The Milwaukee Admirals are on a three game winning streak after three straight wins over Central Division rival, the Rockford IceHogs. Austin Watson and Miikka Salomaki both had points in the Wednesday night matchup which was their first game with Milwaukee after being assigned earlier this week as part of a long term injury loan.
The IceHogs came out looking to make up for their 4-2 loss this past Friday and an 8-2 blowout on Saturday. They had all the pieces in place to do that. They deferred to Anton Forsberg instead of Collin Delia in goal and even scored the first goal of the game. Delia had given up 10 goals to Milwaukee in the past week. Rockford’s Jordan Schroeder (19) scored the first goal of the game at 12:16 in the first period.
Milwaukee, who is in the middle of an intense playoff hunt, did not let Rockford carry the lead for long. At 14:58 Anthony Richard scored his 22nd goal of his career high season after pushing the puck off a goal post to beat Forsberg. Miikka Salomaki was eventually awarded the primary assist on the goal. This was the end of Rockford having a lead for the rest of the night.
Justin Kirkland scored the lone goal of the second period at 7:15 as he attempted a wraparound on Forsberg, who blocked the shot. Kirkland was able to retrieve his own rebound and shot the puck right between Forsberg’s left arm and leg. This was Kirkland’s eighth of the season with assists from Adam Helewka (25) and Eeli Tolvanen (14).
Rockford managed to tie the game at 5:50 in the third period when Anthony Louis scored his 12th of the season. At 8:58, the Admirals had just come off of a 5-on-3 advantage that lasted for 1:58. They weren’t able to score with the advantage but Austin Watson fired a shot that bounced off and then over Forsberg to eventually trickle across the goal line. Watson led the AHL in game winning goals during two of his AHL seasons.
With 2:01 remaining in the third period the IceHogs pulled Anton Forsberg in favor of the extra attacker. After several icing calls, Austin Watson muscled his way into the offensive zone and fired a shot into the net for his second of the night which secured a 4-2 victory for Milwaukee.
The Admirals could not be getting hotter at a better time. They have sat right outside of playoff contention for the last several weeks. The fourth place spot in the Central division has been held by Texas, Rockford, and Manitoba over that time. At the time of writing this article, Milwaukee sits in fourth with 73-points. Texas also has 73-points, but has played one more game that Milwaukee. Manitoba sits in sixth with 72-points but has played one less game than Milwaukee. Manitoba and Texas played each other on Wednesday as well, Texas won. Texas will play Iowa and Manitoba will play last place San Antonio on Friday. The Admirals won’t play again until Saturday.
It was great having Austin Watson and Miikka Salomaki in the lineup again. Their presence definitely encouraged the team to battle back from an early deficit to take home the win.
This team has been playing exponentially better ever since the trade deadline. If there were any issues in the locker room, those issues seem to have been resolved.
The next few games will be a true test for the Admirals’ resolve. On Saturday they will face first place Chicago and then Sunday they will play second place Grand Rapids. Presuming that Watson and Salomaki stay in the lineup for the maximum games allowed, they should prove to be very helpful against two teams the Admirals have struggled with all season.