Best in West? Milwaukee blitzes Houston 5-2 to Stake its Claim on the Top Spot

Credit the American Hockey League schedule makers for finally getting one right, having Milwaukee and Houston face off for the final time of season on Friday night, with the road to first place in the Western Conference paved in gold for the winner.

But more props to the Admirals for bringing their steamrollers for work on that road, even if took Milwaukee 20 minutes to rev them up.  The Admirals scored four goals in the second period for a come from behind and statement win 5-2 over the Aeros.

However, Milwaukee coach Lane Lambert would prefer his team stay humble about the victory:

Seven minutes into the hockey game, Gabriel Bourque got the Admirals cooking with an even strength goal off a rebound from Ryan Thang’s original shot.  Unfortunately for Milwaukee, Bourque’s tally was sandwiched between a pair of Houston power play markers. Jarod Palmer scored first, then Jon DiSavatore potted his 27th goal of season–and 13th on the man advantage–to make it 2-1 Aeros in dominating fashion after the first period (Houston out-shot Milwaukee 15-6 after 20 minutes).

Much like the Aeros recent leads in the standings, their advantage would not last long.  Milwaukee responded with perhaps their best period of season, scoring four unanswered goals to grab a 5-2 lead after 40 minutes.

Chris Mueller got the Admirals party started with a 5-on-3 power play goal five minutes into the second period to tie game.  Mark Van Guilder chipped in 10th goal of the season one and half minutes later, still on the power play from the second penalty call of the 5-on-3.  It was a little redemption for Van Guilder, who thought he scored three and half minutes earlier but was robbed by an early whistle (More terrible non-goal calls to come).

With Milwaukee leading 3-2, the Admirals pressed for more and got rewarded with a pair of goals during the 15th minute of second period.

At 15:16, Mueller, planted on the doorstep, got his second goal of the night by chipping home a rebound off of Aaron Johnson’s initial shot.  After Mueller’s goal, Hackett suffered a total breakdown, taking a four minute minor for roughing (not sure why one of the calls wasn’t a slash) at 15:43 while attacking freshly-minted Admiral Austin Watson.  Five seconds later Teemu Laakso let go a blast that beat Hackett clean and ended the Aeros starter’s night.  Milwaukee, out-shooting Houston 14-4 in second period, took a 5-2 lead after 40 minutes.

The third period proved rather uneventful with the exception of several minor scrums and a ridiculous non-goal call on a would-be Andreas Thuresson tally.  On a wrap around, Thuresson clearly tucked a puck beyond the goal line and behind Houston’s reliever netminder Josh Tordjman.  Despite the official having a clear look at the play, and the red light being emphatically on, the goal call was missed and the goal judge was never consulted.

FURTHER GAME NOTES:

Kelsey Wilson left the game during his first shift with an dreaded “lower body” injury and did not return.  Wilson is looking at MRI tomorrow to find out the extent of the issue.  Too bad it had to happen on the night that Wilson became the Admirals all-time leader in AHL games played at 294.

Jeremy Smith improved to 15-6-2 in the Admirals net, stopping 22 of 24 shots for the win.  Smith wasn’t spectacular, but he didn’t need to be on a night where Milwaukee’s defense was stout for the final 40 minutes.

Milwaukee’s power play was clicking against the Aeros going 3-for-8 in the game.  Meanwhile, the Admirals’ penalty kill allowed two goals on just four man advantage chances, but that discussion is for another day.

Tonight was the AHL debut games for Watson and Chris Cahill.  Both made great first impressions on their new coach:

In front of 7,379 fans at the Bradley Center, Milwaukee moves up to 98 points for a four-point top spot advantage in the West Division.  The Admirals are now a virtual lock to win the division and the Western Conference.

Needless to say, the game of the year for Milwaukee did not disappoint.

So Roundtable, while you celebrate the win, here are some questions to ponder:

Mueller was awesome tonight.  Is it safe to say that he has become the team’s unofficial heart and soul?

What did you think of a new guys?  Watson drove Houston (especially Hackett) crazy all night, while former Yale standout Cahill was an impressive physical presence and fit right in.

Though he returned against San Antonio, are you happy to see a healthy Steve Begin back and wrecking havoc on the ice?

Has there been a better period for the Admirals than tonight’s second 20 minutes against Houston?

How about Milwaukee’s formerly dormant power play?  Seems like the special teams are getting better in every game as of late.

Are you getting sick of AHL non-goals?  Thuresson’s was ridiculous, and that was SECOND missed goal of the night for Milwaukee.

Do you have your Western Conference champagne bottle uncorked or are you going to wait until the Admirals wrap things up before enjoying this win?

16 thoughts on “Best in West? Milwaukee blitzes Houston 5-2 to Stake its Claim on the Top Spot”

  1. First and foremost, we all know the score was 7-1 tonight, and with that, the Admirals basically clinched the Division and Conference crown. No need for us to sit around and whine about the fact that we had 2 obvious goals disallowed while they were given 10 extra pokes at Smith when he had the puck under his pads. No reason to complain about that, because this team is on fire, and no reason to worry about things out of our control.

    Mueller has been the heart and soul of this team all year I’d say. Nobody grinds harder for 60 minutes than he does. It’s his hustle that makes plays happen for his linemates, and its an awesome line because of that.

    It took Watson a couple shifts to find his footing, but after that he was solid. Cahill was a force at both ends of the ice and played VERY impressive for a first game as a pro. I’m looking forward to what he does from here on out. Watson drew a penalty in the 2nd, then was smart enough not to let Hackett get under his skin….which led Milwaukee to putting the game away. Cahill is 5’10, but plays like he’s 6’3, love it.

    It’s impressive that guys like Watson, Cahill, and Begin have all stepped in this week, and the admirals haven’t broke stride AT ALL. Usually you see a little timidness in a guys first pro game, or their first game back….but these guys have stepped in and the team hasn’t skipped a beat.

    No sense in complaing about replay, because nothing will be done about it anytime soon. And it’s not like you can go back and retrain refs to not be dillholes…every team in the league plays with the same refs, you can’t let that beat you. Good teams overcome it, as the Admirals did tonight.

    I’m hoping that we didn’t see Kelsey Wilsons new record happen during his last game as an Admiral. I don’t know what his contract situation is (and am too lazy to look it up) but its not good to see him go down like that.

    I’m gonna give my MVP to Mark Santorelli tonight. Kid played 10x better than any game he has played all year. His assist on Van Guilders 2nd goal tonight was mighty impressive.

  2. If I did the math right, we need 5 points to clinch the division AND the conference.

    I’m glad Begin is back in the lineup. While he may not be an offensive juggernaut, his defensive and faceoff skills are excellent.

    Is it me, or over the last few home games, does this team look like an impressive playoff team? Throughout the year, even though we were getting points in games, we were not that impressive. There were lots of lapses on both ends of the ice, and many times we did not look like a cohesive unit. We are now starting to look like well oiled machine.

  3. Yeah, we seem to have found our groove as of late….which in a way worries me. What happens if/when Blake/Dex/Klasen/Blum come back in the playoffs and throw everything off?

    Magic number is 5 for us vs. Texas.

  4. Now THAT was a hockey game. Everyone on the ice came out looking for a win, and there was no slacking allowed. Maybe it was the presence of the new guys, maybe it was the team finally gelling, maybe it was a lucky night (I hope not). The team out on the ice tonight matched the physical play of Houston, and then some.

    Agree with MiB. Mueller has been a force to reckon with all year. He hasn’t clicked as well as he did with Halischuk, but he still pushes hard, and makes things happen.

    Watching Watson and Cahill tonight was like a breath of fresh air. Maybe that had something to do with the way the team played tonight. Cahill was like a maniac out there, and Watson put on a mighty powerful performance himself. Looks like these two boys want to, and aren’t afraid to, play in the big league.

    Friggin’ refs. Maybe they should start assigning their numbers by the quality of the job they do. If that were the case, Lemelin’s number would have been -84. I though Jeff Smith sucked, but tonight’s officiating was just plain nasty.

    Who woke Santorelli up? A little late in the season, but it’s a good thing it happened. It looked like he was still tentative in his checking, but he did a whole lot better tonight than he has in a long time.

  5. I think Mark Santorelli must be reading the writing on the wall. Even though he might be looking for a change of scenery, the only way you can audition for a new job is by playing. However, I see the addition of Steve Begin to his line as big factor in his improved play. Begin always works his tail off, and you have to wonder if some of that rubbed off on Santorelli.

  6. Lambert saying Cahill has good speed is the biggest understatement I’ve heard in a long time. The guy was blazingly fast out there and finished his checks hard! I’m looking forward to seeing him fulltime next season!

    Haven’t seen a goalie meltdown like that since Pavelec did it back in January of 09 and broke a couple of sticks after the 5th or 6th goal he gave up. Did Hacket not see the replay? Cody Almond clearly pushed Watson into him. Granted it wasn’t the hardest of pushes, but Watson didn’t exactly level Hacket either. I got real excited when I saw Smith start skating in his general direction, thought I was going to see the all coveted goalie fight. However my premature squirt was in fact…premature, as he slowed down after the refs got Hacket under control.

  7. If you like Cahill, just wait until you check out some of the other Yale prospects that will be making their mark on professional hockey soon enough. The Bulldogs are for real and were my pick to the win the NCAA tournament this year:
    http://host.madison.com/sports/college/hockey/article_9e371d3a-58ed-11e0-b3d2-001cc4c002e0.html

    Coach Keith Allain is building an impressive program at Yale and his teams play a brand of hockey that memorizing to watch.

  8. MIB…yeah, for a lack of a better phrase, I just admitted to a premature squirt. Have not fear though, I cleaned up any and all messes with a thorough scrubbing of my Diet Pepsi, the seat should be safe enough to sit on as soon as it dries!

  9. Interestingly Laakso has scored a goal three games in a row. Interesting because he had 4 goals all season before the streak.

  10. Mueller has been the heart and soul since the playoffs last year. Should be in Nashville IMO, but good for us he isn’t. Mueller and Borque best two guys out there now. Thang really improving on their line. Really doubt we will see Halischuck back with us.

    New guys were pretty good. Watson definitely needs to bulk up like brought up previously. Very impressed that he didn’t lose his cool with Hackett abusing him.

    Didn’t really notice Begin too much.

    Thought that was by far the most exciting period all year! I think disallowing the goals really fired this team up. I think that really helped with the power play.

    Tired of the all the blown calls in the last 4 games or so. Each game seems to be worse. Hackett got away with some stuff early. Held someone (Thuresson??) with his stick right in front of the ref.

    I think we have to have a serious meltdown to blow the top spot. Will hold off on celebrating for now.

    Still amazed at how this team keeps finding ways to win with the players we have. So I’m hoping with Kelsey out now too it won’t even matter. I do think it may have been his last game as an Admiral. I believe the Preds just signed him for 1 year.

  11. Great game last nite, i think hackett was pretty selfish in attacking watson and then taking the 10min misconduct after getting pulled. one note the goal that houston scored that smith had “under his pads” was a clean goal i sit right there and saw jeremy never had the puck covered as much i don’t like saying our guys are wrong, smith never covered it up.

  12. I think I am in love…Cahill was everything I wanted in a hockey player–wrapped up in an Admirals’ jersey. Wow..that kid was making hits, speedy and just all around had me thanking the hockey gods that placed him here. Now, hopefully we can have an intense relationship with him involving a championship in the very near future.

  13. Ads signed another guy to an ATO

    CORY CONACHER (LW) : 5’8″ 180lbs

    He played 2 games with Rochester.

  14. So, doing some quick math…as long as we get two more points we should have wrapped up home ice advantage though most of the play offs.

  15. I think the magic number is 3 right now. If the Admirals get 2 points, we can potentially tie Texas and right now Texas would have the tie-breaker (most wins excluding SO wins). So we need 3 to clinch the division and the conference. We’d have home ice up until the finals (depending on who makes it that far in the East).

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