MILWAUKEE - The Admirals opened their 35th regular season home schedule Friday night, but unfortunately, suffered their first loss of the season 4-3 at the hands of the South Division Charlotte Checkers. Patrick Cehlin, Gabriel Bourque and Mattias Ekholm all notched goals for Milwaukee, while starting goaltender Jeremy Smith made 19 of 24 saves. The 2012-2013 season marks the organizations 12th season in the American Hockey League after spending 24 seasons in the now-defunct International Hockey League (IHL).
Although he didn't play, there was a familiar face was on the bench for the Charlotte Checkers. Former Nashville Predator goaltender Dan Ellis signed a contract with Charlotte back on September 24th and will be splitting time with two-season Checkers veteran Justin Peters. Ellis spent three seasons (2007-2010) with the Admirals parent club Nashville Predators, and has since played in net for NHL Tampa Bay Lightning and Anaheim Ducks.
The Checkers were first to light the lamp after F Victor Rask scored on a pass from Jerome Samson, tapping the puck just hard enough to sneak it between Smiths pads. The first period goal marked the 19-year old Swedish native's first professional goal, as well as his first point of the season.
Admirals fans saw their first home goal of the season thanks to a solid effort by F Gabriel Bourque at the far circle. Bourque got his stick on the puck after overtaking Checkers forward Jerome Samson and scored on his own rebound to tie things at one. Admirals head coach liked what he saw, and told his players to take notice:
"We asked our group after that to learn from that [goal]. He just worked and worked, second effort, he wanted it more than they wanted to keep it out and that's his game. Hopefully we can feed off that tomorrow night."
Goals from F Drayson Bowman and F Sean Dolan in the final minutes of the middle frame gave Charlotte a two-goal lead going into the third period. A quick snap from the far dot sailed over Smiths left shoulder marked Bowman's first of the year, while Dolan tallied on a wraparound less that two minutes later to mark his first of the year.
Charlotte continued to dominate the offensive zone into the third, seeing a breakaway goal from F Zach Boychuk. Boychuk scooped up a loose puck at the far boards and skated in with a sniper over Smith's right shoulder for his second goal of the season.
The Admirals got a :28 5-on-3 opportunity midway through the closing frame, and with :03 left on the two-man advantage, Admirals newcomer F Patrick Cehlin scored ripped a slap shot from the slot clear over Peters' shoulder to make it 4-2 Charlotte. Cehlin is off to a great start, as he scored twice in the Admirals 3-2 victory in Grand Rapids last weekend to combine for three goals already this season.
Fellow Swedish native D Mattias Ekholm made things interesting with a power-play goal in the final three minutes of regulation, capitalizing on a rebound that bounced off Peters padding. Pulling Smith and working a power-play at the tail end of regulation fell short of tying things up, handing Milwaukee their first loss of the season.
The Admirals now head to Texas to complete their first three-in-three of the 12/13 campaign, facing a pair of South Division teams, the San Antonio Rampage and Houston Aeros, Saturday and Sunday night respectively. Evason wasn't sure who will be starting in net tomorrow night, but he certainly has a game plan when it comes to tackling the first three games in three day schedule of the season:
"We'll probably start with a real aggresive style tomorrow night and manage our game a little bit better... We've got a couple different thoughts on how we're going to play the game on that second and third night, but we'll worry about tomorrow night. It's a quick turnaround to Texas in the morning and playing tomorrow night, but it is what it is and we'll hopefully have the work ethic that we need to give us a chance to win."