The Milwaukee Admirals won 4-3 on the road against the Texas Stars Friday night at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.
This was looking like it would be a track meet coming into the weekend. The first of the two games delivered on just that expectation. The Admirals lead 2-0. The Stars lead 3-2. And the Admirals rally back strongly, backed by an outstanding effort by Marek Mazanec, to win a 4-3 game in Texas tonight. This really may have been one of Mazanec’s best outings as a member of the Admirals.
It took the Admirals 3:46 of ice-time to get on the board tonight. It appeared as if the Admirals might have gotten away with a hand pass when Adam Pardy was operating around the right wing near the net and trying to get the puck down to his own stick. Instead, the puck squirted free over to Pontus Åberg on the back post who had plenty of net to fire home on to record his seventh tally of the season.
Jonathan Diaby played sixty-nine games in the AHL without scoring a goal. After tonight he now has a two game goal scoring streak that leaps him past Max Görtz for goals scored this season. It came during a delayed penalty call less than a minute after Åberg scored. Matt White was tripped up and passed over to Diaby on the left point where he let loose a howitzer of a slap shot for his second goal in as many games.
The first period would see the Stars draw all the way back level. Both times they scored it came with them having four men on the ice. During four-on-four play Remi Elie beat Jimmy Oligny with pace down the right wing, cut across the net, and dodged a poke check by Marek Mazanec to score his fourth goal of the season. The Stars then added a shorthanded goal for the eighth time this season when Justin Dowling raced off on a breakaway and beat Mazanec with a backhand-forehand move that beat him glove-side for his second shorty of the season and fifth goal overall.
The Stars would continue their run in the second period to take their first lead of the game. The Admirals had just finished up their second power-play of the night and, like the first chance, saw no shots on goal. The Stars continued the momentum off their penalty kill and had a puck in the low slot hopping around that Travis Morin settled and kicked over to Brendan Ranford in the right wing for a quick shot and his fourth goal of the season to make it a 3-2 Stars lead.
That advantage for the Stars would only last until midway through the second period. The Admirals power-play, which was more momentum killing in the first few looks, was able to get on the board when Trevor Murphy’s slap shot from the right point was knocked down in front of the net and the loose puck got a whack from Reid Boucher for his first goal of the 2016-17 season. Boucher is with the Admirals on conditioning assignment from the Nashville Predators after having been claimed off of waivers from the New Jersey Devils. That power-play goal for him came in the second game of his conditioning stint.
Last time out the Admirals finally saw a Goal of the Year candidate from Vladislav Kamenev. In tonight’s third period they may have received the Save of the Year courtesy of Mazanec. The Stars were able to create a turnover right atop their attacking zone as the Admirals were trying to get out of their own zone. Brandon DeFazio passed out of the left wing for Dowling who was breaking down the slot. Dowling had the puck, went forehand-to-backhand, and Mazanec laid out to make a stunning save with his left toe. Everyone in the building including the man in charge of the goal horn thought that was a sure goal. Mazanec stopped him cold.
If that save by Mazanec wasn’t enough the counter attack that came from that resulted in a goal for the Admirals. Jimmy Oligny made a neutral zone interception as the Stars looked to get back to work and raced along the right wing, dropped a pass back to Félix Girard, and his shot labeled off of the blocker side post of Bow and in for his third goal of the season to give the Admirals a 4-3 lead.
From then on out it was the Mazanec show. And what a show it was. This was a highlight reel level performance on the evening for Mazanec and he came up huge when it counted the most in the third period. The Stars poured it on the Admirals in the final twenty-minutes of regulation but Mazanec stopped all seventeen shots he faced in the third period to help see the Admirals across the finish line for a win tonight in Texas.
These two teams are back at it once again tomorrow night. Same place – but not the same time. Tomorrow’s game starts at a more typical 7:00 PM CST start time. After tomorrow’s game the Admirals will return home in Milwaukee briefly before hitting back on the road when they get the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday and the Chicago Wolves on Thursday. They will then reach the Christmas break and play back on home ice on Boxing Day against the Wolves.
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played on Monday night there were some roster moves of note. The Nashville Predators recalled Juuse Saros and reassigned Marek Mazanec. The Admirals then reassigned forwards Justin Kirkland and Anthony Richard to the Cincinnati Cyclones. Both participated in last night’s 3-1 victory over the Indy Fuel. Kirkland scored the first goal of his professional career in that contest. Both Kirkland and Richard have earned their first pro goals as members of the Cyclones this season. The Cyclones won 4-1 against the Fuel tonight in Cincinnati. Kirkland added an assist while Richard left the game with an apparent injury and did not return. Tonight’s line combinations for the Admirals were: Florek-Smith-Åberg, Boucher-Gaudreau-White, Zolnierczyk-Kamenev-Bass, Liambas-Girard-Payerl, Pardy-Carrier, Murphy-Dougherty, Diaby-Oligny. Tonight’s scratches were: Max Görtz and Blake Kessel. In tonight’s third period Texas Stars goaltender Landon Bow left the game due to injury and was replaced midway through the third period by Maxime Lagacé who remained in net until the final horn. According to Stephen Meserve of 100 Degree Hockey the reason behind Bow leaving in the third period was due to illness. The Admirals record has improved to 16-5-2-1 (35 points, 0.729 points percentage) which is still good enough for the best record in the Western Conference. The only team with a better record in the AHL at the moment are the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins who boast a record of 18-5-3-0 (39 points, 0.750 save percentage).
Thoughts on tonight’s game? How good did Marek Mazanec look in his return to game action tonight? Do you feel like Reid Boucher could end up returning to the Milwaukee Admirals should the Nashville Predators attempt to clear him through waivers?
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