In a back-and-forth contest, Rockford beat the Admirals for the second time in a row.
The 4-3 win tied the IceHogs and Admirals in points with 75 a piece and will make things a little more difficult down the stretch for the Ads’ playoff hopes.
Magnus Hellberg got his fifth straight loss against the IceHogs despite a solid 43-save performance.
Coach Dean Evason said the Ads struggled to win puck battles and that resulted in a whopping 47 shots from Rockford.
Just eight seconds into their first power play, the Ads got the lead courtesy of a great pass from Brad Winchester to Juuso Puustinen. Puusty was able to whip the one-timer past Henrik Karlsson from the left circle.
Puusty said the Ads tried something a little different on the power play that led to the quick score.
Martin St. Pierre tied the game at 12:39 after Hellberg held off the first two shot attempts of an IceHogs possession. St. Pierre was able to grab the rebound and slide it underneath Hellberg who couldn’t really see it through a crowd.
A long blast from Ryan Stanton deflected in off of Patrick Cehlin to give Rockford the 2-1 lead at 16:42. The Ads had a shot to tie it with just under a minute left in the period, but Brandon Svendsen made a great effort to lay out and block a Mattias Ekholm strike.
Milwaukee was outshot 18-8 in the first period, and needed to respond quickly to turn the tide. It did just that in the first twelve minutes, outshooting Rockford 8-0.
The Ads couldn’t use their second power play to tie things up, but Austin Watson, Ekholm and Mark Van Guilder all fired off good opportunities.
Paul Crowder had a great chance for his first Admiral goal with eight minutes left. He came in contested on the rush, freed the puck up for Josh Shalla, and it came back to him, but he couldn’t steer the puck past a defender.
Milwaukee finally did get the equalizer with 2:54 left in the period when Watson grabbed a Rockford turnover deep in the IceHogs’ zone. He fed it to Puustinen who fired a sweet pass right to a wide-open Daniel Bang in the slot.
Bang almost gave the Ads the lead taking a pass from Watson on a 2-on-1 rush, but he couldn’t get quite get enough on the shot. The score remained tied at 2-2 heading into the third period.
Rostislav Olesz put the IceHogs back up 3-2, knuckling a shot from the slot through a defender and over Hellberg’s right shoulder. With the awkward flight of the puck, it was tough for Hellberg to get a read on it.
In his first night playing as a winger, Scott Valentine made it 3-3, putting in a Paul Crowder rebound. It was Crowder’s first point as an Admiral and Valentine’s fifth goal of the year.
Olesz quickly sucked the life out of the Bradley Center, and put Rockford back up 4-3 just 33 seconds later. Some sloppy Milwaukee defense led to his second goal that would become the game-winner.
Hellberg hit the bench with a minute remaining, and the Ads couldn’t poke an attempt home on a scramble in front with 39.3 to go. It stayed mostly at Rockford’s end for the remainder of the contest as the IceHogs ran out the clock.
Brad Winchester played his first game with an “A” on his jersey after the Martin Erat and Michael Latta for Forsberg deal left the Ads an alternate captain short. Evason said Winchester and Scott Ford will share the “A” with Ford taking home games and Winchester taking the away and third jerseys.
In his first game for Milwaukee Zach Budish skated with Cam Reid and Michael Liambas on a pretty imposing line. Budish didn’t make much of an impact tonight, and the Minnesota Golden Gopher star said fitting in will be a gradual process.
Evason thought both newcomers made solid first impressions.
The coach said Jeremy Smith is nowhere near coming back or even getting back out onto the ice with an unspecified “lower body” injury. He said Kevin Henderson, however, will likely return soon though probably not this weekend.
Valentine made a few big hits as a forward and scored that key goal to tie the game late. Evason thought he should’ve played Valentine more.
What did you think of him on the offensive end tonight?
What did you like or dislike about Crowder and Budish?
What’s the problem with Hellberg and Rockford? Tonight, to be fair, he got let down a few times by his defense, particularly on the St. Pierre goal and the Stanton goal.