In a battle of AHL lineups with their NHL affiliates set to meet Thursday in Round 1 of the NHL playoffs, Milwaukee held the upper hand Wednesday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center with a 2-1 victory over Rockford. The season series now stands even at 4-4-2-1 with the deciding game set for Friday night in Milwaukee. The Admirals have already clinched a Calder Cup playoff appearance.
Admiral sniper Vladislav Kamenev opened the scoring with his 21st goal and 50th point this year at 9:47, beating Rockford starter Lars Johansson, who will likely keep that spot for the remainder of the season after Jeff Glass was recalled by the Blackhawks to be their emergency goalie for the playoffs.
Chances were limited in the first, with Tyler Motte falling just short on a great opportunity in close. After a Rockford turnover at the blue line, Yakov Trenin netted his first professional goal on a spinning backhand move to end the first 2-0 Milwaukee.
Rockford came out in the second period and improved its play from the first, tightening up the shot totals and picking up idefensive effort in their own zone. Johansson made a tough stop on a Kamenev rocket in the middle of the period. Admirals starting netminder Marek Mazanec (25-17-3) steered away the extra Rockford shot attack without allowing rebound shots.
Prior to this contest, Swede super sniper Pontus Aberg (31-21-52) was recalled to Nashville while tied for the AHL goal scoring lead at 31 with Chicago’s Wade Megan. There was no scoring in the second as Rockford’s penalty kill continued its solid play to keep the deficit reachable at 2-0. The IceHogs pumped 10 shots at Mazanec while the Admirals only mustered three in the middle frame.
In the final 20 minutes of regulation, Milwaukee began once again with the man-advantage. Another Rockford kill led way to a more physical period as the penalties continued on both sides. As time wore down, the IceHogs defensemen were pressed to take chances in the offensive end. The home team delighted the fans when Motte (10th) cut the lead in half at 11:50, knocking in a rare rebound out front.
The late 2-1 Milwaukee edge prompted the expected pulling of Johansson from the Rockford net for the extra attacker with two minutes left, coupled with an IceHogs timeout. A late Admirals high sticking penalty gave the home team one last power play, skating 6-on-4 in the game’s final seconds. Mazanec kept Motte out of the net on a great save with 19 seconds left and Milwaukee held on for the tight 2-1 win. Shots on goal ended even at 28 each as both teams combined to go 0-of-8 on power plays.
Just pair of games remain on the IceHogs’ regular season schedule, including a rematch with the Admirals on Friday night in Milwaukee. That’ll be followed by the home finale against the Iowa Wild on Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Puck drop for both contests is set for 7 p.m. CT.