“We took too many penalty minutes in the second period; it took away from the flow and momentum of the game.”
MILWAUKEE – Admirals head coach Ian Herbers summed up the Admirals 6-2 loss to the Heat perfectly in a sentence. Milwaukee was called for five infractions in the second period alone, resulting in two Abbotsford goals. The Admirals took a 2-1 lead into the locker room after the first period, but five unanswered Heat goals gave Abbotsford game one of the Calder Cup playoffs in commanding fashion.
This season marks the 10th consecutive time the Admirals qualified for the Calder Cup playoffs, which ties them with the Eastern Conference Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins for the longest active streak in the AHL. The organization has gone 54-43 during the playoffs since joining the American Hockey League in 2001, including their 16-6 season when they won the Calder Cup in 2004. Since joining the IHL in 1977 (which ceased operations in 2001 at which time the Admirals joined the AHL), there has only been three seasons that the Admirals haven’t qualified for the postseason (1985, 1988, 2002).
This is Abbotsford’s second appearance in the postseason, as the team only joined the league at the start of the 2009-2010 season. In their first postseason, they were ousted by the Hamilton Bulldogs in the second round in six games.
The two squads traded early goals to make it a 1-1 game just five minutes into the first period. Heat forward Dustin Sylvester beat Smith with a wrister just off his left skate, with helpers going to Paul Byron and team points leader Krys Kolanos. Just a minute and a half later, Milwaukee answered with a goal from forward Mark Van Guilder. Van Guilder traded a quick pass with Zack Stortini and lit the lamp from the slot on Milwaukee’s first shot on goal of the game.
Forward Jani Lajunen gave Milwaukee their first lead of the game with an unassisted goal at the end of the first. Lajunen brought the puck through center ice and sent a wrister through traffic for his first North American playoff tally.
A holding penalty on defenseman Scott Ford resulted in Abbotsfords first power-play, and power-play goal, of the night. Forward Greg Nemisz scored from the top of the far circle to tie things up at two during the man advantage. It was the first of four calls against the captain in the second, who didn’t sit see any penalty minutes against the Heat during the regular season. Nemisz struck again later in the period for his second of the game. With Smith down from an intial save, Nemisz batted the puck in on an open net to make it 3-2 Abbotsford.
Team points-leader Krys Kolanos scored the Heats’ fourth goal (second on power-play) of the night after Admirals defenseman Teemu Laakso was called for the teams fifth infraction of the period. Kolanos lead Abbotsford with an impressive 61 points (30 goals – 31 assists) during the regular season, good for 14th among AHL scorers.
Milwaukee’s defensive woes continued into the third period, as Abbotsford added two more goals to hand the Admirals a 6-2 loss. Forwards Jon Rheault and Krys Kolanos potted goals for the Heat in the third, with Kolanos’ empty net goal marking his second of the game.
Although a loss is a team effort, captain Scott Ford put a lot of the blame on himself for the games outcome. Ford acrued 20 penalty minutes, two of his penalties of which resulted in power-play goals for the Heat.
“I’ve got to be better on my part. I can’t put my team down like that, I’m pretty disappointed in tonight’s effort on my part. It is what it is, we’ve got a big one on Sunday again, and we have got to be better. Discipline is one of our keys, and it just happened to be one of those nights I guess. It’s definetely frustrating and disappointing.”
The teams head back to the Bradley Center ice Sunday evening at 5:00pm for game two. The series then heads to Abbotsford for games three, four and five next week.