The Ads were presented with the Amtrak trophy before Tuesday night’s game, but they still had plenty of work to do against the rival Chicago Wolves.
After dominating the first two periods of play, Milwaukee withstood a third-period push by Chicago to pull off a 3-2 victory with huge playoff implications.
The Admirals fired ten shots before the ten-minute mark of the first, and after former Ad Mark Matheson was called for interference, Zach Hamill Furied the Fury to put Milwaukee up 1-0 at 9:13.
Hamill shot the puck from the right corner and it was tipped in front by Yann Sauve past Matt Climie.
A few minutes later, Hamill had a great chance for his second goal of the night after a great pass through traffic by Brad Winchester, but Climie was able to get over in time to stuff the attempted one-timer.
Chicago didn’t register a shot on net until the 15:2o mark as Milwaukee finished the period up 12-3 in shots.
Coach Dean Evason said the strong early defense came from the improved two-way play of his forwards.
In the first ten minutes of the second period, the Ads continued to pressure the Wolves, and Josh Shalla made it a 2-0 Milwaukee advantage at 8:29.
Shalla robbed Jordan Schroeder at neutral ice to start a 2-on-1 rush with Cam Reid. Shalla kept the puck all the way and whipped Climie with a nice wrister from the slot.
Scott Ford gave the Admirals even more momentum seconds later, dropping the gloves and dropping Darren Archibald to the ice with a nice right hook.
The Ads continued to dominate the shots battle, winning the second period 14-8 and finishing the period with an impressive penalty kill.
Just 3:18 into the final period, Kevin Henderson scored the eventual game-winner for Milwaukee. Henderson’s chip shot from just under the left circle snuck over Climie’s shoulder for the 3-0 Admirals lead.
The 3-0 lead stood until 7:33 when, with the Wolves on the power play, Brett Sterling put Chicago on the board with an elevated shot from the left circle that snuck over Magnus Hellberg’s shoulder.
Under a minute later, just after the Ads had killed off another penalty, Bill Sweatt scored on a slapper from just under the Perkins logo. Hellberg may have been screened and didn’t get over in time to make the save.
With the Wolves rallying it took a concerted effort by the Ads defense to shut the door. With a minute to play, Climie headed for the bench, but the Ads iced the puck down the ice three times to inch closer to the win.
An impressive diving block and clear by Henderson iced the game with under ten seconds left and improved Milwaukee’s record over Chicago to 9-2-0.
After grabbing first star honors, here’s Hendo’s post game:
With the win, Milwaukee improved its record to 26-13-1-2 against the Midwest division, 21-10-1-1 when scoring on the power play, 23-8-4-3 in one-goal games and 7-0 against Chicago in one-goal games.
At this point, the Ads can make the playoffs by either winning out or winning two of their last three and losing a game in overtime, regardless of what Rockford and Chicago do.
Evason said the return of Daniel Bang, Austin Watson and Mattias Ekholm was huge, and he was grateful that Nashville let the trio play Tuesday for Milwaukee.
Evason added that they’ll stay in Milwaukee at least for tomorrow, but their return to Nashville will depend on the Predators’ injury situation.
Coach also said nothing has changed on the status of Mike Moore and that Moore “isn’t close” to coming back.
Milwaukee will take on Charlotte Friday in the home regular season finale before two road games at Chicago and Peoria to finish up.