As the Milwaukee Admirals attempt to finish off the Manitoba Moose in their best-of-five Central Division semifinal series tonight in Winnipeg, their reinforcements have arrived.

Milwaukee has a 2-0 series lead after Devin Cooley stopped 83 of 86 Manitoba shots across the first two games. Now the Admirals will have goaltender Connor Ingram, defenseman Mathieu Olivier, and forward Cody Glass back after the National Hockey League’s Nashville Predators reassigned the trio to Milwaukee on Tuesday.

With Juuse Saros injured, Ingram took over the Nashville starting job in the Predators’ first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche. Colorado went on to sweep the series, but Ingram earned praise across the hockey world for his play in Game 2 of the series, when he made 49 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss. He wound up with a .913 save percentage in his four appearances against the Western Conference’s highest scoring team.

This season with Milwaukee, Ingram played in an AHL-high 55 games, going 30-17-7 with a 2.70 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

Glass, 23, led the Admirals in scoring with 62 points (14 goals, 48 assists) in 66 games this season. Taken sixth overall by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Draft, Glass had 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 22 playoff games for the Chicago Wolves in their run to the 2019 Calder Cup Finals. He came to the Nashville organization in a July 2021 trade.

The 25-year-old Olivier played 46 games for the Admirals this season and had 11 points (five goals, six assists).

Rookie seasons test nearly all American Hockey League players.

But Stockton Heat forward Connor Zary took an all-too-eventful path to his first-ever Calder Cup Playoff game Tuesday night.

After an intense summer training for his first full pro season, a puck to his ankle in a prospects game against the Edmonton Oilers put all of that work on hold. The fracture, which occurred just five days before his 20th birthday, ended Zary’s training camp with the Calgary Flames, but the good news was that the injury did not require surgery.

But the lengthy recovery process delayed his season debut with the Stockton Heat until Nov. 10.

Now Zary, taken 24th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft by the Flames, is back on track and was in the Stockton lineup for Game 1 of their best-of-five Pacific Division semifinal series against the Bakersfield Condors last night. Zary, who played nine games with the Heat at the start of the abbreviated 2020-21 AHL season before returning to the Western Hockey League, went on to contribute a solid 25-point effort (13 goals, 12 assists) in his first full season with Stockton.

“I [had] never really gone through anything like that,” Zary said of the injury experience. “To lose all you worked for in the summer, I was a little behind the pack. It [stinks] making excuses for yourself, but that was the reality… playing a little bit of catch-up, getting my feet under me, rehabbing my ankle, thinking the game at the right pace, and all that.

“Not to say I struggled at the start, but there was definitely a game of catch-up and to find my game and find my spot in the lineup. Before we knew it, it was already Christmas. I knew I was pretty frustrated with how things started.

“I think I proved my worth and produced a little better, but not even close throughout the whole season [to] where I wanted to be and the goals I had set for myself. So I think that’s a bit frustrating.”

But the Calder Cup Playoffs are about a fresh start, and Zary is approaching the postseason that way.

“[The] page turns now, and it doesn’t really matter what happened in the regular season,” Zary said. “There’s the playoffs to worry about now, and [I] try not to think too much about what happened in the regular season. Obviously, it didn’t quite go my way.

“[I am] looking forward to the playoffs and getting on track and hopefully winning a Calder Cup.”

The Charlotte Checkers will not have forward Max McCormick next season, but he has left a positive impression on his teammates in the Queen City.

On Monday as the Checkers prepared for the Atlantic Division semifinal series against the Bridgeport Islanders, McCormick signed a two-year, two-way contract extension with the Seattle Kraken.

Seattle is in a one-year dual affiliation with Charlotte as part of an arrangement with the Florida Panthers. But next season the Kraken will have their own AHL affiliate, the Coachella Valley Firebirds, and they have already started the process of constructing that roster.

McCormick, who provided 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 46 games for Charlotte while also playing 10 games with Seattle, went out and contributed a pair of assists in the Checkers’ Game 1 win in Bridgeport, setting up both goals by fellow Kraken prospect Alexander True.

“Max is a valuable part of the leadership group in Charlotte as the Checkers begin their playoff run,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said in a written statement following the deal. “He impressed us with his play in Seattle. We are excited that he is returning to our organization for the next two years.”

Checkers head coach Geordie Kinnear and defenseman Chase Priskie, both under contract to Florida, credit McCormick as being part of the Charlotte leadership group that helped to unite prospects from two different NHL organizations. Kinnear had first taken notice of McCormick when the hard-nosed forward was with the Carolina Hurricanes organization from 2019 to 2021.

“I’m a firm believer that when you work hard, good things happen,” Kinnear said. “You just don’t know when they’re going to happen, and Max is a prime example. [Coaching against him] I loved what he brought to the table. Loved his grit, loved his energy, loved his skill set.”

News of McCormick’s new contract broke following Monday’s practice.

“We were all hooting and hollering,” Priskie said of the announcement. “He’s so loved by all the guys that there wasn’t one guy that didn’t have a smile ear-to-ear that was almost bigger than Max’s.

“I think he was trying to play cool a little bit. But when you get to sign a two-year extension, it’s just phenomenal to see his work come to fruition.”

Scratch below the surface and all sorts of long-standing hockey relationships can be found.

Take AHL head coaches Seth Appert and Kevin Dineen, who share a history with the University of Denver. Now Appert’s Rochester Americans are in a best-of-five North Division Semifinals battle with Dineen and the Utica Comets.

Dineen, 58, rates as one of the top products ever to play at Denver. He appeared in 74 games between 1981 and 1983 and racked up 63 points (28 goals, 35 assists) before going on to a 19-season NHL career and a lengthy second tour in coaching.

After four NCAA seasons as a goaltender at Ferris State, the 47-year-old Appert’s coaching career began with nine seasons as an assistant coach with the Pioneers. He then went on to become a head coach at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and with USA Hockey before taking the Rochester post in August 2020.

“First of all,” Appert said, “[Dineen is] a great person. He’s always treated me like gold even when I was a really young assistant at Denver. And he’s a fantastic coach. He’s coached every level.

“I’ve said that Utica makes us a better team playing against them. Coaching against guys like Kevin Dineen and the other coaches in our division also makes me a better coach.”

Patrick Williams

By admin