The Admirals set a franchise record for wins to start a season with a 2-1 shootout win against the Lake Erie Monsters Saturday night. Magnus Hellberg won in his first start of the season, made 25-saves, and didn’t allow a goal in the shootout. Garrett Noonan’s first professional goal proved to be a streak-saver for the Admirals. He equalized with 7:21 left in regulation to give the Ads the opportunity that saw them win their sixth straight game to start the season.
“We’re going to ride it as long as we can,” said Triston Grant of the Admirals franchise best six-game winning streak to start a season. “We didn’t play up to our standards the last couple games but we have to take those wins because there’s going to be games that we play really well and we’re not going to win. That’s what happens in hockey.”
After a rather sluggish opening period – there were some real fireworks that spurted out of the second. The Monsters were awarded a penalty shot when Jimmy Oligny hauled down Andrew Agozzino. Magnus Hellberg, making his first start of the season, bailed out his rookie defenseman with a pad save on the penalty shot attempt to keep things scoreless.
Then some rough stuff. Joe Piskula and Colin Smith had a small scrap that only resulted in roughing calls for each. This was followed later in the second period by a fight of the year candidate between Triston Grant and Daniel Maggio. Both leveled one another to the point of patchwork. Grant, who I’d give the win to, had Quinten Tarantino level blood splatter on his helmet visor. His counterpart Maggio was handed a fresh jersey whilst in the penalty box.
After a puck was spilled by Hellberg in net, the Monsters broke the deadlock in the second period with a goal from Paul Carey. As soon as the puck left the clutches of Hellberg the battle in front of him became a mess. Carey picked up the loose puck, skated for a shot, and had the entire top shelf to hit for his second goal of the season.
Another scrum came in the third period as Austin Watson leapt to the defense of his linemate Brendan Leipsic after a solid check by Maxim Noreau. It wasn’t anything near the level or intensity of the previous Grant battle – but was a solid display of sticking up for your teammates from Watson nonetheless.
With 7:21 left in regulation, Garrett Noonan scored his first professional goal to level the game at 1-1. Noonan pump faked a slap shot and then zipped one towards traffic. Zach Budish jumped over the puck, Joe Pendenza set a screen in front of Calvin Pickard, and the Noonan shot flew past everyone and into the back of the net.
For the second consecutive night we were then treated to the new AHL overtime format. Prior to the three-on-three change over, the Admirals were awarded with a penalty shot as Viktor Arvidsson was chopped down by Stefan Elliott. Just like the previous penalty shot attempt. The five hole move wasn’t working. And this game lasted all the way into a shootout.
Leipsic was up first for the Admirals and beat Pickard with a barrage of moves. Mike Sgarbossa’s follow up for the Monsters belted the post and came right back out for a miss. Arvidsson stepped up next for the Ads and again failed on a five hole move. Smith was next for the Monsters and flipped his backhander high and wide. The game then fell on the stick of Pontus Aberg – who deked himself enough room to beat Pickard to the far post and in for the game-winner.
“For a lot of the weekend we didn’t play the way that we had in our first four,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “The league is going to get better, teams are going to get better, and we need to get better. We’ll continue to work at it.”
Ramblings: Patrick Cehlin was the lone player out with injury tonight for the Admirals as he recovers from a hip injury. Jonathan Diaby and Mike Liambas were both listed as healthy scratches. Tonight was Magnus Hellberg’s first competitive start since 4/13/14 with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL – he stopped 21/22 in a 4-1 win. The Admirals remain the final unbeaten AHL team remaining with a franchise record 6-0-0-0 start to a season.
Thoughts and observations from tonight? How did Magnus Hellberg fair in his first start of the season? What did you make of the Admirals offense being, for the most part, shutdown tonight? And will this new AHL overtime format give you heart problems throughout the season? …because I think it will for me in the best of ways.