If Houston’s players were disappointed about their effort in a Game 3 loss to Milwaukee, they sure took out their frustration on the Admirals in Game 4.
Despite a final score sheet reading a 3-2 overtime victory for the Aeros, Thursday night’s only AHL game had no business being that close. Milwaukee was out shot 33-13, leaving goaltender Jeremy Smith as perhaps the only reason why the Admirals were just a sudden death goal away from taking a commanding 3-1 series lead.
“(Houston) played like a desperate team,” Milwaukee assistant coach Ian Herbers told Aaron Smith after the game. “We bent, but had a chance to pull it out in the end. (Unfortunately) we came out on the short end of the stick.”
Carson McMillan’s second goal of the playoffs at 3:35 over the extra session competed the series tying victory for Houston after Milwaukee came back from an early 2-0 deficit.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win,” Herbers said. “But we couldn’t get it going in overtime.”
It took less than two minutes into the game for Houston to open the scoring. After Jed Ortmeyer’s innocent shot from the right corner was mishandled by Smith, Colton Gilles buried the rebound.
The play came off of a turnover by Milwaukee defenseman Scott Ford. Tuesday night, it was the Admirals forcing all of the turnovers. Game 4 was obviously a different story.
Eight minutes later, the Aeros version of Steve Begin, Patrick O’Sullivan, made it 2-0, scoring a power play goal after a fortunate bounce of the end boards from Chad Rau’s initial shot.
“We weren’t pleased with how were playing after the first period,” Herbers said. “We needed to be sharper. It easily could have been three or four to zero there.”
A resilient Admirals squad managed to claw back to the tie the game by making the most of their limited opportunities.
Andreas Thuresson showed some veteran smarts by scoring the Admirals first goal at 14:28, finding a dead spot in the high slot and taking a pass from Kelsey Wilson. Thuresson’s snipe found nothing but net above the right shoulder of Aeros goaltender Matt Hackett.
Milwaukee made it a 2-2 game by finally scoring a power play goal, their first of the series after an 0-16 run. Aaron Johnson picked up his first tally of the playoffs when his slap shot deflected in off Warren Peters.
But Houston never quit, dominating the limited overtime session to tie the West Division final at two games a piece.
Credit on this night goes to Aeros coach Mike Yeo, who was verbally frustrated with his club after Game 4. Much like the seachange for Milwaukee from Game 2 to Game 3, Yeo managed the same turnaround for Houston from Game 3 to Game 4. Strangely, there has yet to be a game in this series where both teams played great.
Hackett need just 11 saves for the win, hardly breaking a sweat. Maxim Noreau was Houston’s best player on the night, controlling the play from his own blueline and finishing with two assists.
Smith finished with 30 saves on 33 shots to finish as the tough luck loser. However, Milwaukee did managed to keep their incredible streak of 21 straight road games without a regulation loss still in tact.
Overall, it was a terrible night for the Nashville Predators organization. The Predators dropped a 4-2 home decision to Vancouver to slip to a 3-1 deficit to the Canucks.
Nashville played without Steve Sullivan due to injury, and one of the heroes of the Anaheim series, Jerred Smithson, got only six and half minutes of ice time. The Predators managed just 21 shots on Roberto Luongo, making a grand total of 34 for Nashville and Milwaukee combined.
It was miserable night for a lot of Admirals. Other than Smith was there was there anyone else worth noting for Milwaukee that had a decent game?
What can we expect for tomorrow’s Game 5? Can Milwaukee turn a near miss after a poor effort into a positive like they did last series against Texas in Games 3 and 4?
Which team will the short turnaround benefit? How fast do you think the Admirals can shake off this dismal performance?
With Milwaukee struggling in Games 2 & 4 and Houston in 1 & 3, will the real Admirals and real Aeros finally show up in Game 5? Will the top of the West Division duel we have all been waiting for in this series finally occur on short rest?