The Milwaukee Admirals 5-4 in overtime against the Chicago Wolves Wednesday morning at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
This game was nothing short of a thrill ride in front of the Admirals second ever school day crowd. The atmosphere was actually matched by the entertainment on the ice as a tightly played game pushed into overtime and saw one more piece of brilliance out of the first-year pro defenseman Alex Carrier to net the game-winner and stretch the Admirals winning streak to four games.
“It was all over the place,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason of today’s contest. “We thought we started real well. First period was as good a period as we’ve played. No penalties. Everything was flowing. We were able to play four lines, rolling. And then we turned the pucks over in the second period. Mistakes on our PP. Mistakes on our PK. Breakdowns. Turnovers. It turned into an ugly game and then we corralled it in again at the end.”
The Admirals appeared to have the much more alert and awake start from the opening puck drop. Their pace was giving the Wolves problems and keeping them pinned on defense. The Admirals were able to capitalize off of this energy as a quick turnaround in and out of the offensive zone spearheaded a play that saw a returning Harry Zolnierczyk bat a puck toward the net that trickled free for Adam Payerl to lift past Jordan Binnington to score his third goal of the season.
At the final horn of the first period a tussle broke out between Matt White and Morgan Ellis. It was determined, somehow, that the lone penalty to assess on the play would be a roughing minor against the Wolves’ Ellis. The Admirals started the second period on the power-play and managed to score twenty-four seconds in through Frédérick Gaudreau’s first goal of the season. Gaudreau was working the high left point, moved in low while measuring his shot, and wired a wrister to the blocker side of Binnington to make it a 2-0 Admirals lead.
The Wolves would answer back shortly after the Admirals power-play goal and did so after their first power-play of the contest expired. Brad Hunt whipped a backhander to the net that alluded the pads of Marek Mazanec and fell to a redirect to the right wing for Ivan Barbashyov. The quick tip beat Mazanec and Barbashyov had his sixth goal of the season to cut the Admirals lead in half at 2-1.
The second period momentum would stick with the Wolves to see them level things after a successful penalty kill. A great individual effort by Andrew Agozzino saw him cut through with pace and in on Mazanec with a very short run to the net. He was able to stickhandle and get a shot up and over the glove of the Czech goalie to record his first goal on the season and make it a 2-2 game.
Heading towards the midway point in the third period the Wolves run continued. After a trip against Conner Bleackley the Admirals power-play group passed themselves into trouble which triggered a two-on-one shorthanded rush. Agozzino kept the puck in a shooting position and snapped a wrister to the low glove of Mazanec to score his second of the game and season to give the Wolves a 3-2 lead.
With under eight minutes left to play in regulation the Admirals were treated to the skills of Kevin Fiala. The Switzerland native took a hard wrist shot from the left wing that spanked off the end-boards with pace and worked back out in front of the net and back to Fiala’s path for a follow up shot that he threw above the glove of Binnington to score a goal a day after being reassigned to the Admirals from the Nashville Predators to make it a 3-3 game.
The Admirals penalty kill was motoring along strongly right until their fourth kill of the game which came in the closing stages of the third period. Magnus Pääjärvi unloaded a wrister from the high left circle that sawed through traffic and flew in high over the blocker of Mazanec and in for a power-play goal and Pääjärvi’s third tally of the season. Thankfully, just twenty-five seconds later, the Admirals answered right back. Matt White put used traffic to his advantage to put a shot on goal from the slot that found a way past bodies and Binnington for his fifth goal of the season to quickly make it 4-4.
“Matt White has been great,” stated Evason. “He’s a pro. He conducts himself that way. He’s got skill in all areas of the game. If we didn’t have as many penalty killers than we have he’d play even more. Plays on the power-play. He’s just a real good good player.”
The game would need overtime and it started with two players in the penalty box, Kevin Tansey for elbowing and Fiala for cross-checking. The Admirals penalty kill would manage to work out of the Fiala penalty and at four-on-four in overtime Gaudreau hit Alex Carrier on a stretch pass that saw the first-year pro score a dazzling game-winning goal. Carrier won a footrace down the right side of the slot and label a shot top shelf before the Wolves defense could close him down. The game-winning goal for Carrier goes down as his third goal scored this season and all of those have come in back-to-back games.
“I didn’t even see the puck go in,” smiled Alex Carrier. “But I saw the fans screaming. So I was happy.”
While I’m certain he would have to have a few goals allowed back it was a rather nice outing in net from Mazanec. The Czech goalie, making his debut with the Admirals this season after starting the year with the Predators, stopped 21/25 shots on goal and came up big a number of times from the second period to the finish.
The Admirals next play on Saturday night when they get to seek out a slight bit of 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs revenge when the Grand Rapids Griffins turn up for the first time on the calendar this season. That game has a 6:00 PM CST puck drop and will be the fourth game of this five game homestand which concludes next Tuesday night when the red hot Charlotte Checkers come into town.
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played on Saturday there have been quite a few roster moves made. The Nashville Predators recalled Pontus Åberg and Juuse Saros from the Milwaukee Admirals. The returning move saw the Predators reassign Kevin Fiala, Marek Mazanec, and -later in the day- Harry Zolnierczyk. The Predators won last night 3-1 and in the contest Åberg logged 14:20 of ice time from nineteen shifts in his NHL regular season debut. Åberg’s NHL debut came during last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. With thirteen forwards now in camp the Admirals actually had to make a scratch this morning. The odd man out today was Anthony Richard who was a healthy scratch. Today’s attendance was 8,631.
Thoughts on today’s game? How impressive has Alex Carrier been to start his pro career? What was your assessment of Marek Mazanec and Kevin Fiala’s Admirals debuts for this season?
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