The Milwaukee Admirals won a 4-3 comeback thriller in overtime against the Rockford IceHogs Friday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
“We were lucky in this hockey game,” commented Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “[The Rockford IceHogs] deserved better. We talked after the first period how their second periods are good – they completely outplayed us.”
With 1:03 remaining in regulation the Admirals trailed 3-2 but were able to force overtime when Frédérick Gaudreau buried his third goal of the game to complete his hat trick. The Admirals completed the comeback with a defensive play by Cody Hodgson that sent Kevin Fiala in for a breakaway. The nineteen year old Swiss native coolly finished off the chance to give the Ads an overtime win over the division leading IceHogs.
“We were fortunate we only gave up three,” said Evason. “And we were lucky again to get the goal to tie it. Three on three – you never know what happens. We didn’t like our game past the first period at all. We have to correct it for sure.”
The Admirals were able to get on the board first thanks to a poor turnover from the IceHogs in their own zone. Nolan Velleau was trying to hit a breakout pass from behind the net and Frédérick Gaudreau picked it off and set his sights on Michael Leighton. The Admirals All-Star snapped a wrister high glove side to record his tenth goal of the season and deny Leighton his chance to set the all-time AHL record for shutouts tonight.
In the second period the IceHogs scored twice in a span of 1:55 of ice time to take a 2-1 lead. After a wrap-around chance by Pontus Åberg went for naught the IceHogs counter rush came up trumps with a shot that rang bardown by captain Jake Dowell for his eighth goal of the season. This was followed by a puck scramble in front of Marek Mazanec that ended with Mark McNeill stepping in and smacking a shot off the right wing post and in for his eleventh goal of the season.
Following Jimmy Oligny’s third minor penalty of the game the IceHogs scored on the power-play to make it three-unanswered goals in the second period. Cameron Schilling was stationed on the left point when he unloaded on a slapshot that zipped through traffic and past Mazanec for his third goal of the season.
The Admirals were able to finally ring the bell by the end of the second period and did so with another great defensive play that ended with a goal for Gaudreau. This time it was a back-checking Colton Sissons that jarred a puck loose off of Schilling who then re-entered the zone, fluttered a backhanded pass to Gaudreau, and the All-Star did the rest. It was Gaudreau’s second goal of the game and eleventh of the season.
“It’s awesome,” said Colton Sissons of Gaudreau’s level of play tonight. “We had a little chat this morning that we haven’t really had much success playing together, unfortunately, when we should be pretty dominant. And we sure turned that around tonight. It’s fun to see him score goals and do well. I’m so happy for him.”
With time running down in regulation Mazanec hit the bench with 1:03 remaining in regulation. Just twenty seconds later and the Admirals equalized with, who else, Gaudreau to notch his first career professional hat trick. Gaudreau’s twelfth goal of the season forced overtime as the final forty-seven seconds of regulation rolled off.
“You can say that he worked his butt off,” smiled Evason when asked of his thoughts on Gaudreau’s hat trick. “Freddy Gaudreau, it don’t matter where you play him. You play him left wing, you play him on the power-play, penalty kill, maybe, if not, no big deal. He’ll just go out and play. He has such a great attitude and he just keeps plugging along.”
In overtime the Admirals made yet another bit of puck luck thanks to active stick work on defense. Cody Hodgson blocked off a point shot in three-on-three overtime that sparked a two-on-one with Kevin Fiala. Hodgson lofted a pass ahead for Fiala to race in on Leighton all alone and the teenager patiently and calmly waited out the veteran goaltender to beat him as he was down and out. The goal was Fiala’s eighth scored this season.
“Everybody loves those games,” said Frédérick Gaudreau of the playoff-like atmosphere against the IceHogs. “Especially Friday night, perfect scenario, against those guys. Good rivalry. I mean, the crowd was really good.”
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played the only significant roster move came earlier today when defenseman Jonathan Diaby was reassigned to the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL). During the week all inactives from last weekend participated in practice including Max Reinhart who had been missing in action for two weeks due to personal reasons. Tonight’s line combinations were: Fiala-Hodgson-Åberg, Reinhart-Sissons-Gaudreau, White-Kamenev-Görtz, Devane-Girard-Payerl, Alm-Aronson, Oligny-Elliott, Murphy-Mullen. Tonight’s scratches were both healthy: Joe Pendenza and Kristian Näkyvä. By being healthy scratched tonight Näkyvä missed his first game for the Admirals this season. Tonight’s attendance was 6,793.
Thoughts on tonight’s game? Did this feel like a teaser for playoff hockey? Was this a statement game? The Admirals have been burned in consecutive games allowing rapid fire goals – what’s the problem?