The Admirals won 4-3 on the road against the Iowa Wild on Friday night. Austin Watson’s hot start to the season continued as he became the first Admiral since Alexander Radulov (2006-07) to score a goal in each of the first three games of the season. The Admirals have won their opening three games for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
After the two team captains collided along the boards, the Admirals took the game’s first power-play and quieted the opening night crowd in Iowa with a goal. The wing-play of the Admirals on their power-play unit is strong enough to open up space right down the slot. That means setting up for rebounds or wing-to-wing passes such as Brendan Leipsic to Pontus Aberg. The young Swede picked up his second goal of the season off the power-play to make it 1-0 Admirals.
Then the first period seemed to tilt the way of the Wild. The first period ended with a hefty 14-5 shots advantage for the home team that stormed back after conceding with a goal of their own. Zach Mitchell managed to score his first professional goal. He did it by camping out in front of Marek Mazanec and backhanding a juicy rebound to make it a 1-1 game.
The Admirals answered back late in the first period following a successful penalty kill. It appeared as if Wild goaltender Johan Gustafsson overplayed a puck and Aberg caught him out of position. He managed to leap back from behind the net and backhand a shot past the scrambling goalie for his second goal of the game.
Iowa took a roughing penalty with 0.3 seconds remaining in the first period. That meant the Ads effectively had a full power-play to work with from the second period puck drop. Just two minutes into the second period and the Admirals found themselves two goals richer.
On the opening second period power-play, Colton Sissons scored his first goal of the season after a poor turnover by the Wild behind their own net. A minute and eleven seconds following Sissons goal and Austin Watson scored – his third in three games this season. Leipsic hit Watson with a pass as he barreled down the slot. It was Leipsic’s third primary assist of the game. The Watson goal was enough for the Wild to swap goalies and bring in John Curry.
Watson would go to the box for a hooking call midway through the second period. His role on the PK was substituted with Aberg who seemed to get lost in the Wild’s puck shuffle. When the puck got to Zach Phillips it left Aberg and Anthony Bitetto scrambling to the right wing. Phillips’ pass across the penalty kill would result in a tap in for Curt Gogol to make it a 4-2 contest.
This game stayed at that two goal margin until the Wild scored with their net empty and the extra attacker on. With 46.6 seconds remaining, Danny Syvret’s point shot ricocheted through traffic and past Mazanec to make it a one-goal game. The goal was credited to Brett Sutter for his first goal as a member of the Wild.
Despite the late tally and a strong push against Mazanec and the Admirals late. The Wild ended up dropping their home opener and the Ads continue their hot start to the season with their third regulation win from three games.
Ramblings: The scratches tonight included Patrick Cehlin (hip), Mike Liambas (undisclosed injury), and Taylor Aronson (healthy scratch). It meant we saw the all left-handed defense for the Admirals this season – with an introduction to Jonathan-Ismael Diaby in place of Aronson. The Admirals and Wild combined for 15 total penalties tonight. The Ads PP went 2/7 while the Wild’s PP went 1/8.
Thoughts on tonight’s effort? Are you at all worried over the Admirals defense? Would you start Marek Mazanec again tomorrow night or give Magnus Hellberg his first start of the season? Which young forward has impressed you more, Brendan Leipsic or Pontus Aberg?