Up until the last 90 seconds, the Admirals had a frustrating Friday night against their Amtrak Rivalry foes.
Then in the words of Ron Burgundy things really escalated quickly.
The two teams came in with nearly identical records, Milwaukee at 8-8-1-1 and Chicago at 8-7-2-1.
With Eddie Lack on the bench, Matt Climie played most of the game better than his .896 save percentage suggested stopping 30 of Milwaukee’s 31 shots up to the last two minutes.
Chicago struck 2:21 into the game when Jordan Schroeder led Bill Sweatt on a 2-on-1 and Sweatt to beat Jeremy Smith.
The Ads tied it up when Jani Lajunen took the puck on a 3-on-2 and hit Victor Bartley who put it between Climie’s stick and right pad with a scorching slapper at 15:17 of the period.
After a scoreless second, both teams whiffed on early opportunities to go up in the third.
Ben Ryan had an open net on a wraparound but the puck got stuck in the netting right behind the right post and a sprawling Climie was able to grab and freeze it at 17:24.
With about 7 minutes left, Zack Kassian pulled off a slick move that got Smitty down on his pads, but he whiffed his shot over the goalie’s head and off the crossbar.
With 5:30 left in the game, it seemed like the Wolves had locked up the tightly contested battle.
Joonas Jarvinen committed his second penalty of the night (and just the second penalty for the Admirals as a team) giving the Wolves a power play on a roughing call.
Kevin Connauton took a slapper from just south of the blue line, Smitty gave up a fat rebound and Darren Archibald put it right past him.
Chris Mueller almost hit Patrick Cehlin from behind the net with 1:44 left, but Climie gloved it against the ice to cut off the pass and froze it. The Ads went on the aggressive when Coach Dean Evason then called a time out pulled Smith for the extra attacker.
It paid off with 1:25 left to go when Austin Watson worked the puck free from a mad scramble to Climie’s left, Gabriel Bourque scooped it up and fired it through the confusion to beat the Wolves goalie, knotting the score at two goals a piece.
Riding high on adrenaline and momentum in the final seconds, Mueller won a faceoff cleanly, skated to his left and tipped home a shot from Jonathon Blum to give Milwaukee a 3-2 advantage with just 19.1 remaining.
Evason was thrilled with the finish after feeling his team had played well enough to at least reach the extra period.
The win keeps the Admirals hot in division play after they ended Grand Rapid’s eight-game winning streak last Sunday.
Despite playing disciplined hockey yet again, the Admirals finished 0-for-4 with the man advantage and have had their struggles on the power play which Evason puts mostly on the absence of one key offensive piece.
The scratch of Jack MacLellan tonight was a healthy one.
Evason also cleared up the goalie swap with Cincinatti, easing those concerned with Magnus Hellberg’s future.
How does it feel to go up 3-1 early in the Amtrak Rivalry? Do you think the Admirals might have Chicago’s number this season, or are we in for a back-and-forth fight?
Who stuck out as an unsung hero tonight? Plenty of candidates. Blum seemed to get the puck a lot and handled it well. Watson continued to create offense. Latta was pretty active around the net and had a nice hit with Jarvinen.
What do you think of coach giving Hellberg the chance to start in some back-to-back action? Should it be read into perhaps?