The Milwaukee Admirals won 2-1 against the San Antonio Rampage Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The Admirals have officially punched their ticket for the 2016 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs. Their run of twelve consecutive AHL playoff appearances came to an end last season but, with the win tonight, they’re right back in. The Admirals are just the second team in the Western Conference to clinch a spot. The Ontario Reign were the first Western Conference team to clinch and did so on 3/27/16.
“It was frustrating last year,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason of returning to the playoffs. “I think everybody remembers it. A lot of guys were here, a lot of guys weren’t, but we certainly were. It’s nice. We’re clearly a proud franchise. It’s nice to get back for sure.”
It wasn’t the best of starts for the Admirals. The Rampage quickly earned three power-play opportunities to rack up shots on goal early. Juuse Saros and the Admirals penalty kill were able to weather the early storm and the first period ended on a high note with Max Reinhart polishing of a breakaway on the backhand to score his team leading twenty-first goal of the season. The goal was eerily similar to the one Reinhart scored against the Grand Rapids Griffins on Tuesday night.
Midway through the second period the Admirals got on the board from an unlikely source. Pontus Åberg rifled a puck low to the net but was aiming for the backdoor run of Jamie Devane who got the easy tap in while both skates were in the blue of the crease. The goal for Devane was just his fifth of the season and ended a goal drought of fifteen games.
Under the three-minute mark, down a pair of goals, the Rampage sent Reto Berra to the bench to bring on the extra attacker. With 2:32 remaining the Admirals burned their timeout ahead of an in-zone face-off and the Rampage would score from a behind the net play by Mikko Rantanen to tee up Borna Rendulic for a shot that stayed low and got underneath Juuse Saros to deny the Finn’s shutout bid. The tally for Rendulic was his fourteenth of the season.
The game would end right there and it was yet another brilliant effort in net for Saros. He stopped 25/26 shots on goal to earn his twenty-fifth win of the season. His best work came in a first period that saw the Rampage mount a hot start with three power-plays that ended in eleven first period shots.
“He won the hockey game for us,” said Evason of Juuse Saros performance in net. “Simple as that. We weren’t good in the first. They were real good. Juuse kept us in the hockey game, not only in the first, but all throughout.”
The road ahead for the Admirals is a length road trip and one with a solid travel schedule. Monday morning the Admirals will travel to Manitoba where they will play on Tuesday and Wednesday. They will then travel to Charlotte for games on Saturday and Sunday.
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals played on Tuesday defenseman Stefan Elliott was recalled by the Nashville Predators under emergency conditions. The Admirals also signed forward A.J. White from UMass-Lowell to an ATO Contract. He made his professional hockey debut tonight wearing Mark Van Guilder’s old #29. Tonight’s line combinations were: Reinhart-Gaudreau-Åberg, A.J.-Kamenev-Payerl, White-Girard-Görtz, Devane-Bass-Pendenza, Oligny-Potter, Näkyvä-Aronson, Murphy-Mullen. Tonight’s scratches were: Kevin Fiala (healthy), Cody Hodgson (upper-body), Johan Alm (lower-body).
Thoughts on tonight’s game? Is Juuse Saros starting to cement himself as the Admirals first choice netminder? What did you think of A.J. White in his professional playing debut?
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