The Milwaukee Admirals kicked off their 2012-2013 season on the road tonight in Grand Rapids, facing the Griffins on opening night of the American Hockey League season. While most in Nashville were hoping to see the Predators versus Red Wings tonight, they’d have to settle for the minor league affiliates instead. Both teams came into the game with new head coaches, as the Admirals are led by NHL veteran Dean Evason.
In his pre-game interview, Evason said he was excited to see how his young team handled adversity. Of the 24 players on the roster, 17 of them are in either their first or second year playing professional hockey in North America. He got exactly what he hoped for, it wasn’t a good start.
Jeremy Smith got the start in goal, with Mike Moore and Victor Bartley on defense, and Gabriel Bourque, Chris Mueller and Juuso Puustinen up front. The teams took the first 7-8 minutes to feel each other out, but after Michael Latta took a penalty for interference, the Griffins were able to get on the board at the 9:49 mark of the first period. The Griffins held the point, and when a pass by Gustav Nyquist deflected off a skate, the puck was left alone in front of the net. Smith was able to stop the first shot by Tomas Tatar, but Joakim Anderrson was able to put home the rebound to give Grand Rapids a 1-0 lead.
The Griffins extended their lead to 2-0 in the 2nd period on an Admirals powerplay. Milwaukee couldn’t really get much going on the powerplay, and Jon Blum fumbled the puck at the blueline, which allowed Landon Ferraro to tip it past him and beat him down the ice on a breakaway and chipped it up over the shoulder of Smith for a shorthanded goal to push their lead to 2-0.
Late in the 2nd period, the Admirals caught a bit of luck. Goaltender Smith came out to play a puck up to Mattias Ekholm, who found a streaking Chris Mueller down the ice during a Griffins line change who buried it beyond the pads of Jordan Pearce to cut the lead in half with under a minute to go in the 2nd.
On the Fang Faction show a few nights ago, Admirals play by play guy Aaron Sims told us that Patrick Cehlin is one of those guys that is a pest to play against (which really reminded me of Patric Hornqvist!) and he proved it tonight. After a shot by Jon Blum was saved, Cehlin wasn’t afraid to work in the dirty areas, and picked up a rebound goal to tie the game at 2 just a few minutes into the 3rd period. Michael Latta picked up the 2nd assist. Just over 4 minutes later, with the Admirals on a power play, Taylor Beck found Cehlin with a beautiful cross ice pass, and the Swede buried his 2nd goal of the game to give the road team a 3-2 lead. Bartley was credited with the 2nd assist.
The #peskyads had a chance to put the game away with a few powerplays in the middle of the 3rd period, including a lot of 5 on 3 time after a 4 minute high sticking call, but couldn’t add to the lead, but in the end, they didn’t need to, as they held on to pick up the win 3-2. Jeremy Smith finished with 19 saves on 21 shots for the win. The Admirals are now off until next Friday when they open up their home schedule with a game against the Charlotte Checkers.