By Jason Karnosky
For 50 years professional hockey in the Brew City has been played under the same name—the Milwaukee Admirals. And for the upcoming 2019-20 campaign, the half-century-old franchise intends to celebrate on and off the ice.
The 2019-20 season marks Milwaukee’s 19th in the American Hockey League (AHL), and the team is trying to build off of one of the greatest end of season runs in league history after finishing a remarkable 11-0-3-0 a year ago. Last year’s late season success, and coming agonizingly close to beating Iowa in the first round of the 2019 Calder Cup playoffs, leaves the squad eager and hungry for more.
“We had a good year last year and we ended it on a good note with the run to get into the playoffs and by clinching second place,” said second-year Admirals coach Karl Taylor. “Our goal this year is to raise the expectations in all areas. We want to be a winning organization and set the standard for other teams in the American Hockey League.”
Featuring a lethal combination of home-grown and acquired talent, the Admirals should score a lot of goals and be one of the better offensive teams in the AHL. Two of Milwaukee’s top returning scorers, Cole Schneider (47 total points, including 22 in 24 games with the Admirals last season) and Anthony Richard (team-leading 24 goals and 47 points), are back in the fold.
“I want to keep playing like I was playing last year and get better in every area,” said the 22-year-old Richard, who back for his fourth professional season—all with the Admirals. “This fall I think I had my best training camp so far in Nashville. I’m ready for a big season and hopefully getting back in the NHL with the Nashville Predators as soon as possible.”
One of NHL affiliate Nashville’s top prospects in Milwaukee, Eeli Tolvanen, is back after a 35-point AHL campaign in 2018-19.
Veterans Miikka Salomaki and Frederick Gaudreau should be two of the team’s best forwards. Salomaki features 162 NHL game on his resume, while Gaudreau dressed for 84 NHL games over the past three years plus eight memorable playoff contests in the spring of 2017. Fellow forward Colin Blackwell, who earned his first six games of NHL experience with the Predators last year, is back and is itching to get back to Music City.
“I got that taste in my mouth last year of getting the chance to play in Nashville,” said Blackwell, who scored 14 goals in 43 games with the Admirals. “That taste is still there and I want to get back there. The road to Nashville goes through Milwaukee, and that’s what the whole organization stresses. You see that with everybody that is on the wall here, all of the great players and names that have come through this organization.”
Behind their elite offense, Milwaukee will feature plenty of experience on its blue line. The team returns its top four scoring defensemen from a season ago—Alexandre Carrier, Matt Donovan, Frederic Allard and captain Jarred Tinordi.
Donovan, who played in last year’s AHL All-Star classic, tallied 11 goals and 35 points for the Admirals. The 29-year-old also returned to the NHL for the time since 2014-15, dressing in two games for the Predators during last season’s stretch run.
Carrier topped all Admirals blue liners with 37 points, while Allard upped his production in his second-year to 29 points. Tinordi, who is set to start his eighth professional season, posted the best offensive production of his career in 2018-19, scoring eight goals and 22 points.
“Our backend is very strong this year,” Taylor said. “The returning guys, Tinordi, Donovan, Carrier and Allard, we’re excited to have them all back. (Defenseman) Steve Santini just cleared waivers and Jeremy Davies is joining us from Northeastern (in the NCAA). We have a combination of young prospects, guys that are pushing for NHL jobs and guys waiting for a call up that should be coming.”
In goal the Admirals will feature a familiar face in Troy Grosenick. The Brookfield, Wisconsin native, who is the first Milwaukee area native to play for the Admirals, is coming off a 24-14-6-1 season and stands out as one of the AHL’s best netminders. Red hot late in the season in 2018-19, Grosenick did not allow a goal in his only 2019 preseason start.
“(Troy’s) a number one goalie in this league and he played outstanding for us last year,” Taylor said. “He put up top-five numbers and he did lot for our organization being a local guy from Brookfield. He’s a big part of our culture, did an outstanding job last year, and it looks like he is in great form early on.”
Grosenick will be joined by Connor Ingram, a Saskatoon native who posted 14 wins in 22 appearances with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch last season.
“Ingram is a third-year pro, and a young prospect with a great pedigree,” Taylor said. “We should have a pretty good tandem challenging each other all season long.”
With a deep and experienced squad, there is the potential for big things for Milwaukee in its 50th season. On and off the ice during the season there will be several events to celebrate a half century of Admirals hockey. Among the many notable moments planned will be the jersey retirement of former Milwaukee forward Darren Haydar on February 21, when the Admirals face rival Chicago.
Haydar, a former ninth-round draft pick of the Predators, racked up an incredible 92-point season with the Admirals in 2005-06. Two years earlier the Milton, Ontario native won an AHL championship with Milwaukee in his rookie season, leading the Admirals with 11 goals and 26 postseason points.
Haydar’s former team takes the ice for the first time in their 50th anniversary season on Sunday, October 6 in Iowa. Milwaukee’s home opener follows six days later as the squad hosts the Laval Rocket for the first time in franchise history.
“We want to have success again this year,” second-year Admirals forward Mathieu Olivier said. “We believe in our team and we have a good group of guys here. Most of our core guys are back again this year, so it is a little bit of a different vibe (than to start 2018-19). It’s more about building on what we did last season and trying to make it further in the playoffs.”