Milwaukee has now failed to win back-to-back games in each of its last eight tries. Whatever momentum the Admirals gained from taking four points from their weekend 3-in-3 was nowhere to be seen in Wednesday’s loss to Rockford.
The Admirals looked like they were in for another big night against Carter Hutton when they took the lead 2:51 into the game. Like they had in a 4-3 overtime win last week, the score came from getting a lot of traffic in front of the goalie.
On a 3-2 rush, Juuso Puustinen fed Jani Lajunen cross-ice and Lajunen chipped a shot on net from the right circle. Cam Reid tried a shot on the rebound, and it rebounded again out to Puustinen who buried it.
The rest of the period saw the tide dramatically turn. Magnus Hellberg’s seventh start of the season wasn’t a pretty one for the big goalie.
Rockford tied the game at 5:54 when the Admirals couldn’t clear the puck. Phillipe Paradis scooped it up and fired a slapper. Instead of putting back the rebound he smoothly fed it to Brandon Pirri who had a wide open net right in front.
Later, Jon Blum got beat to the puck by Brandon Bollig, who took it behind the net and from there fed Peter Leblanc. Leblanc centered the puck for Andrew Shaw who tipped the puck past Hellberg at 8:51.
Hellberg’s biggest blunder of the night, and possibly all season made it a two-goal lead. By lackadaisically trying to play the puck on a shot from center ice by Jeremy Morin, Hellberg missed it and it bounced off the left post. As he twisted around to grab it, the puck crossed the line.
Hellberg was quick to acknowledge his error and desire to move past it.
At the start of the second period, Jeremy Smith took over in net while Hellberg spoke with Nashville goalie coach Mitch Korn.
From there, while Smith put forth arguably his best performance of the year, things died down substantially for both teams which didn’t benefit Milwaukee. A usually very physical match up didn’t see its first penalty until 17:50 of the second period.
The Admiral’s offense looked flat and out of sync for the remainder of the game, especially with the man-advantage. Coach Dean Evason felt his team should’ve responded better early in the game, but instead allowed Rockford to take them out of their game.
Milwaukee had a 5-on-3 power play for the first 28 seconds of the third period, but both penalties were killed off by the IceHogs. With about 16 minutes left, Patrick Cehlin had a chance to put back a rebound but it looked like he was tripped up by a defender with no call. On the next Ads possesion, Cehlin whiffed on a one-time attempt.
On another power play, after Ryan Stanton put Cehlin on his back at center ice at 10:46, Smith made a great save on a 2-0n-1 shorthanded rush by Rockford. On the ensuing possession, Michael Latta broke free for a 1-on-1 but his shot was snagged by Hutton, who froze the puck. The Admirals won the faceoff, but Latta whiffed on another one-time attempt, feeding into a common theme of the night.
Too often, passes were made instead of shots taken, and there seemed to be some indecisiveness. When shots were set up, the Ads’ sticks seemed to miss the mark. Evason felt his team got good opportunities on the power play but had a hard time executing.
While Smitty and the defense did all they could to break up each odd-man rush by Rockford (and there were a lot of them) the offensive support just wasn’t there. It was just one of those rough nights that have come to follow Admiral victories.
Daniel Bang left the game after almost ending up in the Rockford bench. Evason said he’s unsure of his status for Friday. Bourque missed the game and his status is also questionable.
The Ads will get an opportunity to right the ship with the IceHogs back at the Bradley Center Friday at 7 p.m. The series is now at 2-2.
Why do you think the team looked so flat after taking the early lead?
What does this team need to do to string some games together with a big homestand on tap?
What do you want to see improve this Friday, assuming the Mayans are wrong?