MILWAUKEE - He may have just stepped off the airplane, but Josh Shalla didn't let a little travel come between him and the game-winning shootout goal in Sunday's 3-2 win over the division-leading Grand Rapids Griffins.
With Mark Van Guilder sidelined with an injury sustained in last night's 4-3 shootout loss to Oklahoma City, Cyclones forward Josh Shalla got the call at 11:45pm last night letting him know he'd be on a plane first thing Sunday morning to fill the roster spot. When asked after the game, Shalla said he wasn't sure how long he'd be in Milwaukee, but I think we can all agree he certainly fulfilled his role no matter how long he's in town for. Although Van Guilder was hurt last night, coach Dean Evason doesn't anticipate that he'll be out of the line up very long.
Although the two teams have met three times already this season, this was the Griffins first trip to Milwaukee. With today's win, the Admirals lead the season-series 3-1. Like the Admirals, the Griffins are coming off a Saturday night shootout, as they beat the Chicago Wolves 4-3 at Chicago.
Grand Rapids put the first two goals on the board, starting off with Gustav Nyquist's goal just :37 into the game. A deflected rebound to the far circle gave Nyquist an open shooting lane to give the Griffins an early lead. Their second goal, which was scored on the power-play, lit the lamp at the 3:16 second after a shot from Landon Ferraro bounced off the skate of Admirals forward Patrick Cehlin in past Smith.
Defenseman Victor Bartley and forward Kevin Henderson contributed a goal each to tie the game at two a piece going into the second intermission. Bartley chipped in the rebound off a Chris Mueller attempt, beating Griffins goaltender Petr Mrazek stick side for his sixth of the season. The goal extended Bartley's point-streak to four games.
Kevin Henderson continued to impress on the offense, scoring the equalizer in the final five minutes of the second period. Defenseman Jon Blum drove the puck to the net, and Henderson put away his rebound for his ninth of the season. Henderson is on a three-game goal streak, and has totaled seven points in the last six games (4g-3a). Blum earned an assist on the play, but his drive to the net was as important as the goal itself.
"I could tell by the wingers eyes that he thought I was going in for the slap shot, but I gave him a fake and the whole front of the net was open, so I took it in and Henderson was there to clean up the goal. You've got to go to the front of the net to get goals, and that's what he's been doing lately."
Aside from four goals between the two teams, there were a few blatant missed calls. It would've been easy for the Admirals to lose their cool, but the team stayed focused and played through Cam Reid getting elbowed in the face (which took him out of the game) by former Admiral Triston Grant and Michael Latta taking a stick to the face resulting in a cut lip. Evason didn't want to comment too much on the missed calls because he hadn't watched the tape yet, but did acknowledge that his team took the high road.
"The key is for Stan [Drulia] and I to stay composed, a lot of times we don't either... If we stay composed as we can, we hope the group stays composed. We're not a team that yells at the refs a lot, or complains or whines or dives, I think that's a credit to the guys. They play the game the right way, they play the game hard."
After an undecided 65:00 of play, the Admirals and Griffins went to the shootout for the second time this weekend. Blum, Puustinen, Mueller, Beck and Shalla all lit the lamp in the win, but Shalla was surprised he even was called to shoot in the first place.
"He said my name and I panicked. I thought he said Mac [Jack MacLellan], and it took about five seconds to get out there."
After three home games in four days, the team won't take the ice again until Saturday night against Rockford. With such moment from this strong home stand, I asked how Evason and the Admirals plan to keep up the momentum.
"We want to rest, we've taxed a lot of people here this weekend, especially our D (defense), and who knows what's going to happen [in regards to losing players to Nashville], so we'll probably revisit all of our systems since we'll likely have some new people in the lineup."
Although last nights shoot out loss snapped his six-game win streak, no one can argue that Smith can an incredible weekend. He ended the night with saves on 29 of 31 shots, and certainly impressed on the shootout.
So Jeremy, are you exhausted?
"It's better than three games in three days, but it was still very difficult, especially with overtime and shootouts."
Something tells me Smith will be taking a nice long nap when he gets home tonight.
Other news and notes:
The NHL and NHLPA have reached a tenative agreement, and the NHL could resume as early as next week. Evason says that Nashville hasn't made there decision who to call up, but that the phone call with Fenton is expected tomorrow.
"We've talked to Nashville today, they have a thought process, but they will meet and we'll talk tonight and tomorrow for sure. We'll get a game plan together, figure out what they want and what they need, and then we'll all evaluate the opinions and make a decision."