Chris Mueller didn’t want his bobblehead night to end.
With just a minute left to play, facing a two-goal deficit, Mueller sparked a fast and furious comeback that was capped off in overtime. Opening the hat trick weekend in style, Milwaukee picked up its third win in a row 5-4 over San Antonio.
From the get-go the Ads looked much better than they had the past few games, but despite taking a 5-0 shot advantage early, the Rampage scored on their first shot 3:49 in.
Former Admiral Mike Santorelli nearly shook Victor Bartley out of his skates and put a shot on net that bounced off the post. Quinton Howden was there for San Antonio to put the rebound in for the 1-0 lead.
Milwaukee answered at 9:11 when newly returned Mattias Ekholm tied the game thanks to a nice screen from Daniel Bang. Jared Gomes poorly attempted to clear the puck out of the Rampage’s zone, and Ekholm was there to fire a quick shot as soon as it got to him.
Coach Dean Evason was pleased with what he saw from both Ekholm and newcomer Brian McGrattan.
The Ads ran into some penalty trouble in the second half of the period, as San Antonio built a 3-1 lead thanks to two separate power play chances.
Santorelli one-timed in a pass from Zach Hamill to beat Hellberg on a 5-on-3 chance. Then with just under a minute to go before the break, Jed Ortmeyer’s blast from the point found the back of the net.
Both Evason and Mueller said they were surprised at the scoreboard heading into the first intermission. Both felt the Ads had thus far been the better team.
That attitude would show through for the rest of the game as the Ads scored again in the second period.
After a holding call on Jon Rheault, Taylor Beck showed nice patience on the power play, deking back and forth a few times in front to get Jacob Markstrom out of position before letting his shot fly.
Around the game’s midway point, however, San Antonio dampened the Ads’ rejuvenated hopes with a tipped in goal from Garrett Wilson.
The lead would stay at 4-2 until near the end of the third period. That’s when the real fun started and one Admiral made everyone hastily rework their three star votes.
With Hellberg on the bench, Brad Winchester threw a shot on net that was blocked in front. Mueller scooped it up and flipped it past Markstrom with exactly 1:00 on the clock.
Then Milwaukee’s assistant captain improbably struck again with 20.5 seconds left. Winchester fired another shot that rebounded off Markstrom and Mueller snuck it past the sprawling goalie to tie it at 4-4 and send the game to overtime.
Riding a full head of steam, the Admirals wouldn’t be denied in the extra period. In a mad scramble in front Captain Mike Moore sent the crowd into a frenzy, knocking the puck out of the air and in.
The horn sounded briefly as the refs didn’t immediately signal and skated off to the side to review the play. While San Antonio desperately argued that the puck had cleared the top of the net, the replay confirmed the game-winner was good.
As the Ads celebrated in mob fashion at center ice, Markstrom picked up a game misconduct, flinging his stick in frustration.
Moore had little doubt as soon as the puck crossed the line.
Evason was quick to acknowledge that he was already looking on to Saturday’s game, but even the forward-thinking coach admitted this one was special.
Hellberg had a so-so night compared to his last two brilliant starts stopping 27 of 31 shots. Evason was fine with the big goalie’s performance.
So the team’s predominant feeling was that they deserved better than the late two-goal deficit. That’s evidenced by their 41 shots. Did you think the Ads had the comeback in them all along? How about after the first Mueller goal?
Did the presence of a certain Packer wide receiver drive the team to victory?
71 games, 551 penalty minutes. That’s Brian McGrattan’s record-breaking stat line from his 2004-05 campaign with Binghamton. With both him and Liambas now in the lineup do the Ads strike you as a grittier, tougher bunch?
Who do you think we’ll see in net tomorrow? Will they give Hellberg a rest or save Smitty for the Sunday game?