The Milwaukee Admirals pitched a 3-0 shutout over the Grand Rapids Griffins Tuesday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
A pair of power-play goals in the second period gave the Admirals some nice breathing space but the real story came between the pipes. Marek Mazanec stopped all thirty shots the Griffins labeled on target and earned his first shutout of the season and fifth of his AHL career with the Milwaukee Admirals. He was crucial in the Admirals penalty killing tonight as the Ads denied all four power-plays for the Griffins.
“Our penalty kill was the difference,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “Our penalty kill, clearly, the best penalty killer is your goaltender. Which it was last night with [Juuse Saros] and then again tonight with [Marek Mazanec]. But the blocked shots – the commitment – especially that last one where we were hemmed in our zone the entire two minutes – all four guys were out there for the entire two minutes. Sticks were great. Their compete level was great. Their commitment was awesome. That was the difference in the game. No question.”
After a dump and chase stylized first period the game received its first goal in the second period. Xavier Ouellet was beaten on a foot race down the left wing by Pontus Åberg, went for the football tackle, and was called for a holding minor. This set the table for more power-play theatrics from a group that scored twice the night prior. Kevin Fiala was stationed low in the right wing, skated in towards goal, unleashed a hard pass between the legs of defenseman Nathan Paetsch, and hit Max Görtz on top of the left wing faceoff circle. The Swede’s quick wrister beat Jared Coreau high blocker side for his seventh goal of the season. Görtz now has a six-game point streak.
“[Max Görtz] is great,” smiled Evason. “He just goes about his business. He’s played on arguably the fourth line, he’s played on the first line, when [Colton Sissons] came back he got bumped to maybe the third line – it doesn’t matter. That’s what our group is all about.”
Then, late in the second period during the midst of a scrambly shift that saw a puck kicking around the Griffins attacking zone, Åberg drew another penalty after taking an Anthony Mantha stick to the chops. If the play leading up to the penalty can be considered scrambly than what unfolded in front of Coreau in net could probably be labeled pinball-esque. The puck was skipping loose, taking shot attempts, getting blocked down, and finally fell back in the right wing faceoff circle for Fiala who unloaded an absolute howitzer of a slap shot that soared into the net for his sixth goal of the season. If Fiala hit that shot any harder he might have gone in the net with the puck. It was a spectacular effort from the nineteen year old.
The Griffins, trailing by two goals, went empty net and extra attacker with 2:30 remaining in regulation. Not too long after that the Admirals buried an empty netter after a Görtz saucer pass picked out Matt White on the left wing in neutral ice. White won the zone to avoid icing, fired, and scored his third goal of the season to cap off the Admirals 3-0 win over the Griffins.
Marek Mazanec was nothing short of brilliant in net. He stopped all thirty shots he faced to record his first shutout of this season and the fifth of his AHL career with the Admirals. He came up huge time and time again in what might be his best performance in net since making his North American pro debut back in the 2013-14 season.
“It kind of doesn’t matter who is in the lineup,” commented Marek Mazanec on the recent run of form for the Admirals. “As long as we stick to the system, and do the right things, we can win every game.”
Ramblings: There were no roster moves made within the organization since last night’s game. On top of that, there wasn’t even a need for the Milwaukee Admirals to alter last night’s roster setup. Tonight’s line combinations: Fiala-Sissons-Gaudreau, Åberg -Reinhart-Payerl, White-Girard-Görtz, Devane-Pendenza-Larraza, Allen-Oligny, Näkyvä-Alm, Noonan-Bartley. Tonight’s scratches were: Trevor Murphy (upper-body), Taylor Aronson (lower-body), Vinny Saponari (healthy), and Cody Bass (upper-body). In 2016 IIHF World Juniors news, Vladislav Kamenev scored a goal and an assist in today’s 4-1 win for Russia over Belarus. Captain Kamenev has 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist) in Russia’s last two games and Russia has been perfect through its opening three-games of the group stage.
Thoughts on tonight’s game? How great was Marek Mazanec in net? Did the Admirals out Griffins the Griffins tonight?