Tied one game apiece in the Central Division Final of the Calder Cup Playoffs, Game 3 between the Milwaukee Admirals and Texas Stars shifts to Cedar Park, Texas.
Looking back on Game 2, the Admirals fired in two late goals in 69 seconds but the Stars offense landed a knockout punch not long after to even the series.
“Unfortunately they were very astute and finished on their chances when they got them,” Admirals head coach Karl Taylor told reporters after the game.
Admirals defenseman Roland McKeown scored his second and third career AHL playoff goals, and his first since the 2018 season with the Charlotte Checkers, tying the game 3-3 with 4:23 to play.
IT'S A TIE GAME FOLKS 🚨 pic.twitter.com/18uE5mDScY
— x – Milwaukee Admirals (@mkeadmirals) May 14, 2023
However, Mavrik Bourque scored the game-winner approximately two minutes later followed by a Rhett Gardner empty netter with 26 seconds left to seal the 5-3 win for Texas. After playing the opening two games of the best-of-five series in Milwaukee, Games 3 through 5 will be played in Texas.
“We’re going to have to win there anyway,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be a tight series, we all know that — these are two very good teams playing hard. We knew it was going to be a hard series and we accept that battle, we stare it down and we enjoy how hard it is.”
The Stars were the better regular season team, leading the AHL in goals scored (265) and winning the Central Division by three points. Gardner has been Texas’ best player during its postseason run, recording seven points in five games, including two goals in two games against Milwaukee.
The Stars also have three skaters with at least four points and five skaters with at least three points, making goaltender and top Predators prospect Yaroslav Askarov a vital piece of the series for the Admirals. The 20-year-old Russian has a 2.40 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in seven postseason games.
Texas has had to rely on its penalty kill quite a bit during the playoffs as the Stars have been shorthanded 19 times. Though they’ve killed off 14 of those 19 penalties (73.7 percent), the Admirals scored two of those five power-play goals in Game 1, courtesy of forwards Luke Evangelista and Joakim Kemell.
Conversely, Milwaukee was just 1-for-4 on the power play in Game 2, and despite the Admirals outshooting the Stars 37-21, Askarov allowed four or more goals for the 15th time this season.
“The bounces didn’t go our way; I thought there was a lot to like about our game,” Taylor said. “As a group, there’s always things you can do better and execute better in some different ways. We’ll make the adjustments we need to moving forward.”
Taylor used a dial analogy prior to the series opener, stating, “Out of it being 50/50, it’s maybe 51/49 to start the series. But as it goes on, the goal of each team is going to be to turn that dial in their favor.”
Perhaps the dial is slightly tilted in the Stars’ favor for now, but the Admirals had a 23-10-2 record as the road team during the regular season. The Stars’ lone home playoff game this year came in the clinching game of Central Division semifinals against the Rockford Ice Hogs.
Puck drop for Game 3 between the Admirals and Stars is set for 7 p.m. CT at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.