Sixty-five minutes of regulation and overtime play wasn’t enough to determine a winner between the Milwaukee Admirals and the visiting Chicago Wolves at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Friday.
With 3,474 fans in attendance, this game came down to a shootout between these two AHL rivals, with the Admirals securing a 3-2 win after going 2-1 in the shootout.
It was a chippy matchup between these two teams, with 14 combined penalties.
“It was a funny game,” Admirals coach Dean Evason said. “Clearly we can’t continue to kill (so many) penalties like we are. I’d love to run our guys up on being undisciplined, but we’re not. We’re just taking penalties that, I don’t know, we’re giving the refs opportunities to call them, so it’s on us. But there’s so many penalties in the game. The flow of the hockey game is not fun. But we persevered.”
The Admirals (5-2-0-1) penalty-kill played a significant role in the victory, especially in the third period, when they held the Wolves scoreless, despite giving them four power play chances.
“Our penalty kill was really good,” Evason said. “We did so many good things. We limited their opportunities, they didn’t have great looks, they didn’t enter well, so the only time we gave opportunities is when we were tired and got caught out there a little bit.
“It was a funky, funny game and we’re happy the way the guys hung in there.”
The Wolves took a 2-0 lead nearly seven minutes into the second period, but the Admirals clawed back.
Max Gortz tallied the first Milwaukee goal on a power-play at the 11:19 mark of the second period. The Admirals scored another power-play goal with 3:34 remaining in the second when Pontus Aberg sent a shot from the right circle that bounced off the goalie’s arm and into the back of the net, tying the game at 2-2.
“We feel good,” Aberg said about Milwaukee’s come-from-behind victory. “We had a bad start in the first. We didn’t play as we talked before (the game). It all came down to winning the battles out there. I think we did that in the second and third. We came out strong (in overtime).”
Aberg scored the game-tying goal in the second period and later registered the game-winner in the shootout. Aberg finished with a team-high four shots and was named the third star of the game.
Milwaukee goalie Juuse Saros earned the game’s first star, improving to 5-1 on the season, after tallying 27 saves in 29 attempts. After allowing two goals within the first 27 minutes of play, Saros shut the Wolves down, despite Chicago totaling nine power plays on the night.
“Just tried to keep my head clear,” Saros said after allowing two early goals. “It wasn’t the greatest start. I just had to keep believing and just tried to keep the game in my hands.”
This victory was the Admirals first at the Panther Arena since 1986. The Admirals originally played at the Panther Arena – formally known as the MECCA – from the mid-1970s through the 1986-87 season and moved back to the building prior to this season, after playing across the street at the Bradley Center since 1988.
Even though they split their first two home games this season, the Admirals are excited for the opportunity to play at the Panther Arena. Players and coaches believe the Arena will give them a home ice advantage.
“Absolutely (this building will give us an advantage),” Evason said. “We are just getting our feel here. It’s such a wonderful building. So disappointed we couldn’t get it done in our home opener. The guys are jacked to get it done – 100 percent.
“This is our building. That’s the cool part now. The Bradley Center was wonderful, but that wasn’t our building. This is our building. Teams have to come into our building. We practice here almost every day. This is a home ice advantage for us. The crowd is into it. They are energetic. I don’t care how many people were here, it’s still loud. The guys are excited.”