The Milwaukee Admirals won 4-1 against the Chicago Wolves Friday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
This was a return to form sort of night for the Admirals. Max Reinhart scored his second hat trick of the season for the Admirals to put the cherry on top of what was a great all-around performance that saw the team skate circles around the Amtrak Rivals.
“We thought we started real strong,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason after the game. “We were a little worried about not getting rewarded early with our play. Then certainly when they made it 2-1 there was some dicey times and some tense times. We talked to the group afterwards that when it was 2-1 we didn’t panic, we didn’t lose our composure, we stayed calm, we played the game the right way, and allowed the game to unfold.”
The Admirals were able to take a first period lead thanks to the thirteenth goal of the season for Max Reinhart. The goal all started with a crafty bit of defensive work by Colton Sissons in neutral ice to start a rush into the attacking zone. Sissons left a puck behind him for a trailer to take a stab at and he would find that in the form of Reinhart. The Wolves lost sight of the puck after Sissons skated away and Reinhart took a slap shot first-time that ripped through Jared Nightingale, Scooter Vaughan, and the glove of Jordan Binnington.
In the second period Reinhart added his second goal of the night to make it a 2-0 Admirals lead. The Admirals managed to catch the Wolves in the midst of a sloppy change and a quick outlet pass through the neutral zone hit Reinhart down the right wing for a breakaway. Binnington sprawled low to take away the bottom of the net but he left room by his left toe – which is precisely where Reinhart would polished off the breakaway for his fourteenth goal of the season.
“I think I was cherry-picking a bit on that one,” smiled Max Reinhart. “But [Max Görtz] made an unbelievable pass. It was about a, I would say, about a 50 ft. pass and it landed about an inch behind the guy’s stick right on my tape. Pass like that you got to finish for him.”
The Wolves were finally able to solve Marek Mazanec late in the second period but it required a highlight reel effort from Zach O’Brien to get the job done. Vaughan chipped a backhanded pass from just in front of the Wolves bench to hit O’Brien in stride and the Wolves forward stickhandled Jimmy Oligny into a shot blocking squat, burned past him, forced Mazanec way up and out of the net to challenge him, and O’Brien stickhandled around Mazanec before reaching back towards the net to deposit the puck in for an amazing goal. The tally goes down as O’Brien’s seventh goal of the season.
In the opening five minutes of the third period the Admirals were in full-on attack mode. The Wolves were struggling to match the pace and the pace forced a turnover right in front of their own net that allowed Frédérick Gaudreau to score a gift of a goal for his thirteenth of the season.
The hats, and free shirts, would go flying after a power-play goal to complete the hat trick for Reinhart. The Admirals power-play setup ended with a one-timer by Cody Hodgson that trickled off Binnington. Reinhart was in the right place to quickly hop on the rebound where he would bank a shot off the back of Binnington and in for his third goal of the night and fifteenth of the season.
“[Max Reinhart] has been good,” commented Evason. “We think he’s been good since we flipped him to the wing – better than he’s been – and he’s been real real good all year. We’ve had different people called up at different times and he’s had to play a big role on our hockey club – certainly the first half of the season. He’s on the power-play, he kills penalties, he plays a hard game, an offensive game, and he’s sound. It’s not surprising that he’s had success.”
The hat trick for Reinhart was his second of the season. The last Admirals player to score two hat tricks in one season came last year when Viktor Stålberg accomplished the feat. It is the Admirals fourth hat trick of the season: Reinhart, 12/21/16 @ Rockford… Åberg, 1/16/16 @ San Antonio… Murphy, 2/5/16 @ Bakersfield… Gaudreau, 2/12/16 vs. Rockford… Reinhart, 2/26/16 vs. Chicago.
They talked about it a few times in the game but finally decided to uncork the rage and do the damage. Cody Bass and Jacob Doty let loose on what was a very fast but very high energy scrap that ended with Doty getting the better of the final exchanges. This would seemingly spill into more emotionally charged play as Trevor Murphy delivered a high hit on Jordan Caron as the two were about to battle on the forecheck. Caron went after Murphy with some sucker shots that drew the attention of Gaudreau who then proceeded to get some more Caron swats. Somehow, the end result of the second altercation was matching minors for Murphy (interference) and Caron (roughing).
With 39.6 seconds remaining in regulation Adam Payerl and Jared Nightingale decided to provide a teaser for tomorrow night’s game in Chicago – in theory. The fight they displayed ended quickly after a slip and a fall from Payerl with Nightingale landing on top of him. That would be the first and last time all evening the Wolves were on top of the Admirals.
Perhaps lost in Reinhart’s hat trick performance was a terrific and calm night in net for Mazanec. The Czech goaltender stopped 29/30 shots on goal en route to his sixteenth win of the season. Mazanec is now two-wins shy from matching his previous career high for wins in an AHL season. He had eighteen-wins in the 2013-14 season from thirty-one appearances and eighteen wins in the 2014-15 season from forty-eight appearances. Tonight was Mazanec’s thirtieth appearance and twenty-ninth start of the 2015-16 season.
“I think we played well,” said Frédérick Gaudreau. “Sixty-minutes from everybody. For sure, it is fun to play against those guys. It’s a good rivalry. It was a great game tonight.”
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played on Wednesday the team recalled defenseman Garrett Noonan from their ECHL affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones. The Nashville Predators also announced that they re-signed defenseman Anthony Bitetto to a new two-year contract this afternoon. Tonight’s line combinations were: Reinhart-Sissons-Görtz, Fiala-Hodgson-Åberg, White-Kamenev-Gaudreau, Payerl-Girard-Bass, Oligny-Elliott, Noonan-Aronson, Näkyvä –Murphy. Tonight’s scratches were: Patrick Mullen (right-hand laceration), Johan Alm (lower-body), and Jamie Devane (healthy). Tonight’s attendance was 9,852.
Thoughts and reactions on tonight’s game? Have you missed the Amtrak Rivalry or what? Was this a return to form for the Admirals?
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