It will take nothing less than a full team effort for an opponent to handle the Chicago Wolves.

Milwaukee Admirals like defenseman Dylan Blujus are providing just that. Milwaukee goes into tonight’s Game 4 of the Central Division Finals attempting to build on Wednesday’s 4-2 win and push the best-of-five series to the limit.

With Chicago unleashing 49 shots in Game 3, Blujus showed a willingness to at least disrupt some of those attempts by blocking shooting lanes. And for a Milwaukee blue line missing veteran regulars Matt Tennyson and Alex Biega against one of the American Hockey League’s most productive offenses, head coach Karl Taylor is looking for every bit of help that he can find.

“[Blujus] is a special individual,” Taylor told Admirals broadcaster Aaron Sims after Game 3. “He’s the fabric of the group. He’s an individual that is a big part of our team. He’s a guy that’s sacrificing a lot right now on the ice.”

In his eighth AHL season, Blujus shifted to the Western Conference for the first time in his career after agreeing to an AHL deal with Milwaukee last September. The Buffalo, N.Y., native and 2012 second-round NHL draft pick had previously played 295 games with Syracuse, Utica and Rochester.

While Blujus was on the Crunch roster for a run to the 2017 Calder Cup Finals, this is his first time playing games beyond the first round. Blujus had another steady outing Wednesday, but Taylor also brought up a moment from a difficult loss in Game 2 last Sunday.

“An 8-2 game, seven minutes left in Chicago,” Taylor pointed out. “They’re on a five-on-three, and he blocks three shots in an 8-2 game, sacrificing his body when the game was over.

“That’s just who he is as an individual, and it’s great leadership on his part for the rest of our group.”

Rory Kerins only has two games of Calder Cup Playoff experience, but he has seen enough of the Colorado Eagles to at least know one fact.

After an atypical 5-0 loss to Kerins and the Stockton Heat in Game 1 of the Pacific Division Finals, the Eagles put up a strong fight in Game 2 despite a 1-0 loss. Now with the Eagles fighting for their season and back home before the animated Colorado fan base, the Heat are gearing up to see the best that their opponent has to offer.

A 2020 sixth-round pick by the parent Calgary Flames, the 20-year-old Kerins reported to Stockton following the completion of his season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in which he produced 118 points (43 goals, 75 assists) in 67 regular-season games.

In making the considerable jump to the AHL’s caliber of play, Kerins is acquiring valuable experience. Now he has an opportunity to further that learning process as he and the Heat attempt to close out Colorado’s season. Calder Cup Playoff success requires teams and players to continuously raise their collective level of play to match their opponent.

“The last win is always the hardest in any series,” Kerins said. “They’re going to be desperate. We’re going to try to elevate our game even more.”

Patrick Williams

By admin