Hockey was finally back in Norfolk this weekend as the Admirals had a two-game set against the Portland Pirates. Norfolk and Portland hadn’t met since 2011.
A few things to start off with before we discuss this weekend’s series of events. The Portland Pirates play in Lewiston, Maine, not Portland; Brandon McMillan is a former Ad with the Pirates and Frederik Andersen had yet to play a game since he was sent back to Norfolk.
Reliable goaltender John Gibson once again got the start in the game, and with Sami Vatanen recalled by the Ducks, new acquisition Jesse Blacker got his first crack at the Ads’ lineup. For the first period and a half, the game was mostly back-and-forth, punctuated by a fight that of course involved Zach Stortini. In a weird turn of events, the Ad were actually outshooting their opponent.
It wasn’t enough in the early going. About halfway through the second period, the Pirates Jamie Martinook snuck one past Gibson to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. At this point, the building felt a little deflated. Minutes later, a key mistake would cost the Admirals. Kevin Gagne misplayed a puck near the Norfolk goal line, which was stolen by a Pirate and then fed to Ethan Werek to double Portland’s lead. Remember Jesse Blacker, the new guy? He had a chance to make a defensive play but couldn’t, ultimately leading to a goal.
Norfolk, playing a relentless game for a change, actually managed to get something going near the end of the second. After a penalty to Brandon Gormley expired, the Ads got some pressure in the offensive zone. From a weird angle in the corner, John Kurtz got one past Mark Visentin to cut the lead to 2-1.
The third period’s turning point, surprisingly, was on a penalty kill. Stortini got sent to the box on an elbowing call. Norfolk responded by being extremely aggressive and creating scoring chances. At one point, a puck was laying in the blue paint that a Pirate had to fish out. The Ads kept looking for that tying goal, and with about 5 minutes left, some light.
Steven Whitney drove to the net, got sandwiched by two Pirates, left a loose puck somewhat near the blue line, Alex Grant skated down, picked it up, and fired it for a tying goal. The game went to overtime.
Friday’s contest looked like it was headed for the shootout. Pirate Mathieu Brodeur was called for tripping near the end of overtime, giving the Admirals a power play. Less than a minute remained before Grant lined up a shot, looked…and found Rickard Rakell for the game-winner!
The Ads got 2 points thanks to actually outshooting the other team, being perfect on the penalty kill, and scoring key goals at important junctures of the game. It was a mirage.
Game Highlights-game 18
Downtown Norfolk was packed on Saturday, starting with the Illumination Parade. I was in town for my friend’s show. As such, I didn’t get a chance to really look at or listen to the game. Thanks to the internet, I got a nice play-by-play of important events from those on twitter.
Before the game, Frederik Andersen and YONK got recalled as a result of injuries sustained by Luca Sbisa and Viktor Fasth. Thus, Igor Bobkov was the backup to Gibson and Stefan Warg drew in on the blue-line. Things got started off well enough. Less than a minute in, the Ads got on the board with a goal from Chris Wagner. Things continued to look up as Charlie Sarault finally got back on the scoresheet a couple minutes later, chasing Portland goalie Mike Lee.
Friday goalie Mark Visentin was put back in, and got tested as Dave Steckel would take advantage of a bad turnover and convert for a goal to put the Admirals up 3-0. It wouldn’t last. As Shawn likes to say, Yawney Hockey took over and the Ads let up off the gas pedal. They would let Portland come back in regulation, with the tying goal coming with Visentin pulled at the end of the third.
Norfolk and Portland would go to a shootout, where ultimately the Pirates would take it and get 2 points. Once again, the Admirals split 6 points at home, failing to take advantage of a great opportunity to win. Saturday’s game was pretty dismal from a shot perspective, too. Norfolk got 7 shots in the first and then got 9 in the next three periods (including overtime) COMBINED. Portland would outshoot them by a remarkable 38-16.
In Jim Hodges’ gamer from Sunday, players and coaches alike are quoted about old cliches about failing to play to win. Here’s the thing: it’s like that every game. The team rushes down the ice-maybe-attempts a shot (if they’re lucky) and never gets much out of it. Trent Yawney is definitely a prime culprit, but he’s not going anywhere. Unless the Admirals do significantly worse, and I don’t see it happening with how reliable Gibson is, Yawney isn’t getting usurped by Jarrod Skalde.
game highlights-game 19