AHL Central News: Down to the Wire

The American Hockey League is entering the final month of the regular season. While the top two teams in the Central Division have all but locked up their postseason spots, the final two spots are still very much up in the air. Last week showed how quickly a team can rise and drop in the standings thanks to a few bounces along the way.

Admirals Still Riding High

The Central Division-leading Milwaukee Admirals (40-14-5-3) won two out of their three games in Texas last week. They added one point to their now six-point lead in the standings in both the division and in the AHL.

The Admirals got their week started with a big 3-2 overtime win at the Texas Stars on Wednesday night.

The home team jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a goal nine minutes into the game and a second one early in the middle frame. It was all Admirals after the Stars doubled their advantage.

Just seconds past the halfway point of the game, Rem Pitlick hammered home his 20th goal of the season with a blast from the left circle. He became the first Admirals rookie to have a 20-goal season since Viktor Arvidsson had 22 during the 2014-15 season.

Rem Pitlick Milwaukee Admirals
Pitlick is one of four Admirals with 20 goals. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Michael McCarron drew the Admirals even, 7:30 into the third period, with a power-play strike. The big power forward struck again, two minutes into overtime, to complete the comeback. McCarron camped out in front of the Texas net and pounced on the rebound off a Matt Donovan shot for this 14th goal of the season. Donovan had an assist on all three Milwaukee goals.

Goaltender Connor Ingram made 28 saves to earn his 20th win of the season.

Related – The Top Ten NHL Goalie Prospects

Saturday’s rematch with the Stars did not go so well. Despite getting 46 shots on goal, the Admirals lost 4-1.

Texas opened the scoring by converting on a power play midway through the first period. The Admirals evened things up less than six minutes later with Cole Schneider’s 17th goal of the season. Reigning league MVP Daniel Carr picked up the secondary assist on the play after missing the previous four games with an injury.

The Stars scored a pair of goals in the second period to open up a 3-1 lead with the second goal coming with just 7.8 seconds left in the frame.

The Admirals gave it all they had in the third period by outshooting the Stars 17-3, but they could not get any closer. The only goal of the final period was an empty-netter with just over a minute play by the Stars.

They bounced back on Sunday by beating the San Antonio Rampage, 3-0, in a game that featured a combined 58 penalty minutes between the two teams.

Ingram was on his game early as he had to make 11 of his 25 total saves in the first period to keep the Rampage off the board. After the scoreless opening period, Carr ripped home a wrist shot from the slot to give the Admirals a 1-0 lead, midway through the second period.

Daniel Carr Milwaukee Admirals
Carr is back and producing. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Eeli Tolvanen scored a pair of late third-period goals to give Ingram and the Admirals some insurance. The first one came off a rebound with six minutes to play and the second was an empty-netter with 31 seconds remaining.

Player of the Week

Donovan picked up assists on four of the Admirals seven goals last week, but the nod goes to Tolvanen who had two goals and two assists. He has scored 20 goals for the first time in his professional career and his 35 points match his career-high set last season. The Admirals now have four 20-goal scorers for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, March 11 vs Rampage; Friday, March 13 vs Manitoba Moose; Saturday, March 14 vs Moose

Wild Earn Three Points in Canada

The second-place Iowa Wild (37-17-4-4) picked up three points in three games without the services of both forward Gerry Mayhew and goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen. Mayhew is up in the NHL with the Minnesota Wild, but the news is much worse for their star netminder.

Per play-by-play broadcaster Joe O’Donnell, Kahkonen suffered an upper-body injury on the overtime goal against versus the San Jose Barracuda last Monday afternoon. No surgery is needed, but he is officially listed as week-to-week.  The Wild recalled Dereck Baribeau from the Allen Americans of the ECHL on Tuesday morning.

Kaapo Kahkonen Iowa Wild
Kahkonen is week-to-week with an injury. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Wild concluded their three-game trek through California with 5-1 loss at the Barracuda on Wednesday night.

Joachim Blichfeld’s power-play goal was the lone tally of the first period and gave the Barracuda a 1-0 lead. Evan Weinger doubled the lead early in the second period with a one-timer past the glove hand of Mat Robson. Jonny Brodzinski, who had a pair of goals in the last Monday’s game against the Wild, made it 3-0 in the opening moments of the third period.

J.T. Brown scored Iowa’s only goal of the night while on the power play by scoring off a one-timer from the top of the right circle. The Wild’s top two assists leaders, Sam Anas and Brennan Menell, had the helpers on Brown’s ninth goal of the season.

Nick Simone and Brodzinski scored a pair of goals 25 seconds apart to finish off the scoring and squash any idea of a late Wild comeback. The Wild had a 34-31 shot advantage in the game, but going just 1-for-6 on the power play hurt them in the end.

Iowa left northern California and headed north of the border to spend the weekend at the Manitoba Moose. The Wild dropped the first of the two-game series but earned a point in a 4-3 shootout loss.

The Wild gave up the first goal of the game, for the fourth straight contest, midway through the first period. Luke Johnson answered to tie the game just 1:20 later with a power-play goal from the top of the left circle.

Luke Johnson Iowa Wild
Johnson has been deadly from the left circle. (Courtesy Chicago Wolves)

The Moose scored off a deflection late in the second period and the Wild had another quick response. Less than two minutes later, Connor Dewar knocked the puck away from goaltender behind the net and got it out front where Cody McLeod slammed it home.

Manitoba grabbed another one-goal lead of the night with just over seven minutes to play in the third period. Kyle Rau scored on a power play, less than four minutes later, to draw the Wild even for the third and final time.

After a scoreless overtime, Robson allowed one goal in the shootout while Anas, Johnson and Rau were all stopped.

The Wild got some revenge with 3-2 victory over the Moose on Sunday afternoon, which turned out to be a record-setting day.

Anas opened the scoring just 3:30 into the game. His 20th goal of the season gave him 68 points on the season, breaking Cal O’Reilly’s single-season franchise record for points set last season. It was Manitoba’s turn for a quick response as they tied the score less than two minutes later as a turnover led to a breakaway goal.

Sam Anas, Iowa Wild
Anas is having the best offensive season in Iowa history. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Early in the second period, Johnson scored another goal from his favorite spot on the ice; the top of the left circle. Menell picked up his 100th career assist by setting up Johnson.

Colton Beck gave the Wild a 3-1 lead just over seven minutes into the third period by scoring off the leg of a Moose defender. The goal was his first since Dec. 27 and proved to be the game-winner as the Moose cut the lead to 3-2 five minutes later.

Player of the Week

Anas had another big week, helping the Wild earn three points in three games. He had a goal and four assists for a five-point week. He leads the AHL in both assists (49) and points (69). He has already set new career-highs in assists and points and he is six goals shy of his high-water mark of 26 set during the 2017-18 season.

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, March 11 @ Grand Rapids Griffins; Sunday, March 15 vs Rampage

Griffins Get Back to Third

The Griffins (28-27-3-4) picked up two victories last week to remain secured in a playoff spot. Their 63 points are good enough for third place, but they are only one point away from missing the postseason altogether.

In their final trip ever to the AT&T Center in San Antonio, the Griffins snapped their four-game losing streak with 4-3 win over the Rampage. The win put them ahead of the Rampage for third place in the standings.

Despite being outplayed for much of the opening period, the Griffins struck first on the power play just past the midway point. Matt Puempel’s shot from the left circle hit off the far post and bounced into the net for his 15th goal of the season. The Rampage tied the game late in the period with a power-play goal of their own, snapping a streak of 27 straight road penalty kills by the Griffins.

Chris Terry gave the Griffins 2-1 lead with his 20th goal of the season, four minutes into the second period. The veteran forward has scored at least 20 goals in each of the last four seasons.

Chris Terry, Grand Rapids Griffins
Four straight 20-goal seasons for Terry. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Turner Elson scored his first of two unassisted goals in the period, three minutes later, by jumping on a turnover and quickly putting a wrister behind the goalie. Later in the frame, he weaved through traffic and went upstairs for a shorthanded goal.

They took a 4-2 lead into the second intermission, even though they were outshot 31-13 up to that point, as the Rampage scored a shorthanded goal before the period ended. They scored a second power-play goal with less than five minutes to play, but could not get any closer.

Goaltender Pat Nagle finished his night with a season-high 44 saves on an evening where the Griffins were held to just 20 shots on goal, their lowest total of the season.

A very important weekend versus the Rockford IceHogs kicked off in Illinois on Friday night. The IceHogs drew first blood with a 4-0 rout of the Griffins.

Nagle was under heavy fire during the opening period. The Griffins were outshot 15-8, but thanks to a quick glove and a handful of big stops, the Griffins were only down 1-0 after 20 minutes of play.

The Griffins outshot the IceHogs 13-6 during the second period to even up the shot count, but they fell behind by three after allowing two goals. The first came early the frame off a breakaway, with a second coming 11 minutes later off a 2-on-1 rush.

Another odd-man rush led to the final goal of the night, midway through the third period, as the IceHogs scored off a 2-on-1 advantage. The Griffins had 34 shots on goal, but could not light the lamp. They went 0-for-5 on the power play, ending a season-high five-game scoring streak.

The Griffins flipped the script the following night by shutting out the IceHogs 3-0 on home ice. Goaltender Calvin Pickard made 35 saves to get the Griffins back into third place with just 14 games left on the schedule.

Calvin Pickard Grand Rapids Griffins
Pickard was fantastic on Saturday night. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

After a scoreless first period, Pickard did most of his heavy lifting in the second period where the IceHogs outshot the Griffins 19-5, but the game remained deadlocked at 0-0.

The Griffins finally got one over the goal line against the IceHogs about four minutes into the third period. Puempel fired home a wrist shot right off a faceoff to end their shutout streak against Rockford at 103:49.

Terry scored on the Griffins’ only power play of the night to double the lead with less than five minutes to play. Less than a minute later, Taro Hirose capped off the scoring by putting back a Dominik Shine rebound with his backhand.

“It was a big game,” Pickard said after his huge night. “It was a big response from us. We didn’t play a very good game last night. They pretty much took it to us for most of it. Getting it to the end of the second period at 0-0 was big for us. We knew we were going to have a big push in the third and we did. Credit to the guys for that”

Player of the Week

Puempel was one of three Griffins to score two goals last week. He had the opening goals in both of the team’s wins, including the game-winner in their big win over the IceHogs on Saturday. He has points in five out of his last six games and his second on the team in goals (16) and points (38).

Matt Puempel Grand Rapids Griffins
Puempel was key in both Griffins’ wins last week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, March 11 vs Wild; Friday, March, 13 vs Bakersfield Condors; Saturday, March 14 vs Condors

Wolves Hanging On

The Chicago Wolves (27-26-5-3) took three out of a possible six points on home ice last week while they have been struggling to find consistency in their game. Despite a .500 week, the Wolves are still holding down the fourth and final playoff spot. They are tied with the IceHogs at 62 points but have two games in hand.

The Wolves started their six-game home stand by hosting the Tucson Roadrunners on Thursday night. The Pacific Division leaders got the best of the Wolves with 4-2 win in a pretty even contest.

Chicago had a much deeper lineup than they had the previous weekend in Manitoba as Gage Quinney was back from the NHL, Valentin Zykov returned from an illness and Keegan Kolesar fully recovered from his knee injury suffered on Jan. 31. All three factored into the Wolves’ offense.

Keegan Kolesar Chicago Wolves
Kolesar was productive in his return to the lineup. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Wolves went on their first power play of the evening, shortly after the Roadrunners opened the scoring off a rebound, and quickly evened up the game. Quinney scored his 16th goal of the season, from close range, off a nifty saucer pass by Curtis McKenzie.

Tucson scored the lone goal of the middle frame when defenseman Jalen Smereck’s shot from the left point got past Oscar Dansk thanks, in part, to a screen in front of the net.

Kolesar and Zykov combined for a second power-play goal to draw even with just under four minutes to play in regulation. Kolesar’s shot from the right circle hit the near post then bounced off of Zykov’s chest and trickled slowly over the goal line.

The buzz in the Allstate Arena did not last long as the Roadrunners responded with the eventual game-winning goal just 19 seconds later. Dansk made a big stop on Cam Dineen, but Tyler Steenbergen was given a clear path to the rebound that he lifted into the net.

“That can’t happen,” Quinney said of the game-winning goal. “That shift after the goal has to be as good as the shift that got the goal. It was just one breakdown and that happens, but we can learn from it. We just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Jeremy Gregoire added a late empty-net goal for insurance.

The same two teams got back together on Saturday night. Things got off to a great start for the Wolves, but the night ended in bitter disappointment with a 3-2 shootout loss.

The Wolves scored first, midway through the opening period, when Quinney got to a loose puck in the slot and knocked a backhand shot in past Adin Hill for his second goal in as many games.

Gage Quinney Chicago Wolves
Quinney has been huge since his return from Vegas. (Sarah Avampato / The Hockey Writers)

Less than two minutes later, McKenzie doubled the lead with a play that is a signature of his game. After going into the corner, he came out to the front of the net, where he took a feed from Kolesar and scored while falling to the ice for his 15th goal of the season.

The 2-0 advantage held into the third period when the Roadrunners took over the game. Markus Hannikainen tied the game at the side of the net, less than two minutes into the final frame after Dansk stopped the first two Tucson shots during a wild sequence.

Seven minutes later, Michael Bunting evened the score with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle while on a power-play. The game headed to a shootout after the Wolves were outshot 17-4 during the third period and overtime.

Quinney started the shootout with a goal, but the Roadrunners answered with goals from Jordan Gross and Hannikainen. Paul Cotter and Tye McGinn were denied chances to extend the shootout.

“It’s unacceptable for us to leave our goalie out to dry like that,” a brutally honest Kolesar said. “Oscar fights game for us, all season. To give up two like the way we did – we had to buckle down. These are two big points we could have earned. It’s nice to get one point, but at the end of the day we should have had two.”

The IceHogs came to town on Sunday afternoon and for 40 minutes, it looked like much of the same for the Wolves. However, a huge third period led them a 3-2 overtime victory to keep them in a Calder Cup playoff spot.

Rockford opened the scoring early in the first period and they took that lead and a 29-9 shot advantage into the third period. McKenzie tied the game as he drove hard to the net and tipped home a nice pass from Kolesar.

A little over three minutes later, McKenzie gave the Wolves a 2-1 lead, while on a power play, by getting his stick on an Elvenes shot as it went by. The IceHogs answered by sending the game to overtime with a game-tying goal late in regulation.

The Wolves went back on the power play midway through overtime and Dylan Coghlan used the extra space to blast home a one-timer from the right circle for the huge win.

Dylan Coghlan Chicago Wolves
Coghlan had the big game-winner on Sunday. (Sarah Avampato / The Hockey Writers)

Garret Sparks had a huge game in net, making 38 saves. He was also right in the middle of quite a few post-whistle scrums including going after IceHogs forward Anton Wedin, who made heavy contact with him.

Player of the Week

For the past two seasons, whenever the Wolves need a big goal in a meaningful game, it seems McKenzie is there to provide it. He may not score the highlight reel worthy goals, but he finds a way to get to the front of the net and knock the puck in.

“You can see why, in the playoffs, he is always leading his team in points,” head coach Rocky Thompson said of McKenzie. “I think he just wills it. There is no other way to put it. He just wills himself to do it. When it gets into the trenches like that, he’s the guy you want on your side.”

With his three goals last week, McKenzie is now in a three-way tie, with Quinney and McGinn, for the team-lead with 17 on the season.

The Week Ahead

Friday, March 13 vs Rampage; Saturday, March 14 vs IceHogs; Sunday, March 15 vs Moose

IceHogs Disappointed After Big Start

The IceHogs (29-30-2-2) had a huge week with three games against teams they battled for a playoff spot with. It started off on a high note, but they have to feel disappointed with just three points, especially when they didn’t allow a goal in the first or second periods all week. They are tied with Chicago at 62 points, but have the lower points percentage because they have played two more games at this point.

The big week started with one of the best overall performances on the season in a 4-0 drubbing of the Griffins on Friday night.

MacKenzie Entwistle has enjoyed playing against the Griffins this season. Midway through the first period, he gave the IceHogs a 1-0 lead with a quick wrist shot from the left circle that snuck inside the far post. It was his 10th goal of the season and fourth against Grand Rapids.

Alexander Fortin, who had a huge shift on a first-period penalty kill, got in behind the defense and deked the puck into the Griffins’ net to double the lead early in the middle frame.

Alexandre Fortin Rockford Icehogs
Fortin’s speed is a weapon. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

T.J. Brennan helped the IceHogs go up 3-0 about 11 minutes later. While the teams skated 4-on-4, Brennan made a tape-to-tape stretch pass to Philipp Kurashev to start a 2-on-1 rush up the ice. Once in the zone, he passed over to Dylan Sikura for the one-timer, his 14th of the season.

Gabriel Gagne added a fourth goal while on a late third-period power play. It was just the IceHogs’ second power-play goal against the Griffins in 33 chances this season.

Goaltender Collin Delia made 34 saves to pick up his third shutout of the season and fourth of his AHL career. He is the first Rockford netminder to earn at least three shutouts in a season since Michael Leighton had five in 2015-16.

“I liked our first period,” head coach Derek King revealed. “We came out flying. We know what’s on the line. It’s playoff hockey. I think getting a jump on that team gave us a little confidence and we stuck with it.”

Delia was in net for Saturday’s rematch in Grand Rapids and shut the Griffins out for another two periods before the wheels came off in the final frame. After stopping all 14 shots in the first two periods, Delia gave up three goals in the third period, including one on a power play. The IceHogs got 35 shots on goal, but could not find the back of the net.

The team made some news off the ice on Saturday, as well, by signing goaltender Ivan Nalimov to a professional tryout contract (PTO). Originally a 2014 sixth-round draft pick by the Chicago Blackhawks, Nalimov has spent the last six seasons in the KHL where he has a 2.62 goals-against average (GAA) and .912 save percentage (SV%) in his career. With All-Star Kevin Lankinen likely out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, Nalimov will likely get a start or two down the stretch.

The IceHogs dominated the first 40 minutes of Sunday’s contest at the Wolves but came out on the losing end of the 3-2 overtime decision.

Philipp Kurashev opened the scoring just 3:26 into the game when his wrist shot from the right circle found the back of the net.

Philipp Kurashev Rockford Icehogs
Kurashev opened the scoring on Sunday. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The second period had just about everything except a goal. The ire between these two rivals came to a head with 42 total penalty minutes dished out during the middle frame.

Things settled down in the third period and the Wolves grabbed a 2-1 lead with a pair of quick goals early in the frame. Entwistle tied the game with just under six minutes to play by tapping in a nice cross-ice feed by Brandon Hagel.

In overtime, Hagel took a very costly tripping penalty and he had to watch the Wolves’ game-winning tally from the penalty box. A very frustrated team left the rink with the feeling that they left a very important point on the ice.

On Monday morning, the IceHogs released Gagne from his PTO and signed him to an AHL contract through the 2020-21 season. He has six goals and 12 points in his 21 games since coming up from the ECHL. They also signed defenseman Dmitry Osipov to a one-year extension.

Player of the Week

Entwistle was the only IceHogs to find the back of the net more than once last week. He scored two huge goals as he had the game-winner on Friday and the tying goal on Sunday that earned the IceHogs a point in the standings. The AHL rookie is fifth on the team with 11 goals and fourth in overall scoring with 26 points.

MacKenzie Entwistle Rockford IceHogs
Entwistle had two big goals last week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead

Saturday, March 14 @ Wolves

Rampage Drop Three Spots

Nobody had a rougher week than the Rampage (24-24-7-5). They entered play all alone in third place, but after losing three straight games, they are in sixth place and out of the playoffs. They are still just two points out of a playoff, but this just goes to show how one bad week and get you behind the eight-ball in this close division.

The Rampage hosted the Griffins for the final time, at least in the regular-season, on Tuesday night and came up short in a back-and-forth affair.

San Antonio dominated the first half of the opening period as they built up a 12-2 shot advantage. However, the Griffins’ third shot of the night got past goaltender Adam Wilcox, while the visitors were on a power play. The Rampage answered with a power-play conversion of their own when Derrick Pouliot hammered home a one-timer from the right circle.

Derrick Pouliot San Antonio Rampage
Pouliot has excelled on the power play all season long. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Griffins built up a 4-1 advantage by scoring the next three goals of the night, including a shorthanded tally and another strike on the power play. Wilcox was pulled in favor of Ville Husso after giving up four goals on just 10 shots.

Captain Jordan Nolan cut the deficit down to 4-2 with a shorthanded goal. Ryan Olsen kicked the puck out of the zone and sent Nolan in on a breakaway for his 11th goal of the season and fourth in as many games.

Josh Ho-Sang found Klim Kostin at the bottom of the right circle, who drew the Rampage to within a single goal with a power-play tally. Despite outshooting Grand Rapids 47-20, they fell 4-3 in a very important divisional game.

The Rampage had been dominating the season series with the Stars, going 7-0-1-0 in the first eight games. That came to an end on Saturday night when Texas picked up their first regulation win over the Rampage on the season with a 2-1 win.

After a scoreless opening frame, Olsen got the Rampage on the scoreboard 12 minutes into the second period. He was in the right place at the right time to swat home a rebound off an Andreas Borgman shot for his seventh goal of the season.

Ryan Olsen San Antonio Rampage
Olsen had the first goal on Saturday night. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Stars came back and tied the game just 28 seconds later by finishing off a 2-on-1 rush. It was the first goal Husso had allowed in his last 128:57 of play. The visitors spoiled the evening by scoring the game-winning goal, on the power play, with just 14 seconds left in regulation.

The offense continued to struggle on Sunday as the first-place Admirals shut them down in a 3-0 loss. The Admirals scored the only goal they needed in the second period before adding two more in the third period. The Rampage had 20 shots on goal through the first two periods before being limited to just five in the final frame.

Player of the Week

It is hard to blame Husso for the winless week. While the offense only provided one goal in his two starts, he stopped 57 of the 59 shots he saw last week for a .966 SV%. He has already set an AHL career-high in wins with 16 and matched his best mark for shutouts with four.

Ville Husso San Antonio Rampage
You can’t blame the struggles on Husso. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, March 11 @ Admirals; Friday, March 13 @ Wolves; Sunday, March 15 @ Wild

Stars Gain Momentum

The Stars (26-27-3-4) had a nice week by earning five out of a possible six points. They currently sit in seventh place with 59 points and are three points out of a playoff spot. They have the most games remaining on the schedule with 16, along with the Rampage, so they still have some time to make up ground, but not much.

The week began with the Stars hosting the first-place Admirals. Despite owning a two-goal lead in the second period, they fell, 3-2, in overtime.

Jason Robertson’s team-leading 23rd goal of the season opened the scoring midway through the first period. Joel Kiviranta won a puck battle behind the net and fed the puck out to Ondrej Vala, whose shot from the point was deflected to Robertson and the side of the net for the tap-in goal.

Jason Robertson Texas Stars
Robertson leads the way with 23 goals. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Tanner Kero doubled the lead, six minutes into the second period when his wrist shot went five-hold for his ninth goal of the season.

The Admirals answered back with their first of three straight goals about four minutes later. The Stars gave Milwaukee three power-play chances during the third period and they converted on one of them to send the game to overtime. In the extra session, a goal off a rebound gave the visitors the come-from-behind victory.

Landon Bow got the start because Jake Oettinger was called up to the NHL on an emergency basis. He made 34 saves to help the Stars pick up an important point.

Landon Bow Texas Stars
Bow came up big against the Admirals. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Oettinger was back on Friday night and made 33 saves in a 2-1 victory at the Rampage. It was the team’s first regulation win over their in-state rivals this season.

The Rampage broke a scoreless tie midway through the second period. Dillon Heatherington answered just 28 seconds later as he followed up a 2-on-1 rush and was fed the puck by Joel L’Esperance for just his second goal of the season.

Robertson stunned the San Antonio crowd by converting on a power play late in regulation. With just 14 seconds left on the clock, Kero sent a cross-ice pass to Robertson in the right circle, where he shot into an open net for the game-winning goal.

Oettinger was back in between the pipes when the Stars returned home on Saturday night to host the Admirals. He stood on his head and made a career-high 45 saves in a big 4-1 victory.

The Stars opened the scoring, midway through the first period, with a play mirroring the previous night’s game-winner as Kero fed Robertson from the left circle for another strike. The Admirals tied the game late the frame as they took advantage of a rare Oettinger rebound.

Shortly after killing off their third penalty, early in the second period, Reese Scarlett broke the tie by making a nice move around a defender before depositing a backhander into the Milwaukee net.

Josh Melnick doubled the lead with just seven seconds left in the period, while on a power play when his shot from the right circle hit the crossbar and deflected into the net.

The Stars were outshot 17-3 during the third period, but Oettinger kept everything that was thrown at him out of the net. L’Esperance iced the game with a late empty-net goal.

Player of the Week

The Stars took all six available points last week and would have been hard-pressed to get those last four without the efforts of Oettinger. He posted a .975 SV% over the weekend by stopping 78 of the 80 shots he faced. After a rough start to the season, he is up to 14 wins to go along with a 2.52 GAA and .917 SV%.

Jake Oettinger Texas Stars
Oettinger had a lot to smile about last week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

“It feels good just to contribute,” Oettinger said after Saturday’s huge performance. “I was excited to get the opportunity again tonight. I just wanted to follow up on what we did in San Antonio. We had an awesome crowd and we played great right from the puck drop. It was fun.”

The Week Ahead

Saturday, March 14 @ Roadrunners; Sunday, March 15 @ Roadrunners

Time Running for Moose

The Moose (27-33-1-0) split their weekend series with the Wild on home ice. While they are not mathematically eliminated from the postseason, they will need a lot of help. They are seven points out of fourth place and would need to jump over four teams to get there. Not impossible, but with the loser point, it is highly improbable.

On Monday, the Los Angeles Kings and Winnipeg Jets loaned a pair of players to each other’s farm clubs. Defenseman Daniel Brickley was reassigned to Manitoba by the Kings, while forward Michael Spacek was reassigned by the Jets to the Ontario Reign.

The weekend against the Wild began on Saturday night with a 4-3 shootout victory in a back-and-forth affair.

Kristian Reichel opened the scoring, midway through the first period, by blasting home a pass from Kristian Vesalainen for his 12th goal of the season. The lead did not last long as Iowa drew even with a power-play goal just over a minute later.

Kristian Vesalainen Manitoba Moose
Vesalainen had a goal and an assist last week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Defenseman Jimmy Oligny put the Moose back up 2-1 late in the second period with his fourth goal of the season. The Wild had another quick response as they scored again just over a minute after the Moose’s tally.

With just over seven minutes to play in regulation, Andrei Chibisov won a puck battle down low and got the puck to Cole Maier in front, who gave the Moose a 3-2 lead. The Wild answered, once again, four minutes later with a second power-play goal.

After a scoreless overtime, JC Lipon scored the only goal of the shootout to earn the win. Goaltender Eric Comrie made 33 saves in regulation and overtime before stopping all three Iowa shootout attempts.

Both teams were back on the ice at Bell MTS Place for Sunday afternoon’s rematch. This time, the Wild held on for a 3-2 win.

The Wild struck first just three and a half minutes into the game. Less than two minutes later, rookie David Gustafsson tied the game on a breakaway for the first shorthanded goal of his brief AHL career.

Iowa went up 2-1 with an early second-period goal on the man advantage. They doubled their lead just over seven minutes into the third period.

Vesalainen got the Moose to within a goal, with just under eight minutes to play, by weaving through traffic before flipping a backhander into the net. The Moose outshot the Wild 15-4 in the third period but were unable to score the equalizer.

Player of the Week

Gustafsson has taken a little while to adjust to the game after returning from an injury he suffered while playing for Sweden at the World Junior Championship. He led the Moose with a goal and three points last week. He has a goal and five points during his current four-game point streak.

“Finally,” Gustafsson exclaimed when being asked about scoring his first professional goal in Winnipeg. “I’ve been waiting for it. I’ve been wondering if it was ever going to come, but it’s fun to finally get it.”

The Week Ahead

Friday, March 13 @ Admirals; Saturday, March 14 @ Admirals; Sunday, March 15 @ Wolves