Friday’s Ads-IceHogs clash was almost the polar opposite of Wednesday night’s showing.
While two nights ago, Dean Evason’s squad looked flat after digging an early 3-1 hole in the first period, last night was a reversion back to the hard-hitting style usually on display when these teams face off.
The Admirals took a 1-0 lead 2:29 into the game when Jani Lajunen tipped and redirected a shot by Charles-Olivier Roussel past Carter Hutton.
Rockford tied it up about six minutes later on a power play. Adam Clendening fired a screaming slapper from near the blue line and it bounced off Jeremy Smith. Brandon Bollig put the rebound back while he was falling forward for a nice finish.
From there on, however, the Admirals’ goalie was lights out in without a doubt his best performance of the season.
Smitty earned first star honors, finishing his night with 38 saves, earning every one of them. The best (in this humble blogger’s opinion) was this robbery of Rob Flick’s coast-to-coast attempt.
Or maybe it was this one. It’s tough to choose.
Things got testy, as they so often do against the Hogs, in the second period with the score tied 1-1. The Admirals threw 19 shots on net and got two power play chances but couldn’t grab the lead.
With the offense frustrated and 6:54 left in the second period, Chris Mueller laid a big open-ice hit on Andrew Shaw that led to some shoving away from the action.
Michael Latta dropped gloves with Bollig and Mueller took on Klas Dahlbeck a few feet away. Not normally a fighter, Mueller didn’t take long to make his point, dropping Dahlbeck to the ice with a devastating uppercut.
Nevertheless, with both goalies continuing to put on a show it would take another deflection to get past Hutton. The Ads got it 9:50 into the third.
Victor Bartley fired one of his quickly becoming trademark hard slappers and it rebounded way out to Taylor Beck who ripped a one-timer that changed direction off Bollig. Hutton couldn’t track it and it went right between his legs.
Beck admitted he wasn’t even trying to put the shot on net and was surprised the puck went in. Evason was pleased his team finally got a bounce after seemingly tiring out Hutton in the second period onslaught.
With the lead, Smith kept Rockford off the scoreboard for the remainder of the contest. The IceHogs pulled Hutton with 1:24 left but 27 seconds later Clendening was called for high sticking. Smitty made one more nice save to seal the deal when a puck trickled in front with 26.8 seconds left.
The win showed a lot of character to Evason as it marked the eighth straight time the Admirals had won after a loss.
Latta said the win meant a lot against a team like Rockford which the Ads will see plenty more times this season.
The Ads are on top of the season series 3-2, and Milwaukee now has its sights set on another division rival, the Rivermen. Peoria visits the Bradley Center next Thursday and Friday.
Evason likes what he’s seen from Roussel since his promotion from Cincy.
Coach said he was pleased with Josh Shalla’s effort tonight as well after his recent call up, but has “no idea” when Daniel Bang will return.
What looked different about the game from Wednesday’s game?
What was your favorite Smitty save?