The Milwaukee Admirals won 7-3 against the Grand Rapids Griffins Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
This game was highlighted by a massive second period that saw an offensive explosion by the Admirals end the night in net for Griffins goaltender Jared Coreau early and the two sides combining for eight goals. The loss for the Griffins was their fifth straight defeat and all of them have come in regulation.
“It was obviously a good game for us,” commented Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason after the game. “We weren’t real happy with the three-goals that we gave. We talked to the group about our skill level allowed us to score as many goals as we scored but our structure wasn’t good. We literally gave them three-goals. That was disappointing but we thought the third period was real good. They did a good job in all areas in order to have success there in the end.”
Perhaps the schedule breakdown for these two teams contributed to the way the first period played out. The Admirals haven’t played in over a week’s time. The Griffins were fresh off of a 4-2 loss last night in Grand Rapids against the AHL’s best team the Toronto Marlies. The Admirals came out of the gate with incredible speed and immediately yielded results.
After a Stefan Elliot shot was blockered aside by Jared Coreau the puck fell off to the left wing wall where Jimmy Oligny cradled a long range wrister that zipped through traffic and in. Coreau’s view of the show was masked the net front presence of Colton Sissons and Jakub Kindl. The goal was Oligny’s third of the season.
The second period will probably go down as the night all the luck Coreau had going for him in net against the Admirals finally went away. The Admirals buried three goals against the Griffins netminder in the span of 3:17 of the sandwich stanza to put a close to his outing in net.
Kristian Näkyvä labeled a wrister from the left point to the net that Pontus Åberg was able to get a stick to en route to scoring his thirteenth goal of the season. Viktor Arvidsson followed that up forty-two seconds later with a wrister that snuck through Coreau for his eighth goal of the season. 2:35 after the second Swede of the second period scored Cody Hodgson was on the end of two great outlet passes that sent him in on a two-on-one breakaway. Taylor Aronson passed off to Kevin Fiala who hit Hodgson up ice. Hodgson unloaded a howitzer of a slap shot over the glove and bardown to record his second goal with the Admirals this season.
“[Cody Hodgson] has been unbelievable,” praised Evason. “I don’t know what’s said of him what’s talked about him as a player in Nashville or the NHL. He has been a leader. He has been great offensively. He has done all the right things defensively. He has done everything off the ice correctly. We love him here. I don’t think he’s going to be here long. People are going to see what he’s doing here. He’s just been a pleasure.”
Coreau’s night ended after that frantic opening to the second period and last night’s starter for the Griffins, Tom McCollum, entered the fray. After the Griffins got off the mark with a slap shot tally for Louis-Marc Aubry – the new goaltender was given a rude welcoming to the contest by Mr. Fiala. The Swiss teenager was able to beat the very cold McCollum with speed on a wrap-around effort and the Griffins post-to-post save attempt was far too late. The goal for Fiala was his seventh goal of the season.
The wackiness of the second period would not be left alone there. The Griffins would respond through a defensive zone turnover to creep back into the Admirals lead. Aronson threw a puck blindly out of the right-wing pocket in the Admirals defensive zone and Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan took the feed first time to score his fifth goal of the season and make it a 5-2 Admirals lead.
Then came a huge opportunity for the Griffins to claw back even further. Stefan Elliott and Félix Girard were both in the box and the Griffins had 1:54 of five-on-three power-play time to work with. The Admirals penalty kill survived and, as Girard exited the box, caught an outlet pass and managed to dish off to the front of the net where Joe Pendenza crashed through to earn his third goal of the season.
“Our penalty kill has been real good,” said Evason. “It starts with your goaltender. [Marek Mazanec] was real sharp, again. We were blocking shots. Our sticks were in good lanes. We were committed.”
The last goal scored of the second period would come once more on the tape of Griffins center Aubry’s stick. A crafty piece of puck control had Aubry dodging a sprawling poke check by Johan Alm and lifting up a wrister into the top shelf on the near-side post to Mazanec’s glove side. It was Aubry’s second goal of the second period and eighth scored on the season. In total, the Admirals and Griffins combined for eight goals in the sandwich stanza.
In the third period the pace and scoring rate was far more relaxed. It wasn’t until the closing minutes of the game when Jamie Devane took a great pass from Pendenza to polish off his fourth goal of the season popping a puck through McCollum from the slot to make it a 7-3 Admirals lead.
“[The Grand Rapids Griffins] are a good team,” said Evason. “They’re a real good team that play fast, play hard, put a lot of pressure on you. We liked our energy tonight and clearly we caught a team that played last night. We had the week off. So our start was real good. I don’t think that was their best game but we certainly respect and have a lot of difficult time with their group -but- if we play like the way we played, for the most part here tonight, we’ll have a shot at success in any game.”
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played one week ago there were two roster moves made. Matt Leinter was released from his PTO contract and returned to the Manchester Monarchs (ECHL). Kevin Fiala was reassigned to the Admirals from the Nashville Predators and is expected to be recalled Tuesday once the NHL All-Star break comes to an end. Tonight’s line combinations were: Arvidsson-Sissons-Görtz, Fiala-Hodgson-Åberg, White-Gaudreau-Payerl, Devane-Girard-Pendenza, Oligny-Eilliott, Näkyvä-Mullen, Alm-Aronson. Tonight’s scratches were: Max Reinhart (personal reasons), Vladislav Kamenev (lower-body), Jonathan Diaby (upper-body), and Trevor Murphy (upper-body). Jamie Devane wore the extra “A” patch as Max Reinhart wasn’t on-hand tonight for the Admirals. Tonight’s attendance was 11,096.
Was this the best performance by the Milwaukee Admirals this season? How badly did the Admirals need a win like this to shove back against the Griffins this season?