The Admirals won 6-3 against the Charlotte Checkers in Friday night’s season opener. The new faces for the Admirals made some serious dents tonight as Viktor Arvidsson, Pontus Aberg, Frederick Gaudreau, and Felix Girard all scored goals in their AHL debuts. Yet, the familiar face of Austin Watson was the difference when he scored twenty-two seconds into the third period to give the Ads a lead they’d hold onto until the final horn.
“The Nashville Predators organization has talked for a few years about getting more skill and more offense,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “I think clearly it’s a credit to the scouts and or Paul Fenton and David Poile for signing these guys. There’s been a shift for sure I think to have that skill.”
The Admirals opened tonight’s scoring on the power-play. It seemed as if whoever was operating within the faceoff circles for the Admirals was getting good looks with the man-advantage. The beneficiary of this was Viktor Arvidsson who bashed in a rebound after a one-timer by Brendan Leipsic fell right into his lap.
Only minutes later the Checkers returned the favor. Phil DiGiueppe’s one-timed effort spanked off the crossbar, down, and in. Even if Marek Mazanec tracked the pass from defenseman Dennis Robertson to DiGiueppe he’d have had a hard time stopping that shot where it was placed.
Pontus Aberg was the next new Admiral to get on the scoresheet and he did it in spectacular style. After Johan Alm tossed a puck over to him in the Admirals defensive half, Aberg proceeded to race up ice, into neutral, deked past Robertson, and finished off his coast-to-coast run by scoring on Drew MacIntyre.
The Admirals extended their lead to 3-1 in the second period from a third different goal scorer. This go-round it was Frederick Gaudreau who tallied with a crafty bit of work from his hands. He managed to move around Keegan Lowe and pull back on MacIntyre to the near post for his first career professional goal.
Next came a series of fights and road goals.
Kyle Hagel appeared to jump Anthony Bitetto in the first bout. Hagel was given an instigator and a misconduct for his actions that left Bitetto with a cut above his left eye. Justin Shugg followed up with a goal for the Checkers after running past Taylor Aronson and beating Mazanec with a wrister. The second fight was initiated on the Admirals end this time. Jimmy Oligny shoved Brendan Woods hard into the Checkers net and the two engaged quickly. Give the decisive win there to Oligny on the take down.
Right after an Admirals power-play the Checkers were able to cap off the second period with an equalizer to make it 3-3. Trevor Carrick fired a low shot that Zach Boychuk expertly redirected. The deflection came only a few feet in front of Mazanec and left the Czech no time to react.
With the Admirals losing a two goal lead in the second period they had an immediate response for the Checkers to start the third period. A mere twenty-two seconds into the frame and Miikka Salomaki’s wing to wing pass was flicked up and over MacIntyre by Austin Watson. It was a tough fight for Watson to get body position and a piece of Salomaki’s pass but, when he did, the puck took a weird flight pattern that almost got a piece of Mark Van Guilder in front of the net. It goes down as a goal for Watson. It’s his 43rd career goal with the Admirals.
Another familiar face to the Admirals lit the lamp next. After a stretch pass by the Checkers was intercepted by Gaudreau, his rush into the zone and subsequent layoff put Zach Budish into sniper mode. He hammered the puck past MacIntyre for his 5th career goal as an Admiral.
To close this one off, Felix Girard tallied an empty netter to give the Admirals a 6-3 scoreline for their season opener. The goal for him is as simple as it gets but Aberg’s effort to push the puck his way summed up the Ads performance rather nicely tonight: smart with speed.
“We have a lot of young guys that have a lot of skill,” said Anthony Bitetto. “It’s going to be fun to watch this year. I think we tighten up the little things: neutral zone, [defensive] zone. I think we’re going to have a good start and a good run.”
Ramblings: The scratches tonight included Joshua Shalla, Mike Liambas (undisclosed injury), Patrick Cehlin (hip), Jonathan-Ismael Diaby, Mikko Vainonen, and Jaynen Rissling.
Thoughts from the opener? What do you make of your new look Milwaukee Admirals? Can this team be special with the skill that they have? What are some of the negatives you might have seen from the opening contest? And can the team carry this offense into Rockford tomorrow night?