The Admirals lost 2-1 in a shootout against the Grand Rapids Griffins Saturday evening. With fifty seconds left in regulation Teemu Pulkkinen forced overtime for the Griffins and denied Magnus Hellberg from the shutout he deserved. The game lasted to a shootout where the Admirals saw their losing run extend to five games.
“The first fifteen-sixteen games those breaks were our’s,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “They got one tonight. So, we’ll use this as a step forward and put a positive spin on it for sure.”
Entering today’s game the Admirals record when scoring the opening goal was an impressive 9-1-0-1. During the Admirals four-game losing streak they only managed to score the opener once. That came from the 3-2 shootout loss to the Charlotte Checkers.
This afternoon the Admirals were able to get on the board first through Pontus Åberg’s team leading ninth goal of the season. Mark Van Guilder made a great play in neutral ice to force a turnover that fell kindly to Åberg breaking in off the right wing. The Swede aimed near post to the glove-side of Jared Coreau and beat him on the quick release shot.
After taking their timeout and emptying their net with 1:29 remaining in regulation – the Griffins scored an equalizer to force overtime. The toss on net was coughed up by Magnus Hellberg and spilled into the sprawl in front of him before getting pushed in by Teemu Pulkkinen. The tally by the Griffins ended Hellberg’s 123:17 shutout streak against them that dated back to last season when he conceded five goals against on 12/14/13 in Grand Rapids. For Pulkkinen it goes down as his team leading eleventh goal of the season.
“It was a cluster-[expletive] in front of me,” said Magnus Hellberg in regards to the equalizing goal for the Griffins. “I saved the first one and I don’t know how many guys it was but it was a lot of sticks just jamming my pads and everything. At that point it is so hard to see where the puck is because sticks everywhere. It’s frustrating.”
The game flew through the entirety of overtime and headed to the shootout. After two rounds the Admirals and Griffins were tied 1-1 but Miikka Salomaki’s third round chance was stopped and Mitch Callahan fired a shot to the blocker side of Hellberg to give the Griffins a 2-1 shootout victory. The Admirals losing streak has now reached five-games.
Hellberg may have taken the shootout loss but make no mistake – he was phenomenal today. He made thirty-three saves and only allowed the late frenzied goal from the Griffins with their goalie pulled and the extra attacker on in the final minute of regulation. If not for his play today – I question if the Admirals would have even picked up a point today.
“He’s been good all year,” said Admiral captain Joe Piskula of Hellberg. “It goes from the goalie to the defensemen to the forwards. It kind of builds our confidence and demeanor of the team. It’s huge.”
Ramblings: Today’s game marked the 500th game played in Joe Piskula’s professional playing career. The Antigo native has played in 488 career games at the AHL level including 12 games in the NHL. The scratches for the Admirals included Rich Clune (lower-body), Mike Liambas (healthy), and Johan Alm (upper-body). Clune did skate ahead of today’s game and Alm was a late decision for an upper-body injury. Both are expected to return to the lineup soon.
Thoughts on today’s game? Close but just not close enough? What would you change amidst this losing streak?