Over the weekend the Milwaukee Admirals were winners of two overtime games to improve to a franchise best start to the 2014-15 season at 6-0.
On Saturday, the Admirals were in Chicago taking on the Wolves in a game that would be the first taste of the new AHL overtime rules for the Ads. Pontus Aberg and Austin Watson provided the regulation goals for the Admirals, Miikka Salomaki assisted on the Abreg tally. Joe Piskula and Brendan Leipsic credited with the assists on the Watson goal, which made Watson just the third player in Admirals AHL history to score a goal in each of the team’s first three games. All five players continuing their respective hot starts to the season. The Wolves would answer back on both goals to send the game to overtime.
The new overtime rules create a much more chaotic pace of play with so much open ice in the 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 segments of the extended 7 minute overtime period.
The Admirals would use that space to their advantage and with only 30 seconds to spare, defenseman Anthony Bitetto netted his first goal of the season to give Milwaukee the win and a 5-0 start.
Heading into Sunday’s home game against the Lake Erie Monsters, the Admirals had only trailed their collective opponents for 108 seconds. It would also be only the second home game for the Ads in their first six games.
Marek Mazanec had been in net for all five of the Admirals wins to begin the season and Sunday would be his first night off, setting up Magnus Hellberg’s 2014-15 season debut. Hellberg would make the most of his first start saving 25 of 26 Lake Erie shots, including a second period penalty shot by Andrew Agozzino. “It was a lot of fun. Obviously the boys have been playing great hockey these last five starts and you always want to win when you get in.” Hellberg stated of getting his first start on Sunday.
The Admirals were putting lots of pucks on net, out-shooting an opponent for the first time this season, but Monsters starting goalie Calvin Pickard had a stellar game in net stopping 33 of 34 Admirals shots. It took 52 minutes for Milwaukee to break through when Garrett Noonan scored his first goal of the season to tie the game and eventually send it to overtime.
The second overtime in as many games for the Admirals have given them a good taste for the new system in overtime. Head Coach Dean Evason said after the game on the new rules, “I know it’s probably exciting to watch it, but there’s so much ice that it doesn’t look right. But I’m sure with the 4-on-4 or 3-on-3 periods, it can at least be decided on a pass or a good offensive play or defensive play, so you still have the team aspect to it, but I’m sure coaches aren’t as excited about it.”
Both teams had their chances, including a Viktor Arvidsson penalty shot for Milwaukee, in the overtime but it would have to be settled in the shootout. Brendan Leipsic scored first for the Admirals, followed by Lake Erie’s Mike Sgarbossa ringing one off the post to give the Ads the advantage into the second round. There it would be Arvidsson getting another 1-on-1 crack at Pickard, but would be stopped again. Lake Erie’s Colin Smith, who scored in regulation for the Monsters, would be up next and Hellberg would make a great pad save to keep the advantage for Milwaukee. With the game on his stick, Pontus Abreg would make no mistakes and slip the winner past Pickard giving the Admirals the 2-1 win, a 6-0 start to the season, and their first 6-game winning streak since December 2008.
Next up for the Admirals will be the Iowa Wild coming to Milwaukee on Wednesday night. Puck drops at 7pm for the third matchup between Iowa and Milwaukee in just seven games for the Ads.
Head Coach Dean Evason stated after Sunday’s win that forward Michael Liambas is ready to return from injury, but Patrick Cehlin is still a ways away from being healthy.