milwaukee Admirals game and their home opener that took place this past Saturday. When we last saw the Admirals, the primary development affiliate of the Nashville Predators, they were on top of the AHL. Primed for the best run at the Calder Cup that the team has had since their championship season in 2003-2004, their season was cut short due to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team then decided to sit out the 2021 AHL season (only 1 of 2 teams to do so). In their absence, the Nashville Predators sent their AHL level prospects to various teams around the AHL but most found their home with the Chicago Wolves. The Wolves subsequently went on to lead the Central division.
Now that the Admirals have returned, the question that has to be asked is: can they pick up where they left off?
Admirals vs. Grand Rapids Griffins (Home: October 16, 2021)
If Saturday’s contest is any indicator, it seems like this is going to be another special season for the Milwaukee Admirals. The Admirals put together a strong start to the season, despite suffering the loss of their expected starter Connor Ingram due to a call-up to Nashville.
Goaltender Devin Cooley made his Admirals debut and despite giving up an early goal to Joe Veleno (2:40), he had a strong opener.
The Admirals opened up scoring at 5:18 of the first period when newly elected team captain Cole Schneider scored the first goal of the season with a primary assist from Nashville prospect Egor Afanasyev. The Admirals’ Tommy Novak entered the offensive zone and made a pass to Afanasyev who found Schneider open on the other side of the net who was able to bury the puck passed Griffins goaltender Victor Brattstrom.
18 seconds later, Tommy Novak tried to score with a wraparound shot, but Brattstrom was able to stop him. Unfortunately for Brattstrom Cole Schneider came up and knocked the puck over his blocker to score his second goal of the game. Novak and Afanasyev were given the assists on the goal.
First period scoring was wrapped up at 13:41 during an Admirals powerplay when defenseman Matt Luff was able to blast a slapshot over Brattstrom’s left shoulder to make it 3-1. Novak and Jeremy Davies had the assists on the goal. The Luff goal marked Novak’s third point of the game.
The second period showed no slowing down for the Admirals. The first goal of the period came at 4:05 when winger Zach Solow was fed the puck from Matt Donovan who shot the puck from his knees to beat Brattstrom’s right side.
A minute and a half later, Wisconsin Badger alumnus Joseph “Double Trouble” LaBate had a beautiful shot after Luff passed the puck behind him to LaBate who was crashing the net and scored his first goal as an Admiral.
The Griffins did everything they could in the third period to try and put together some sort of comeback. Joe Veleno scored his second goal of the game at 5:34. However, the Admirals were quick to answer back. At 8:36, the Griffins were attempting to exit the zone when a pass was intercepted by Cole Smith who was able to shoot the puck, Mitch McLain pushed the rebound in for a goal.
The Griffins scored their last goal of the game at 11:16 which Riley Barber was able to beat Devin Cooley. At 17:50, the Griffins pulled Brattstrom in favor of the extra attacker. Anthony Richard was able to score a cross-ice empty net goal to solidify the 7-3 win to open up the season.
The Admirals looked strong in their season opener. Passing seemed crisp and pressure felt sustained through the entire game. The Admirals led in shots on goal 31-23. Devin Cooley also looked strong in his Admirals debut.
Egor Afanasyev also looked great in his professional debut. He had two assists, both came on the Schneider goals in the first period. While his passing helped lead to the goals, Afanasyev did not register any shots on goal.
Congratulations to Cole Schneider on his selection as the new captain of the Milwaukee Admirals! Schneider brings a lot of leadership to the team and does not run the risk of being called up to Nashville as he is on an AHL contract with the Admirals. Schneider was originally acquired in 2019 when the Predators traded Connor Brickley to the Hartford Wolf Pack.
The Milwaukee Admirals will play division rival Chicago Wolves Friday October 22nd at 7PM at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Stay tuned to Penalty Box Radio for Milwaukee Admirals coverage all season long!