(Photo credit to Scott Paulus)
The Admirals lost 4-3 in overtime to the Abbotsford Heat Tuesday night. The Heat, who have the best record in the AHL, were able to fight back from a two goal deficit to win in OT. The Ads started the game quick with goals from Austin Watson, Simon Moser, and Miikka Salomaki, but were just not able to come up with win as the Heat came to life in the third period.
“We had tons of chances to score and couldn’t finish,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “Their goalie played good. Couple of goals that maybe we’d want back as a team. Not only our goalie but as a team we made mistakes and it ended up in our net. I don’t think you could say [the Heat] outplayed us in the third period. We had our opportunities. We didn’t put them away.”
The Ads haven’t been known for quick starts this season. Up against the best team in the AHL the Ads managed to come out of the opening period with a 2-0 lead.
Austin Watson scored the opening goal of the game off a rush from the right wing into goal. Passes from Bryan Rodney up to Miikka Salomaki tapped on to Watson sent the forward loose into the attacking zone. The Heat defense nearly stick checked the puck off Watson but a toe-drag and a quick wrist shot later – the Ads were up 1-0.
A late boarding penalty put the Admirals power-play unit on the ice with 1:07 remaining in the first period. A face off win and quick passes –circling from the point to the right face off dot– teed up Simon Moser for a one-timer and his third goal of the season. The period ended with the Ads up 2-0. Entering tonight, they were 3-0-0-0 when leading after the opening period of play. Again, quick starts aren’t a frequent occurrence for the Admirals but -backs against the wall tonight- they got one.
In the second period the Heat produced their first goal of the game off of a power-play. The penalty was a high sticking call against Kevin Henderson and the Ads nearly killed it off. Yet, the Heat put the hammer down and a one-timer off the left faceoff dot by Blair Jones made it a 2-1 hockey game.
Miikka Salomaki kept his hot night going by scoring a beauty of a goal to give the Ads a two-goal cushion. Salomaki, who had assisted the first two goals of the game, had defenders surrounding him and he let fly with a shot that beat Ortio to his blocker-side and belted the near post for his third goal of the season.
“That’s probably [Salomaki’s] best game,” said Evason. “Obviously, he has a great goal but hounding the puck, stick skills, his competitiveness, he finishes every check. You wish every hockey player played the way that he plays the game.”
The third period began with a 3-1 Ads lead. The Heat, just as they would have hoped, were able to cut the lead down to one with plenty of the third still to play for. Markus Granlund was able to score with just over fifteen-minutes remaining to make it a 3-2 game.
Abbotsford tied the game up midway through the third period after a quick counter attack overwhelmed the Ads defense. Greg Nemisz’s shot on goal appeared to take a deflection as the puck’s flight path knuckled low under the glove of Hellberg to make it 3-3.
The Ads did have some chances to finish off the game in OT. Two come to mind. Both from Anthony Bitetto in the space of about five-seconds. Bitetto had a quick paced run on goal and one-timed a shot into the pads of Joni Ortio in net. Right after that chance, Bitetto sat on the side of Ortio’s net, fired a close-range shot, and was robbed. Two high quality chances for Bitetto in a matter of seconds with no reward.
Sadly for Bitetto the bad news kept coming for him as he took a high sticking penalty with 1:50 left in OT. The Heat, sensing the moment, called timeout to draw up a play for the 4-on-3 power-play chance. They won the draw. Boom. Ben Street tallied the game-winner for his team best ninth goal of the season.
“We lost the draw,” said Evason of the goal in OT. “We allowed their guy to walk into a prime scoring position. Although it gets deflected off of Joe [Piskula’s] stick he shouldn’t have been allowed to shoot in that spot.”
While the Ads did come up shy of a victory in this game there was plenty to be happy about with this result. The Ads had a great first two period of hockey – especially the first. Unfortunate to not come away with the win, but the Heat have now won ten of their last eleven games. This was always going to be a tough grinder of a game. To have actually outplayed the Heat through two period is a result and the performance bodes really well for tomorrow night’s match up with yet another high-powered offense, the Griffins.
Thoughts on the game? Who impressed you tonight? Who didn’t impress you tonight? What does this game have you thinking in regards to tomorrow night’s game with the Griffins? Will they be able to repeat their previous results against the Griffins tomorrow?