Milwaukee’s three-game win streak came to a bitter end against the rival IceHogs in Rockford. The Ads couldn’t get past Carter Hutton who stopped 30 of 31 shots.
In the first period the Ads failed to take advantage of three power plays, but in return stopped both of Rockford’s chances with the man-advantage.
Milwaukee outshot the IceHogs in the first period 10-8 and starter Magnus Hellberg was off to a good start. Jeremy Smith had been fantastic in back-to-back starts, but understandably coach Dean Evason gave him some relief in the third leg of the 3-in-3.
The second period was a different story as Rockford pummeled the offensive zone with 22 shots, (a season high for an Ads opponent) while the Ads got only nine. 5:03 into the period Brandon Bollig gave the IceHogs a one-goal lead.
Bollig took a feed from Kyle Beach and fired a low shot from the top of the right circle past Hellberg.
Milwaukee had a chance to tie it up about four minutes later when Chris Mueller was tripped by Adam Clendening on a short-handed breakaway. Mueller was stopped on the ensuing penalty shot attempt.
The Ads finished killing the penalty but moments later the Hogs took a 2-0 lead when Ben Smith scored his 13th goal of the season. This one came from the right circle again and got between Hellberg and the right post.
Mueller was able to cut the deficit to one on a 5-on-3 power play, scoring the Admiral’s fifth power play goal in their last 16 games. Ryan Ellis had a shot rebound off Hutton but Mueller was able to slide the puck past him.
That would be all for the Admirals as Rockford got their cushion back with 1:11 left in the second. With Patrick Cehlin in the box for hooking, Martin St. Pierre scored his 14th goal of the season to make it a 3-1 Rockford advantage.
The Ads would outshoot the IceHogs 13-10 in the third period, but Hutton continued to shine in net. The next goal scored by either team was an empty-netter that sealed the win for Rockford with 41 seconds left by Marcus Kruger.
Losses to Rockford always hurt, but in the end, for the second time this season Milwaukee got four points from a 3-in-3, losing the road game. Both times, interestingly enough, that loss came with Magnus Hellberg in net.
The decision to start Hellberg was the safer one, as you’re not quite sure what kind of wear-and-tear a goalie might experience after three starts in three days. We are left to wonder what Smitty could’ve done in that situation, but had he started, struggled and looked exhausted we might’ve been wondering the same thing about Hellberg.
The Admirals had plenty of opportunities to come back against the IceHogs, too. Along with Mueller’s failure on the penalty shot, Milwaukee was just one for five on the power play. And that goal came on a 5-on-3.
Hutton was a big reason for that inefficiency, but he’s shown so far that while he’s been great at making the first save, his rebound control can be off at times. The Ads have gotten to him when they have this season by getting a lot of traffic in front. When they do that they can keep up with Rockford, but when they don’t it usually results in a loss.
The Admirals get a lot of rest now as they’re off til Thursday. The division scrum will continue into the New Year when the Wolves visit the Bradley Center January 3rd.
So as always with hindsight being 20/20, do you think Evason made the right/smart choice starting Hellberg over Smith?
What should be Milwaukee’s New Year’s resolution?