The Milwaukee Admirals lost 6-2 against the Rockford IceHogs at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Saturday night.
This was the stiffest test of the season so far for the Admirals. They faced their first deficit of 2017-18 and hardest adversity to date. Ultimately, they suffered their first loss of the season. The Admirals and IceHogs have now both only lost once this season. In both circumstances one has beaten the other in their own building.
“We talked to the group after that there is no question it’s our first sign of adversity,” commented Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason after the game. “I mean, we’ve had some suspect maybe minutes in games and periods but we didn’t have the energy level, we didn’t have the cohesiveness that we’ve had in the start and previous games. It hurt us.”
It appeared the IceHogs had the better start tonight. They played at a quicker pace in the first period and it helped them stay on the attack a touch more out the gate. It’s this that helped them get the opening goal as a point shot by Luc Snuggerud was knocked down by net front traffic and swiped in at the side of cage by William Pelletier past the blocker side of Matt O’Connor for his first goal of the season.
That just so happened to be the first time in this young season that the Admirals trailed. Luckily, it didn’t last very long. A series of drop passes between Anthony Richard and Stephen Perfetto meant Emil Pettersson had a clean lane heading down the slot for a wrist shot that was rifled past Jeff Glass for his second tally of the season to quickly make it a 1-1 game.
In the second period, during a four-on-four, the IceHogs got back into the lead from a rough angle shot by Luke Johnson. The IceHogs forward was nearing the goal line from the right wing when he snapped a wrister low on O’Connor. The puck glanced off the pads and snuck into the back of the net from the tight angle for Johnson’s second goal of the season and second in as many nights.
This rough second period would carry on as the Admirals second power-play chance of the night ended in a shorthanded goal for the IceHogs. A poor zone entry attempt by the Admirals allowed Johnson to race up ice and he passed over to Vinnie Hinostroza who would dangle across Jack Dougherty and roof a shot top shelf on O’Connor for his second goal of the season.
Needless to say, the Admirals needed a dash of energy into the group and the building. While the AHL’s fighting major policy is still in play that didn’t stop Jimmy Oligny from taking his third fight in the Admirals opening five games. Oligny paired up with the IceHogs spark plug tonight, Johnson, and proceeded to pelt him with jabs and overhands until his brain bucket came off and the referees stopped it. That’s another win for Oligny in the fight column – but he might want to dial that down.
A slashing call against Alexandre Fortin would give the Admirals a quick start on the power-play for the third period. It took the Admirals all of six-seconds to produce. Alex Carrier setup a one-timer for Pettersson on the right wing circle and it hammered off the pads of Glass right for Tyler Kelleher to smash in the rebound and make it a 3-2 game. It is now five goals in five games for Kelleher to start his first pro season.
Unfortunately, that hot start to the third period was easy come and easy go. The IceHogs broke the other way and David Kämpf won a footrace to the front of the net to receive a pass by Fortin to score his first of the season. The goal from Kämpf came 1:58 of ice time after the Kelleher goal and quickly restored a two-goal cushion for the IceHogs.
“It was a tough game,” said Admirals team captain Trevor Smith. “They beat us with their speed tonight. They didn’t give us any time and space to break the puck out. And, no time and space, you can’t make plays. So, they outworked us down low and we didn’t have any pucks to the net.”
With 2:44 remaining in regulation O’Connor came to the bench to bring the extra attacker on. It took Hinostroza exactly ten-seconds to score into the empty net. That wouldn’t be it, either. The Admirals had a shorthanded breakaway with Carrier in the box for roughing. Pettersson and Harry Zolnierczyk were alone on a two-on-none break and failed to get a shot on target. Right behind them started a counter attack and Kämpf would bury his second of the night – a power-play goal – and that would bury this game at a 6-2 final.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a battle all season against these guys,” said Smith of the Rockford IceHogs. “Now we know what they can do. I think we took them a little bit for granted tonight with their speed and work ethic. We can go back to the drawing board with some video this week because there is a lot of stuff that we can take from this game that we can use as teaching points.”
The Milwaukee Admirals now turn their focus to the road. They have another decent gap between games. Their next game is Friday when they see these same IceHogs again in Rockford at 7:00 PM CDT. It will then be the first Amtrak Rivalry game of the season as well as the first time the Admirals face the Chicago Wolves under the Vegas Golden Knights banner. Admirals against the Wolves at the Allstate Arena is Saturday night at 7:00 PM CDT.
Ramblings: There have been no roster moves made since the Milwaukee Admirals played last night. Joonas Lyytinen, who was that last roster move, did make his North American pro debut last night with the Norfolk Admirals (ECHL) and recorded a power-play goal in a 6-3 loss on the road to the Colorado Eagles. Tonight’s line combinations were: Kirkland-Smith-Butler, Richard-Kamenev-Perfetto, Zolnierczyk-Pettersson-Kelleher, Labrie-Trenin-Moy, Oligny-Carrier, O’Brien-Dougherty, Murphy-Granberg. Tonight’s scratches were: Cody Bass (upper-body) and Fred Allard (healthy). Tonight marked Matt O’Connor’s first start of the season.
Thoughts on tonight’s game? Can some credit be given to the Rockford IceHogs tonight or was there more that the Milwaukee Admirals could have done? What did you think of Matt O’Connor’s first start in net?
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