The story coming into the game was that it was going to be Atte Engren’s North American debut.
The story after the game was how fantastic IceHog netminder Hannu Toivonen was.
Toivonen made 44 saves as the IceHogs defeated the Admirals 3-2 in overtime.
“He was unbelievable,” Coach Lambert said after the game. “He made the difference in the game. Unbelievable. And he’s been playing that way for them here for quite a few games now. So hats off to him. He stole the game for them.”
As for Engren, we asked Coach Lambert what kind of marks he would give Engren’s performance tonight. He elected to avoid specifics.
“Average. Average marks.”
So we’ll give some observations. His athleticism seems to be his biggest asset, as he channeled his inner Hasek on a few occasions. Rebound control could still use some work, and he seemed to have trouble tracking rebounds after making the save. He likes to challenge shooters, but it seems like it’s a long way for him to get back to the crease to get ready for the follow-up shot. And on his first goal, he may have underestimated how fast things happen in North American hockey.
Brandon Pirri will have the distinction of scoring the first ever North American professional goal against Engren. After Engren made a nice pad save on a shot from the low slot, the play continued behind the net, and Pirri’s shot from just to the side of the crease beat Engren before he could seal up the far post.
Andreas Thuresson answered back 1:13 later with a power play marker. Roman Josi passed to Kelsey Wilson in the slot. Wilson ended up knocking it down with his hand, and couldn’t quite get a shot on net. Instead he dished to Thuresson at the bottom of the circle for his 11th of the year.
Pirri scored his second of the game on a 3-on-2-and-half rush. I’ll give the Admirals the extra half as Brock McBride had almost caught up with the play. Pirri brought the puck into the zone, made a quick move to shake off a defender, and his shot from just to the left of the far dot flat out beat Engren.
The Admirals tied it up in the third period with Thuresson’s second of the game. It was one of 19 shots that frame for the Admirals, which was a season high for a period (46 was also a season high for a game). Wilson had a shot on goal, and then there were about 6 guys surrounding the crease. Lots of sticks playing for the rebound, but Thuresson’s stick was the one that put it past Toivonen.
The game went to overtime, and the IceHogs capitalized on a 3-1 rush to get the win. After Grant Lewis pinched into the offensive zone, he was tripped, and that eventually sprung the odd-man rush. Brian Connelly brought it down the right wing, and shot from about the same spot Pirri did for his 2nd goal, and it beat Engren to end the game.
“It’s very disappointing. We deserved to win that game,” Coach said.
The Mueller – Bourque- Thang line was the best tonight, mostly because they were often able to get sustained pressure in the offensive zone. It wasn’t just one shot and done. They were able to get three to five chances on lots of their shifts. And that spread to some other lines, especially in the 3rd period. Multiple times the Admirals would get the initial shot on Toivonen and then a couple more off of a rebound. A lot of opportunities came from within a couple feet of the crease and Toivonen was able to stop enough to help get a win for his team.
The Admirals continued their streak of obtaining at least a point in 15 straight road games. It ties an AHL league record. They’ll have one more chance in the regular season to break it, because there’s just one road game left.
Houston, Peoria, Texas, and Chicago won. San Antonio was shutout, so they’ll be grumpy in Milwaukee tomorrow afternoon, playing their third game in three days. The Aeros and the Admirals both have 92 points, but Houston has played three more games.