The Milwaukee Admirals won 5-4 in overtime against the Charlotte Checkers at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Sunday evening.
It was yet another less than favorable start for the Admirals who once again fell asleep at puck drop. But, once again, they rallied back to find a way to win.
“We’ve talked a lot about our character and our group all year. These last few games it’s showed,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason after the game. “Nothing has really got us down: a bad penalty, a bad goal, timing. We’re able to withstand it.”
For the third consecutive game during this three-game homestand the Admirals lost the opening face-off only to pick the puck out of their net following the game’s first shift. Andrew Miller passed into the low left wing circle where Lucas Wallmark didn’t get all of his first-time shot. As the puck came off his stick poorly it fluttered in on Marek Mazanec and the change-up beat him to provide Wallmark his seventeenth goal of the season. The opening goal came just nineteen seconds into the game.
“We talked to the group after the game and asked them who they’d like us to start next game at home,” smirked Evason. “Because we’ve tried everybody.”
The Admirals did get an appropriate response not too long after Dennis Robertson was called for a slash. After jarring a puck free from the right wing wall the Admirals power-play unit setup shop and Mike Ribeiro was able to tee up Alex Carrier for a one-timer in the high slot that launched past Alex Nedeljkovic for his sixth goal of the season.
After having scored so early into the game the Checkers only managed to get one more shot on the board over the next ten minutes. Yet, with shot number three, the Checkers scored once again. Andrew Poturalski delivered a spinning pass to the net-front where Kris Newbury was camped out all alone for a tap-in and his seventh tally of the season to make it a 2-1 Checkers lead.
There was a scary moment to start the second period. Anthony Richard, well known for his incredible speed, lost an edge and went crashing violently into the end boards in an incident reminiscent of how he was injured when playing for the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL during December. Doug Agnew ran on the ice and checked on Richard before the two left the ice. Richard was able to skate off under his own power and returned later in the period.
Moments after the Richard injury the Checkers pounced to get the lead up to 3-1. Haydn Fleury’s point shot was collected off the initial save by Mazanec by Valentin Zykov. The Checkers’ Russian was left all alone in front of the net to record his fourteenth goal of the season.
That goal seemed to wake up the Admirals offense. The moments that followed were spent in attack and they quickly answered. Andrew O’Brien hammered a shot from the left point that popped off the left pad of Nedeljkovic. Frédérick Gaudreau was able to step in off the slot and put a low backhander in from the rebound to earn his twelfth goal of the season.
At the midway point of the contest the Checkers restored their two goal lead. Miller made a dazzling play along the left wing that saw him snake past Petter Granberg and Justin Kirkland before letting a backhanded shot stay along the ice and sneak past the Mazanec as he held the near post. Miller’s third goal of the season made it a 4-2 Checkers lead.
With 1:13 remaining in the second period Derek Army took it upon himself to get the Admirals a late period goal. He was racing down the left wing with Trevor Carrick defending him and sent a backhander off the pads of Nedeljkovic, cut behind Carrick, and won the race to his own rebound to pop in his sixth goal of the season and make it a 4-3 game at the end of the second period.
“You never know, goalies have a tough time with the backhand,” described Army. “They don’t always know where it is going so I think it kind of surprised him.”
To start the third period off the Admirals equalized to make it a 4-4 contest. Adam Payerl took a pass from Vladislav Kamenev and had all kinds of speed behind him as he entered the attacking zone. He veered towards the right wing circle before unleashing a wicked wrister that beat Nedeljkovic against the grain to the stick side for his twelfth goal of the season.
This game required overtime and the stage was set for Gaudreau who finished things off by scoring his second of the game and thirteenth of the season. He glided down the left wing, dangled, pulled back on the backhand shot to fake out Nedeljkovic, and then released his backhand shot into the roof to earn the Admirals a comeback 5-4 win in overtime.
“I saw one of their guys was tired maybe because he couldn’t change,” commented Gaudreau of the game-winner in overtime. “Carrier gave me a good pass. I saw Mike Ribeiro on the side but I wasn’t sure about the pass so I just decided to keep it.”
The Admirals are now on a bit of a break in their schedule. They won’t be in action until this coming Friday and Saturday night when they face-off against the Grand Rapids Griffins on the road at the dreaded Van Andel Arena. After that the Admirals travel to see these Checkers on the road next Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Admirals next home game is on Saturday March 4th when the Manitoba Moose make their return to the Admirals schedule for the first time since the end of November.
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals played on Friday night they saw the Nashville Predators recall Kevin Fiala. That was the lone roster move made by the organization. The Predators lost 5-2 on the road to the Minnesota Wild last night in their first game back out of their NHL mandated bye-week. Tonight’s line combinations were: Richard-Ribeiro-Gaudreau, White-Smith-Åberg, Kirkland-Kamenev-Payerl, Florek-Army-Liambas, Oligny-Carrier, Murphy-Granberg, O’Brien-Dougherty. Tonight’s lone scratch was Adam Pardy who missed his fourteenth straight game after suffering a compound fracture to his left arm.
What was your reaction to tonight’s game? What about these last three-games and the opening shift? How important was it for the Milwaukee Admirals to sweep this week’s homestand to get rolling?
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