The Admirals lost 7-4 against the Texas Stars Friday night. It is the first time this season the Ads have lost in regulation and ends the eight-game point streak to start the season.
This game marked the return of Magnus Hellberg and Kevin Henderson to the Ads lineup. It also marked the AHL debut of Filip Forsberg.
For Hellberg, this wasn’t him at his sparkling best. He made thirty-three saves, good. But he also let in six goals, ouch. This was his first game in net since an October 26th cameo in Nashville. Since then it has been a combination of practices, warm-ups, and sitting on the Nashville Predators bench. He only played 12:12 of ice time in that lone NHL appearance. Perhaps a reason why his timing was just -that- much off tonight.
Henderson returned to the Ads lineup for his first game since October 18th in a road win against the Grand Rapids Griffins. He didn’t factor too much into the score sheet: no points on one shot with a plus/minus of -2. Yet, his presence to the team on both sides of the puck is a plus. Was he overwhelmed in his return from injury? Hard to say. But expect #15 to be a factor as he gets his legs back under him.
Making the headlines going into this game was the AHL and Admiral debut of Filip Forsberg. How did he play? Great. He scored a goal and an assist tonight. Even better than that was his work rate on the ice, drawing penalties, and producing chances for his teammates. He spent a lot of time on the ice with Colton Sissons and Simon Moser tonight. That line seemed to be one of the better groups on the ice in this game.
The Ads did manage to score the opening goal in this game. Joonas Jarvinen scored his first goal of the season after his shot was deflected en route to the net. This was the third straight game where the Ads managed to open the scoring after a lengthy drought in which they failed to do so since the opening game in Abbotsford. Slow starts have been a talking point of the Ads. Clearly they’ve been working to jump out of the gates much faster.
An early turning point in this game happened by way of injury to Mike Liambas. It sounded as though he took a hit near the boards, stayed down briefly on the ice, and skated off to the Ads bench. Liambas has been a part of the Ads most effective line early in this season: with Tousignant and Rask/Budish. Him leaving so early in the game left a hole in the forward group and a physical presence few forwards in the team can match. According to assistant coach Stan Drulia after the game, Liambas was “looking good” and walking around in his suit after the game. No word as to whether or not this is a short term or long term injury, but he will be reevaluated tomorrow morning.
The first period would end at a 1-1 tie after a goal from Jamie Oleksiak. The Stars, from the middle of the first period and whole of the second period, really began to tilt the ice against the Ads. Oleksiak let loose a slap shot that bested Hellberg in net to level things in the opening frame.
Enter the second period. Enter a horrific period of hockey for the Admirals. Penalties really gashed the Ads in the second. How bad did it get? Mark Van Guilder received two-minutes for roughing. No joke. In total, the Ads took five penalties for ten penalty minutes. This gave the Stars multiple power-play chances – including two lengthy 5-on-3 efforts.
Texas produced quickly in the second period with a power-play goal off of one of those two-man advantage situations. Travis Morin scored with a backhanded shot to give the Stars a 2-1 lead.
Moments later, yet another power-play goal for the Stars. This go-round it was Colton Sceviour with a wrister from the left circle.
It wasn’t all Stars on the power-play, though. The Ads managed to answer with one of their own. Miikka Salomaki smashed a one-timer through heavy net front traffic to draw the Stars lead back, 3-2.
Just thirty-four seconds later, wind right out of the Admirals sails, and puck being picked out of the net yet again. The Stars picked out Morin in the slot, he beat Hellberg five hole, and scored his tenth goal of the season – restoring a two-goal lead.
The advantage in shots for the Stars through two periods was rather cringe-worthy. They managed to outshoot the Ads 33-12 in the opening two frames – including 20-6 in the second period alone.
The third period did start just as the Ads would have wanted to. The Ads scored a power-play goal off of a blistering one-time shot by Forsberg. The score was again cut to a one goal Texas lead, 4-3.
Now, in my opinion, here comes the biggest talking point of the game. While the Ads clearly weren’t playing their best hockey. They were still doing what they do best: scrapping it out and staying in striking distance late in a game. So, when the Stars netminder Josh Robinson mishandled a puck and it went into the net… you would be thinking the Ads clawed back yet another two-goal Texas Stars lead. But, the officials blew the play dead instantly. The goal didn’t count. It was still a 4-3 hockey game. The error by Robinson wouldn’t haunt the Stars.
Not only did it not haunt the Stars. The very next puck drop of the game lead to a blocked shot that sent the Stars on a two-on-zip breakaway. Brett Ritchie had Toby Petersen but finished it himself. The two goal lead was restored for the Stars, 5-3.
The Ads did manage to score another power-play goal in this game courtesy of “Mr. Power-Play” Anthony Bitetto. This goal drew the game to a 5-4 scoreline, and it goes down as Bitetto’s fifth goal of the season and third on the power-play.
The backbreaker would come just three minutes after Bitetto’s goal as the Stars scored shorthanded. Colton Sceviour zipped down the left wing and sent a backhander past Hellberg on the short side of goal – yet again restoring a two goal cushion for the Stars.
Hellberg slammed his stick in disgust after conceding the shorty… and that’s how his night would end. He stopped thirty-three of thirty-nine shots before giving way to Admiral debutant Scott Darling.
Darling faced one shot and made one save before the Ads pulled him off the ice for the extra attacker. Scott Glennie of the Stars would cap off the game by scoring on the empty net. Game. Over.
Rough night after a lengthy time off. Still, there were some real positives to the Ads game tonight. Miikka Salomaki had a four-point night for the Ads (1 goal and 3 assists). Salomaki factored into all Admirals goals and, were this game to have finished a little differently, would have easily been the big star of the night. Meanwhile, Forsberg played real well in his debut outing as an Admiral. He put up two points, drew penalties, and was an effective player tonight in an otherwise rough game.
The point streak ends at eight consecutive games. The Ads finally lose in regulation. Yet, the team is set to bounce right back against these same Texas Stars tomorrow night.
Your thoughts on tonight’s game? Salomaki? Forsberg? How do you feel about Hellberg’s performance tonight? Was Hellberg’s night in net just a sign of a goalie who hasn’t played in a game for awhile or something more? How do you think the Ads bounce back after conceding seven goals?