The Milwaukee Admirals won 5-3 against the Iowa Wild Saturday night at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
The Admirals have now beaten every team that they have faced in the 2016-17 season after avenging last weekend’s defeats to the Wild. Tonight it was the young guns breaking out with career firsts to go along with two two-goal nights from Pontus Åberg and Alex Carrier. The Ads have claimed the first two games of their season long five game homestand and now have a record of 6-2-0-1 (13 points, 0.722 points percentage).
“Iowa they play hard, heavy. I don’t know They’ve changed coaches. They’ve changed personnel,” smirked Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason after the game. “But whenever they play us it’s a battle. They’re physical. They’re fast. They work. They compete. And it’s a grind for us every time we play them.”
The Admirals were able to get off to a quick start after a Pat Cannone slashing minor put them on the power-play three-minutes into the contest. Alex Carrier was working the right point and snapped a low shot through traffic and rebounded off Wild goaltender Alex Stalock into the low left wing. Pontus Åberg raced to win the rebound and recorded his third power-play goal of the season and fourth overall to make it 1-0 Ads inside four-minutes.
In the Admirals second trip to the power-play moments later things weren’t so sparkling. The Admirals allowed a shorthanded two-on-one between Colton Beck and Pat Cannone which forced a huge stop out of Juuse Saros. Unfortunately the Wild would zip right back with a shorthanded breakaway with Kurtis Gabriel scoring on a backhander to level the contest up 1-1.
If the first four minutes of the first period was a bit crazy the final four minutes was even more so. The Admirals youngsters had some firsts. Jack Dougherty was able to hammer a slap shot from the right wing circle against the grain of Stalock for his first career pro goal. A secondary assist on his goal went to his pal and WHL rival last season Justin Kirkland who, by doing so, earned his first career pro point.
1:04 of ice time after Dougherty scored his first pro goal another first year pro on the Admirals blueline followed. Alex Carrier unleashed a slap shot from the high right point that flew top shelf over the blocker side of Stalock to make it a 3-1 Admirals lead on the Québec native’s first career pro goal.
The hype surrounding the situation may have had the Admirals mentally check-out for the final minute of the period. Following Carrier’s goal it took the Wild thirty-two seconds to answer back. The Wild had a quick rush through the Admirals zone that had three crashing towards the net. Mike Weber leapt up from defense to take a lead pass from Grayson Downing. Weber’s initial shot was stopped by the right pad of Saros but Weber was able to get his own rebound before he sailed wide of the net to make it a 3-2 game on his first goal of the season.
It would take until the midway point of the second period before the next tally took place. Nick Saracino went for a wrap-around shot swooping from the left wing to the right wing but his shot flew across Saros and out to Marc Hagel. Saros was committed to the shot by Saracino and it was an easy enough finish on the back post for Hagel to make it level at 3-3 from his first goal of the season.
Despite a lackluster second period the Admirals were able to find a dagger of their own during a run of nonstop Wild offense. An outlet pass from Trevor Murphy sent Åberg on his merry way. It looked like a line change was going to happen behind the play but Åberg kept pushing down the right wing, double pumped his wrister, and wired a low shot past Stalock’s blocker-side and in for his second goal of the game and fifth of the season.
“Pontus Åberg was so good tonight,” said Evason. “So good we doubled him up in the third period to try to get him out there a little bit more. Not only because he was doing things right offensively. His speed, tenaciousness on the puck defensively. His forecheck. He is doing everything to not be in the American Hockey League. I can tell you that.”
The entirety of the third period felt like a “keep away” drill by the Admirals. Late in the last frame of regulation they earned a power-play and capitalized. Justin Florek had broken his stick trying to set a pass up in the high slot. Rather than get a new stick Vladislav Kamenev came on in his place to bail the Admirals out of a brief four-on-four. The pressure sustained and a puck fell back to the point for a howitzer shot by Carrier for his second goal of the night to make it 5-3 Admirals.
“I think the second one was better than the first one actually,” smiled Alex Carrier when speaking about his two-goal performance. “Because the first one I wasn’t sure it was me. I thought it was [Frédérick Gaudreau] that tipped it. So, I wasn’t sure. And then right away they score another goal. So that was not as good as I thought but then the second one was a lot of fun. Nice pass by [Trevor Smith]. It wasn’t the greatest shot, not the hardest shot, but I’ll take it.”
Despite an empty net extra attacker push for the Wild, which also saw a power-play come with an Åberg tripping minor, nothing came of it. The Admirals defense in the third period played lights out and it was quite impressive to see them cruise through full-strength hockey and shut the door.
The Admirals are back on home ice Wednesday at the top of the morning, 10:30 AM CST, for the organization’s second ever school day game. They’ll face the Chicago Wolves on that day. The came back from 2-0 to beat the Wolves in yesterday’s 3-2 shootout.
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals played last night there were no roster moves made within the Nashville Predators organization. Pontus Åberg has produced 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) in the Admirals opening nine games of the season. Juuse Saros improved his individual record to 6-1-0-0 from seven starts this season to go along with a 1.99 goals against average and 0.929 save percentage.
Chatterbox: You can listen to tonight’s post-game interviews ASAP right here.
Thoughts on tonight’s game? Is the Admirals offense starting to pick up the pace? Are you more impressed by the Admirals defensively than offensively?
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