Admirals Get Much Needed Win Against Oklahoma City
The Milwaukee Admirals haven't been playing at their best lately. In the last two weeks they've only won one of their five games, none of which were in regulation. These games included being blown out 5-0 in Grand Rapids and a 4-1 loss to Charlotte, so if the team ever really needed a confidence booster, this would be it. After four days off, the team finally responded on Friday against a struggling Oklahoma City Barons team with a big 5-2 victory.
It still is early in the season, but Friday's game was the most dominant the Admirals have so far. It started right from the first puck drop, as the Admirals looked as crisp and rested as they should. Their play was rewarded early on, as Colton Sissons scored his eighth goal of the year on a odd-man break only four minutes in. His goal was a good sign for Milwaukee because although Sissons leads the team in goals, he's been on a cold streak and hadn't scored since November 16th. Mark Van Guilder also made it 2-0 on a pretty play by the Admirals created by some stellar passing from Taylor Beck and Simon Moser to close out the first period scoring.
The first also saw the beginning of what would be a major story-line, Barons tough-guy Steve MacIntyre trying to get under the Admirals skin. He had three penalties on the night, but was constantly trying to lure the Ads into penalties. Michael Liambas was the Milwaukee player that got the most attention from MacIntyre, but he wouldn't bite. In fact, the entire team's discipline was superb. They did not give up a single power play until the third period. The game was a spirited affair that entertained the fans in attendance. The Admirals tend to be a team that plays physical, but it was still unusual that Joonas Jarvinen and Mathieu Tousignant both dropped the gloves with different Barons.
"I'm not taking myself off the ice for five minutes for that guy," said Liambas in regards to MacIntyre. "We want guys like him on the ice."
The second period was when the Admirals really took over, out-shooting the Barons by a total of 21-4. Austin Watson scored two minutes into the period off a Beck pass from behind the net, while Zach Budish almost put a slapshot past Laurent Brossoit. A few minutes later they did beat Brossoit a fourth time as a Colton Sissons cross ice pass set up Anthony Bitetto with a wide-open net. That marked the end of Brossoit's night, as he was pulled in favor of Ty Rimmer.
The Barons came out with more of a jump in their step, but with the score already 4-0 it was basically in garbage time. Linus Omark stayed hot for Oklahoma City to get the Barons on the board and Brad Hunt made things a little bit interesting with his slap shot goal, but Kevin Henderson put the last nail in the coffin to make the score 5-2. With the win the Admirals still have an impressive 11-5-5 record which has them seeded sixth in the conference, while the loss puts the Barons at 10-12-4.
Beck Looks At His Best In Win
Not only was this this likely the best the Admirals have played all year, it was also likely the best game of Taylor Beck's season. Despite not scoring a goal in the game he was all over the place, with two very impressive assists on the second and third goals.The first came in the first period when Beck finished off a great tic-tac-toe play to get it to Van Guilder for the tap in. He helped make it 2-0 early in the second period when he fed the puck to Watson from behind the net. His efforts earned him the first star of the game.
"I felt really good out there," said Beck. "Playing with Van Guilder makes it very easy. It was a great game for our team. I think our second period really set us up with 21 shots. Easily our best period of the year."
"He's played hard," said Evason after agreeing that the game was one of Beck's best. "He's led, he's made plays, he's arguably... our best skill player. He's combining that skill level with a power forward mentality and attitude. [He's] taking pucks to the net and using his skill to create plays. He's probably disappointed in himself for not scoring enough goals, but he's doing the right things to score not only at this level but when he does get back to Nashville.
Beck's night is more noteworthy due to the fact that he's disappeared a bit at points this season. Through the first seventeen games he only has ten points, far off the 40 points he's gotten the past two seasons in the AHL. As Evason said, it isn't really that he's played poorly. Every once and a while he'll have a defensive lapse that you'll worry about, but the chances are there. It could just be the case of being stuck in a funk.
No Power In This Power Play
The Admirals finally scored a powerplay goal Friday thanks to a very pretty pass from Sissons to Bitetto, snapping an 0-for-25 streak on the powerplay. The PP goal was their only on the night, despite getting seven different man up opportunities. Despite the percentage looking quite poor, the actual on ice play wasn't nearly as bad. Milwaukee was getting plenty of chances and moving the puck around quite well. The bounces simply weren't going their way.
"We had good looks tonight," said Evason. "We talked after the second period that all the chances we were getting, we hope it translates into one night getting three or four [goals]... We like the looks we are getting. It certainly was a relief for the guys to score at least one tonight."
A Darling Between the Pipes
Despite losing one of their regular two goalies, Marek Mazanec, to Nashville new backup Scott Darling has fit in quite nicely. The game against Oklahoma City was his third start this year, and he's won them all. He currently has a 2.04 goals against average and .930 save percentage with appearances in six contests.
"He's played very well," said Evason. "[He] was very calm back there, just smothered pucks, caught pucks. When we were under siege he was able to stop the play so that we can regroup."
If Friday was the first time you ever saw Scott Darling you would not know he was a player who has spent a majority of his professional career in the ECHL. He may not have had to make a ton of saves, but when he was called upon he made them. One stood out in particular, a sprawling save early in the first period to rob a Barons player standing only feet in front of the net.
The Ads host Oklahoma City for a second game in a row this Thursday in the first game of another brutal three-in-three. After the Barons they get the pleasure of games on Friday and Saturday against the Grand Rapids Griffins, who are currently second in the conference. The last time Milwaukee and Grand Rapids played things didn't turn out so well for the Admirals, as they lost 5-0.
Any questions about how the Admirals look, or any players specifically? Ask away in the comment section below!
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