The Admirals lost 6-2 on the road against the Grand Rapids Griffins Wednesday night. It appears the defensive mistake bug, which haunted the Admirals during their season long road trip last month, returned tonight. The Admirals swapped goalies twice in this game as the rough keeps getting rough and the team lost in regulation for the fourteenth time since the start of February.
Grand Rapids got on the board from the power-play off of their first shot on goal in the game. Kevin Fiala was called for a trip after the Admirals opening power-play chance came and went. With their power-play opportunity, Nathan Paetsch slid a puck on over to the right wing for Anthony Mantha whose slap shot wired through traffic and beat Magnus Hellberg low glove side just over his pad. It was Mantha’s fifteenth goal of the season.
A little over halfway through the first period the Griffins added a second goal to make it 2-0. After the Admirals won a defensive zone faceoff, and attempted to clear the zone, Griffins defenseman Brennan Evans held the puck on the left point before delivering a hesitation-style shot. Andy Miele was camped out in front of Hellberg and managed to get a stick to Evans point shot to record his twenty-fourth goal of the season.
Colton Sissons reputation against the Griffins continued late in the first period. After a Johan Alm wrist shot from the left point Sissons got the redirect that beat Tom McCollum past the blocker for his twenty-fourth goal of the season and his eleventh scored against Grand Rapids in eighteen career games.
The second period went just about as badly as it could for the Admirals. Just about all of their defensive mistakes were punished. Johan Alm was caught behind his own net with Mantha aggressively hunting him down, forced a turnover, and passed out in front of the net for Andreas Athanasiou. It was a quick one-timed swat for Athanasiou past Hellberg for his fifteenth goal of the season.
Only twenty-nine seconds later another defensive lapse by the Admirals cost them a goal. Another turnover was forced out in front of Hellberg, who was hung out to dry, and Martin Frk buried his fifth goal of the season. The Admirals would burn their timeout after the goal and make the goaltending change. Hellberg stopped 10/14 shots on goal on the night before giving way to Marek Mazanec.
After Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan went to the box for tripping the Admirals allowed their twelfth shorthanded goal of the season. It was a simple chip and clear off the wall from Kevin Porter to Athanasiou. Rather than throw the puck deep Athanasiou plowed forward, beat Taylor Aronson with speed, cut in front of him, and finished five hole on Mazanec’s first shot that he faced since replacing Hellberg. It was Athanasiou’s second goal of the period and sixteenth goal of the season.
Triston Grant would set a career best in goals scored in a single season by notching his thirteenth goal late in the second period. The veteran Admiral, who won a Calder Cup with the Griffins in 2012-13, nailed a slap shot from the right wing low to the ice and beat McCollum far post. His previous career high for goals scored in a season came as a member of the Admirals during the 2009-10 season when he tallied twelve.
In the third period, Mazanec attempted to glove a shot by Xavier Ouellet that had knuckled up into the air. He stepped up to the top of his crease and missed the catch with the glove, tumbled on his skates for a bit, and watched as Mark Zengerle scored with ease for his fourteenth goal of the season.
Mazanec was immediately pulled from net after the goal by Zengerle. Mazanec stopped 6/8 shots on goal in relief of Hellberg before Hellberg hopped right back into the game to go 2/2 in saves to finish things up.
The Admirals record is now 33-27-7-6 (79 points) on the season with three games remaining. They are primed for the Toronto Marlies to knock them out of the playoffs right now unless the Admirals can string wins against the Chicago Wolves, and the Marlies next Friday, in those last three games. As far as things look tonight. It doesn’t look good at all. The Admirals playoff streak is hanging by the smallest of threads.
Ramblings: Tonight the Admirals shook up their line combinations which meant that the scratches tonight included Zach Budish (healthy), Frederick Gaudreau (healthy), and Jonathan Diaby (healthy). Miikka Salomaki and Felix Girard are out for the rest of the season due to injury. The Admirals season series has now finished up against the Griffins. They went 3-5-1-1 against the Griffins in 2014-15 while the Griffins bettered their record from a season ago by posting a 7-2-1-0 record against the Admirals.
What has happened to the Admirals team? Is tonight’s result the final nail in the coffin as far as the Admirals playoffs hopes are concerned? Do they have a chance to win out this season and maintain their spot? If the Admirals make it into the playoffs, do you even like their chances in an opening round series against a top team such as the Utica Comets or these same Griffins?