Milwaukee’s final home game of the regular season was one of its most exciting, as the Admirals rose to the occasion to rebound from a bad second period and pull off a 6-4 victory over the Charlotte Checkers.
After taking a 3-1 lead early in the second, the Ads allowed three unanswered goals and headed into the final twenty minutes down 4-3.
At 11:38 Joe Piskula tied things up, putting home a great pass from Juuso Puustinen from the point.
Less than two minutes later, Josh Shalla scored the game-winner for Milwaukee after a strong move to the net by Joonas Rask. Rask had the puck poked away from him, but it went right to Shalla who snapped it past Mike Murphy.
With 1:45 to play, the Ads faced a two-man advantage after Mattias Ekholm was called for holding and Murphy hit the bench.
In the final minute, Zach Hamill intercepted a pass and fired a laser beam from the Ads’ blue line that slid coast-to-coast and hit the back of the empty net, sealing the victory.
Coach Dean Evason said he didn’t say anything to his team in the second intermission, but knew the third period was the Ads’ time to come together.
The victory brought Milwaukee’s magic number to three, meaning wins in its final two games or a win and an overtime loss would punch a postseason ticket. Milwaukee and Rockford are tied for the eighth spot with 85 points, but the IceHogs will play their final game tonight at Texas.
Mark Van Guilder opened the scoring for the Ads at 10:31 of the first period, putting back a rebound off a Zach Budish attempt.
The Ads got another goal off a rebound about three minutes later when Ekholm’s shot from the right circle was stopped, and Patrick Cehlin snuck the puck past Murphy for the 2-0 lead.
Jeremy Welsh got Charlotte on the board at 15:55, taking a pass from Zach Boychuk and finding himself all alone in front of the Milwaukee net.
Rask answered with his first goal in his first game with the Ads 2:14 into the second period, rushing into the Charlotte zone and whipping Murphy with a wrister from the slot.
The 3-1 lead wouldn’t last, however, as Boychuk and Zac Dalpe scored within two minutes of one another halfway through the period to tie the game. Matt Marquardt gave the Checkers a 4-3 lead at 18:17, putting a rebound past Magnus Hellberg with a backhand shot.
Hellberg ended up stopping 26 of the 30 shots he faced and making some key saves down the stretch.
The Admirals were 5-23-0-1 when trailing after two periods heading into Friday, but they got their sixth when it really mattered.
In its last 18 games Milwaukee is 13-4-1-0 making for a huge playoff push down the stretch.
The Ads overcame an unbalanced night on special teams by killing off four of five Charlotte power plays and scoring a shorty, while being granted just one chance with the man-advantage.
Charlotte came in with the best road power play unit in the league, and Evason thought the unevenness of the chances created a tough challenge.
It was a heck of a night for the newly formed Shalla-Reid-Rask line, and Evason was particularly impressed with Rask, who picked up second-star honors.
Coach added that he hasn’t been briefed on whether or not Daniel Bang and Kevin Henderson will rejoin the Ads tomorrow in Rosemont. With Nashville losing in overtime in Chicago tonight, it remains a possibility.
What impressed you about the Ads’ ability to come back in the third period Friday after they hadn’t done so for much of the season?
What did you see in Rask’s game that appealed to you? Any other players stand out to you as unsung heroes?
What did you think of Hellberg’s night overall? He had a rough second period, but stopped the final 10 shots he faced to keep his team in it.
How likely is it that we’ll see Bang and Henderson back in the lineup Saturday night?
Is there any doubt in your mind that the Ads will finish off the playoff push?