The Milwaukee Admirals lost 4-3 against the Ontario Reign at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Saturday night.
The Admirals had the lead after the first and second period. Yet, the Reign stormed out of the second intermission to score three third period goals to give them an edge that the Admirals couldn’t overcome late. The Admirals, who had a season best four-game winning streak earlier in January, have closed out the month with a four-game losing streak. It is the longest such losing skid since November of last season.
“It’s so frustrating because we had control of the game,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason after the game. “We think we played extremely well in tonight’s hockey game and we didn’t get rewarded for it. I’m sure that the players feel the same frustration that we’re feeling but we have to take some kind of a positive out of it. The outcome wasn’t what we wanted but the way that we played was the way that we wanted it.”
Similar to Tuesday night the Admirals had a great opening ten minutes. Unlike Tuesday night they were able to continue momentum forward and find the back of the net. Petter Granberg passed off for Emil Pettersson would would carve up Austin Wagner right to left and into the slot. Once Pettersson had an angle around Wagner he wired a wrist shot low and against the grain that beat Cal Petersen stick-side off the post and in for the Swede’s ninth goal of the season.
It wouldn’t be an Admirals game this week without a bizarre moment. The Admirals were finishing up a five-on-three penalty kill as the Reign had a dump in that Anders Lindbäck would stop behind his net. Before the Swede could get a pass out from the trapezoid Mike Amadio barreled down on him and deflected the outlet pass. The puck went right on the tape of Michael Mersch. Before his follow up shot could get to the empty net a scrambling Lindbäck fell over into the net and knocked it over. The officials would rule it a goal. Mersch would have his fifteenth goal of the season after M. Night Shyamalan levels of “why is this happening.”
Thankfully that moment could be left in the past rather fast. Justin Kirkland would be controlling the center point before passing off to his right where Trevor Murphy unleashed the howitzer on a one-timer from the right wing circle that blazed through Petersen. The Admirals reclaimed their lead just 2:40 after the Reign’s opening goal. The tally for Murphy was his sixth of the season.
It would take the Reign twenty-six seconds of the third period to knot things at 2-2. Mersch skated over from the left wing pocket and ended up skating into Lindbäck before battling the net-front with Alex Carrier. Just as contact between Mersch and Lindbäck was made there would be a one-timer by Matt Luff smashed home from the high slot. It would also be called a good goal. The tally was Luff’s eighth goal of the season.
“The second goal is goalie interference, no question,” stated Evason. “We’re the second best league in the world and we can’t challenge goalie interference. It’s ridiculous. It really is. The junior leagues can challenge a goalie interference. We can’t. It makes no sense to us coaches.”
The Admirals power-play has been snakebitten of late when it comes to conceding breakaways off their blueline. It happened Tuesday. It happened again tonight. Johnny Brodzinski was off to the races on a shorthanded breakaway and would flip a wrister over the glove of Lindbäck to score his seventh goal of the season and hand the Reign their first lead of the night.
“To let in a goal two games in a row on our power-play – that’s not good enough,” stated Emil Pettersson after the game. “That’s going to happen, it is part of the game, but two games in a row that cannot happen.”
The Reign would extend their lead to 4-2 past the midway point of the third period. A shot by Mersch popped up after the initial stop by Lindbäck. The puck would call kindly into the path of Philippe Maillet who smacked in the rebound for his seventh goal of the season.
The Admirals would see their fourth power-play expire but continue forward until getting a late third period goal. A shot from the point by Jack Dougherty was knocked down by net front traffic but into the path of Mark Zengerle who dished a backhander for Frédérick Gaudreau to smash in from the low left wing for his fifth goal of the season.
With 1:22 remaining in regulation Lindbäck made his way to the bench to bring out the extra attacker. The Admirals were relentless in search of an late equalizing goal but ran out of time. The Reign had the 4-3 win. The Admirals suffered their four successive defeat in regulation.
“I think it may sound weird but I think we’re playing better than four straight losses,” said Pettersson. “But our problem has been to be consistent all the games through. We have some individual mistakes and that hurt us bad. I still think we’re playing better hockey now than last time we had a bad stretch. But we’ve been a little bit unlucky and some bad decisions. That’s hockey sometimes. I still think everybody is working hard to get through it.”
Tomorrow night is the beginning of the AHL All-Star Classic in Utica, New York. The Milwaukee Admirals will have two representatives for the Central Division All-Stars: Anders Lindbäck and Emil Pettersson. The AHL All-Star Skills Competition is tomorrow night at 7:00 PM CST. The AHL All-Star Challenge takes place Monday night at 6:00 PM CST. The entire event can be watched on the NHL Network or for free on AHL Live.
The Admirals first game back out of the AHL All Star break is on the road against the Chicago Wolves this coming Friday. That will be followed by a two game set against the Manitoba Moose at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Saturday and Tuesday night.
“It’s been one weird year,” Evason said regarding up and down form. “Just when we think our consistency is coming and it’s good – it just turns a corner and goes bad. We definitely have to find that consistency.”
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played on Tuesday night the lone roster move came when the Nashville Predators assigned goaltender Matt O’Connor to the Manchester Monarchs of the ECHL. It is the third different ECHL organization O’Connor has been assigned to and all came after the Norfolk Admirals affiliation agreement with Nashville was terminated. Tonight’s line combinations and defensive pairings were: Richard-Zengerle-Gaudreau, Zolnierczyk-Smith-Butler, Trenin-Pettersson-Moy, Labrie-Kirkland-Mingoia, Murphy-Carrier, Lyytinen-Granberg, Allard-Dougherty. Tonight’s scratches were: Scratches: Derek Army (healthy), Cody Bass (upper-body), Tyler Kelleher (lower-body), Andrew O’Brien (healthy), and Jimmy Oligny (family emergency). During pre-game skate there was a cameo appearance for Tyler Kelleher. It might be safe to assume he is very close to a full return. Trevor Murphy exited the game late in the third period after a very hard hit and did not return.
What were your thoughts on tonight’s game? What happened to the Milwaukee Admirals in the third period? Is there any singular problem for the Admirals? Is this AHL All-Star break coming at the perfect time?
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