The Iowa Wild had a very interesting inaugural Calder Cup Playoff series. They built a 2-0 series lead and looked like world beaters only to have to grind out a Game 5 victory to knock out the Milwaukee Admirals. The Wild completed a clean sweep for the third seeds in all four Division Semifinals.
Admirals Stay Alive with Game 3 Win
After the Wild dominated the first two games of the series, outscoring the Admirals 13-1, the series shifted to Milwaukee for the duration of the series. The Admirals made sure there would be at least one more game at Panther Arena with a gritty 3-1 win in Game 3 on Thursday night.
Not only did the victory extend the series, but it snapped the Admirals 13-game playoff losing streak. This marked their first postseason win since they beat the Texas Stars back on April 27, 2013.
The Admirals got off to a fast start as Colin Blackwell opened the scoring just 30 seconds into the game. Yakov Trenin started an odd-man rush by forcing a turnover in the neutral zone. Cole Schneider’s shot from the left circle trickled through the pads of Andrew Hammond and Blackwell was there to push the puck over the goal line.
Mathieu Olivier’s first goal of the series doubled the Milwaukee lead at 8:43 of the second period. Hammond stopped a redirected shot by Trenin, but Olivier was camped out in front to put home the rebound.
Kyle Rau got the Wild on the board, while on the power play, at 12:23 of the third period. Cal O’Reilly found Rau all alone at the back post where he deflected the crisp pass into the net for his third goal of the series.
Trenin picked up his third assist of the night, just over a minute later, to feed Tyler Gaudet on an odd-man rush, who beat Hammond up high for the big insurance goal.
Goaltender Troy Grosenick made 21 saves for his 10th career Calder Cup playoff win and first with the Admirals.
“I thought we played a solid game in all areas,” said Admirals head coach Karl Taylor after the win. “We took away time and space. I thought we earned the victory. It was a gritty game out there. There were good calls and bad calls both ways. I thought we stuck to the program and found a way to get through and get the victory.”
Admirals Survive Overtime, Force Game 5
Friday night’s Game 4 saw the Wild come back to tie the game on three separate occasions, but the Admirals struck in overtime to force a winner-take-all Game 5. The back-and-forth affair featured a combined 12 power-play chances and a shorthanded goal by each team.
For the second straight game, the Admirals struck first. This time it was Phil Di Giuseppe who put his team up 1-0, seven minutes into the game, by shooting the puck past Hammond from the high slot.
The Admirals doubled their advantage at 18:14 of the opening period with the first shorthanded goal of the series. Anthony Richard forced a turnover at his own blue line, then finished off a two-on-one rush by shooting between the legs of Hammond.
The Wild responded 29 seconds later while still on the man-advantage. Jordan Greenway found Matt Read in the slot where he blasted a one-timer past Grosenick for his second tally of the series.
Iowa evened things up 4:15 into the second period when Gerry Mayhew got to the rebound off of a Hunter Warner shot and stuffed it back into the Admirals’ net. This would be the lone goal of the middle frame.
The craziness of the third period began at the 3:11 mark with Richard’s second goal of the game, which he fired home from the high slot.
O’Reilly knotted the game at 3-3 just over two minutes later. Just seven seconds into a power play, the O’Reilly’s shot from the left circle deflected off of a pair of Milwaukee defenders on its way past Grosenick.
Di Giuseppe scored for a second time at 6:54 to give the Admirals a 4-3 advantage. Defenseman Matt Donovan picked up his second helper of the evening by sending the puck into the crease where Di Giuseppe was waiting to knock it home.
The Wild had one more response in them as they forced overtime with a shorthanded goal late in the third. Read won a board battle in the corner and shuffled the puck to Mayhew in the slot for his fourth goal of the series.
Frederic Allard forced a fifth and final game with his first goal of the series 12:33 into overtime. The blueliner’s shot off a faceoff win was redirected by the stick of Iowa defenseman Carson Soucy into the Wild’s net.
“Justin (Kirkland) did a great job winning the draw,” Allard said of his game-winning goal. “He put it right on my tape and I buried it.”
The Wild were obviously upset after the loss, but they were looking forward to Monday’s Game 5.
“We lost a hockey game, but not a series – it’s tied 2-2,” said head coach Tim Army. “We did expect this to be a tough series. Put it behind you, get some rest, relax, enjoy each other and get away from it. We’ll regroup and get some things worked out in our game and be ready to go on Monday.”
Wild Grind Out a Series Win
Coming into Monday’s series finale, the Admirals were 8-0-2 in their last 10 games on home ice while the Wild had just three wins in their last 10 road contests. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, those two trends did not continue in the Wild’s 2-1 win to move on to the second round.
For the first time since the series moved to the Panther Arena, the Wild struck first, 4:19 into the opening frame. While on an early power play, O’Reilly beat Grosenick upstairs from just above the left faceoff dot.
The Admirals struggled big time on the power play during the series, going 0-for-18 heading into Monday’s game. After failing to cash in on an early second-period power play, Milwaukee became the last team in the Calder Cup playoffs to score on the man-advantage at 11:35 of the middle frame.
While on a five-on-three power play, Richard found himself with space and time in the right circle to fire a wrist shot past Hammond for his fourth goal of the series.
Sometimes, in order to win a coin-flip game, you need a little “puck luck” and that is exactly what the Wild got at 9:24 of the third period. Defenseman Louie Belpedio’s shot from the point missed the net, but it bounced off the end boards, hit the skate of Grosenick and found its way over the goal line for the decisive tally.
“I think is the story of this group,” said Belpedio after wrapping up the first playoff series win in Iowa’s history. “We’ve had a lot of long, tough days this year and we’ve done everything together. I think that Game 5 just proved that, no matter what, we can regroup and come together. At the end of the day, it’s just about getting it done for each other and that’s exactly what we did.”
Player of the Series
Just like any team who advances in the postseason, the Wild had plenty of big contributors over the past five games. Mayhew led the team with four goals while Ryan Donato, Greenway and Brendan Menell all picked up four assists. Goaltending was never an issue as Hammond posted a 1.94 goals-against average (GAA) and .930 save percentage (SV%).
O’Reilly, who played four seasons for the Admirals, came back to haunt his former team. After leading the Wild in the regular season with 51 assists and 67 points, the veteran forward carried over his success into the postseason. He led the way with six points (three goals, three assists) and was the only player to find the scoresheet in every game of the series.
The Wild move on to the Central Division Finals where they will take on the top-seeded Chicago Wolves, who knocked out the Grand Rapids Griffins in five games. The series will begin on Wednesday night in Chicago with the Wild hosting Games 3, 4 and 5.