(Photo credit to Scott Paulus)
The Admirals won 2-1 against the red hot Grand Rapids Griffins Wednesday night. An early goal from Colton Sissons and a late third period tally from Mark Van Guilder proved decisive as the Ads break a run of three consecutive losses.
“Grand Rapids is a real good team,” commented Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “They have so much speed and skill. We thought we did a real good job through the neutral zone. We limited their speed. We didn’t give them the odd man rushes that I think they’re used to. When we can play tight like that we should be in a good spot most nights.”
Slow starts have plagued the Ads so far this season. Facing a skilled Griffins team, the Ads made sure to buck that trend by scoring one-minute and fifteen seconds into the game.
The starting line of Salomaki-Watson-Rask kicked off the game by pushing the puck in the Griffins zone, generating shots and turnovers, and helped keep the puck deep as they changed lines. Moser-Sissons-Forsberg entered the ice and instantly attacked the net. After a few good taps at Griffins netminder Tom McCollum the puck went past him thanks to a final push from Colton Sissons. That’s Sissons sixth goal of the season and ties him up with Anthony Bitetto for the team lead in goals.
Grand Rapids, for as hot as they have been coming into the game, started pretty flat. They didn’t register a shot on goal until the twelfth minute of the game. Right after that Gustav Nyquist took a tripping penalty to stunt that momentum that wouldn’t creep back into the first period until the Griffins first power-play. Shots would finish 13-7 in the first period, but the best quality chances were coming off the tape of Admirals sticks.
The second period was cruising by without much drama. Through eight minutes in the second period shots were only 3-1 in the period in favor of the Griffins. For an Admirals team that faced a second period shots total of 20, 20, and 17 in the previous three road games… that’s fantastic defensive work against a team as lethal as the Griffins.
After a scramble in front of Magnus Hellberg, Mitch Callahan of the Griffins fired a loose puck near post at Hellberg. The light was lit but the celebrations were mute and the officials began conversing. There was plenty of pressure on Hellberg’s doorstep, but, upon further review, they called it a good goal to tie the game at 1-1.
Midway through the third period the Ads nearly capitalized on the power-play if not for the awareness of Landon Ferraro. The Ads power-play unit wasn’t having much luck tonight, going 0-4, but in the final seconds of a man-advantage Sissons tagged a puck through McCollum in net. The puck was in the crease making its way past the goal line. Right in front to bail out his netminder, Ferraro gave one firm smack at the puck to clear it out of danger and keep the game tied.
As the ice tilted for the Ads, Mark Van Guilder picked up the eventual game-winning goal to make it 2-1. The team was working hard in the attacking zone when Kevin Henderson’s shot to the net ricocheted off of McCollum and near Van Guilder. MVG, who was working traffic in front of the net, skated out, snagged the puck, and wristed low putting the puck beneath the flustered Griffins goalie for the go-ahead and decisive goal.
With the Griffins net empty, they did manage a few quality looks to the net amidst tight defensive pressure by the Admirals. Badge of honor goes to the game’s first star recipient, Sissons, who made two big shot blocks to close out the game… the last of which looked downright painful to watch.
Hats off to Hellberg. After having a rough -probably rusty- return to the net on the Texas leg of the four game road trip – Hellberg managed to stop 28-29 shots on goal to earn his first AHL victory since the second game of the season. While his stay up in Nashville might have opened his mind his reflexes and timing were just a bit off in his two appearances against the Texas Stars. He made a good start in a shootout loss to San Antonio, but still faced a total of 93 shots in three days of work after a lengthy lay off while up in Nashville.
“It was a great experience to be up [in Nashville], practice with the guys, and see how it was in the show,” said Magnus Hellberg. “At the same time you have to play games to develop. You kind of lose that feeling pretty quickly when you don’t play. I think in a way it was good that we got a lot of shots on us this last weekend – even though it was a tough one. I didn’t play my best game on Friday. I felt a little bit more like my normal me on Sunday even though we lost in a shootout. Today we won 2-1 and the boys battled hard. It was a step in the right direction.”
Tonight, the team looked really composed defensively against an outstanding Grand Rapids Griffins group that entered the game on fire by winning seven-straight games. There were many positives to take from tonight’s game. The top two lines tonight (Salomaki-Watson-Rask / Moser-Sissons-Forsberg) were outstanding on both sides of the puck. The penalty kill was sharp tonight going 3-3 in kills with great efforts by both Joe Piskula and Scott Ford on the back end denying several attempts to deal the puck around the cage and catch Hellberg off balance.
The negatives could still be a wavering in consistency during the second period. The road trip’s worst period seemed to be the second period and tonight that was also the case as they were outshot by the Griffins 15-3 in the period. No telling what the real cause is, but the response in the third period was rather good. Shots were in the Ads favor, 16-7, and the space to roam wasn’t really there for the Griffins.
This is what I call a well-deserved win for the effort out on the ice tonight.
Thoughts on the game? Has Sissons been the Ads best forward this season? Is Magnus Hellberg back up to speed? Why do you feel there is a drop off in the second period and what can be done about it? Will Filip Forsberg still be an Admiral come Friday night?