Friday night the Admirals’ locker room was abuzz with activity. Music was blaring, players were smiling and there was a good vibe about the place.
Saturday night you could hear a pin drop. Most of the players were gone, and there was no music, save for the faint strains of the REO Speedwagon concert out on the rink.
The Checkers came into the Bradley Center and put the Ads under the gun. And took the game on the run. (That’s the only Speedwagon lyric reference you’ll see. I promise.)
The big crowd on hand had little to cheer about as the Ads fell 8-2 to Charlotte thanks to six power play goals. That tied an Ads record for most surrendered in a game.
Jeremy Smith got his first start in three games and stopped 18 of 26 shot attempts.
Coach Dean Evason didn’t mince words or try to blame any single element.
“Everything was bad. Our penalty kill, our forwards, our D, our goalie, our coaches,” Evason said. “The only thing we didn’t see, I guess, was our power play. We had one, so we can’t really say our power play was bad, because we didn’t see it. You just gotta throw the game away.”
Charlotte took the 1-0 lead 3:14 into the game on a power play. Zac Dalpe fired a shot from the right point that was deflected in by Riley Nash.
There wasn’t much action around the net the rest of the period, save for a nice play by Cam Reid to set up Chris Mueller 1-on-1. Reid worked the puck free from a pack of Checkers at neutral ice and fed Mueller who was stopped on the ensuing attempt. Shots were tied at 5-5 at the break.
In the second period it all went south for the Ads. Penalties kept piling up, and Charlotte capitalized in a big way. Moore went for tripping 11 seconds in, and Chris Terry made it 2-0 at the 1:35 mark.
Latta went for crosschecking, Dalpe made it 3-0. Winchester went for roughing, Nash made it 4-0. It felt like the cycle would never end.
Then it did when Jeremy Welsh put in an even-strength goal to make it 5-0, tipping in a Tommi Kivisto wrister.
Smith led the Ads out for the third period, a decision Evason made in the interest of playing it out and resting Magnus Hellberg.
“Our thought process was, Hellberg’s played three in a row, and we have three in a row, obviously. You never like to leave a guy in (at that point) obviously, but we knew after the second period that our group wanted to battle, and we knew Smitty would battle. That’s his personality.”
Mueller said the team had a “you never know” attitude during the second intermission.
The Ads started the final period with an early 5-on-3 that they killed off the front end of.
Reid, who was serving a two-minute slashing penalty for Michael Liambas (who had also been assessed a game misconduct), came out of the box and had a one-on-one rush.
He couldn’t get the shot on, and on the ensuing Charlotte possession Terry struck again on the power play. Welsh quickly scored his second of the game 30 seconds later to make it 7-0 with 17:08 to play.
The Ads finally did get on the board at the 11:16 mark when Kevin Henderson swooped in all the way from neutral ice and beat John Muse over his shoulder.
Michael Latta followed that up less than two minutes later with a nice slapper off a faceoff win from the right circle.
Charlotte extinguished any momentum off of those two quickies scoring less than a minute later to finish off the night.
Smitty stopped a shot on a 3-on-1 rush but Mark Van Guilder ran into him during the save, knocking him to the ice. The puck squirted loose, and with Smitty still down Sean Dolan fed Justin Shugg who had an empty net.
What do you say to your team after an 8-2 loss? According to Evason, absolutely nothing.
“I’m at a loss. It’s difficult to even put into words what happened. It was like what happened last night. If you told people we were down two goals, and we scored two empty-net goals and went to overtime, they’d be like ‘What? You’re crazy’. And say on the next night we just lost 8-2. You either look back and learn from both of them or throw them out and move forward.”
“We anticipated our group (would) go forward, as we talked about last night after the game. Maybe we’ll look back and say one of these two games was the turning point in our season. Who knows?”
Juuso Puustinen and Taylor Beck were both scratches for the game, and Evason said he’s confident one of the two will be back in the lineup tomorrow.
“I hope at least one. We’ll evaluate them tomorrow after some skating and some treatment. Both guys are skilled, obviously and Beck arguably had his best game (Friday) night, so it would’ve been nice to have them in tonight’s hockey game. We’ll likely have one of them back.”
As Mueller said, despite the bleak loss, the two out of three objective is still a reality for tomorrow’s game. Winning three in a row helped keep it in play.
At a certain point, the final score can mean what you want it to mean. Look back at the 8-2 win over OKC for evidence of that.
These games happen, but the timing wasn’t as opportune as Milwaukee may have liked. It looked like they’d perhaps turned a corner coming in.
Evason didn’t want to single out any one thing in particular as he shouldn’t particularly need to. He’s a coach and we’re fans and observers. That being said this is a discussion site, so let’s discuss.
There were a lot of bad things out there, but which were the worst? The Admirals didn’t do Smith any favors with the constant, costly and unnecessary penalties. But could Smitty have also stopped some of those shots?
Spending so much time on the penalty kill also heavily impacted the offense, and any possible support of Smitty at the other end of the ice. When you’re constantly a man down, it’s really difficult to get into any sort of a groove.
It’s hard to gauge the power play, as coach said, based on one chance, but you’d think down 3-0 that the Ads would’ve taken a little more advantage of the opportunity. They spent way too much of that power play in their own zone.
Trashing the game and moving on is probably the right mindset to have, especially with another one the very next day as Mueller commented. Unlike the last two weeks where the team would have days upon days to reflect on a loss, the next-day scenario helps in this case.
But is there anything, in your opinion, the Admirals should take from this game?