Coming into tonights match-up at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, the odds were stacked against the Milwaukee Admirals. Tied for the fewest points in the league and facing off against the team with the most points in the league things didn't look ripe for a Milwaukee win...but that's why they don't play games on paper.
Milwaukee got off to a good start, but for the 7th time in 7 games, the opposition scored the first goal of the game. After a turn over at center ice by Admirals captain Mike Moore, Checkers forward Jared Staal skated in and beat goaltender Magnus Hellberg to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. As the night went on, it was obvious that no team would hold a lead for long in this back and forth tilt. The Admirals were able to get on the board on their first power play of the game when Taylor Beck slid a pass across the crease to Chris Mueller who was able to beat reigning AHL Player of the Week Dan Ellis to tie the game at 1. The Admirals were able to give themselves a lead less than 3 minutes later when Chris Mueller put a shot on Ellis who was unable to stay on top of the puck in the crease and Admirals forward Patrick Cehlin was able to pick up the loose puck and bury it to make the score 2-1. The lead was short lived though, as Charlotte tied the score two minutes later on a goal by Zac Dalpe and the score was 2-2 after the first period.
Milwaukee took another lead late in the 2nd period when Michael Latta gave a pass to Kevin Henderson who was able to score from the top of the circle as Mark Van Guilder ran a screen in front of Ellis. This lead, like the previous one, was short lived as Charlotte tied the game less than 2 minutes later. Defenseman Michal Jordan (no, not that one!) fed a pass to Brett Sutter who scored to tie the game at 3 after two periods.
The Admirals took their third lead of the game midway through the 3rd period when Austin Watson was able to deflect a shot by Juuso Puustinen past Dan Ellis for his first career professional goal. Once again, the lead vanquished a couple minutes later when Checkers defenseman Justin Faulk was able to break into the zone and fire a shot past Hellberg to tie the game at 4. This time, it was Milwaukee that answered right back. Breaking up the ice, Puustinen found winger Daniel Bang with a beautiful cross-ice feed, and Bang had a step on the defender and was able to blast a wrister up and over the glove of Ellis for a 5-4 lead. Oddly enough, that was it for the scoring tonight, and the Admirals were able to hold on for a 5-4 victory. The Admirals were forced to kill a late penalty when captain Mike Moore took a penalty with 21 seconds to play (we've seen this out of captains before!) but there was nothing doing for the Checkers, and the Admirals held on for the victory.
A couple things stand out tonight:
Charlotte was coming in on a VERY hot streak. They may have the most points in the AHL so far, but were also finishing off a 9 game road trip to start the season. F
Former Predators goalie Dan Ellis has had a great start to the season...but tonight wasn't his night. He came into the game as the reigning AHL Player of the Week, with a 1.07 goals against average....didn't expect to see him give up 5 tonight. (and didn't expect to see him in an Iowa Stars jersey on the AHL website)
Before the game, I was sitting in the Media Room and said that the Admirals would need to stay out of the box to have any chance tonight. Charlotte came in with a power play that was clicking at over 36%. In fact, coming into tonight, the Checkers had more power play goals than the Admirals had goals altogether! The Admirals only gave up 4 power play chances (including a 21 second power play to end the game) and were able to kill all 4 of them, very impressed with that.
Big night for firsts: First goal for Watson. First point, and then first goal for Bang. All in the 3rd period of a tight game. Good to see.
Joonas Jarvinen was a healthy scratch tonight, in favor of Anthony Bitetto. Jarvinen was a -7 rating in 6 games, and I'm betting the night off was a good chance for him to watch the game from the press box and it probably did him a lot of good.
With the return of Daniel Bang, Josh Shalla was sent down to ECHL Cincinnati after the game.