Will it Be Three Straight Tonight?

Back-to-back wins were the Monsters remedy for a four-game losing streak that began the new calendar year, and the two wins came against a couple of the strongest teams on the Monsters schedule this season. First, it was the red-hot Chicago Wolves, who were previously riding a five-game winning streak. In their last game on Sunday, the Monsters were able to leave Milwaukee with a 3-2 overtime win over tonight’s opponent: the Admirals.

The Monsters are 4-4-0-1 against the Midwest Division, and tonight’s game is their sixth straight against the Midwest, as well as their third against the Admirals. After scoring two of their three goals Sunday against Milwaukee on the power play, the Monsters will need to continue to capitalize on the man-advantage opportunities they are afforded. Milwaukee enters the game with a penalty kill unit ranked 29th in the 30-team American Hockey League, so the two-minute increments when the Monsters are on the power play become magnified even more; statistics indicate those will be the times the Admirals defense is most vulnerable. The pair of power play goals mustered by the Monsters on Sunday snapped a string of three consecutive games without a tally on the man-advantage.

Luke Walker and Hugh Jessiman each registered a goal in the Monsters two wins over the weekend. Walker has goals in back-to-back games, including the eventual game-winner Saturday in Chicago, following 15 straight games without a goal. Walker hadn’t scored previously since November 26th in a 5-4 road win over the Hershey Bears, but has elevated his offensive game as of late. Jessiman, the Monsters goal scoring leader with 19 this season, has goals in back-to-back games after being held off the scoresheet in three straight games.

Milwaukee remains one of the strongest and deepest teams in the Western Conference, but they’re currently riding a rough patch in their schedule. With just one win and three points over their last six games- and only two wins in their last nine contests- the Admirals are showing that everyone has to endure some sort of adversity over the course of a long season. However, goals will remain tough to come by against goaltender Jeremy Smith, should his number be called against the Monsters. Smith, who has received a call-up to the NHL affiliate in Nashville this season, is among the AHL leaders in several significant goaltending categories.

Milwaukee’s Vic Bartley, an undrafted defenseman out of the Western Hockey League, has a goal and four points to lead the Admirals in two games against the Monsters this season; furthermore, he’s a prospect to keep an eye on and remember. He’s in just his third full professional season, worked his way up from the ECHL to the AHL, spent a season in Sweden, and is now making a statement back in the AHL with four goals and 20 points to lead Admirals defensemen in scoring. He’s about a month shy of his 23rd birthday, and just might be the best AHL defenseman- and maybe best prospect- that you’ve never heard of; and that won’t be the case for long.

The Monsters are embarking on their third of five three-games-in-three-nights sets this season. Following tonight’s game, they’ll play in Grand Rapids tomorrow (7:00 PM, ESPN 850 WKNR), and back at Quicken Loans Arena Saturday night at 7:30.

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