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2022 Calder Cup Playoffs

Frantic Final Minutes Lift Admirals Over Moose

Frantic Final Minutes Lift Admirals Over Moose

MILWAUKEE — Less than 24 hours after a 3-2 victory over the visiting Manitoba Moose, the Milwaukee Admirals hit the ice for game two of the 2022 Calder Cup Central Division Semifinals. Despite giving up shots on an almost 3-to-1 rate, the Admirals again rose to victory. The difference-maker on Saturday night was goaltender Devin Cooley, who stole the game on the way to a 2-1 win.

Slow Start

The start of a game can set the pace for the rest of the evening. With that in mind, Saturday night’s start was less than ideal. With multiple icings and other stoppages in the first few minutes, neither team could establish momentum or get any feel of the game. Then, Egor Afanasyev went down early in the Manitoba zone after being struck up high. While the game continued, he lay on the ice, taking his time to get up. After skating off under his own power, he jumped back into the action shortly after.

In fact, he was one of the skaters that helped turn the tides for Milwaukee and started to pressure the Moose, keeping goaltender Mikhail Berdin busy. For the first 10 minutes, the Moose defense ran through their paces while the Admirals racked up possession minutes. Milwaukee jumped out to a 5-0 shot advantage, frustrating Manitoba.

Then, Milwaukee gave up two quick shots. First, one by Cole Maier resulted in a scrum around Cooley. That meant a puck drop in Milwaukee’s zone, in which Declan Chisholm wrangled the puck off a Manitoba faceoff win, almost sneaking it past the goalie. Momentum would then firmly shift in the Moose’s favor, as they took seven unanswered shots.

Johnathan Kovacevic handled most of the puck movement while he was on the ice with responsible play, which gave his teammates time to make plays. One of those plays set up Mikey Eyssimont for multiple one-timer blasts that either ended up on the netting outside of the goal or sailed wide of the net.

Cole Schneider closed out the stanza for the Admirals with a shot sneaking wide of Berdin. A loud groan from the crowd would usher the teams back to their dressing rooms.

Moose Mayhem

While the teams traded spans of possession in the first, Manitoba would remain firmly in control for almost the entire second period. Cooley was the star, making incredible saves on bursts of shots.

Manitoba sprinted out to a 5-1 shot advantage in the first six minutes, with many more going wide or being blocked from ever reaching their netminder. However, the Moose’s most dangerous shot attempts came from individual efforts or plays, not whole-line attempts. Cooley stopped them all, whether it was Evan Polei working the boards or Kovacevic swatting bouncing pucks towards the crease.

Milwaukee would find some possession sequences, but those were short-lived, thanks to stifling defense by Manitoba’s skaters.

Shortly after that sequence, Moose captain Jimmy Oligny let loose a rocket, which was absorbed by Cooley’s shoulder. That was just one of 22 shots he faced and stopped in the middle period alone.

Frantic Finish

Milwaukee came out of the tunnel looking much more settled and confident for the third period. They pushed back early, forcing Manitoba to take shots from much further out, giving their goalie time to track the puck and set to make the save.

Then, they found themselves on top 2:10 into the third period.

Completely uncontested, Brayden Burke skated up the half-wall to the right faceoff dot. He then easily slipped the puck behind Berdin. Initially, it appeared that Jimmy Huntington had gotten his blade on the puck, but it ended up being Burke’s goal.

Jeff Malott had his best opportunity less than three minutes later, though the puck rang off the post behind Cooley. That was his second post in as many games. Imagine what would’ve happened if at least one of those had hit twine instead of metal.

Overall, the third was the most frantic and fast-moving of all the periods this evening. Aside from the Milwaukee goal, there weren’t many stoppages. Milwaukee’s defense found themselves in the middle of a shooting gallery, but they and the scoreboard would remain unscathed. Manitoba’s frustration built with every second, resulting in skaters bombing shots wide with decreasing accuracy.

Manitoba head coach Mark Morrison pulled Berdin with 1:57 remaining. Polei had two quick looks on net, but Morgan Barron was the one who injected life back into the Moose roster.

Leon Gawanke coasted up the near corner connecting with Chisholm on a saucer pass. He took a few paces with the puck before spotting Barron, who was set up for a one-timer near the left faceoff dot. Seeing the increasing traffic, Barron accepted the pass instead, maneuvered to a better position, and slid the puck past Cooley with 1:29 left in regulation. That goal came on their 43rd shot of the night.

Just as the game looked to be headed to extra time, the Moose gave up a juicy turnover in their defensive zone. Afanasyev got a stick on the puck, with Huntington sailing it past Berdin, who could not make the save. With 46 seconds remaining, the Admirals took the lead for the second and last time, sending their home crowd home happy with a 2-1 regulation victory.

Thoughts

Cooley is looking every bit the part of a starter for Milwaukee. After Connor Ingram’s call up to the NHL’s Nashville Predators, there were some questions in goal. Rising to the occasion, Cooley has stopped 83 of 86 shots so far in the Central Division Semifinals.

Just 1:29 and Barron’s goal stood between Cooley and his first AHL shutout. He has one professional shutout, which came with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades in the 2020-21 season.

What was the key to a large number of shots for Manitoba? They excelled in hemming the Admirals away from their bench, wearing them down while the Moose made changes for fresh legs.

Milwaukee is playing with fire this series, relying on their goaltender to get them through games. Eventually, there’s a chance that Manitoba will be able to crack Cooley and start scoring in greater numbers. However, in this best of five series, the Moose only have one more game to be able to put it together and get pucks in the net.

Coming Up

The teams will enjoy a few days off as the series shifts to Manitoba and the Canada Life Centre. Game three will take place on Wednesday, May 11, at 7:00 p.m. Central. If needed, game four will be on Friday, May 13 at 7:00 p.m., and game five will be on Sunday, May 15 at 2:00 p.m. The remainder of the series will be held on Manitoba’s home ice.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2021 season!

    Deana Weinheimer is a Managing Editor, podcast host, and covers the American Hockey League for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with her on Twitter @FPHAHL.

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