The Admirals won 3-2 over the Grand Rapids Griffins Friday night. The Ads spoiled the Griffins home opener where they raised their 2012-13 Calder Cup Championship banner in front of a sold out crowd.
“It was a real good hockey game with a real exciting atmosphere,” said assistant coach Stan Drulia after the game on Sports Radio 1250 WSSP. “Our guys stayed focused. We got scored on early on a bad bounce, but I really liked our defense, our commitment, our hustle. We skated with a really fast hockey team.”
Anthony Bitetto picked up his first professional multi-goal performance by scoring two power-play goals for the Ads tonight. Colton Sissons continued his strong start to the season by adding his second goal of the season. To boot, Ads goalie Marek Mazanec earned his first win of the season in his first start.
The Griffins didn’t allow the lengthy pre-game festivities to slow them down as they lit the lamp eighty seconds into the contest. The goal was scored off of a deflection by Gustav Nyquist for his third goal of the season.
For you fighting enthusiasts, great news! The Ads finally had their first fighting major of the season. Shortly after the opening goal for the Griffins, Mike Liambas squared up with former Admiral Triston Grant. Bad news for fighting enthusiasts: it was a quickie that ended in a take-down by Grant.
Anthony Bitetto managed to tie things up by scoring the Ads first power-play goal of the season. It was Bitetto’s second AHL goal and, more importantly, snapped an 0-9 PP skid by the Admirals to start the season.
The Griffins would respond with a PP goal of their own moments after a Liambas interference call. Ads d-man Scott Valentine lost the puck leading to the go-ahead goal from Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan.
The second period was a scrap fest amongst the two teams until 17:58 left in the period. Colton Sissons popped in his second goal of the season. Sissons was picked out by Joe Piskula to level the game at 2-2.
Immediately following the equalizing goal, Joonas Rask fought his way to open ice only to by dragged down Griffins defenseman Ryan Sproul. Rask nearly scored off a second effort chance as he went down. No penalty shot was given on the play, but Sproul received a minor for holding.
What do the Ads do on that PP goal? Score. Who else? Bitetto. It’s his first career multi-goal performance as a pro. The late second period surge by the Ads featured two goals a mere 49 seconds apart.
The Griffins pushed the Ads hard in the third period. So much so Mark Van Guilder even took a roughing penalty. The Griffins had a late PP chance with eleven seconds remaining in the game and their net empty. On the last shot of the game Griffins forward Cory Emmerton rang a shot hard off the post to end the game.
The story of the game for me was Ads goalie Marek Mazanec. For his first outing as an Admiral he played very strong. His best moments in net seemed to come late in the third period when the Ads were holding on for the final horn. The first goal might have been a shock to the system. It was a late deflection that gave AHL scorers a fit over who even scored it. Yet, he proved to be dominant past that goal. He put up 24 saves en route to his first win in his first start.
Also worth mentioning: Ads defenseman Bryan Rodney assisted on all three goals scored tonight. That includes a primary assist on Ads opening PP goal from Bitetto.
Three games in. The Ads are 2-0-1-0 and have taken five out of a possible six points on the road to kick off the season. That is absolutely fantastic to see the team so strong on the road to start the year. I believe you’ll all join me in saying, “I can’t wait to see these guys on home ice!”
What are your first impressions of the team so far? Any players exceeding expectations to start the year? Sissons has certainly blown me away to start the year.