February was a magical month for Magnus. Hellberg took home goalie of the month honors Friday after posting a 6-1 record in seven February starts.
After Friday night’s game, let’s hope the month of March doesn’t have an opposite effect.
Hellberg had one of his worst games of the season, letting in four goals before getting pulled for Jeremy Smith just after the halfway point. Midwest Division-leading Grand Rapids came in and took it to Milwaukee, running away with the 5-1 win.
The Ads returned to the Bradley Center with some new faces in the lineup, and some noted absences.
Joe Piskula took to the ice in an Ads jersey for the first time. Josh Shalla was up from Cincinnati, MVG was back from brief injury, Taylor Beck was out, Scott Ford is still out and Scott Valentine was a healthy scratch.
Despite the scoreboard, the Admirals came out stronger than they had in previous contests, winning the first period shots battle 9-8. Coach Dean Evason even ventured to say he felt his team “out-chanced” the Griffins.
The first goal Hellberg allowed was probably the worst of the night.
After failing to score on their first two power play attempts, the Ads went on the kill when Mike Moore was called for holding a Griffon’s stick.
On the power play, Brett Skinner hit a wide-open Francis Pare just above the left dot and Pare beat a badly positioned Hellberg at the 7:31 mark for the 1-0 lead.
The Admirals answered about a minute and a half later when Patrick Cehlin scored his first goal since December 9th.
Joonas Jarvinen fired a blast from near the blue line and Cehlin was able to tip it home in front to tie things up.
Then the missed opportunities that would become a trend began. Chris Mueller used a nifty steal to set up a one-on-one break, but Petr Mrazek closed his five-hole quickly to stop the attempt.
With about five minutes left in the period, Shalla came off the bench and parked himself in front of the net and was nearly able to put one in. He had an empty net in front, but was stuffed by a defender.
The Cehlin-Reid-Shalla line had a productive first period, and later, with the game out of reach, Evason shifted Shalla up to play with Juuso Puustinen and Mueller.
Gustav Nyquist scored the first of his two goals just nine seconds into the second period, scoring from the slot with a nice shot over Hellberg’s left shoulder.
The Griffons made it 3-1 at 5:14 when Luke Glendening deflected in a shot from just under the blue line by Jan Mursak.
Daniel Bang had a great chance to get one back with 12:06 remaining, pulling off a move similar to his goal in Toronto. Bang stole the puck at neutral ice and set himself up on a one-on-one but was stoned by Mrazek.
Mursak would up Grand Rapids’ lead to three goals, taking the puck in from neutral ice, walking past Victor Bartley and beating Hellberg with a backhander right in front just past the midway point. That prompted the switch to Smitty.
At 16:36 Piskula sent Andrej Nestrasil sprawling into the boards, prompting a reaction from Glendening, who dropped the gloves.
The battle would do little to spark Milwaukee’s momentum, as they were outshot 14-9 in the final period en route to the loss.
Nyquist tacked on his second goal at 7:31, beating Smith from the right dot on a 2-on-1 rush.
The Ads dropped to five points behind Lake Erie for the eighth spot, and the team’s recent streak of two-out-of-three hockey came to an end.
Evason said that Fordo and Beck have not yet skated since their respective injuries so there is no current timetable for their returns.
He said the Valentine scratch was meant to inspire competition with the recent additions of Piskula and Ford.
Speaking of the duo, Evason talked about the depth it adds to Milwaukee’s defense.
Piskula chimed in on returning to his home state of Wisconsin.
Hellberg said his honors were nice to receive, but he maintained “you’re only as good as your last game.” He was hesitant to single out any one goal, but admitted his performance wasn’t where he wanted it to be.
Do you agree with Coach’s statement that the Ads had more chances than Grand Rapids? Do you feel that the score reflected the overall team effort?
What the Hellberg was up with Magnus tonight? He didn’t sound phased by post-honors syndrome, but he was definitely off his game from the start.
We got a look at how the team could respond on an off night from their goaltender and it wasn’t pretty. Evason again talked about the offense being “opportunistic” and facing a late, multi-goal lead is a tall order for a Milwaukee squad currently in a prolonged offensive rut.
Do you think the rest of this weekend could be the turning point for the season? Who do you think gets the start tomorrow night in Rockford?
What did you think of Piskula’s homecoming? He made some nice clears, but at least one bad turnover when he let the puck trickle to neutral ice, forcing a regroup late in the second period.