Following Milwaukee's 2-1 overtime victory over the Salt Lake Golden Eagles on Saturday, the Admiral's second straight Salt Palace triumph in two nights, one might have thought Eagle coach Bobby Francis would feel a bit panicky.
Such was not the case Saturday night. Despite the loss, Francis was rightfully pleased with the Eagles' play on defense. Following a 5-3 setback to Milwaukee Friday night, the Eagles' mentor asked for, and received, a much stronger defensive effort against the Admirals. If not for what Francis called "a quality goal" by Milwaukee's Patrice Lefebvre in the second minute of overtime, the Eagles may well have earned a split in this series and given goalie Steve Guenette a much-deserved win."I thought tonight's game was well played on both sides," Francis said afterwards. "Our work ethic in both games was superb. You've got to give them (Milwaukee) credit for the way they played this weekend. We ran into a couple of hot goalie, but we got a point out of it (for the overtime loss), and you've got to be encouraged by the workout we received."
The power play, or lack thereof, proved a nemesis for the Eagles again Saturday night. Salt Lake missed on all four of its chances, and the Admirals got their only goal in regulation on a shorthanded score by Dave Mackey at 8:19 of the first period. Those four missed opportunities extended the Admirals' season string to 23 straight tries by opponents on the power play without success. By the same token, Milwaukee failed on three man-advantage tries and is now, itself, 0-for-11 on the young season.
The Eagles quickly tied the score at 1-all when rookie Andrew McKim scored his first goal from just outside the crease after a great centering pass from Rich Chernomaz at 12:43 of the first. From that point on, both teams settled into a defensive struggle that extended into overtime.
Guenette and Admiral goalie Steve McKichan were magnificent in goal, McKichan surviving perhaps the key power play of the game midway through the second period. Salt Lake peppered the Admirals with at least six decent scoring opportunities, but McKichan was up to the challenge each time.
"Stopping their power play at that point was perhaps the pivotal moment in the game," an elated Admiral coach Mike Murphy stated. "I have to attribute our success on that series to everyone. We played extremely well defensively."
McKichan suffered a knee injury in the third period when a teammate slid into him after checking Salt Lake's Marc Bureau on a play that looked like could have been a holding call on the Admirals. Milwaukee brought in Friday night's hero, Steve Weeks, and he stopped eight Eagle shots in a little over 15 minutes of play.
Milwaukee won it after Shaun Clouston flipped a pass to Lefebvre, who then drilled a 12 foot shot that beat Guenette on the stick side at 1:39 of overtime. The Eagles, now 2-3 on the year, will now be off until Friday when they travel to Muskegon.