Just the Facts:
The Foe: The Milwaukee Admirals, Affiliate of the Nashville Predators
The Stages: Acrisure Arena in Thousand Palms, California, and UW–Milwaukee Panther Arena in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The Stakes: Winning the entire Western Conference in your first-ever season, and a ticket punched for the Calder Cup Finals!
The Place to Watch: AHLtv, with two purchase options available; a $10 dollar single-game pass, or a $30 dollar pass for the rest of the playoffs.
An Opposing Viewpoint: On The Forecheck
Know Your Enemy:
How they got here:
For the first time all season, the Coachella Valley Firebirds will face the Milwaukee Admirals in a Best-of-7 series. Whoever wins four games…wins the AHL’s western conference.
The Admirals’ season was quite impressive; fighting the Texas Stars every last step of the way to a 2nd place regular season finish in the AHL Central Division, and earning a first round bye alongside their second round opponent the Manitoba Moose. They needed all five games in order to solve the Moose, where they got a pair of blowout wins, but gutted out an all important Game 5 victory in a tight 2-1 contest, the Ads’ Spencer Statsny scoring with less than 40 seconds left in regulation to seal the deal.
From there, they once again took up the fight against Texas in a 5 game series for the Central Division title, trading wins back and forth in games that never had more than a two-goal lead throughout…except in that all-important Game 5, where the Ads buried the Stars alive in a 4 goal first period. The Stars tried to get back into it, but after that, it was all Milwaukee, and with the Central wrapped up…we come to tonight’s Game 1.
Who to watch out for:
- Luke Evangelista: The 2020 2nd round pick for Nashville has been the beating heart of this Admirals offense coming into the Western Conference Finals. In 10 games, he has 13 points; tied with Coachella’s Ryker Evans and Cam Hughes.
- Jordan Gross: While he’s a longshot to make the NHL, Gross has been a real go-getter on their back-end with 11 points in 10 games.
- Keifer Sherwood: On The Forecheck’s Bryan Bastin wanted to make it clear that Sherwood should be getting a little more interest than you expect. He’s the third head in the Evangelista-Gross-Sherwood hydra, logging 8 points in 8 games.
- Joakim Kemell: Kemell has been just as much a danger to the Central Division as Evangelista through these 8 games that he’s played; getting 5 goals in that time, and was instrumental to their Division win, playing absolutely incredible hockey for Milwaukee through the regular season and Texas series.
- Yaroslav Askarov: The Goalie of the Ads is an interesting part of the puzzle for Milwaukee, as he’s been having a very…unusual playoffs. He’s a very good goalie, but a very aggressive one with a more “Raw” game; it reflects in his Save-% between games, where he looks either completely unbeatable with a .930 or better, or very mortal and giving up stinkers. The coaching staff seems to trust him however; they’ve yet to be proven wrong about it through 10 games.
- Shutting down Evangelista, Sherwood, and Gross: a lot of Milwaukee’s offense goes through these three players. This is natural; Evangelista and Sherwood are expected to be a major part of the Preds going forward, and the other is an experienced AHL defender who’s been here before…who also deserves a shot in the show. But if they begin to struggle, that cuts a huge chunk of Milwaukee’s offense out of the game. There are still some good players in this Ads group for that job of course…but it’s these three who have made life challenging for the rest of their division. If they can’t get going, then as their series so far have shown, they can be pulled into slogs, where they’ve struggled mightily.
- Crack Milwaukee’s Special Teams: Milwaukee currently features a 84.4% Success rate on the Penalty Kill. Of the teams left in the playoffs, that puts them well on top of the pile. Of the conference finalists they’re also second in power play-%, only behind the near-automatic Rochester Americans. The Firebirds have been getting the most power play opportunities of any team this playoffs (and not just because they’ve played more games), and must take advantage of them if they plan to make the Calder Cup Finals.
- Getting Askarov off his game: Askarov is an interesting prospect and has put out some incredible play this playoffs…but it is buttressed by some really interesting sub-.900 performances that have made their series’ perhaps more dramatic than they need them to be. Both Manitoba and Texas found success by driving the net and forcing him to make saves in tight, where his aggression could come back to bite him. The Firebirds tend to fire from all over the ice, but they should try to keep him guessing early.
The Firebirds begin their Western Conference Final push tonight at 7pm PT!
The schedule is as follows:
- Game 1: Thu. May 25, 2023, in Coachella Valley – 7:00PM PT
- Game 2: Sat. May 27, 2023, in Coachella Valley – 7:00PM PT
- Game 3: Mon. May 29, 2023, in Milwaukee – 5:00PM PT
- Game 4: Thu. Jun 01, 2023, in Milwaukee – 6:00PM PT
- Game 5: Sat. Jun 03, 2023, in Milwaukee – 6:00PM PT
- If needed
- Game 6: Mon. Jun 05, 2023, in Coachella Valley – 7:00PM PT
- If needed
- Game 7: Wed. Jun 07, 2023, in Coachella Valley – 7:00PM PT
- If needed
And that’s all you need to know to get ready for the series! We’re ready for an excellent series, and we hope Milwaukee is too.
GO BABY SQUIDS, GO ‘BIRDS!