The Admirals won 3-2 in overtime against the Texas Stars Wednesday night. Yet another 2-0 comeback was required for the Ads to reach OT. Goals from Anthony Bitetto and Austin Watson leveled the score. 33 saves from Marek Mazanec kept the Stars in-check. And veteran Mark Van Guilder sealed the game with a GWG in OT to preserve the Ads hot start to the season.
“We can’t continually get down,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “We praised them for not giving up and continuing to push forward, but we have to be better to start hockey games. There is no question about it. We can’t continually do this all year. It’s going to bite us for sure.”
With last game in mind, the Ads started much better than their last outing as far as pace was concerned. They generated some chances from the boards to the net. Best of all, they weren’t letting the Stars blaze past them with their speed.
Sadly mistakes started to mount and the Stars cashed in with the opening goal. A turnover in the Ads defensive zone almost turned into an instant goal. Thanks to a hook by Scott Ford it went down as a power-play chance instead.
Unfortunately, that chance would net the opening goal for the Stars. A skipping and loose puck around the net couldn’t be cleared or closed down by the Ads. Colton Sceviour wound up popping in the loose puck above a scrambling Mazanec. This is the fifth straight game where the Ads failed to score first. The lone time they managed to do so was in the opening game of the season in Abbotsford.
The pace continued ramping up for the Stars. By the end of the first period it proved to be too much for the Ads to handle as they conceded again. This was a goal generated by speed and stellar passing from the Stars. Jyrki Jokipakka to Mike Hedden to Brett Ritchie. Tic. Tac. Toe. The shot by Ritchie was an absolute rocket that flew by Mazanec to give the Stars a 2-0 first period lead.
Period number two featured no scoring but some chippy moments out on the ice. Mathieu Tousignant, not once but twice, was hit to the head by Stars d-man Cameron Gaunce. The second “coming-together” lead to a roughing call against Gaunce which laid out Tousignant.
Next up in the sniper-scope was Mike Liambas. The Ads go-to enforcer dropped the gloves at the end of the first period with Francis Wathier (I call it a draw on the fighting scorecards). Late on in the second period Liambas was slashed on the way to the net by Aaron Rome. Liambas looked to the linesman for a slashing call, looked back down for the puck, and was planted into the boards very awkwardly. There was absolutely no call for boarding. The slashing call was the lone call on the play. Fortunately for the Ads, Mr. Liambas skated off and did not miss a shift despite being down face first in pain after the hit.
Anthony Bitetto continued his hot start to the season as he put the finishing touches off on a great breakout play. The entry into the zone saw the Ads stay wide as a group, keeping the Stars somewhat frozen, and passes by Simon Moser and Joonas Rask set Bitetto up for an open shot. That’s Bitetto’s third goal of the season. He had just one goal all last season.
The comeback was capped off by Austin Watson with 5:50 remaining in the third period. A no-look backhanded pass by Tousignant went straight to the net, bounced off Rask, and into the patch of Watson to make it two goals in two games for the Michigan native.
“I think for me it’s just a little confidence,” said Austin Watson of his recent performances. “I thought I had some good chances the first few games and nothing was going in for me. Credit to [Tousignant] tonight. He grinds the puck out for twenty-seconds. I was on the ice for five-seconds and he hits me for an open net, almost. Guys are putting pucks in the right places and I’ve been fortunate enough to put myself in the right spot to have the chance at a goal scoring opportunity.”
The Ads were getting trapped in their own zone late in OT and allowed a full line change to the Stars before Patrick Cehlin managed to fight the puck out of the zone. Then the unthinkable. Cehlin didn’t dump the puck. He kept skating, skating, skating, and before you knew it the Ads chewed out an OT winning goal off the stick of Mark Van Guilder. The Ads might have skipped a line change on the charge down the ice. Given they scored off of that rush lead by Cehlin – no harm, no foul.
“A win is a win,” laughed Anthony Bitetto. “If we comeback or come out and beat a team early, a win is a win. Yeah we want to come out of the gate a little bit quicker and get on the right page early but, at this point, a win is a win. We just have to keep rolling with it.”
The Ads are undefeated in regulation through their first six games. They are 4-0-2-0 and have claimed 10 of 12 points to start the season. Next up the Ads cap off the homestand with a game against the evil –EVIL– Rockford IceHogs.
Thoughts of the Ads to this point? Scrappy? Too slow at the start of games?