The Milwaukee Admirals won 7-2 against the Texas Stars at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Sunday evening.
The script was flipped to an extreme from one night to the next. The Admirals went down 2-0 and rattled of seven unanswered goals behind multi-goal nights for Vladislav Kamenev, Pontus Åberg, and Justin Florek. The win for the Admirals dropped their magic number down to one.
“It was reversed,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason of Sunday’s game relative of Saturday night. “Clearly they get the jump. It’s a funny game. The Hockey Gods, or whatever you want to call them, they put you in positions to see what you’re made of.”
Justin Kirkland marked his return to the Admirals lineup after missing the last eight games in a first shift he’d like to forget. The Admirals were defending around the net and Kirkland banked a puck off the endboards which saw the puck kick out right in front of the net for Mark McNeill. The former IceHogs forward scored with ease for his ninth goal of the season.
It would take the Stars only 2:23 of ice-time to make it a 2-0 first period lead.Matej Stransky worked off the right wing and whipped a shot near post that rolled up on Marek Mazanec into the top shelf near post and in for his twenty-fourth goal of the season.
The Admirals would respond not too long after going down by a pair of goals. 1:08 after the Stransky goal, on a delayed penalty, Vladislav Kamenev had a puck trickle back to him in the high slot and the Russian hesitated the slap shot and then wristed low past Maxime Lagacé to score his seventeenth goal of the season and make it a 2-1 game.
Kamenev would keep the first period surge going by making it 2-2 from his second goal in the space of 4:53 of hockey. Kirkland picked him out as the rush was on from neutral ice. Kamenev stopped on a dime at the top of the right wing face-off circle and snapped a hard wrister across the grain of Lagacé to beat him stick-side for his eighteenth goal of the season.
The second period started off with some Admirals history from Pontus Åberg. The Admirals had a power-play to work with and the Swede from his sweet spot on the left wing circle worked his magic once again to record his thirtieth goal of the season to get the Admirals out in front 3-2.
Åberg scoring his thirtieth goal makes him just the fourth Admirals in their AHL history to record thirty or more goals in a season. He joins the likes of Darren Haydar (2005-06), Rich Peverley (2006-07), and Chris Mueller (2011-12).
“I can just tell you that he is working his butt off,” said Evason of Åberg. “He has so much skill it is ridiculous. He can do things with the puck and skate, and he has put it all together now, but the biggest key is his work ethic. It’s fun to watch.”
The work rate of Åberg has been the real bright spot for him this season. And that didn’t stop after the power-play goal. Åberg flew down the right wing, stopped, and snapped off a backhand pass in-line to Kirkland who was all alone as he stepped in on goal for a tap in and his eighth goal of the season to extend the Admirals lead to 4-2.
“He is such a skilled guy,” said Kirkland of Åberg. “I know that when he has the puck he has eyes in the back of his head and you saw a little spin-o-rama pass. I could barely see it come through the guy’s legs and luckily it was right on my stick and went in.”
At the closing stage of the second period Trevor Murphy was assessed high sticking and unsportsmanlike conduct minors. This put the Admirals penalty kill to work until the horn sounded on the frame and that allowed for Åberg to continue his AHL MVP level highlight reel to continue. He had a two-on-one with Matt White to his left wing and Andrew Bodnarchuk defending. The Swede dangled through him and deposited with style for his thirty-first goal and fiftieth point of the season. The shorthanded goal was scored with seven-seconds remaining and the Admirals reversed yesterday’s script by tallying five unanswered goals after trailing by two.
“It’s a good achievement,” said Åberg. “I’ve just been trying to work as hard as I can every night. I’m playing for a new contract, too. And it’s a playoff push. This is now when you want to play good. It’s been going good lately”
There was of course an entire third period still to be played after all that happened in the first forty minutes of hockey. Justin Florek would add two goals to further the rout. He first deflected a Rick Pinkston shot and then scored on a power-play with the fourth line acting as the power-play group. The two goals for Florek pumped his season total to twelve goals.
After a two-on-one chance went begging Åberg spearheaded a breakaway shortly after and earned a penalty shot with the chance to record a hat trick with 6:41 remaining in regulation. His setup was very slow and his backhander was blockered aside by Lagacé to keep the score at 7-2.
The punishment of that game would end on the scoreboard at a 7-2 Admirals final. Yet, Adam Payerl finished the game with a boarding major and game misconduct after a hard hit to Darren Dietz. Thankfully Dietz was able to skate off under his own power but the Admirals alternate captain likely will face potential disciplinary measures for that late hit.
The Admirals could have clinched a spot in the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs tonight but needed some help to do it. That help did not come as the Cleveland Monsters earned a 4-0 shutout victory tonight on the road against the Iowa Wild. Those same two teams are back in action Tuesday night and the Admirals will be looking for some cooperation on the part of the Wild that night to help make the Admirals’ Celebrity Serve event that much more of a celebration.
Next on tap for the Admirals is a decent chunk off. They do not play again until Friday when they start a three-in-three weekend. The first two legs of the weekend will be at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena as the Cleveland Monsters come in on Friday and then the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday. They finish the three-in-three after making the long bus ride out to face the Iowa Wild at the Wells Fargo Arena.
Ramblings: Prior to tonight’s game the Milwaukee Admirals released Stephen Perfetto from his PTO Contract. He is expected to rejoin the Alaska Aces in the ECHL. This evening’s line combinations were: Richard-Ribeiro-Gaudreau, White-Smith-Åberg, Kirkland-Kamenev-Payerl, Florek-Army-Liambas, Pardy-Carrier, Murphy-Granberg, Pinkston-Dougherty. This evening’s scratches were: Kelleher (healthy), O’Brien (lower-body injury), and Oligny (lower-body injury). With his start tonight Marek Mazanec tied Brain Finley for the most appearances by an Admirals goaltender in the AHL history of the team with 161 games. Tonight’s attendance was 7,505 and the Milwaukee Admirals donated $22,512.00 to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in the process.
What were your thoughts on today’s game? Was this an appropriate response to how last night’s game ended? How good will it be that the Milwaukee Admirals finally get some solid rest this week before really motoring home to the finish line?
Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.