The effort was there for the Ads in their home opener, but unfortunately the Checkers had the finesse in the moments that mattered.
Charlotte displayed some brilliant offensive plays and benefited from a few defensive gaffes to down Milwaukee 4-3, saddling the Ads with their first loss of the season.
The Ads’ forecheck was as aggressive as you could hope for, particularly in the opening period. Getting the puck out of its own end was a tall task for Charlotte in the early going.
But that tough, gritty play ended up costing the Admirals all night.
Milwaukee spent 19 minutes in the penalty box giving Charlotte plenty of scoring opportunities while cutting into its own. The Admirals simply had to spend too much time on their heels, and had a tough time finishing when they did get chances.
Here’s Coach Evason’s reaction.
Victor Rask scored the game’s first goal 12:10 into the game after receiving a great feed from Jerome Samson to beat Smitty between his legs.
Gabriel Bourque had the answer 12:18 into the second, scoring Milwaukee’s first home goal of the season. And it was an unassisted beauty. After knocking over Samson and acting like Rasmus Rissanen wasn’t even there, Bourque fired the puck right past Justin Peters to tie it up 1-1.
Coach thought the goal was a rallying point for the team.
The Checkers took the lead back about three minutes later when Drayson Bowman beat a screened Smith on a power play. Charlotte struck again a few minutes later when Sean Dolan reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a textbook wraparound after a Victor Bartley miscue.
It got bleaker early in the third when Captain Moore fell down in his own zone and Zach Boychuk flung one over Smith’s right shoulder to make it 4-1.
After that one it looked like the Ads might go quietly into the night.
The first period tenacity returned, however, and the Admirals started converting on power plays rather than trying to stave them off.
Patrick Cehlin got a great pass from Bourque and Furied the Fury on a 5-on-3 chance to make it 4-2.
The Ads still weren’t done. With three minutes left, Mattias Ekholm capitalized on another power play chance, getting a fat rebound off a soft Taylor Beck shot and burying it to make it a one-goal deficit.
The Checkers held on, despite another late Fury opportunity.
For the most part, again, the effort was definitely there. Milwaukee fought back to win the shots battle 25-23 despite losing it in the first two periods.
Smitty made quite a few saves he shouldn’t have, but was a little late on one he should’ve.
The defense looked solid in spurts, particularly on the penalty kill. 19 minutes in the box collectively only resulted in one Charlotte goal.
Scott Valentine was all over the place and made a few nice diving blocks. Aside from his gift to Boychuk, Moore had a few hits big enough to show why the “C” is on his chest.
Anthony Bitetto got to see a little time at forward with Daniel Bang and Juuso Puustinen sitting out and did a pretty good job crashing the boards.
Here’s Coach on Bitetto’s play and the status of Puustinen.
Bourque was Bourque. When it looked bad, he was there to answer with some NHL-quality play. Cehlin continued to give himself chances by being active around the net. He leads the Ads in goals with three after picking up another tonight.
Overall, fans can take solace in the fact that this doesn’t look like a team that’s going to lay down. With the way they came out of the locker room and at times really dictated the flow of the game, it looked a lot like Coach Evason had lit a new fire under them.
Now they just need to work on controlling that fire.
In the meantime, here’s Chris Mueller decking somebody.