The Admirals won 3-2 in a shootout against the Utica Comets Wednesday night. It pushes the Ads winning streak to eight games which ties a franchise mark. Marek Mazanec entered in relief of Magnus Hellberg and shutdown the Comets as the Admirals stormed out of a two goal deficit to take home the extra point in the shootout.
“I think we’re playing a simple game,” said Brendan Leipsic. “We’re not making as high risk of plays I think as we were after Christmas when we were in a jam. I think everybody is buying into the way we need to play.”
It only took the Comets thirty-seven seconds to score off of the game’s first shot. Taylor Aronson had his pocket picked and it sent Darren Archibald off to the races down the left wing. He managed to get a wrister off before Anthony Bitetto could close him down and beat Magnus Hellberg low glove for his sixth goal of the season.
The Comets extended their lead at 12:30 into the first period and, with it, ended Hellberg’s night in net. The play from the Comets was simple. They passed on over from right to left and Hunter Shinkaruk’s shot appeared to surprise Hellberg on the near post. The puck went through Hellberg’s blocker for Shinkaruk’s sixth goal of the season. Marek Mazanec, freshly reassigned to the Admirals today from the Nashville Predators, was brought in to relieve Hellberg who went three for five in save opportunities.
“He just didn’t look comfortable,” said Evason. “And that just hasn’t been him. He’s been so good, so solid for us, and he didn’t look right. We were pretty quick obviously with it, but we just felt he didn’t look right in the net.”
An answer goal finally came for the Admirals in the last minute of the first period. Brendan Leipsic’s pass over to Viktor Stalberg was an easy tap in over the outstretched Jacob Markstrom. The net was coming off on the opposite post and Markstom was making his case that the net wasn’t on at the time it was scored. All things being the same, that was a sitter for Stalberg and Markstrom had no chance to make the stop anyways. It’s Stalberg’s third goal with the Admirals this season.
The second period had a similar finish. With ten seconds remaining Miikka Salomaki banged home a juicy rebound to score his seventh goal of the season. Joe Piskula made a great play to step up from defense and keep the puck deep. Viktor Arvidsson was able to get the puck on his backhand, whip a shot on Markstrom, and the backhander kicked out to the path of Salomaki on the doorstep.
This game ended up going to and through overtime. Perhaps the best chance in OT came from the final play. Stalberg was loose on a breakaway but was stopped by a last ditch diving poke check from behind by Bobby Sanguinetti as time expired to send the game to a shootout.
Kevin Fiala, who made his North American pro hockey debut with the Admirals tonight, was the first man out for the shootout. He sniped past Markstrom with a quick release of a forehand shot to get the Ads on the board first in the shooutout.
“It was a good experience,” said Kevin Fiala. “You get no time over here. You have to watch always if someone is coming or not. That was the most different thing I think.”
Brandon DeFazio responded to Fiala’s goal with a backhander past Mazanec. It was the first puck to get through Mazanec since he entered the game as he stopped all twenty-one shots he faced prior to the shootout. Stalberg was next up for the Admirals and he rifled high glove to make it 2-1. After successive failed attempts the game fell to the Comets’ Shinkaruk. He pushed the game into extras with a wrister that over-powered Mazanec to the glove side.
In extras of the shootout the first round saw misses for Arvidsson and former-Admiral Cal O’Reilly. Salomaki, who tied the game at the end of the second period, would pop in a backhanded shot in the fifth round to make it match point. Mazanec faced Dustin Jeffrey. And he stopped his five hole attempt to give the Admirals their eight straight win.
Ramblings: Prior to the game there were a pair of roster moves made. The Nashville Predators reassigned Marek Mazanec to the Milwaukee Admirals which saw a trickle-down effect pushing Rob Madore back to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. Tonight’s scratches for the Admirals were Mike Liambas, Joe Pendenza, Zach Budish, Frederick Gaudreau, Garrett Noonan, and Johan Alm. After the game Evason stated that Alm, who has missed nineteen straight games due to an upper body injury, has started skating but there is no time table for his return.
Thoughts on tonight’s game? What happened to Magnus Hellberg to start the game? How did you feel about Kevin Fiala’s debut and the return of Viktor Stalberg? Was Marek Mazanec the key to this win?