Admirals Get Roughed Up by Rockford; lose 6-4

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

The Milwaukee Admirals lost 6-4 against the Rockford IceHogs Wednesday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

In a battle of the top two teams of the Central Division the Admirals were overpowered by the IceHogs early and never recovered. Juuse Saros became the first Admirals starting goaltender to be pulled from net all season after allowing three-goals on nine-shots. The IceHogs kept the hammer down and now have sole possession of first place in the Central Division standings.

“We were getting soundly beat with speed,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason after the game. “Lost coverages. Turnovers. It wasn’t our group in the first period.”

It didn’t take long for the IceHogs to stack the deck against the Admirals. Inside four-minutes the IceHogs picked up the opening goal through Ryan Haggerty’s seventh of the season. Haggerty beat Stefan Elliott with speed to win the left wing edge, he carried across the goal mouth to stretch Juuse Saros, and then deposited smoothly to Saros’ glove-side.

The next IceHogs goal came four-minutes later and was another scenario where they beat the Admirals on the rush. Ville Pokka leapt up from defense and was able to catch the Admirals defensemen out of position with Elliott as last man back, Jimmy Oligny out of the play, and Pontus Åberg was racing to guard Tanner Kero who cheated behind everyone down the left wing. Pokka’s past went wing-to-wing over Elliott to pick out Kero for a tap in and his fourteenth goal of the season.

The first period damage didn’t end there. Mark McNeill tagged Saros for his fourteenth goal of the season and the IceHogs third goal from nine shots on goal. That would mark the end of Saros night in net as well as the first time in the 2015-16 season that the Admirals pulled a starting goaltender. Marek Mazanec officially entered the game with 6:51 remaining in the first period.

“It had nothing to do with Juuse,” said Evason of his decision to pull his starting goaltender tonight. “And we told him that after the first period that Juuse Saros did not get pulled because of anything that he did – it was because of what we did in front of him as a group.”

In the second period, former-Admiral Mike Liambas was called for goaltender interference and put the Admirals on the power-play. The Admirals had gone six consecutive games without scoring a power-play goal and were naught for their previous nineteen chances on the power-play. That finally ended as a Taylor Aronson and Vladislav Kamenev hooked up during a lapse of concentration for Cameron Schilling and Kirill Gotovets. Aronson’s long home run pass caught Kamenev all alone down the center of the neutral zone and the Russian was free for a snapshot delivery high glove on Michael Leighton to score his ninth goal of the season. Once again, Leighton’s bid at setting the career AHL shutouts record will have to wait another day.

That small glimmer of a comeback was smacked down to reality with two goals for Vinny Hinostroza in the span of twenty-three seconds. His first goal came after receiving a backhanded feed from Kero on the left wing that had him all alone in the slot for a first-time shot. That was instantly followed up by a home run pass from NAME in the IceHogs defensive end of the ice that caught Hinostroza in stride for a breakaway where he’d finish clean.

It was only going to be a matter of time before some sort of a scrap started and it did so with the two players who flipped sides from last season to this season. Liambas went toe-to-toe with the returning Cody Bass and the two exchanged plenty of jabs before Liambas got the takedown. If I had to score it in my fight card that would be a 10-9 round for Liambas.

After a long stretch of misery on the power-play it might be just a tad ironic for it to suddenly come to life in a game when the team is being beaten up at even strength. Following a stick to the face of Trevor Murphy the Admirals again scored a power-play goal to make it two-for-two on the night thanks to a rocket of a slap shot by Cody Hodgson that beat Leighton high-glove.

In the third period the Admirals power-play unit did it once again to make it three-for-three on the night. A great bit of tic-tac-toe passing from Stefan Elliott to Kevin Fiala ended with a wing-to-wing pass across the mouth of goal for Hodgson to blast in his second power-play goal of the night. The tally was his fourth of the season as a member of the Admirals.

The two-goal rally for the Admirals would get buzz-sawed when two Admirals ended up in the box to give the IceHogs a minute and a half long five-on-three power-play. That wouldn’t take long as a Bryan Bickell one-timed cannon blazed past Marek Mazanec to the blocker side for his eleventh goal of the season.

In the closing minutes the Admirals were finally able to find some goal scoring at even strength. A hard play to the front of the net by Max Görtz left a puck out in front of Leighton where captain Colton Sissons smacked in a rebound for his seventh goal of the season to make it a 6-4 game – which is precisely where it would end.

“We’ve been up and down,” said Evason. “We certainly haven’t had our best stuff for a bit now. We’ve given ourselves opportunities to be in hockey games. Tonight we took ourselves out of the hockey game so early that it was difficult. Although we like our effort in the second and in the third – it’s just not enough. It’s tough to rebound when you’re down three-goals right away.”

Ramblings: Prior to today’s game, Cody Bass officially cleared waivers and was assigned by the Nashville Predators to the Milwaukee Admirals. Tonight’s line combinations were: Reinhart-Sissons-Görtz, White-Kamenev-Gaudreau, Fiala-Hodgson-Åberg, Payerl-Girard-Bass, Alm-Aronson, Oligny-Elliott, Näkyvä-Murphy. Tonight’s scratches were: Patrick Mullen (right hand laceration) and Jamie Devane (healthy). Tonight marked the return of Bass to the Admirals lineup. The Admirals alternate captain last played with the Admirals on 1/9/16 vs. Iowa.

What is your take after tonight’s game? Is this current run for the Milwaukee Admirals more than just a lull? Was Juuse Saros to blame for getting pulled from the gameor would you say it was more on the play taking place in front of him?

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