Sometimes, the luck just seems to go one team's way. For the Milwaukee Admirals, it was one of those nights where the hockey gods seemed to be willing them to victory. An odd bounce off the boards and an errant last-second shot accounted for two goals in Milwaukee's 4-3 victory over the Lake Erie Monsters.
The Admirals started off on a good foot in the first three minutes, getting good pressure on Lake Erie goalie Sami Aittokallio. However, a defensive lapse left Markus Lauridsen alone in the slot and Marek Mazanec allowed a goal on only his second shot faced.
The Admirals out-shot the Monsters nine to seven in the first, but Lake Erie was blocking the lanes rather successfully. Vinny Saponari eventually broke through to tie things for Milwaukee thanks to pretty tic-tac-toe passes from Mark Van Guilder and Miikka Salomaki.
Mazanec looked rattled in the first period but settled down as time went along. In the last minute of the first he was unaware that a puck was sitting right in front of his pads after he was run into on a scoring chance. He lost his stick in the scrum, and attempted to reposition himself. The puck was swiped away after a few seconds of confusion, leading to Mark Olver scoring the Monsters second goal of the night.
The second period was a much better outing for Milwaukee, highlighted by two incredibly lucky plays for the Admirals. Ten minutes in a Scott Valentine shot bounced off the backboards right to Austin Watson out front, who was able to easily tap it into the net to tie the game at two.
"I guess I was just looking that way," said Watson. "I was actually going to jump around the other side too. At the last second I saw it come out, and if I don't put that one in I'm kicking myself."
Patrick Cehlin also benefited from an unlikely goal in the waning seconds of the second frame. After breaking his stick, he grabbed a new one from the bench and took a shot from the far right point. It navigated its way through a crowd to beat Aittokallio.
"I didn't really know how much time was left so I saw a stick there, I took it, and just took a whack at it," said Cehlin. "I was very shocked it went in."
The lucky breaks are what stands out, but the period as a whole was a good one for Milwaukee. They out-shot Lake Erie 15-7 and finally started to see some flow in their offense.
The good fortunes continued in the third period, as Watson set Taylor Beck up on an odd-man rush to give Milwaukee a 4-2 lead. A bad angle shot managed to squeeze between Mazanec's pad and the post only five minutes later, but the Monsters were unable to complete their comeback.
"We like the way we persevered," said Evason. "We got breaks, we got bounces, and we took advantage."
We're sound," Evason continued. "We're playing the game the right way. Everyone's buying in... They don't care who's out of the lineup, who's up in Nashville. They just play the game."
Beck-Wathier-Watson Line Succeeding
Chemistry between one of the newer Ads, Francis Wathier, and his linemates has developed very quickly. The line of Beck, Wathier, and Watson were clicking from the first puck drop.
"They just did everything," said Evason. "They all played power play, they all killed penalties. Wathier's been real solid for us. He's a pro, he's a man, he goes about his business. He's a quiet leader in our locker room already."
"We've been good the past few games," said Beck in regards to his line. "We're all big bodies, we all play hard, and protect the puck down low... We could easily have a few more goals."
For a majority of the game, things didn't seem to be going Beck's way. He was getting great opportunities, including one incredible deke to get past a defender, but kept hitting post after post. However, his game winner in the third makes up for all the other unfinished opportunities.
"I've been creating a lot of chances, chances for myself too, but not putting them in," said Beck. "As long as I'm getting the chances, I can't be disappointed with that."
"I'm glad [Beck] was able to get one," said Watson. "We'd been working really hard and getting a lot of chances. Sometimes that can creep in and make you a little frustrated but we talk as a line about staying the course."
Evason has been particularly happy with Beck as of late.
"Beck has played about as good as I've seen [him] play," said Evason. "Beck got called up and we said that we didn't believe that we'd see him back, that he really warranted his call-up."
Watson, who has traditionally played center in Milwaukee, has been moved to the wing. So far, the move is paying off.
"I don't think it's anything really different," said Watson. "I think the move to the wing happened to get my feet moving and just get a little better pace. When I moved to the wing I was able to transfer that to my game, and it's been working out."
Evason said in his post-game comments that the coaching staff decided to sit Saponari after the first period due to an upper-body injury. They hope that since he was taken out early that he'll be able to play against Grand Rapids on Sunday.
Evason also shared that the team is hoping that injured defenseman Joonas Jarvinen can get back on the ice soon, although his return won't be in the immediate future. Simon Moser is already back skating with the team.
The Admirals are in pretty good position in the standings, six points ahead of the eighth place team. Rochester, who is currently in ninth, has lost nine games in a row. They are without both their goaltenders, who are up in Buffalo on an emergency recall basis.
|Texas Stars (1)||68||42||17||3||6||93|
|Grand Rapids Griffins (2)||67||41||20||2||4||88|
|Toronto Marlies (3)||65||40||20||2||3||85|
|Chicago Wolves (4)||65||38||19||5||3||84|
|Abbotsford Heat (5)||67||36||24||5||2||79|
|Milwaukee Admirals (6)||66||32||21||6||7||77|
|Rockford IceHogs (7)||66||32||25||5||4||73|
|Charlotte Checkers (8)||67||34||30||1||2||71|
|Rochester Americans (9)||67||30||27||6||4||70|
|Oklahoma City Barons (10)||66||30||27||2||7||69|
Other Items of Note
- The Admirals wore their throwback uniforms last night, in part to honor the Admirals 2004 Calder Cup champion team. Milwaukee changed to their current branding in 2006.
- The Admirals honored Doug Agnew, who was serving his 2,000th game as team trainer. Many Admirals alums such as Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, Roman Josi, and Jordin Tootoo thanked him for his work over the years on the video board.
The Admirals now have ten games left in their run to the Calder Cup playoffs. Up next is the Grand Rapids Griffins, who the Admirals will host for a 5:00 matinee on Sunday. The Griffins are second in the Western Conference with a 41-20-6 record. The last time the two teams matched up was February 26th, when the Griffins won 5-1.