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Milwaukee Admirals

AHL: Firebirds Too Much For Admirals In Game 1 Of WCF



Milwaukee Admirals goalie Yaroslav Askarov

Thursday’s Game 1 of the AHL Western Conference Final between the Milwaukee Admirals and Coachella Valley Firebirds was neck-and-neck until Max McCormick took the game over.

The Firebirds forward scored a hat trick in the span of 10:22 in the third period and Coachella Valley earned a 6-4 win over Milwaukee, handing the Ads their first series-opening loss of the postseason.

“I didn’t think we played very well tonight,” Ads coach Karl Taylor said. “I didn’t like our game; we didn’t get to our game. They played well, it’s a great building, great energy in this building. It’s a little disappointing we had a chance to steal one there and not that we deserve to but we were in a position with a one-goal lead and we just let it get away from us.”

Typically, coaches and players prefer to wipe performances like Thursday from their memory as quickly as possible. But not Taylor.

“No, absolutely not,” he said. “That’s never going to happen if I’m coaching this team. We’re going to analyze it and we’ll address it. We’re looking at our mistakes and make sure we try to fill those holes as we get ready for the next game. We’re going to be held accountable, including everyone in the locker room, and make sure we’re in the right spots.”

Milwaukee didn’t waste any time trying to put the Firebirds on their heels as defenseman Marc Del Gaizo fired a shot that rang off the crossbar. But AHL Rookie of the Year Ty Kartye notched the first goal of the game 4:14 into the contest with a power-play goal that was a result of the Admirals being called for too many men on the ice.

Top Predators prospect Joakim Kemell picked up where he left off in the semifinal round against the Texas Stars, tipping in his sixth goal of the playoffs 30 seconds after Coachella Valley drew first blood. Kemell has now scored 12 goals in 23 games in an Admirals jersey.

After going shorthanded again — this time because of a tripping call on Egor Afanasyev — Milwaukee escaped the opening period against the highest-scoring team in the AHL playoffs tied 1-1.

The Admirals went to the power play five minutes into the second period; however, Firebirds defenseman Jimmy Schuldt scored a short-handed goal (Coachella Valley’s third such goal of the postseason) to retake the lead. Schuldt broke past Ads defenseman Jordan Gross and forward Kiefer Sherwood to get a shot off from the left circle.

Once more, the Admirals dished another blow of their own.

Two-minutes and 12 seconds later, forward Philip Tomasino found the back of the net for the first time in 11 playoff games. The 21-year-old forward was part of a 3-on-1 rush as Del Gaizo slid the puck over to him and he buried it past goaltender Joey Daccord.

Admirals goaltender Yaroslav Askarov made 19 saves through 40 minutes before things came unglued in the third period.

After a few rush attempts early in the third, Michael McCarron put Milwaukee ahead 3-2 just 1:52 into the period. It was Milwaukee’s first lead of the game. McCarron hadn’t scored any AHL playoff goals until this year after two games with the St. John’s Ice Caps in 2017.

Kevin Gravel saw Afanasyev down in the left corner but McCarron was wide open for a split second in the open slot. He beat Daccord glove side to give his team an early advantage and swing the momentum back to the Admirals’ side.

However, McCormick beat Askarov for his eighth playoff goal a little over five minutes later to knot the game back up 3-3. Asakrov played the puck behind the net as McCormick found himself in a position to bank it home after forward Mark Jankowski failed the clear the puck out of the defensive zone.

Then just 39 seconds later, Andrew Poturalski beat Askarov from the right circle to reclaim a 4-3 lead. Then there was some controversy.

Firebirds forward Kole Lind tried to get the puck in the offensive zone but Ads defenseman Spencer Stastney stepped up on the play to defend at the blue line, resulting in a what appeared to be a delayed offside call. Albeit, McCormick did not seem to pick up the play and pounced on the puck. He came down into the slot to score his second goal of the night to give his team a 5-3 lead with 9:06 to play.

McCormick capped off the night and his hat trick, scoring on an empty net with less than three minutes in regulation. Jimmy Huntington added a late goal for the Admirals but the damage was already done.

Game 2 is set for Saturday night at 9 p.m. CT and can be heard on 102.5 The Game.

Follow Nick on Twitter: @KieserNick

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