Weekend watch list: Jan. 26-28

Patrick Williams, TheAHL.com Features Writer

The Milwaukee Admirals will put an eight-game winning streak on the line tonight when they host the Rockford IceHogs.

A victory tonight would match the longest win streak in the league this season; the Hershey Bears have fashioned two separate nine-game streaks so far. Rockford was the last opponent to defeat the Admirals, dealing them a 4-3 setback on New Year’s Eve.

After facing the IceHogs, the Admirals visit Chicago for a Saturday night showdown against the Wolves, who have won five games in a row going into weekend play.

The streak, combined with Texas dropping seven of nine games since New Year’s, has helped the Admirals to open up an eight-point lead for first place in the Central Division. Since Dec. 8, Milwaukee is 15-2-0-0.

The Admirals survived a late stumble to take a 4-3 shootout win on Wednesday night, giving them their longest winning streak since 2019. Belleville undid a 3-0 Milwaukee lead, including scoring twice in the final 4:02 of regulation, but Yaroslav Askarov denied five attempts in the seven-round shootout to run his personal streak to eight straight winning decisions. He also turned back an Angus Crookshank penalty shot in the second period.

Askarov, who was selected 11th overall by the parent Nashville Predators in the 2020 NHL Draft, is now 15-6-1 this season. His 2.19 goals-against average is third-best in the AHL and he ranks fifth in the AHL with a .921 save percentage, and has a 1.72 GAA, a .941 save percentage and three shutouts over his last eight starts.

Askarov and defenseman Spencer Stastney will represent the Admirals at the 2024 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Tech CU in San Jose next weekend.

Veteran forward Mark Jankowski scored twice against Belleville and now is third in AHL scoring with 41 points (13 goals, 28 assists) through 34 games. He has racked up 15 points during the eight-game winning streak.

Don’t sit back on the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Grand Rapids has won three games in a row after facing third-period deficits in all three. They were down 1-0 to Rockford at home on Wednesday going into the third, but a Zach Aston-Reese goal tied the game before Jonatan Berggren put the Griffins ahead to stay 4:37 later in what was an eventual 3-1 victory.

Last weekend, Grand Rapids rallied on back-to-back night to sweep a two-game set at Manitoba. The Griffins trailed 4-1 in the opener last Friday before Brogan Rafferty started the comeback with a goal late in the second period and Dominik Shine and Berggren (on the power play with 1:41 left in regulation) forced overtime. Marco Kasper then struck 48 seconds into overtime for a 5-4 win.

Then on Saturday, the Griffins found themselves in a 3-0 hole at the second intermission. But a pair of Kasper goals in the opening 7:10 of the third period made it 3-2. From there, Austin Czarnik tied the game in the final minute of regulation before Aston-Reese’s deciding tally with 11.4 seconds left in the period gave the Griffins a 4-3 win. Kasper’s five-point weekend earned him Howies Hockey Tape/AHL Player of the Week honors.

Up next for Grand Rapids is Belleville, as the teams meet tonight and Saturday at Van Andel Arena. The Griffins earned a split in a two-game visit to CAA Arena on Dec. 8-9.

Back in 1936, the International-American Hockey League began with eight clubs – the Buffalo Bisons, Cleveland Falcons, New Haven Eagles, Philadelphia Ramblers, Pittsburgh Hornets, Providence Reds, Springfield Indians and Syracuse Stars – playing the league’s first four games on Nov. 7.

Now known as the American Hockey League and in its 88th season, the league will stage its 50,000th regular-season game Saturday night. The AHL slate on Saturday will feature all 32 teams in action.

To mark the milestone, all 16 games will be free on AHLTV. The night’s schedule will begin with Laval visiting Rochester (5 ET/2 PT) and continue through the night. Abbotsford-Bakersfield and Colorado-Henderson match-ups (10 ET/7 PT) will wrap up the milestone evening.

An AHLTV account is required to watch the AHLTV Free Games of the Week, but no subscription is needed. Visit AHLTV.com for details.