Admirals games, more the most part, aren’t offensive affairs. They’re low-scoring games where John Gibson continues you to remind you how good he is. What happens when Anaheim sends down two of its most talented prospects?
Wednesday saw the Ads’ first game against their only Western opponent, the Charlotte Checkers. Reeling due to goaltending injuries, the Checkers were a team Norfolk needed to get past to take advantage of an unusually busy weeknight in the AHL. Earlier in the day, the Admirals got news that Devante Smith-Pelly and Emerson Etem were being sent back. I wrote about this earlier–the main point is that it adds offense to a team that desperately needs to score goals.
Pegged as starters, DSP and Etem played on Rickard Rakell’s wings. Rakell has been equally impressive in his time with the Ducks and the rookie has been impressive for Norfolk. Things didn’t start off too well as the Admirals had to kill off a 5-on-3 for penalties to Chris Wagner and Mat Clark. The Admirals penalty kill was once again spectacular-perfect on the night-but the team gave up a goal to Charlotte shortly after. Not to be disappointed, the Ads went back to work.
Emerson Etem fired shots at the net, with Clark picking up a rebound, connecting with DSP and tying the game up. All game, the play of Etem and DSP was incredibly noticeable, a level above everyone else on the ice not named John Gibson. It was a somewhat uneventful period aside from Stefan Warg getting rocked up against the glass and a particular shift from Jesse Blacker. Blacker’s an interesting case. Some plays, you think he has some talent. Then you get a shift like the one he had tonight. With the puck on the point, Blacker held it, moved it around, held it, moved it around, held it, moved it around. If this was Alex Grant or Kevin Gagne, that puck either gets fired toward the net or finds an open man.
The second period again showed how great Etem and DSP were. On a power play, Gagne drove the puck in, found Devo, and he passed it to Etem at the net, who flipped it past John Muse to give Norfolk a lead. Before that play, Etem used his great skating to drive down the middle and tried to hit DSP. That combo tried it a few times, even if it didn’t work. Charlotte wouldn’t stand for this, and scored again on a tipped slapper from the point. The game was tied headed into the third.
Norfolk took control of the game in the third, making the most of opportunities on special teams. Once again, the first power play unit found some magic. Kevin Gagne, who looks great bringing the puck in, found Etem down the left wing, who shot the puck at Muse. Rakell took a loose puck in the slot and converted for a 3-2 lead.
Despite the top line’s impressive play, the best play may have been made by some AHLers. Shortly after a 4-on-4 expired and gave Charlotte a power play, Mat Clark forced a puck lose along the boards and found Max Friberg. who skated in from the left wing in on Muse to put Norfolk up 4-2. It’s all the Admirals would need. Charlotte would pull Muse near the end of the third and Devo would find John Kurtz to hit an empty-netter and ice the game.
Norfolk shook off a slightly bad start and responded in the 2nd and 3rd by taking advantage of what Charlotte gave them. The talents of Etem and DSP are obvious, as they both contributed 3 points apiece in tonight’s win. With them in the lineup, there is an actual scoring threat beyond Rakell and perhaps a Grant shot from the point. Will it last?
Garnet Exelby was a scratch tonight, As went to Kurtz, Clark, and Zack Stortini… DSP wore #23 and Etem wore #16….Busy Eastern Division night, Binghamton beat Syracuse, WBS lost to Adirondack, and the Bears lost to St John’s….Norfolk currently sits in 5th, all East teams are currently in playoffs tho SYR is tied with Hartford..don’t forget “Black and Blue Friday” at the Scope Box office, $11 tickets for games through Dec…Fri and Sat vs Providence, Saturday is a post game skate…