The Milwaukee Admirals weekend got off to a rough start. In fact, if not for the Texas Stars scoring three goals in the third period to beat the Rockford IceHogs 4-3 on Saturday night – the Admirals would have been eliminated from playoff contention then and there. The Chicago Wolves beat the Admirals soundly. And, yesterday, the Admirals played a decent game but weren’t getting rewarded for it only to see the Iowa Wild take a 2-1 lead with 4:36 remaining in regulation.
This is when the Admirals could have caved in, broke mentally, and succumbed to what has been a season defined by ups and downs. What happened instead was Fred Allard scoring 1:23 later to force overtime and then Trevor Smith scoring 1:33 into the overtime period to secure a win and extend the Admirals playoff hopes to Tuesday night.
Yesterday really wasn’t the greatest of efforts from the Admirals. I’m not sure if there was a sense of being deflated from the night before or if the Wild simply had a better start and were finding more quality. It just was a bit of a sloppy game.
This is where I think Troy Grosenick needs to get highlighted. He made -at least- three amazing saves in the first period that could have all easily been goals for the Wild. The Admirals could have been beaten down right out of the gate but Grosenick stayed strong in net, squared up on some high grade chances direct on the doorstep, and stopped all twelve shots he faced.
The first two periods were ironic. The Wild did so well in the first period – but Justin Kirkland scored on a rebound. The Admirals outshot the Wild 16-2 in the second period – but the only goal scored came from a Gerald Mayhew redirect. There were a lot of weird momentum shifts that cropped up and that should have signaled what was to come.
I must admit: when Sam Anas scored with 4:36 remaining in regulation I thought that was a wrap. It felt like such a similar game as to the many we’ve all watched in 2017-18 where the Admirals had a lull period or stretch, found something really good, carried it, but came up short. Given what had already happened on Saturday in Rosemont and the stakes of the situation? That felt crushing.
What happened in the immediate shifts that followed that goal for the Wild was more of the same from the Admirals. They were already playing with a good sense of urgency and had been chipping away on Niklas Svedberg in net for a goal. The Admirals were just struggling to find a breakthrough. They didn’t get caught up in the moment. No one panicked. And Allard, for the third time this month, scored.
Allard has eight goals this season. If you discount his fifth goal of the season, which was a game-winning goal scored back on 3/2/18, he has scored seven goals with an average time to the goal scored before it or to the start of a period prior to it of 1:35.71. He has scored following a goal or the start of a period inside the span of two minutes on six of his last eight goals. He has become Mr. Clutch. And, heck, yesterday’s goal was the second consecutive goal he has scored this month that followed an opposition’s goal at the tune of 1:23 of ice time (4/3/18). That’s crazy.
Speaking of crazy. You know how the Admirals captain and the Wild’s goaltender weren’t the best of friends yesterday? Yeah, that one came out of nowhere. The Admirals were on a five-on-three power-play. They had taken their timeout to rest their top power-play unit who had been out on the ice prior to the second minor penalty being assessed. Smith got dumped into Svedberg’s lap but a Wild defenseman and the two gave each other shots back and forth until Svedberg appeared to completely lose his cool and nearly start a fight with him in the process. It drew out Grosenick from the opposite end of the rink, period of the long change in the second, and he waited at center ice to see what was happening. That was crazy. But just as crazy as the fracas itself was the penalties divvied out after and the handling of the penalties.
Svedberg and Smith were both given minor penalties. Smith was then given an additional cross-checking penalty. That ended the Admirals five-on-three and made it a then four-on-three Admirals power-play. What confuses me to no end still, and I would gladly hope to either be corrected or enlightened on the matter, is why after Svedberg was given a penalty there was no one tasked with serving his penalty in the box. Tyler Moy helped to serve the added minor against the Admirals captain. The Wild had no other representative in the box to serve the duration of Svedberg’s penalty. In other words, when Smith was available to exit the penalty box – he shouldn’t have done so alone.
Thankfully, that ends up being a ramble and a moment that doesn’t matter all too much. Because Smith had the last laugh in the end anyways. Jimmy Oligny shot a puck up the ice for him to get a two-on-one attack, cut towards the center, and finish off his backhanded effort right inside the crease after clearing out Svedberg with the power move on net. And, yeah, why not an extra shove as he skated out of the net? These two are seeing each other again next weekend twice to close out the 2017-18 regular season schedule. The Wild might not be able to make it into the playoffs, or might not even mathematically be able to catch the Admirals for fifth place in the Central Division by the time the games come around, but they will want to beat the Admirals. This had a playoff atmosphere to it by the finish. It was a roller coaster of a game.
What we have to look forward to now is Tuesday. The Admirals host the Wolves. The IceHogs play on the road against the Wild. It’s amusing that the Admirals and IceHogs route to the finish line from here on out now is the same but merely flipped because after Tuesday the two see two-in-two finishes: Admirals with the Wild, IceHogs with the Wolves. The Admirals are alive by the last possible margin. They need to win out. The IceHogs need to lose out. All that the Admirals can do is focus on Tuesday and let what happens for the IceHogs to just happen. The Admirals can’t control that result. But, if the Admirals lit a fire under the Wild yesterday, it might pay off in their favor and see their playoff hopes extend to the final weekend of the season.
After yesterday’s game I had the chance to speak with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I then caught up with Smith, Kirkland, and Allard to hear their reactions following that thrilling overtime win against the Wild. Here were yesterday’s post-game interviews from the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
What did you think of yesterday’s game? Can the Milwaukee Admirals actually pull this off? Do you think the situation between the Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs building this week, which could be a potential opening round series should the IceHogs get in and the Wolves win the Central Division title, might be destructive enough to shake the IceHogs off their game?
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