The Milwaukee Admirals lost 4-2 on the road against the Grand Rapids Griffins Friday night at the Van Andel Arena.
This game was going the typical way for the Admirals against the Griffins this season. None of that really mattered though when a scary medical situation unfolded at the Grand Rapids Griffins bench where 27-year old forward Alden Hirschfeld collapsed. Medical assistance was required and received immediately. The game would resume but the result, outside of Cody Bass’ first career goal as a member of the Admirals, didn’t change. The Admirals have now lost four of their last five games.
“Obviously that was a very scary moment,” commented Milwaukee Admirals assistant coach Stan Drulia after the game while talking to radio play-by-play broadcaster Aaron Sims on 105.7 FM The Fan. “That’s the first time that I’ve experienced that. I know I looked over, we were screaming for a too many men on the ice call, I looked over at their bench and their players were catching [Hirschfeld] as he was falling to the ground. The medical response got their in phenomenal time. The guys got the medical people over. [Doug Agnew] jumped off the bench and got there right away. Obviously it’s a very scary moment. We’re able to go into the locker room but we didn’t get a whole lot of information from them at all. He seemed to be doing ok. That’s all we could pass on to the guys. Certainly was a different mood the last twenty-six minutes of the game for sure.”
It wouldn’t take the home team long before getting on the board in the first period. After a poor turnover by Max Görtz at his defensive zone blue line – Jeff Hoggan snapped up the puck and passed over to Tomas Nosek who would wire a wrister from the slot past the blocker side of Marek Mazanec to score his third goal of the season.
There was then a “fight” between Adam Payerl and Richard Nedomlel. The two locked horns back in the Griffins defensive zone behind the action and didn’t really get much of a fight to earn their fight majors. Payerl’s bucket came off. Nedomlel landed one body shot. And then Payerl lost his balance and the two tumbled down on top of each other. Not much of a scrap but you almost have to give the edge in your fight cards to Nedomlel based on the one punch landed.
Following an interference penalty against Jamie Devane the Griffins tagged the Admirals on the power-play to give themselves a 2-0 lead with 7:12 remaining in the first period. Martin Frk delivered an absolute howitzer of a slap shot from just above the slot that whistled past the glove of Mazanec for his eleventh goal of the season.
With time expiring in the first period Görtz was able to redeem his early mistake by setting up fellow Swede Pontus Åberg for a goal with thirty-three seconds remaining in the frame. Görtz won a puck battle along the right wing wall and used his body to shield for a pass to the on-rushing Åberg. The stickhandling Åberg displayed to dip around two Griffins and release a shot out of a toe-drag was world class. Jared Coreau was literally left to look at the replay as Åberg celebrated his ninth goal of the season.
In the second period Cody Bass received a rude awakening to his return to the ice after missing sixteen games worth of Admirals hockey. Nedomlel, who already had a previous fighting major, started throwing punches clean to the head of Bass before any sort of a fight was initiated. Bass’ hand was effectively forced to start trading back and the two went at it for a bit before Nedomlel polished Bass off. It was Nedomlel’s second fighting major of the game so his night ended right there.
Not too far removed from the fight between Bass and Nedomlel – Griffins defenseman Nathan Paetsch scored twice to push the Griffins lead out to 4-1.
Paetsch was given credit on the Griffins third goal of the game that came after an outstanding start by the Admirals in the second period. A pass from Zach Nastasiuk behind the net trickled into the slot where Paetsch was stationed. He took a swat, the puck knuckled off traffic, popped up into the air, and fell over the left shoulder of Mazanec for a really bad break of a goal that shunted momentum that the Admirals were building to re-establish the Griffins two-goal advantage.
The second goal for Paetsch wasn’t without some controversy. While the defenseman’s wrister from the high right faceoff circle went in clean it was the amount of players on the ice that got Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason hot. There wasn’t a too many men on the ice call made. And Paetsch had his third and fourth goals of the season scored in the space of 2:07 of ice time to give the Griffins a 4-1 lead.
Following a penalty against the Griffins for a too many men on the ice penalty with 6:19 remaining in the second period a terrifying situation unfolded on the Grand Rapids bench. Alden Hrischfeld collapsed on the bench which instantly prompted the medical attention from the Griffins bench, Admirals head trainer Doug Agnew rushed over to assist, and the paramedics on hand at the Van Andel Arena raced across the ice to get to the bench.
As this occurred, Griffins and Admirals players cleared their benches and gathered together in neutral ice. The crowd was silent as Hirschfeld was attended to by various medical attention. The players, coaches, and officials would soon go back to their respective locker rooms with Admirals assistant coach Stan Drulia directing Griffins players to head down the Admirals tunnel to reach the Griffins locker room without disturbing the scene at the site of their bench and locker room tunnel.
Hirschfeld would eventually sit upright to the applause and relief of the 7,514 in attendance tonight. He would eventually be laid down on a stretcher and taken off the ice. The early report given by the Griffins over Twitter was that Hirschfeld was in a stable condition and being transported to the hospital.
The game would continue with the second intermission being enacted from the moment Hirschfeld left the rink. The 6:19 remaining in the second period would be played after the second intermission and, after a minute break, the third period would start.
From the moment the game resumed, even with an Admirals power-play to start things off, things felt like a blur. The game’s pace was slow. The action wasn’t anywhere near as physical or intense. The rest of the second period flew past and it looked as if the third period was heading the same way. That is until Bass marked his return, not just with a fight, but with his first goal as a member of the Admirals. Garrett Noonan delivered an incredible no-look backhanded pass as he was skating around the net. This caught Coreau sliding back to his near post and Bass’ shot went against the slide far post to pick up his first goal of the season, first as a member of the Milwaukee Admirals, and thirty-eighth of his AHL career.
Mazanec would go to the bench to bring on the extra attacker with 1:23 remaining in regulation but the Admirals couldn’t get anything established offensively in the attacking zone to mount a late comeback bid. The game ended with a 4-2 Griffins win and the Admirals have now lost four of their last five games.
“We have to keep learning,” cited Drulia. “They’re a really good hockey team. Obviously they’ve got our number and we’re not scoring enough goals against them. We tried to do a couple different things as the game went along. So we have some different video to look at. I thought this was the most chances we’ve had over the course of a sixty-minute game against them in the games that we’ve played. We were just pretty unfortunate. We turned a puck over on the first one. We didn’t win a battle on the second goal against. We get a tough bounce on the third goal. And the fourth goal was too many men on the ice. We didn’t play bad. We did some pretty good things. We just haven’t been able to get some puck luck right now that you get when you’re on a roll and we have to find a way to turn that around.”
UPDATE: Alden Hirschfeld had a seizure at tonight’s game, but is doing well and is resting with his family.
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals played on Tuesday the team released Vinny Saponari from his PTO contract. Saponari has since rejoined Greenville (ECHL). The Nashville Predators acquired Ryan Johansen from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Seth Jones on Wednesday. Tonight’s line combinations for the Admirals were: Fiala-Sissons-Gaudreau, Åberg-Reinhart-Görtz, White-Girard-Payerl, Devane-Pendenza-Bass, Allen-Oligny, Murphy-Alm, Noonan-Näkyvä. Tonight’s scratches included: Zac Larraza (healthy), Vladislav Kamenev (yet to rejoin the team from World Juniors), Jonathan Diaby (healthy), Victor Bartley (undisclosed), and Taylor Aronson (lower-body). This game marked the return of Cody Bass after having missed all of December due to an upper-body injury. In total, Bass missed sixteen games due to that injury. This game also marked the return of defenseman Trevor Murphy for his first piece of game action since receiving an illegal check to the head by Rockford IceHogs All-Star forward Ryan Hartman. Murphy had missed the Admirals last seven games due to an “upper-body” injury.