The Admirals won 4-3 in a shootout against the Iowa Wild Monday night. Goals from Austin Watson, Colton Sissons, and Taylor Beck set the background on a shootout game winner for Vinny Saponari – breaking the Ads losing run of two games. Magnus Hellberg returned to the net tonight and picked up his first win since 12/12 vs. Oklahoma City. Hellberg stopped twenty-one of twenty-four shots – including all four in the shootout.
Despite looking sluggish to start the game – it was the Iowa Wild who netted the opener off of a solo effort from Brett Bulmer. The Ads were on attack when Bulmer stormed from the right wing, in front of the player benches, and skated all the way in on Magnus Hellberg. As soon as he closed in the goal, Bulmer pulled up and gave a backhanded spin-o-rama that found a way through Hellberg. The play was initially given no goal signal and went to review before declaring the obvious: Bulmer has scored his tenth goal of the season to give the Wild an early 1-0 lead.
The rest of the opening period really favored the Ads. It felt like the Wild were standing around compared to the Ads work rate in the first: outshooting the Wild 12-7 in the period. Of the chances, Mike Liambas and Mathieu Tousignant seemed to generate some quality offensive chances. Liambas actually led the team with three shots in the period. Those two grinder-style players really have been buzzing with confidence in the offensive zone these last few weeks.
Considering the events of the Lake Erie series and the amount of penalty minutes gathered – it was pretty great to see this game have no calls after twenty-minutes.
That didn’t last long.
Thirty-three seconds into the second period Iowa took a slashing call and the Ads equalized on the strength of Austin Watson… and an assist to Wild d-man Corbin Baldwin. The play for the Ads started from the point with Charles-Olivier Roussel, worked to the left wing wall out to Taylor Beck, and then on to Watson. The amount of patience Watson showed moving into goal forced Johan Gustafsson to sprawl out and make a play from goal. Watson powered around him, tossed the puck toward net, and Wild defenseman Baldwin dove across and carried the puck in. The goal is Watson’s ninth of the season.
The Ads power-play continued its success against Iowa on its second chance of the evening. The second power-play unit was able to bury a chance from in-tight before the man-advantage expired. Bryan Rodney zipped on to Anthony Bitetto on the right wing wall. Bitetto picked out Colton Sissons sitting in the slot. Sissons turned around to goal and roofed the puck under the crossbar. Gustafsson didn’t have a chance stopping that shot. It’s now a team best thirteen goals and twenty-three points for Sissons.
Early in the third period the Wild were able to tie the game at 2-2. A bad exchange between Sissons and Salomaki in their defensive half lead to a turnover and a goal from Kyle Medvec from the point. It was a rising shot that, with a screen, Hellberg didn’t see until the last moment. By then it was into the roof for Medvec’s second goal of the campaign.
A storyline that repeated itself was the Ads ability to respond after Wild goals. The follow up shifts from Milwaukee were always blistering while the opposition remained flatfooted to the point of attack.
After 2:20 time on the ice from the Medvec goal – Taylor Beck banged home his ninth goal of the season to restore the Ads one-goal advantage. The shift that was ushered by Moser, Van Guilder, Beck, Roussel, and Jarvinen was relentless. They were wiring together chance after chance and kept the puck in-zone repeatedly. Beck was finally on the receiving end of a beautiful cross-ice pass from Moser for a one-timer that burned Gustafsson on the left wing.
There was some bad news in this game regarding the Iowa Wild. The game’s opening goal scorer, Brett Bulmer, went down hard in the third period and clutched his knee instantly. He was in major distress and was helped off the ice by teammate Chad Rau and the team’s trainer. He put zero weight on his left leg on his way off the ice. After the game, I just so happened to be walking out by the arena exit with the Wild team – who were carting Bulmer in a full leg brace on a flatbed dolly. My guess for him is that is a long term knee injury. Certainly wish him a speedy recovery.
Right after the injury delay was the ying and yang effects only the game of hockey can deliver so quickly. A hot shot on Hellberg fell behind him in goal and was dancing its way from the crease and in. Just as the puck appeared to be going in – a whistle blew. Just as the whistle blew – a Wild forward put that puck in. It was borderline robbery that the whistle blew that quickly – especially if it was a matter of someone losing sight of the puck (a linesman was right on the end-redline looking at the net). So, saved by the whistle. The very next faceoff – Iowa Wild goal. Brian Connelly’s shot from the blueline was perfectly redirected with a stick by Chad Rau and in to make it 3-3.
The game lasted through regulation and then went to overtime. There wasn’t much going in the way of Ads chances. If anything, it was the Wild that blew a quick opportunity on the power-play after a Joe Piskula high-sticking call thirty-two seconds into OT. That penalty kill, and Hellberg, stood tall when they had to. Great effort on the kill particularly to the Olympian Simon Moser – whose closing rate on skaters disrupted plenty of time on the man-advantage.
Next came the shootout where the Ads elected to shoot first. Beck stepped up and delivered with the first shot: skated out to the left wing and wired in a low wrister. After four saves by Hellberg and three saves by Gustafsson – it was Vinny Saponari time. The twenty-three year old Georgia native skated in calmly, waited, waited, flinched, went to the backhand, Gustafsson dived flat, and Saponari tossed it into the twine for the shootout winner.
Some Ramblings: Mike Liambas finished this game with the most shots on goal, five. The pair of Liambas and Tousignant was so effective Dean Evason decided to put Beck on line with them towards the end of the first period. Injury updates: Joonas Rask and Patrick Cehlin both participated in practice today. Rask is ahead of Cehlin and has the chance to return this weekend if he stays on course. The assist by Beck on Watson’s goal was his 100th point as a member of the Milwaukee Admirals. Beck in his last nine games has four goals and five assists. The Ads have still yet to be defeated by the Iowa Wild in four meetings. Despite the cold – the Monday night crowd was near the 2500 mark. For those wondering, that is around half of what the team typically draws – but about 2000 more than I expected to turn up against the nasty weather. You rock, Milwaukee.
Thoughts on tonight’s game? Did you brave the cold to attend? Is this a turnaround for Hellberg and the Ads as a team? If Beck continues playing this good – can we expect an NHL call up soon?