The Milwaukee Admirals won 5-3 on the road Sunday evening against the Rockford IceHogs at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
This game became a thriller in the closing minutes. The Admirals had a fantastic defensive effort but would see a 4-1 lead get shrunken down to 4-3 after successive goals scored by Laurent Dauphin late. The Admirals would shut the door with an empty netter scored by Tyler Kelleher that secured his second goal of the game and a third straight Admirals road win to start the 2017-18 season.
“You can’t say enough,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason of Tyler Kelleher. “He’s done all the right things early in the season. Not even offensively, you can throw the numbers out, but he’s done the right things as far as all areas of the game. He’s playing the game the right way. He’s competing. And he’s a real, real good teammate.”
It didn’t take long for the magic between Emil Pettersson and Tyler Kelleher to show up. 1:56 into the contest saw a quick breakout play spring Pettersson down the middle of the neutral zone where he dished off to a sprinting Kelleher over to his right. The 5’6” winger then measured up Jeff Glass and delivered a wrist shot near post that sailed bar down over the glove shoulder. It was Kelleher’s second goal of the season.
After the Admirals failed to deliver on the game’s first power-play chance the IceHogs were able to quickly equalize. A sustained attack had the Admirals trapped in their zone. A failed clearance only went as far as to Darren Raddysh at the blue line and the young defenseman skated to the top of the circles before unleashing a heavy wrist shot past the blocker of Anders Lindbäck. Raddysh’s first goal of the season made it a 1-1 game only 5:22 after Kelleher’s opener.
The Admirals second crack at the power-play went much better. After Tomas Jurco thought he could respond to a shove around the net with a punch to the face – he sat for roughing. This set the stage for a d-to-d pass between Jack Dougherty and Trevor Murphy that ended with the latter cannoning a shot to Glass. He absorbed Murphy’s one-timer but allowed the rebound to be deposited past him by Harry Zolnierczyk who scored his second power-play goal of the season and get the Admirals back in front 2-1.
In the second period the Admirals power-play was at it again following a face-off violation against the IceHogs. Alex Carrier teed up Pettersson for a one-timer and the rebound was nearly crashed into the net by a charging Kelleher. The motor from Kelleher continued on behind the net where he made a pass from his stomach back to the left wing for Pettersson who zipped opposite wing for Bobby Butler to finish with a blazing wrister on Glass for his second goal of the season to make it 3-1 Admirals.
The Admirals nearly tacked on another power-play goal in the third period but, alas, it counted at even strength. Frédérick Gaudreau was loose down the right wing on a breakaway, stalled at the front of the crease, and the puck was moved away. This still had the IceHogs goaltender scrambling. Before he could get reset Dougherty hammered a slap shot from the point and it whistled low through traffic and in for the defenseman’s first goal of the season and increase the Admirals lead to 4-1.
The Admirals penalty kill saw their first blemish on the season after thirteen successive kills to begin 2017-18. Laurent Dauphin glided out of the left wing and managed to stickhandle Dougherty to a knee. Once the space opened up he wired a wrister just above the glove of Lindbäck to score a power-play goal and make it a 4-2 contest. The tally for Dauphin was his first of the season.
With 2:42 remaining in regulation Glass headed to the IceHogs bench to bring on the extra attacker. After some battling in front of the net Dauphin scored his second of the game with 1:28 remaining to close the Admirals lead to 4-3.
“We chatted with the group after that the last two hockey games we were in a position to close the game out and we didn’t,” said Evason. “We talked to them about not changing the way that we play – in all areas. We thought we went a little passive in some areas.”
The net was again emptied with 1:03 remaining in regulation. And, after a last push, the Admirals were able to put the nail in the coffin as Kelleher scored an empty netter with 7.5 seconds remaining for his second goal of the night and third on the season to secure a 5-3 victory tonight in Rockford.
“It’s a nice start,” stated Evason of the team’s opening to the 2017-18 season on the road. “When you can go out on the road and have success -and not only have success as far as the wins- but have success as far as how, for the most part, we’ve played. The last two hockey games the last five-minutes of the games were some areas we can clean up. But we’ve done the right things preparation-wise to give ourselves a chance to be in those positions.”
The Admirals once again have a decent amount of down time between games. The bright spot is that when they next play the Admirals will be at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena for the first time in the 2017-18 season. The home opener will be Friday night at 7:00 PM CDT and see the Hershey Bears returning to Milwaukee. They will then see these IceHogs once again the night after at 6:00 PM CDT on home ice.
Ramblings: The Milwaukee Admirals were without two of their leadership group this evening. Trevor Smith missed his second consecutive game due to an upper-body injury. Cody Bass was also out due to an upper-body injury sustained following his fight with Ryan Malone in Iowa last week. Meanwhile the lone healthy scratch was defenseman Joonas Lyytinen. Fred Allard had been assigned to the Norfolk Admirals (ECHL) since last week and logged the first two games of his professional playing career this weekend. Today’s forward line combinations and defensive pairings were: Kirkland-Gaudreau-Butler, Richard-Kamenev-Moy, Zolnierczyk-Pettersson-Kelleher, Labrie-Trenin-Perfetto, Oligny-Carrier, Murphy-Granberg, O’Brien-Dougherty.
Thoughts on today’s game? How impressed are you with the way that the Milwaukee Admirals have started this season out on the road?
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