The Admirals won 2-1 against the Charlotte Checkers Sunday afternoon. After conceding the opening goal to Zach Boychuk and the Checkers, the Ads behind Miikka Salomaki, Austin Watson, and Scott Darling came back to pick up the Ads first win in regulation since 11/16 in Iowa.
“I thought our guys had a real good compete level today,” said Milwaukee Admirals assistant coach Stan Drulia after the game on Sports Radio 1250 WSSP. “We felt pretty comfortable as the game went along. The guys were playing the right way. They were doing a lot of the little things. We had a couple of guys step up. We were physical on the forecheck as a group. I think that really sent the message as the game went along.”
Perhaps starting where they left off last night, Mike Liambas and Nicolas Blanchard dropped the gloves the first chance they could when both men were out on the ice together. This carried over from the events of last night where Liambas took a charging call against Blanchard and was subsequently jumped by him – drawing a third man in penalty – and causing Blanchard’s night to end with a game misconduct. The fight was a quick one. Hard to say who won the scrap.
In the dying seconds of the first period Liambas was at it again. After a tightly contested period Liambas drew a charging penalty and Ads starting goalie Scott Darling picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct to give the Checkers a very late five-on-three power-play chance. Just as the Checkers did for their second goal in last night’s game, Zach Boychuk scored a lightning fast goal after the face off win to give the home-side a 1-0 lead – with only eight-seconds remaining in the period.
In yet another flashback to last night’s game Miikka Salomaki ripped a wrist shot from between the face off circles for a goal. The equalizer came at the 14:54 mark of the second period. It was a period heavily dominated by the Ads who held the Checkers to only three shots on goal in the period – the lowest total the Ads have held an opponent all season. The goal for Salomaki is his fifth of the season and now sees him tied with Colton Sissons for the team lead in points with fourteen.
Austin Watson picked up the game-winning goal off of a rebound effort near the midway point of the third period. His linemates, Zach Budish and Kevin Henderson, set him up on the play with a puck to the net that Checkers netminder Rob Madore spilled out. Watson was there to backhand the rebounder and give the Ads their first lead in regulation since 11/19 against Abbotsford Heat. The Ads held on tight to the 2-1 lead all the way until the final horn.
The win in net goes to Scott Darling who started the back half of this two-in two in Charlotte.
“He’s a confident guy,” said Drulia of Scott Darling. “He wants to play. He’s battling for minutes. Obviously, Magnus [Hellberg] is the guy right now and we have to find a way to get him going so he’s ready in case Nashville needs him. Darling’s buying his time. He gets his opportunity today. I thought we were really good in front of him.”
Darling’s game in this one was real solid. While the team in front of him kept the shot totals down he managed to stop 17-18 shots on goal. The lone goal he did allow came right after the Checkers were given a full two-minutes worth of five-on-three power-play. If not for that lone lapse, we may well be talking about Darling posting back-to-back shutouts in games he has started in.
The upcoming schedule for the Ads will see a decent rest period for the team. The next game is Friday at home against the Oklahoma City Barons. They will then have nearly another week off when they play those same Barons at home the following Thursday. Tired bodies will no doubt get healed up. Practice regarding the team’s recent offensive and power-play struggles will also no doubt be worked on. It should be a productive next two weeks for the team with a light break in an intense AHL schedule.
Thoughts on today’s game? How would you rate Salomaki’s season to this point? Would you like to see more of Scott Darling in net? How do you feel this upcoming stretch of off days for the Ads can impact the team?