Admirals sail into conference finals

Photo: Andy Nietupski

A four-goal first period was enough to send the Milwaukee Admirals into the Western Conference Finals with a 5-2 win over the Texas Stars at H-E-B Center in Cedar Park on Sunday evening.

The Admirals won the best-of-five Central Division finals, three games to two, to advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2006. They will face the Coachella Valley Firebirds beginning Thursday in Palm Desert, Calif.

Adam Wilsby opened the scoring 8:12 into the game — the road team scored first in all five games of the series — before Marc Del Gaizo and Joakim Kemell scored 28 seconds apart to open up a 3-0 Milwaukee lead.

Kemell, the 19-year-old forward who was Nashville’s first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, tacked on another goal with 58.5 seconds left to give the Admirals a 4-0 cushion at the first intermission.

Riley Damiani got the Stars on the board 1:48 into the second period, and Nick Caamano came out of the penalty box and scored a shorthanded goal with 9:30 to go in regulation, but Milwaukee held on for its second victory in a winner-take-all game this postseason. Egor Afanasyev capped the scoring with an empty-netter in the final minute.

Yaroslav Askarov made 37 saves to earn the win in net for the Admirals. Matt Murray stopped 10 of 14 shots in the first period before giving way to Remi Poirier, who finished with 10 saves in his Calder Cup Playoff debut.

Central Division Finals (best-of-5)
C1-Texas Stars vs. C2-Milwaukee Admirals
Game 1 – Fri., May 12 – MILWAUKEE 2, Texas 1 | Recap
Game 2 – Sat., May 13 – Texas 5, MILWAUKEE 3 | Recap
Game 3 – Wed., May 17 – Milwaukee 4, TEXAS 3 | Recap
Game 4 – Fri., May 19 – TEXAS 4, Milwaukee 3 (2OT) | Recap
Game 5 – Sun., May 21 – Milwaukee 5, TEXAS 2