The Admirals extended their unbeaten run to five games with a 3-2 overtime victory on the road against the Chicago Wolves on Friday night. Anthony Bitetto scored the game-winner as the Ads experienced the AHL’s three-on-three overtime format for the first time this season. Pontus Aberg and Austin Watson also tallied ahead of another fine performance in net, 26-saves, by Marek Mazanec.
The Admirals power-play unit continued doing damage by scoring tonight’s opening goal. After Petteri Lindbohm hauled down Brendan Leipsic – the Admirals were able to take advantage of the man-advantage and then some. Veteran Brent Sopel broke his stick on the Wolves penalty kill and allowed for even more space on the ice. Miikka Salomaki picked out Pontus Aberg for a one-timed effort that beat Matt Climie in net for the young Swede’s fourth goal of the season.
After the Admirals scored, the first period was heavily controlled by the Wolves both in puck possession and in shots. The first period ended with the Wolves outshooting the Admirals 9-3. As fast paced as the Ads have looked this season – the Amtrak Rivals were doing more than just step for step work. The Wolves, especially the combo of Ty Rattie and Terry Broadhurst, were by far the faster of the two teams through the opening twenty-minutes.
The Wolves found an equalizer off of a bad defensive change by the Admirals in the second period. Joe Piskula and Jonathan-Ismael Diaby were very slow to the bench. As they were coming off – the Wolves set Ty Rattie free on a breakaway. The man who tallied 31 goals as a rookie last season pulled a backhander to Marek Mazanec’s five hole to level the game up at 1-1. It was Rattie’s third goal of the season.
The Admirals reclaimed the lead in the third period after a great shift pulled by the line of Brendan Leipsic, Mark Van Guilder, and Austin Watson. Leipsic’s work around Climie’s net saw him pass out to the right side of the cage where Watson, draped by Jeremy Welsh, smacked home his fourth goal of the season to make it 2-1.
Welsh would factor back into the third period scoring with a goal of his own. After some quality defensive work by the Wolves behind their own net – they launched a counter attack on the right wing with Welsh. The 26-year old blazed past Diaby on the wing and whipped a shot past Mazanec to even things right back up at 2-2.
Then, what would an Amtrak Rivalry game be without some controversy? The Wolves had a late chance of a 4-3 power-play that would expand into a full forty-five seconds worth of 5-3 power-play time. Just as the two-man advantage expired – the Wolves had a goal disallowed by the officials. Pat Cannone rushed in on Mazanec, was tripped up by Felix Girard, and the puck kicked to Shane Harper who put it in the back of the net. There wasn’t a penalty for goaltender interference. The goal was waved off. And the Admirals would kill off a lengthy stay shorthanded.
Next came our first look at the new AHL overtime format. It is a seven minute time frame in which the first three minutes are four-on-four. After the first whistle past the four minute mark in the overtime – it goes to three-on-three until the final horn. It’s all in an effort to avoid the dreaded shootout which has also gone under some tweaking: it is now a best of three format this season as opposed to years past in the AHL where it was a best of five.
The Amtrak Rivalry’s first game of the season would go all the way into the new three-on-three format. With twenty-nine seconds remaining before the game turned to a shootout – Anthony Bitetto was able to step up off the left wing side and snap a wrister past Climie for the overtime winner and his first goal of the season. The Admirals have remained unbeaten in their first five games of the season and have won four-straight road games.
Ramblings: The line combinations tonight were a continuation of what we saw in Iowa: Salomaki-Sissons-Aberg, Leipsic-Van Guilder-Watson, Arvidsson-Girard-Grant, Pendenza-Gaudreau-Budish, Diaby-Piskula, Bitetto-Noonan, and Alm-Aronson. Patrick Cehlin and Mike Liambas remained out due to injury. And Jimmy Oligny was a healthy scratch. As for the Wolves, the St. Louis Blues recalled Dmitrij Jaskin after placing Paul Stastny on injured reserved this afternoon. The Texas Stars loss tonight against the Oklahoma City Barons means that the Milwaukee Admirals are now the last remaining unbeaten team in the AHL. It is the second time in team history the the Admirals have won five straight games to open a season. It is a record for most consecutive road wins to start a season, with four.
Thoughts from tonight’s game? Was this the true test for the Admirals start to the season? What did you make of the brand new AHL overtime format? Is three-on-three overtime hockey any less laughable than ending the game in a shootout? Can the Admirals keep the winning streak going on home ice tomorrow night against the Lake Erie Monsters?