As good as Jeremy Smith was in Thursday night’s 2-1 win over Peoria, he was even better a day later in a 4-1 victory.
Smitty was lights out in net again stopping 29 of 30 shots and earning first-star honors. He played well enough to earn a shutout, but a late goal came from the Admirals getting a little lax on defense with a big third period cushion.
Milwaukee wanted to get out to a nice start after Thursday’s slow first period. Fittingly enough the same guy who capped the comeback the night before, kept things rolling for the Ads early.
Kevin Henderson blasted a shot on Peoria’s Mike McKenna and the rebound took an odd bounce along the boards all the way out to Ryan Ellis. Ellis’ snap decision to fire it on net was quick enough to beat McKenna and give Milwaukee a 1-0 lead with 6:50 left in the first.
Just about 20 seconds later, Cam Reid skated toward the left corner of the Peoria zone, but timed a perfect spin and fired a beautiful pass to Austin Watson. Watson was able to put it right past McKenna.
On the ensuing faceoff things got heated. The Rivermen, in what coach Dean Evason saw as a desperate effort to gain back momentum, wanted to fight. Ben Ryan responded first, but was a tad outmatched by a more experienced fighter in Stefan Della Rovere.
In his first scuffle, Ryan saw opportunity to stand up for his team.
On the ensuing faceoff of that fight, Michael Latta responded in defense of his teammate, taking on Chris Bruton.
Latta took offense to Rovere calling out the inexperienced Ryan and wanted to make a point.
Meanwhile, Evason was pleased with both of his player’s responses, but questioned the timing of the bouts.
Watson struck again to widen Milwaukee’s lead with 3 minutes left in the second period.
After Watson hustled to put back a rebound, Michael Latta freed the puck for Juuso Puustinen behind the net. With Watson in position to the left of the net, Puustinen fed him for a nice one-timer that squeezed between McKenna and the near post.
The Admirals appeared to go into cruise control mode in the third period and in a late sequence allowed the Rivermen to set up a one-timer of their own. There wasn’t much Smith could do to stop Cade Fairchild’s cross-ice feed to Derek Nesbitt who had an open net.
Less than 20 seconds later, however, the Ads ensured Peoria’s comeback bid would be short-lived. Kevin Henderson got the puck right in front of McKenna then turned and slid it back to Latta who fed it across to Mark Van Guilder. MVG’s shot was deflected in by Henderson with 2:02 left in the game. With the score at 4-1, the win was secured.
Evason updated the status of Mattias Ekholm who missed most of the action Thursday and all of Friday.
Now on their longest win streak of the season, the Ads head down to Rockford Saturday to finish off their 3-in-3.
Do you agree with Evason’s concerns on the timeliness of the first period fights, or do you hold that when those kinds of challenges arise guys simply have to step up?
Evason said there’s a chance Smitty could start again tomorrow in Rockford. In this situation would you go with the hot hand, or give him a rest and go with Magnus Hellberg? (Personally these types of questions make me glad I’m not a coach.)
As a side note, the throwback theme will continue into January. I’m headed home to Tampa for the next two weeks, so our old buddy Ryan Miller will be stepping in for a mid-season cameo.