The Milwaukee Admirals lost 3-1 against the Grand Rapids Griffins Friday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Game One of this series saw a return to form for a Griffins team that had lost five straight games entering the playoffs. They battled hard to force the Admirals to take deep shots from the perimeter and were able to get around an early five-on-three power-play goal from the Admirals to score three unanswered goals to pick up the win in Milwaukee and take away the Admirals home ice advantage.
“We talked about obstruction a lot to the referees that we’re getting held up,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason of the Grand Rapids Griffins work on defense holding down the Admirals offense. “But, if you have the willingness to not get held up, it doesn’t happen. We gave in way too many times to the hold up or the compete in those dirty areas.”
Late in the first period the Admirals were given a golden opportunity to make a dent thanks to 1:14 worth of a five-on-three power-play. Xavier Ouellet went off for cross-checking Kevin Fiala. Nathan Paetsch went off for a holding penalty against Vladislav Kamenev. After a stuff attempt at the front of the net went bust for the Admirals the puck kicked back to the two men playing the point all the way low down to the face-off circles, Max Görtz and Trevor Murphy. Görtz controlled the skipping puck and laid off to the top of the right wing circle for Murphy who hammered a shot past Tom McCollum’s glove to give the Admirals the first goal of this playoff series.
Unfortunately for the Admirals their 1-0 lead only lasted 2:06 of ice-time. A point shot by Martin Frk was blocked down by Stefan Elliott. Almost everyone on the ice lost sight of where the puck ricocheted to except for Tyler Bertuzzi who rifled a shot to the net quickly that surprised Juuse Saros and leveled the contest at 1-1.
“We’ve got some momentum, and we’re excited, and we get a bad break,” commented Evason. “[Stefan Elliott] makes a great block and it goes right to them. And [Juuse Saros] gets screened. Yeah, they caught a bounce for sure. Not necessarily to gain momentum but to stop our’s.”
The Griffins would take their first lead of the game midway through the second period. Following a series of special teams and abbreviated power-plays the Griffins were able to work a well timed pass from Ryan Sproul to Martin Frk in the left wing circle where he uncorked at bomb of a one-timer that banked in past Saros on the near-side post.
After icing the puck, the Griffins were able to win a defensive zone face-off and then foot race to set up their third unanswered goal. Sproul delivered a hard shot that stayed low to the ice which Saros fought off. As the puck rebounded out it was kicked behind the net where Sproul continued his run, corralled the puck, and passed to the slot where Bertuzzi was able to smack in his second goal of the night to make it a 3-1 Griffins lead.
The loss for the Admirals effectively takes away the home ice advantage unless the team is able to snag Game Three or Game Four in Grand Rapids. Yet, the defeat means there is a chance for the Griffins to clinch the series in Grand Rapids regardless of tomorrow’s Game Two outing in Milwaukee.
“They came out strong tonight,” said Max Reinhart after the game. “They battled hard. I thought they earned that game even though we threw lots of shots at their goalie, he played well. It’s unfortunate for us.”
In net, McCollum earned the surprise start over the Griffins top goaltender this season Jared Coreau. McCollum managed to stop 32/33 shots on goal in the win. At the opposite end of the rink Saros delivered a great outing despite taking the loss. The Admirals netminder stopped 19/22 shots on goal including numerous key saves in the early stages of the game that kept the scoreline tight.
Under the reign of Evason the Admirals have now lost their last six straight playoff games over the course of three separate seasons. Evason’s playoff coaching record with the Admirals is now 1-7. In the last ten-years the Admirals have made it out of the first round of the playoffs only three times with the latest occurrence coming during the 2010-11 season.
“I think we just want to be more shooters, be able to get to the net, and knock in those rebounds,” said Adam Payerl of what the Admirals need to correct ahead of tomorrow night’s Game Two in Milwaukee. “There’s lots of rebounds sitting around. We just weren’t able to get our sticks on it tonight.”
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals regular season came to an end there have been several roster inclusions: Yakov Trenin, Zac Larraza, Joonas Lyytinen, Alexandre Carrier, and Janne Juvonen. Larraza was signed by the Admirals to a PTO Contract prior to the start of tonight’s game. Trenin, Lyytinen, and Juvonen have yet to officially be included as part of the Admirals roster although they are all currently with the team. In addition, players not currently listed as members of the active Admirals roster include: Cody Hodgson (upper-body injury), Taylor Aronson (away from the team due to personal reasons), and Johan Alm (out for the season with a knee injury). Tonight’s line combinations were: Reinhart-Gaudreau-Åberg, Fiala-Kamenev-Payerl, White-Girard-Görtz, Richard-Pendenza-Devane, Oligny-Potter, Näkyvä-Elliott, Murphy-Mullen. Tonight’s scratches were: Jack Dougherty (healthy), Zac Larraza (healthy), Aaron Irving (healthy), and Alexandre Carrier (healthy). Tonight marked the professional playing debut of Anthony Richard. Tonight’s attendance was 3,261.
What is your reaction to this result? What do the Grand Rapids Griffins seem to do that always gives the Milwaukee Admirals such problems offensively?
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