Colton Gillies ties the score at 1-1 with 12.2 seconds left in the first period.
I've got a confession to make, I thought the Aeros were going to lose this game. I sent Andrew and Heather a note before the game, and I said it was going to be a blowout in Milwaukee's favor. Never have I been so glad to be so wrong.
I wasn't thrilled with the Aeros play in the first period, especially the first half of the period. I just thought Milwaukee was dominating the game, and from what Mike Yeo told me after the game, the guys on the team thought the same thing. And as the seconds ticked down to the intermission, I was thinking the Aeros should be thanking the hockey gods that Terry Koharski was so frigging blind so that they would be down only 1-0 instead of 2-0, only to have Colton Gillies strike and tie the game.
Casey Wellman was the man at the end. He buried that puck, learning from a mistake he'd made on a similar shot several shifts earlier, but if not for Gillies, I don't think Wellman has the chance to be the hero.
"That [Gillies] goal was huge for us," Yeo said after the game. "A number of reasons. I thought Milwaukee played a great first period. I thought that our first period was good, but the feeling on the bench was that Milwaukee was handing it to us good. I don’t think that was the case. They played a very good period and made us feel that because of it. But getting that goal kind of put things back into focus for us, and say, hey, we’re tied going into the period, and I think we know we’ve got another level."
That goal gave the Aeros some momentum, some much needed momentum. The second period was scoreless, though each team had some good chances, then Carson McMillan caught Jeremy Smith alone, being careless with the puck behind the net, and he rushed in from the blue line, got the puck, and found a way to get in the net before Smith or the Milwaukee defenders could stop it.
(Here's a stat: McMillan had three goals in the series. Two were overtime winners, and the third put the Aeros in the lead.)
Milwaukee was able to tie it on a nice goal, and it really, really looked like this game was going to go to OT. Then with about 2:00 left, the Admirals really went on the attack. They surrounded the net and Hackett and pounded him with shot after shot after shot. I thought for sure they were going to win, but Hackett came up big at the most important time of the series and he kept them out of the net. Drew Bagnall was able to make a great play on the puck and get it to Wellman, and BAM!, the Aeros were up.
"There was a crazy scramble in front," Hackett said. "I was lucky to make two or three big saves. My D, they helped me out great. Bags blocked a shot right at the end there. It went to Casey, and he buried it low glove. It was a crazy feeling when he scored that goal."
Here's how Colton Gillies described the sequence as he saw it from the bench.
"Man, our coach tells us, that’s playoffs," Gillies said. "That’s when a lot of goals do happen. The other team is focusing on trying to get that puck home, and guys are sacrificing in front of the net to block the shot, and taking guys out. It just takes one good bounce and we’re off in the other direction.
"It was obviously an emotional rollercoaster on the bench watching it all develop. But it worked out."
I hate to do this to you, but if you want to read what Casey Wellman and Mike Yeo said about the goal, then you're going to have to check the Press tomorrow because I've got to do something to get you to read over there.
This was an incredibly tough series. I was tough on Matt Hackett a lot, but damn, when it was the most difficult, there at the end, the guy really came through. And who doesn't feel for Jeremy Smith. The guy had an incredible series. He did what you want a goalie to do, until the end when he just couldn't do it anymore.
"Jeremy Smith, he had an unbelievable series," Welmman said. "I think we out shot them almost every game. I think it might have been every game. He was coming up with saves left and right. There was obviously some frustration on our side, but we were trying not to let it get to us. We just wanted to get pucks to the net and get guys there for rebounds and second and third opportunities."
I think I'll close this out with Matt Hackett who just summed up this series, and this game seven, just perfectly.
"It’s just fun," he said. "It’s playoff hockey. It’s what you do playing as a kid. You play on the road hockey. It’s overtime, all the time, game seven. Tonight was a special game. It was close again. I didn’t have that much work this series, and it was tough for me to kind of stay focused. But Smitty he had a lot of shots, and it was different for me. But I got used to it later on.
"I’m proud of the boys right now. They did a great job."
So good night from Milwaukee and an incredible game seven. Please read my post in the Press tomorrow/Wednesday. We'll see you on Friday night at Toyota Center for Game One against Hamilton.
P.S.: My MVP of the series is easy. It's Colton Gillies. But you can feel free to argue that out.
P.P.S.: Dear AHL, please do something about your officials. Terry Koharski missed Roman Jofi's goal in the first period. I really fail to understand how he refused to call that a goal. Then he missed a Chad Rau goal later that period. If you're not going to go to replay, then at least get some guys out there who have some decent eye sight.