The Admirals lost 3-2 in a shootout against the Texas Stars Friday night. For the fourth consecutive game the Admirals went past regulation to earn a point. Sadly, it is the third time in that span that they could only earn a single point.
“That was a hell of a hockey game,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “We played great, goalie played great, [defense] played great, got good goals. What else can you ask for? The result, as far as that one extra point isn’t there, but my gosh we played the way that we need to play. It was very positive.”
There was a really good start for the Admirals that all went for naught when Derek Hulak scored from a rebounder to give the Stars a first period lead. Justin Dowling beat Taylor Aronson on the left wing and skated in on goal. His shot banked off Marek Mazanec’s chest and into the path of Hulak for a quick backhanded swipe on the rebound to score his nineteenth goal of the season.
Kevin Fiala would respond by the end of the first period with his eleventh goal of the season. Branden Troock’s outlet pass for Jamie Oleksiak was botched and Fiala raced in to intercept the soft pass. The 18-year old proceeded to dangle through Oleksiak and then Stars team captain Maxime Fortunus before burying a wrist shot on the near post past the blocker of Jack Campbell.
“He’s a special player,” said Evason. “Nashville obviously knew it when they drafted him. We know why we brought him here to get North American-ized. He’s just responded great. His skill level is one thing but he wants to play, he wants to win, he’s a good teammate, he’s got everything to set himself up to be a great great pro. He just needs a bit more time because he’s eighteen.”
The Admirals took their first lead of the game after a power-play goal scored by Austin Watson. Anthony Bitetto stepped in from the right point to deliver a hard shot towards the net. Watson wasn’t picked up by the Stars penalty kill as he moved off the wall and towards the front of the net. He caught Bitetto’s shot with his stick blade and deflected the shot up and over Campbell’s glove for his team leading twenty-fourth goal of the season.
A defensive breakdown with less than five minutes remaining in the second period leveled the score back up again. Greg Rallo swooped down the right wing and was able to catch the trailing Travis Morin racing to the backdoor of Mazanec. Joe Piskula and Jonathan Diaby were both occupied with Brendan Ranford’s net front presence and Morin won the foot race to the back post against Colton Sissons for the tap in on the left wing. It goes down as Morin’s twentieth goal of the season. It is his fourth career twenty goal season in the AHL.
This game ended up being decided in the shootout after flying through overtime without ever needing to go into three-on-three hockey. The Admirals went first in the shootout and, after Frederick Gaudreau and Fiala both scored, it was up to Mazanec to get a stop against Morin for the win. That didn’t happen. Gary Steffes stepped up next for the Admirals and scored on a backhand forehand move. Mazanec was once again beaten with a chance to win the game and missed out on the Devin Shore forehand shot. After Pontus Aberg was stopped by a glove save from Campbell it was Dowling finishing off the shootout with a wrister to the blocker side of Mazanec. The Stars scored on the last four shootout attempts that they had and three of them burnt the blocker side of Mazanec.
The Admirals will get a slight bit of a rest with the weekend off. Their next games are both on the road and will take place Tuesday and Wednesday. The first stop is against the Rockford IceHogs and the following day they’ll face the Grand Rapids Griffins. It’s not going to be an easy task facing the top two teams in the Midwest Division on back-to-back nights but it’s playoff time for the Admirals right now. Each game should be treated as such. These are teams that the Admirals would have to beat to make it to the Calder Cup. The same has to be said to make it into the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Ramblings: Tonight’s scratches for the Admirals were Eric Robinson (healthy), Joe Pendenza (healthy), and Jimmy Oligny (healthy). The Admirals played their twenty-third overtime game tonight. They are tied with the St. John’s IceCaps for the AHL lead in overtime games played this season.
What is your take from tonight’s game? Was this still a positive result for the Admirals? How do you feel the playoff picture is forming right now.