The Milwaukee Admirals 5-2 on the road against the Rockford IceHogs Tuesday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Tonight’s game had a crucial point that appeared to change the narrative. The Admirals were leading 1-0 to start the second period when they were awarded a penalty shot. Their main trigger man to lead-off in shootouts, Kevin Fiala, was able to take it but was denied by a blocker save from Michael Leighton. From that moment the IceHogs would score four unanswered goals and receive a hat trick performance from Pierre-Cédric Labrie. The Admirals three-game win streak is over and the gap to the first place IceHogs just broadened.
“Leighton was outstanding,” cited Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason after the game. “You think about the save on Kamenev. Obviously, the save on the penalty shot – that puts us up two – it’s a different game. He made several key saves in the game and was the difference for sure.”
This game opened with a pair of penalties taken by the IceHogs. At the second chance of asking the Admirals were able to come away with the goods. Vladislav Kamenev took a Stefan Elliott pass first-time and blew it clean past Michael Leighton. The goal for Kamenev pushed him into double digits for his debut season in North America.
In the opening minute of the second period the Admirals were awarded a penalty shot after Viktor Svedberg was called for closing his hand over the puck in the crease following a near chance by Adam Payerl. Kevin Fiala was able to take the penalty shot but his typical shootout move was blockered aside by Leighton to keep terms at 1-0 Admirals.
The IceHogs would get on the board not long after the failed penalty shot to level the game up at 1-1. After blocking a Trevor Murphy slap shot Pierre-Cédric Labrie was in some distress and looked to be making his way to the bench until an odd-man break presented itself. Jake Dowell had the puck in neutral ice and Labrie joined him to make it a two-on-zero facing Marek Mazanec. Dowell held back, allowed Labrie to take the breakaway, and he beat Mazanec to record his sixteenth goal of the season.
It took the IceHogs just 3:02 before they would score again to earn their first lead of the night. Jake Dowell was able to score from a redirect off of a Kyle Baun toss to the net from the right wing corner. Dowell’s shot squeaked in for his ninth goal of the season.
After Jamie Devane went to the box for high sticking the IceHogs made it three goals in the space of 4:49. Matt Fraser was able to snap a quick release wrister from the slot that jumped over the blocker side of Mazanec and in for his fifth goal of the season and first since joining the IceHogs as part of the Andrew Ladd trade.
The run for the IceHogs continued into the start of the third period with a fourth unanswered goal. Jonathan Carlsson was able to find Labrie all alone in the left wing on the back door of the net for a tap in. Mazanec had no chance to make any sort of a post-to-post stop to his glove side and Labrie had his second tally of the night and sixteenth of the season.
It had been sixteen games since Adam Payerl last scored a goal but he made the wait worth it. Payerl was able to generate a turnover and maintain the attacking zone before unleashing a backhander that just looped over the blocker of Leighton and fall into the net. Payerl’s ninth goal of the season made it a 4-2 deficit for the Admirals with 9:57 remaining in regulation.
Perhaps looking to get a spark going Félix Girard decided to drop his gloves against IceHogs captain Dowell shortly after a face-off scrum between the two. There wasn’t much to the fight. Girard appeared to lose his balance before much of anything could be done.
With the net emptied and extra attacker on for the Admirals Labrie would complete his hat trick. That sealed this game at a 5-2 scoreline. The Admirals three-game winning streak was snapped and they now have fallen beneath the surging Grand Rapids Griffins in the Central Division standings.
“Our division is so strong,” said Evason of the current battle for playoff spots within the Central Division. “It’s tough every night. It will be a battle right down to the end and we can’t take anything for granted.”
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played on Sunday the lone roster move made was the recall of team captain Colton Sissons to the Nashville Predators. Sissons will be taking part in the Predators upcoming four-game road swing in Western Canada and doing it wearing a new uniform number. He’ll be switching from #84 to #10. Tonight’s line combinations were: Reinhart-Gaudreau-Åberg, Fiala-Kamenev-Payerl, White-Girard-Görtz, Devane-Pendenza-Bass, Oligny-Potter, Murphy-Aronson, Näkyvä-Elliott. Tonight’s scratches were: Cody Hodgson (undisclosed), Patrick Mullen (right hand laceration), Garrett Noonan (healthy), and Johan Alm (lower body).
Thoughts on tonight’s game? How big of a momentum shift was the penalty shot save made by Michael Leighton to this game?
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