Maybe a renewal of the Amtrak rivalry was just what the Admirals needed. An offensive explosion marked the best game Milwaukee has played all season as it crushed the Chicago Wolves 7-4.
Coach Dean Evason said he wanted his team to come out fast, score some early goals and get out to a big early lead. On any other night, that would’ve been a difficult task against Eddie Lack. But for once the story wasn’t the Chicago goalies’ sweet pads. It was what went past them.
Evason said he was happy to see a lot of his key guys finally get rewarded for their efforts.
Magnus Hellberg got his third start of the season, and even though he got the same goal support he’s become accustomed to (and that Jeremy Smith has dreamed of), both goaltenders didn’t last long.
The first period was as high scoring as most of the Admirals’ complete games this season.
At 3:44 of the first period Victor Bartley fed the puck to Kevin Henderson on a break, but instead of collecting it Henderson was able to simply tap and redirect it right past Lack for the first goal of the game.
The Wolves’ equalizer was scored less than two minutes later by Jordan Schroeder, but Anton Rodin did most of the work. Rodin took the puck with his back facing Hellberg, weaved his way through two defenders and gave it to Schroeder who one-timed it in.
Not to be outdone, Chris Mueller started a two-on-one rush and led Taylor Beck with a beautiful pass that Beck took right to the front of the net and fired past Lack’s left side.
Evason had also mentioned putting a greater emphasis on setting up plays behind the net, and the Admirals third goal of the night was a prime example.
Watson battled for and won the puck behind Lack, and fed a wide-open Cehlin right in front of the net. Lack never had a chance as Cehlin picked up his fifth goal of the season.
After showing brilliance on that play, however, Watson showed something else in the next scoring sequence. A Mattias Ekholm holding penalty put the Ads on the kill, and Watson got a little too cute taking the puck into the offensive zone all by himself.
He lost it and the result was a 3-on-2 rush in which Mark Matheson took a feed from Bill Sweatt and beat Hellberg badly right through his five-hole.
Scott Valentine brought the lead back to two goals when he fired a dagger from right around the blue line that deflected off a Wolves’ player into the back of the net.
At the end of the first period it was 4-2, which was the final score of the Admirals last game.
Chicago wasted no time pulling Lack for Matt Climie to start the second, but he did little to help the Wolves climb back in.
Hellberg left the game as well about halfway through the second period when Brett Sterling made it a one-goal game with a seemingly nonchalant wrister from the top the left circle.
Here’s Hellberg on his disappointing night overall.
The big goalie stopped 13 of 16 shots before Smith took the ice in relief.
Watson helped the Admirals start to rebuild their cushion with 10 seconds left in the second. Juuso Puustinen chipped the puck between legs of a Wolves’ defender and Watson knuckled it past Climie.
Evason said scoring to get back to a two-goal lead before the intermission was huge.
In the third period Milwaukee kept piling on. Captain Mike Moore fed Beck who had a clear lane to the net. Beck skated in, put on a few dekes and scored his second goal of the game and third of the year to make it 6-3, 2:05 into the period.
In a mirror image of the earlier Cehlin goal, Puustinen found Moore from behind the net at 11:12 of the period to take a commanding four-goal advantage.
The Wolves added a goal at 12:35 when Bartley lost the puck in the far right corner behind Smith and Natan Longpre fired to Tim Miller who beat a stunned Smith.
That would conclude the scoring for both teams, however, as Milwaukee improved to 5-6 on the season.
Of course the game didn’t end until Michael Latta roughed up somebody, as he got into it with Steve Pinizotto with around two minutes left.
The Admirals take on an even bigger rival and consistent thorn in their side tomorrow night in Rockford, before back-to-back road games against the vaunted Oklahoma City Barons next weekend.
With Milwaukee needing all the help it can get, Evason updated the status of Bourque and Ellis.
Here’s Coach’s full press conference along with the highlights and lowlights of tonight’s game.