The Admirals had their backs against the wall in Texas. Facing a 2-0 deficit after two periods in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, Milwaukee needed to dig deep to keep its season alive.
While the Ads mustered a quick goal and outshot the Stars 18-8 in the final 20 minutes, they would come up just short, closing out what was a truly exciting late-season run.
The Ads did a lot of good things Friday night, winning more faceoffs than Texas and firing 35 shots on net to Texas’ 26. Unfortunately, the Stars held the only advantage that really mattered as the final horn sounded.
Milwaukee started the game with a surprising twist in the lineup. The starting five featured Chris Mueller centering Joonas Rask and captain Mike Moore at the wings. As speculated, Scott Valentine played again at wing, where he had been a decent sparkplug for the offense.
Before the game, Kevin Henderson’s comments built some excitement. He made it known that he would be the most physical player on the ice and backed it up with a solid performance.
Just 1:40 into the third period, Henderson got Milwaukee on the board and cut into the Stars’ lead. He entered the Texas zone and dropped a pass off for Taylor Beck at the right circle. Christopher Nilstorp stopped Beck’s wrister with his left pad, but the rebound came to Henderson who buried it. (Enjoy the slow-mo call courtesy of TexasStarsHockey.com)
It was the first time Milwaukee had scored in Cedar Park since October 24th, but it would be the Admirals’ last goal of the season.
Just minutes later, a Henderson pass could’ve set up a huge breakaway for Beck, but it sailed just wide for an icing call. That about sums up how things went for the Ads’ offense the rest of the way.
With around seven minutes to play, Magnus Hellberg robbed Kevin Connauton on a three-on-one rush using all of his 6-foot-5 frame to stretch left while going right and make an incredible left toe save. He finished the night with 24 saves, allowing just seven goals in the series’ four games.
The Ads continued to ratchet up the intensity late in the period, but couldn’t get another puck past Nilstorp, despite a holding call on Scott Glennie that gave Milwaukee a power play.
Hellberg left for the bench with 1:20 left in the game, but the Ads couldn’t get a decent chance on net as the final seconds ticked away.
Matt Fraser opened the scoring for the Stars at 10:16 of the first period, after a pass from Colton Sceviour in the corner inexplicably snuck through the sticks of Victor Bartley and Moore and hit Fraser in the slot. His low shot beat Hellberg glove side.
Texas added a goal early in the second period that ended up being the game-winner. For the second game in a row it was Alex Chiasson who ultimately decided things, as he redirected a Connauton shot in the slot past Hellberg at 1:29.
Before the game, Mattias Ekholm humorously stated that the “two Swedish guys in net” had been the reason goals were so scarce during the series. With just 12 total goals scored between both sides, it was the lowest-scoring playoff series in Admirals history.
Nilstorp and Hellberg were the last guys off the ice after hugging and talking for a while in recognition of what was a magnificent series by both goalies.
In his postgame interview, assistant coach Stan Drulia offered some closure for Ads fans.
“It’s not too hard to go out like this,” Druila said. “They gave it everything they had. They came together and had a tremendous run. It all came down to the men we had in the locker room. We had a really good group of people.”
This is the last game recap post we’ll have this season, so I toss it up to you. Share your thoughts on the game and the series overall. Were you ultimately pleased with the Ads’ performance? Are you still impressed with the run they put forth to get to this point?