The Milwaukee Admirals won 5-3 on the road against the Rockford IceHogs at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Friday night.
Justin Kirkland entered this game having only scored a single goal on the season. That lone goal came in the fortieth game of the season. Tonight, in game number forty-seven for Kirkland and the Admirals, he scores the first hat trick of his professional career as the Admirals win back-to-back games after suffering from a six-game losing streak.
An unlikely goal scorer for the Admirals would get them on the board in the first period tonight. Jimmy Oligny was able to sneak up and join the rush for the Admirals and go unmarked en route to the net. Anthony Richard would guide a pass to his cut to the net and Oligny would allow his momentum to spin-o-rama and snap home a wrister past Collin Delia for his second goal of the season.
Former Admiral Cody Franson would then get things tied with a power-play goal. The Admirals were close to escaping one penalty kill only to see a clearance attempt by Fred Allard jump over the glass. The extended power-play time allowed for Franson to get a clean shot through from the right wing circle that ripped past Anders Lindbäck to the stick side for his second goal of the season.
The Admirals would swiftly answer back to end the first period with a power-play goal of their own. Viktor Svedberg tripped up Mark Zengerle to give the Admirals their first power-play chance. What would follow was a face-off win from Trevor Smith, a sweeping pass by Alex Carrier from the point to the left wing circle, and a wrister by Frédérick Gaudreau that went clean through the five-hole on Delia for his seventh goal of the season that made it a 2-1 Admirals lead.
The second period was largely controlled by the IceHogs. Their sustained pressure following a power-play chance provided a platform to make it a 2-2 game. A shot from the right point by Darren Raddysh snuck between the legs of the net front screen of Tyler Sikura and beat the glove of Lindbäck. The goal from Raddysh was his fifteenth of the season. The IceHogs outshot the Admirals 16-6 in that second period.
It seemed the Admirals badly needed to get to the second intermission and regroup. They did that and immediately found a result. Justin Kirkland and Yakov Trenin worked off the left wing wall and around the net to create a quick strike goal at the start of the third period. Kirkland was all alone out of the left wing when Trenin teed him up for a backhanded finish and Kirkland’s second goal of the season. The Admirals once again restored their lead.
Trenin and Kirkland would once again link up later in the third period. Trenin flew in on the forecheck and jarred a puck loose from Franson behind the IceHogs net. Trenin would try to center a pass into the crease and Kirkland would force a puck through the glove-side shoulder of Delia to record his second goal of the night and third of the season to make it a 4-2 Admirals lead.
Sikura’s screen work against Lindbäck would prove big once again. As John Hayden wound up some speed from the right wing point Sikura slotted right in front of the Swedish goaltender’s sight line and he never saw the shot by Hayden to his glove-side. The goal for Hayden was his fourth of the season and closed the gap back to a single goal.
The IceHogs would get a late power-play chance after goaltender interference was called against Derek Army. Near the end of the power-play chance the IceHogs went empty net and extra attacker. When the puck went to the tape of Kirkland he took his chance to go long range into the empty net and buried his hat trick goal to close this game out. It is the first professional hat trick for Kirkland. He entered this game having only scored his first goal of the season on game number forty of the season. Tonight was the forty-seventh game of the season for the Admirals and he extends his season total now to four goals.
A huge credit should be given to Lindbäck tonight and especially for his efforts to keep the Admirals afloat in the second period. The Swede stopped 33/36 shots on goal and 15/16 shots in the second period. He gave the Admirals a chance and the Admirals played much stronger out of the second intermission to secure their second straight win.
The Admirals now race back home where they will finish up the rest of the three-in-three weekend at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Saturday night the Admirals face the San Antonio Rampage at 7:30 PM CST. They will then see the Stockton Heat on Sunday at 5:00 PM CST.
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played on Tuesday night the lone roster move came with Bobby Butler officially leaving the team to join Team USA in PyeongChang for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Tonight’s line combinations and defensive pairings were: Zolnierczyk-Zengerle-McNeill, Richard-Pettersson-Gaudreau, Trenin-Smith-Kirkland, Labrie-Army-Moy, Oligny-Dougherty, Lyytinen-Granberg, Allard-Carrier. Tonight’s scratches were: Cody Bass (upper-body), Trevor Mingoia (healthy), and Trevor Murphy (upper-body). By scoring five goals tonight the Admirals continued their trend of scoring at least five goals when playing on the road in Rockford. They have scored five goals in all four games played in Rockford this season.
What were your thoughts on tonight’s game? Is this the type of game that can finally get Justin Kirkland off and rolling offensively? How good is this for the Admirals to get a decisive win to begin the three-in-three weekend now that the rest of the games are played at home?
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