Improbably, the Admirals won their opening round series against the top-seeded Manchester Monarchs.
John Gibson got the Admirals to Friday night. After playing nearly two whole games worth of shutout hockey, the highly-touted rookie had put the team in a position to take a best-of-five series. If Gibson makes one or two more errors on Saturday or Wednesday night, there’s a decent chance Norfolk’s either eliminated or looking at a deficit. Instead, his fantastic performance kept them steady. In front of him, the Admirals found some timely scoring.
Friday night saw the team come out attacking, keeping the play mostly in Manchester’s zone. It was a good change-of-pace from Wednesday’s game. Recently in from Anaheim Rickard Rakell teamed up with offensive blue-liner Sami Vatanen to get a shot on net that Nic Kerdiles tipped in. It felt like this was going to be the style all night long.
They would once again find themselves playing a bit too much in their own end. A large part of this came from bad penalties, giving the Monarchs room to work. It would not damage the team in the first period, and John Gibson’s sterling shutout streak was still intact. The next 20 minutes would not be as kind. Play in the Norfolk end continued be the theme, along with (albeit questionable) penalties on the Ads. Nolan Yonkman’s penalty for hooking would give the first crack in the Admirals at home. Right off of the faceoff, the Monarchs would find a player in the slot, who fired a shot past John Gibson.
No scoring would happen for the rest of the period, and it was all in the third. Norfolk would come out attacking again, and see some early results. Yonkman would atone for his earlier sins by firing a shot on net that Chris Wagner (an alternate captain these playoffs) would knock home to give the Admirals a 2-1 lead. The marker was short lived. Later on in the period, Manchester defenseman would knee Antoine Laganiere and give Norfolk a power play. It was erased as Sami Vatanen was called for tripping, and a 4-on-4 situation would arise. Jordan Weal would find Monarchs captain Andrew “Soupy” Campbell cross-crease for a goal. It was tied, once again.
Overtime again would have made sense, the teams felt deadlocked. Until about halfway through the period, when Chris Wagner’s shot on goal was tipped-by who else?- Maxime Sauve. He’s definitely the unlikely hero so far. Sauve played in half the team’s game and scored only 14 points. He’s made every shot count, scoring on 2 of his 3 shots so far this playoffs. His goal would once again prove the game-winner.
John Gibson and the team stood tall once again, not letting any shots get through. Manchester would only be credited with 3 shots in the third period, largely because play was in their end. It was also the work of the defense out on the empty-net situation, keeping the puck far away from the net. The buzzer sounded, and Norfolk won the game and the series.
Moving on, the Admirals will play either the Springfield Falcons or the St. John’s IceCaps. Norfolk has had minor success with the Falcons, with both teams splitting visits. The Admirals never played Springfield goalie Mike McKenna, who will be their probable starter should they advance. Norfolk has not played St. John’s this year. The IceCaps defeated Albany 3-1. St. John’s looks like they will be a heady challenge, with plenty of goalscoring and solid goaltending from Michael Hutchinson.
is this team built for the playoffs?????
Norfolk has won a series and that’s an incredible feat. Going into this, I thought they had a decent chance to win based on past success and goaltending. As it turned out, the latter proved to be the most important part of this series. John Gibson is probably the best goalie left in the East. His play can definitely steal a game for you. What’s going to have to happen is the team in front of him continuing to attack and play in their opponent’s end. Tonight, they did that. Begrudgingly, I have to admit that Trent Yawney may have made real adjustments in the day off. Norfolk looked like a much better team on Friday, one that exited their zone. It helped a good bit that a dynamic player like Rickard Rakell was back in the lineup, who can carry the puck.
I don’t know that they make it past their round 2 opponent. I’m okay with being wrong.
With about 2 minutes left in the third, Manchester has an offensive-zone faceoff. They’re down one goal and have their timeout. If you’re Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris, do you take the timeout and pull JF Berube? He didn’t. He would wait a little bit longer, and have to survive a few Norfolk rushes before he pulled his goalie. It didn’t work out anyway. As an Admirals fan, I’m happy that it didn’t work out for them. As someone who’s paid attention to how Patrick Roy and his earlier pulls have gone throughout the NHL playoffs, I wonder why it hasn’t worked its way down.
Admirals are first AHL team to knock off #1 seed as a #8 since Iowa (Stars) beat Omaha…. Norfolk’s next opponent is based on the winner of the Springfield-Providence game tomorrow….Jim Hodges’ recap…. YouTube highlights…