The Milwaukee Admirals won 5-2 on the road against the Rockford IceHogs at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Friday night.
In the final game of the regular season against the IceHogs the Admirals managed to rally back and claim yet another win to secure a sweep of all five-games held in Rockford. The Admirals snapped the three-game losing skid behind a fabulous effort in net by Anders Lindbäck as well as two goal nights by Mark McNeill and Anthony Richard. The Admirals went 8-2-0-0 against the IceHogs this season.
“I think the first two periods we were nervous about the game,” suggested Anthony Richard. “We knew that was a huge game for us and for them too. I think we were squeezing our sticks a little bit too much and trying to make a nice play. We have to play a simple game for the rest of the season and in the third period we did that.”
This game marked the North American Pro Debut of Victor Ejdsell. The Swede was originally signed to an entry level contract by the Nashville Predators this past Summer but was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks organization in the Ryan Hartman deal. Ejdsell arrived to the country at 4AM on Thursday but didn’t show much jetlag in his opening two shifts.
Ejdsell had space down the right wing to fire a low shot on Anders Lindbäck in his very first shift. That would be followed by staying in a shooting position along the low left wing circle in his second shift and Lindbäck wasn’t able to cover up the Ejdsell shot. Henrik Samuelsson was able to crash at the front of the net and score on the rebound for his fifth goal of the season.
It had looked like Samuelsson had made it 2-0 IceHogs late in the first period. He was able to get a redirect right in front of Lindbäck that rolled behind him and was quickly cleared off the goal line by Mark Zengerle. The call on the ice was a goal but video review determined that Zengerle cleared the puck before it crossed the goal line.
It seemed that the second period would go with no damage done to the scoreboard courtesy of Lindbäck. The Admirals would do one better than that by making it 1-1 with twenty-five seconds remaining in the frame.
The Admirals were on the rush after Petter Granberg sent Trevor Smith loose into the zone. The Admirals captain managed to squeeze a pass through to Anthony Richard down the left wing. After controlling the pass Richard was able to fire a wrister and beat Jeff Glass to the near pipe and score his fifteenth goal of the season.
“[Richard’s] goal was the break that we needed,” said Evason. “A puck that likely their goalie wants back but we caught a break. I think that showed our group what we’ve been trying to emphasize here for the last three-games. They’ve got to believe that the puck is finally going to go in for them and we caught breaks tonight. That was a big break for us.”
Things would continue into the third period when the Admirals took their first lead of the game 3:28 into the third period. An awful turnover on an intended pass up ice ended up on the tape of Yakov Trenin. His initial chance chopped its way towards the net but Mark McNeill cleaned up the chance to score his tenth goal of the season and make it 2-1 Admirals.
Before the midway point of the third period the game would get tied back up. Lance Bouma was operating down the left wing and unleashed a slap shot that blazed past Lindbäck for his second goal of the season.
And it took the Admirals forty-eight seconds to respond and reclaim the lead. Alex Carrier glided clean down the right wing and flipped a pass across the net and to the back door where Bobby Butler swatted a one-timer home for his first goal since returning from the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. The goal ended a ten-game goalless drought for Butler and was his twenty-second of the season.
“Bobby cares so much,” said Evason. “He has lead our team offensively all year. He has done so many good things for us. He has had an emotional roller coaster, I’m sure. He is going to put it out there every night. There is never lack of try in Bobby Butler but it is really nice to see him get rewarded and the team as well.”
With under three-minutes remaining in regulation Samuelsson took a high sticking minor. Just when Glass thought it would be safe to make a break to the bench to get an extra attacker on the Admirals got a turnover and an empty netter from McNeill that was credited as a power-play goal. McNeill’s second of the night made it a 4-2 Admirals lead. That would get followed by yet another empty netter and another goal for Richard that closed this game out on a 5-2 scoreline.
McNeill now has eleven goals, Richard now has sixteen goals, but -most importantly- the Admirals got back on track. The surge in attack from the late second period goal to the finish is how the Admirals need to play to close out this season if they are to keep in the hunt for the playoffs. In successive games this month the IceHogs held the Admirals to twelve shots on goal through regulation. In tonight’s third period the Admirals outshot the IceHogs 18-8.
“We came in the third ready to go,” said Bobby Butler of the third period desperation. “We just stuck to it. Our gameplan. Focus on what we had to do and guys were buzzing. It’s a big win – big two points.”
It also can’t be overstated. Lindbäck is this team’s best player and he showed it once again tonight. He perhaps could have wanted that goal from Bouma back but he still made thirty-six saves en route to his twenty-eighth win of this season. He has been a difference in the Admirals staying alive in games. He did it again tonight.
The Admirals focus now shifts back home. They will host the Iowa Wild at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena at 5:00 PM CST on Sunday. The Admirals then do not play until next weekend when they host the Texas Stars and Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday and Saturday.
“Every “next one” is the biggest game of our year,” stated Evason. “We’ve got to play like that and gotta play with that desperation. If we do, anything near how we prepared here as a group and then put it out on the ice, we’ll be fine.”
Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played there have been no roster moves made in the organization. Tonight’s line combinations and defensive pairings were: Richard-Smith-Butler, Zolnierczyk-Pettersson-Gaudreau, Trenin-Gaudet-McNeill, Bollig-Zengerle-Moy, Oligny-Dougherty, Lyytinen-Granberg, Carrier-Ramage. Tonight’s scratches included: Fred Allard (lower-body), Cody Bass (upper-body), Justin Kirkland (upper-body), and Trevor Mingoia (healthy).
What is your reaction to tonight’s game? Was this the response that the Milwaukee Admirals needed? How huge was it for Bobby Butler to finally get that first goal since leaving for the Winter Olympics?
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