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Milwaukee Admirals

Devin Cooley Gets Game 4 Start As Admirals Look to Even WCF



Milwaukee Admirals goalie Devin Cooley.

The Milwaukee Admirals are playing the hot hand.

After leading the Ads to a Game 3 win over the Coachella Valley Firebirds in the AHL’s Western Conference Final in his first game since April 14, goaltender Devin Cooley will remain in net for Game 4 Thursday night at UW-Panther Arena.

It marks the first time Cooley has started back-to-back games since Jan. 11-14, and the 26-year-old goalie said his biggest takeaway from Game 3 was it takes some time to settle into a groove.

“It was good getting some easier shots to start the first period and ease my way into it,” Cooley told Nashville Hockey Now. “By the second period, I felt normal again, so that was great. We want to continue the success that we had as a group going into the next game. As a team, I thought we played our best game of the series and if we continue to do what we did Monday night we’ll be a hard team to beat.”

Cooley faced 29 shots against Coachella Valley last time out, allowing just one goal. It was the eight time in his last 10 starts that he allowed three of fewer goals.

The Admirals topped the Firebirds 3-1 on Monday night, and they can even things up with a win at home on Thursday night. Milwaukee’s potential final home game could come on Saturday, regardless of Thursday’s outcome.

One adjustment the Admirals made from Games 1 and 2 to Game 3 was an emphasis on staying out of the penalty box. Through the first two games of the series, Milwaukee had 12 penalties to the Firebirds’ nine. In Game 3, Milwaukee was penalized just once.

In Cooley’s eyes, it was important in other ways as well.

“I thought they made my life a lot easier than they did for (Yaroslav Askarov) in the first two games,” Cooley said of his defensemen. “They were doing a great job of boxing guys out and making sure I could see the puck and not giving up odd-man rushes or back-door chances.”

Things were rough for the Admirals playing the Firebirds in California. They smoothed out on Monday, and from Cooley’s perspective, the simplicity behind Game 3’s performance was the way the team wanted to play all along.

“It seemed we were a lot cleaner on our breakouts and turnovers, and overall, I felt like I could trust what my team was doing,” Cooley said. “I didn’t have any worries about guys being wide-open or someone being wide-opener, or even someone else being open back-door.”

While the Admirals took care of business on Monday, limiting penalties will again be a proponent of dictating the outcome of Game 4.

Beyond special teams, an additional advantage Milwaukee boasts is highly-touted rookie forward Joakim Kemell, who leads the team with seven postseason goals. His scoring ability has come to life at just the right time.

“I call him the Finnish Ovechkin,” Cooley said. “It’s pretty incredible what he’s able to do, especially at such a young age and he’s been huge for us. You hope he can continue that and keep it going to grow his game, but his shot is going to be something other teams and other goalies are going to watch out for.”

Puck drop for Game 4 of the Western Conference Final is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. CT.

Follow Nick on Twitter: @KieserNick

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