The Milwaukee Admirals won 5-2 against the Rockford IceHogs Tuesday night at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
It was a well-rounded effort on the part of the Admirals who started the 2017 portion of the calendar on the right foot tonight. Anthony Bitetto marked his return to the team on conditioning assignment by delivering a great performance as did his defensive partner on the evening Trevor Murphy who scored twice in the win.
“He’s a good player,” said Anthony Bitetto of Trevor Murphy. “He’s got a future in the league. He’s one of those kids who if you give him a puck in a position he can make something happen. You saw that tonight.”
The Admirals drew first blood tonight from their opening power-play chance in the first period. The IceHogs trap game made life difficult for the Admirals after clearing the puck on the initial face-off. The Admirals struggled to get past that blueline to start chipping away. That is until a pass from Trevor Murphy snuck Adam Payerl through down the right wing wall behind the defense. Murphy continued his run and the two quickly found themselves on a two-on-zip breakaway. Payerl passed from right wing to slot to Murphy who worked a backhander past the pads of Lars Johansson to bury his sixth goal of the season.
In the second period the Admirals would cash in from a power-play once again. After seeing a five-on-three power-play end they were able to bury a chance with eight seconds remaining on the man-advantage. A bad bounce from behind Johansson’s net on the end boards saw a puck squirt right back near the slot where Pontus Åberg was able to dish over to Bitetto back-post for a tap in to make it 2-0 Admirals. The goal for Bitetto was his first scored in seven games across the NHL and AHL this season.
“Tony hit the ref I think,” smiled Pontus Åberg when describing the play. “It went over the net and right to my tape. I wanted to shoot it first but he had a wide open net. So, I had to give it to him.”
Shawn O’Donnell decided to let his presence be known for the Admirals as the newly added forward from the Cincinnati Cyclones dropped the gloves against Chris DeSousa. The fight took place after DeSousa finished off a hard check near the penalty box area against Justin Kirkland. DeSousa turned right into O’Donnell and the two went at it with O’Donnell getting a decisive 10-9 decision in my fight card.
As a power-play expired the IceHogs got on the board to make it a 2-1 game. Carl Dahlström stepped down the right wing and whipped a wrister past a double screen with Sam Carrick and Martin Lundberg in front of Marek Mazanec. The Dahlström shot went against the grain to beat Mazanec high glove side for the Swede’s fifth goal of the season.
Åberg made the crafty play to setup Bitetto at the start of the second period. He would be on the receiving end of a great pass by Matt White to score his ninth goal of the season by the end of the second period. White corralled a puck in the trapezoid and backhanded it out towards the Swede down the left wing slot for a first time finish. Åberg’s goal was the fiftieth of his Admirals career.
“I know he knows where I am,” said Åberg of Matt White. “We talked about it a lot actually – to find a little spot there. When I got it on the tape I just tried to shoot it right away because they had three guys around me. But I was open enough to get it in the net.”
It took the Admirals just forty-five seconds later to get a puck past Johansson once again. A d-to-d pass at the blueline from Bitetto to Murphy was met with a thunderous one-timer by Murphy that launched into the top shelf for his second goal of the night and seventh of the season.
The opening to the third period saw Mike Liambas drop the gloves against his teammate from last season Pierre-Cédric Labrie. Unlike the first bout there wasn’t really a winner as such from this tilt. It was a really spirited scrap. I’d say the winner of the fight is yours to decide.
With a solid five-minutes remaining in regulation the IceHogs went for broke and decided to pull Johansson to get the extra attacker on the ice. The Admirals made them pay for that decision extremely fast as Justin Kirkland buried the empty netter for his second tally of the season to make it a 5-1 Admirals lead.
The IceHogs wouldn’t let the game rest there. A shot by Martin Lundberg escaped the grasp of Mazanec and DeSousa was able to smack it out of mid-air past the Czech goaltender to draw the game back a goal.
The game would be sealed right there with a 5-2 Admirals win that pushes their record to 19-8-2-2 (42 points, 0.677 points percentage). It was a great night in net for Mazanec who quietly provided a solid foundation for the Admirals. He stopped 28/30 shots on goal in the win tonight and also earned a secondary assist on the Admirals opening power-play goal. Mazanec now has nine career assists as a member of the Admirals.
“We were fortunate he was back there for us,” commented Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason of Marek Mazanec’s performance in net. “He was phenomenal. He made incredible saves. What we gave them with the two goals – we gave them. Not his fault for sure.”
Next up for the Admirals is a road trip out to the West Coast. They face the San Jose Barracuda on Friday night (9:00 PM CST) and the Stockton Heat on Saturday night (9:30 PM CST). Their next home game comes a week from tonight as they see the Charlotte Checkers.
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played there were several roster moves made in the organization: the Admirals released Blake Kessel from his PTO Contract, Adam Pardy was reassigned by the Nashville Predators to the Admirals, Harry Zolnierczyk was recalled by the Predators from the Admirals, Anthony Bitetto was activated from Injured Reserve by the Predators and assigned to the Admirals on Conditioning Assignment, and the Admirals signed Shawn O’Donnell to a PTO Contract from their ECHL affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones. Tonight’s line combinations for the Admirals were: Gaudreau-Smith-Görtz, White-Kamenev-Åberg, Florek-Kirkland-O’Donnell, Liambas-Girard-Payerl, Pardy-Carrier, Bitetto-Murphy, Oligny-Dougherty. Tonight’s scratches for the Admirals included: Cody Bass (lower-body injury), Jonathan Diaby (healthy), and Rick Pinkston (healthy).
What were your thoughts on tonight’s game? What did you think of Anthony Bitetto’s return to game action tonight? Are you gaining confidence in the way Marek Mazanec has performed since returning from the Nashville Predators?
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