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The Admirals will need the ultimate comeback to keep their AHL playoff hopes alive

The Milwaukee Admirals are 4-0 in elimination games in these AHL playoffs, but they’ll need to heat up in a hurry and win four more if they are to reach the Calder Cup Finals.

Another tough start Tuesday night led to a 5-2 loss to the Coachella Valley Firebirds at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and left the Admirals down three games to none in the best-of-seven Western Conference championship series.

“All the cliches are applicable now, right?” Admirals coach Karl Taylor said. “We’re up against it. At some point this is what happens.

“So as a group, we like our mettle and how strong we’ve been, dealing with elimination games. Our locker room has been very strong in these moments, and I expect us to regroup and recover and do everything we can to force a Game 5. That doesn’t happen unless we win Game 4.”

Game 3 summary: Firebirds 5, Admirals 2

Milwaukee is set to host Game 4 at 7 p.m. Thursday, and Game 5 if necessary would be at 6 p.m. Saturday again at the Panther Arena.

Coachella Valley has won eight straight games since losing its playoff opener.

The Firebirds got their first goal from defenseman Cale Fleury 31 seconds into the game, added two more in the first period and were up 4-0 1:34 into the second period after De Pere native Max McCormick scored.

Defenseman Marc Del Gaizo and center Fedor Svechkov gave Milwaukee hope with goals in the second period, but Coachella Valley goaltender Chris Dreidger kept the Admirals at bay, and an empty-netter by forward Jacob Melanson removed any remaining drama from the final 2 ½ minutes.

Coachella Valley Firebirds goaltender Chris Driedger deflects a shot by Milwaukee Admirals right wing Joakim Kemell (25) in the second period of their AHL playoff game Tuesday night at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
Coachella Valley Firebirds goaltender Chris Driedger deflects a shot by Milwaukee Admirals right wing Joakim Kemell (25) in the second period of their AHL playoff game Tuesday night at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.

“Guys tried hard, guys didn’t quit, tried to come back,” Taylor said. “It’s a big hill to climb when you’re down four like that against that squad.

“We might have had more chances than them. Not the quality they had, but we’ve got to find a way to score more. We’re just not finding a way to put the puck in the net. Like I said before the game, you’re going to need three to give yourself a chance to beat this team, and we just gave up too many easy ones in the first two (periods) to have three be the right number today.”

The Firebirds — the team that knocked the Admirals out of the playoffs in the Western finals last year — have allowed more than two goals just once in their past seven games.

Driedger, who had held the Admirals to one goal in each of the first two games of this series, made 31 saves in his latest victory.

Taylor was quick to deflect blame from veteran Admirals goalie Troy Grosenick, who gave up four goals on the first 12 shots he faced before finishing with 20 saves.

“Troy’s our backbone back there,” Taylor said. “He’s been great since unfortunately (Yaroslav Askarov got) injured. He’s doing everything he can. We sold him out today unfairly. The only thing I’ll be saying for him is to apologize for how we played in the first period. … That loss had nothing to do with the goaltender; that’s for sure.”

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Admirals down 3-0 to Coachella Valley in AHL playoffs