John Gibson was good again. The rest of the team? Not so much.
Norfolk came into Game 2 against St. John’s with a nice 1-0 lead in the series over the IceCaps. On Tuesday, they had the opportunity to take a commanding 2-0 advantage and swing the series back to Norfolk. They followed the same game plan as Tuesday. It didn’t work.
Early Wednesday morning, the team got word that Sami Vatanen would be recalled by the parent Anaheim Ducks. This left the Admirals without a key top-4 defenseman and part of the power play. Trent Yawney would respond to this by inserting rookie Shea Theodore into the lineup and play with 7 defensemen. The first period would end up being mostly uneventful with a 4-on-4 opportunity that did not lead to a score. It was fairly even in the shots category, 17-14 in favor of the IceCaps. Norfolk could use that type of play going forward.
They didn’t open up the second on a good note. An early bench minor for too many men would put the Admirals shorthanded, a phase of the game they’ve dominated. Not this time, as 2013 first round draft pick Josh Morrissey would put it past John Gibson to make it a 1-0 game. Norfolk wasn’t out of it yet. They proceeded to be their own worst enemy. Matt Bailey, shortly after the Morrissey goal, would high-stick an IceCap. Bailey drew blood on his high-stick and the Ads were shorthanded for 4 minutes. Norfolk’s kill wouldn’t stand muster. Nolan Yonkman, attempting to clear a shot from behind the goal, would tip it to another player. IceCaps Captain Jason Jaffray graciously took the pass and fire it for a 2-0 goal. Norfolk couldn’t recover in the period, and the St. John’s would ultimately own the shot clock and the scoreboard.
A valiant third period would be needed if the Admirals would want to come back. Chris Wagner would give the period an ominous start by taking a penalty. No damage would be done, thankfully. Norfolk finally took advantage of a St. John’s mistake later in the third. Blair Riley would take a charging penalty and put the Admirals back on the power play. Near the end of it, they finally cashed in. Andre Petersson took a shot at the net that Dave Steckel tried to tip in and that Chris Wagner would put over the line.
It was a manageable one-goal deficit with time winding down. St. John’s would take another penalty–and Norfolk would not convert. Then, the worst possible thing happened. With slightly over 2 minutes left in the game, an infraction came to Steve Eminger. The Ads would have to play the end of the game in the defensive zone. Eventually, John Gibson would be pulled for an extra attacker. St. John’s nor the Admirals could capitalize. The game ended with a 2-1 win in favor of St. John’s and a tied series.
St. John’s once again owned the shot clock overall with a 41 to 33 advantage. Norfolk can not continue to have such wide disparities and lack of zone time. Sami Vatanen’s absence hurts, no doubt. Still, the Ads have been content to let the opposition fire at will. John Gibson once again kept the team in the game, stopping of 39/41 shots. The solution is so simple– get pucks on net. I know it’s easier said than done. I’d like to see it in Norfolk.
Antoine Laganiere is out long-term with an injury sustained in the Manchester series…YouTube highlights