The Admirals returned home from their embarrassing road trip and tried to right the ship.
If one period is going to sum up this weekend, it’s Saturday’s first period. Norfolk, mired defensively and offensively, needed to find some footing. After a 3-2 overtime win on Friday, they wanted to build upon that tonight. Using the ever successful plan of “keep pucks away from sub-.900 save percentage Jason Labarbera”, opponent Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was held to one official shot on goal. WBS’ shot total included one power play chance. During that opportunity, Norfolk got the better end with two shorthanded tries by John Kurtz and Dave Steckel. Neither connected.
Near the end of the period, Penguins captain Tom Kostopoulos took a penalty that put the Admirals on the power play. During their try, WBS forced a turnover and had a short-handed 2-on-1. Not-really-a-rookie-because-of-CHL-AHL-rules Shea Theodore broke up the pass, found Jesse Blacker, and then gave it to Brad Winchester who fired home for a 1-0 score near the buzzer.
Norfolk had given their most complete period. Offensive zone possession, smart special teams, and Jason LaBarbera doing as little as possible. Nic Kerdiles would help the effort in the 2nd period. Dave Steckel, below the goal line, would win a puck and pass it to Nic Kerdiles in the left ring. Kerdiles would then move in towards the slot and make it 2-0 with his first goal of the season.
WBS would try to come back in the 3rd period. After a turnover by Matt Bailey, Penguin Conor Sheary shot one past LaBarbera to make it 2-1. The score would stand as the final. Norfolk would end the weekend with 4 points gained and one game under .500.
I’d be remiss to not mention Friday’s affair. Desperate for a win, a point, a goal, the Ads needed to do something. Reinforcements came in the form of Bryan Allen and Shea Theodore, who proved to be the top pair for the weekend. Things appeared to start off as they always did, with WBS getting the first goal of the game.
However, the Ads would respond in kind in the first period. Shea Theodore would keep in a puck at the blueline, knock it towards the net, where it would find Chris Wagner who would shoot it and have Brandon Yip pick up the rebound for a score. Nothing much would happen in the second period except a long awaited duel between Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and Steve MacIntyre. I’ll give it to Mac.
Friday’s third period would be a bit more interesting. WBS would score a goal during a 4 on 4 situation and go up 2-1. Thirty-four seconds later, Brandon Yip shot it towards the net from just below the blue line and Chris Wagner tipped it in to tie the game. Overtime awaited both teams.
Barely a minute into overtime, Chris Wagner would drive the puck in, have it blocked, have the puck picked up by Andrew O’Brien and then put in by-who else-Brandon Yip for the game-winner. It was another play in which Jarrod Skalde used Dave Steckel as the defensive zone draw and then exchanged him for a forward, this time Chris Wagner. It paid off! Norfolk now looks to continue their success next week on the road.
pleased to meet me: the replacements
Bryan Allen and Shea Theodore were sent to the Admirals on conditioning assignments by the Ducks. The idea behind this rule is to allow injured players to get up to game speed while giving minor league teams some bodies. It worked out wonderfully this weekend for the Ads. Bryan Allen, who is somewhat maligned at the NHL level, was fine in the AHL. Allen spent most of his time at 5v5 and on the penalty kill. The PK was perfect on the weekend, some of it due to Allen. If he was in Norfolk, Allen would be an incredible asset. The truth is that he belongs in the NHL at that 6/7D spot and should get plenty of playing time when he gets back to Anaheim.
Shea Theodore’s play was incredibly noticeable. Anaheim’s 2013 first-round draft pick is an offense-first defenseman with a great shot and decent decision making. This weekend, he managed to net 2 assists. Theodore now has a point per game for the past five games he’s been an Admiral, including the playoffs. Areas of improvement for the Seattle Thunderbirds product would be physicality and decision making. He didn’t look out of place in the AHL. Shame about those CHL/AHL rules.
nic kerdiles, two games, two stories
Friday night was not a good night for Nic Kerdiles. The rookie forward took a penalty thirteen seconds in to the game. Later in the first period, he would block a shot and show ill effects the rest of the game. Kerdiles would make a smart play, have some room, and could not get a shot or a try off. He’d take another penalty and finish with one shot. It hurt watching him play at half-speed and never really getting anything done.
Saturday was better. All healed up, Kerdiles played his regular game and didn’t take a penalty. He DID manage to get his first goal of the season to put him at 1+5=6 points for the season and finished with 3 shots.
mat clark and jesse blacker have a decent weekend
Mat Clark and Jesse Blacker have been criticized in this very space. Both of the defensemen have been underwhelming this year, to be charitable. Both of them had decent if unspectacular weekends. Mat Clark was “good quiet” in both games, being defensively sound, keeping pucks in, and doing work on the penalty kill. Clark also managed not to be on ice for a single goal against.
Blacker was a bit different. He was tasked with more puck-handling and is now paired with the similarly offensive-minded Brendan Bell. The difference is that Blacker wasn’t asked to as much with Bell on his pair and Shea Theodore on the power play. Blacker managed to notch an assist on Brad Winchester’s goal and was on-ice for Brandon Yip’s overtime game-winner. He’s still got some bad habits, like a lack of confidence with the puck. Blacker could shoot once or twice.
Kevin Gagne, the wild rover of the defensive corps, was scratched both games. Did the subtraction of his play create addition this weekend? It’s hard to tell based on two games.
jason labarbera starts both games…
Igor Bobkov was brought back this year to be a starter in the AHL. He’s played two games. Jarrod Skalde obviously wants to play the goalie that gives his team the best chance to win. Labarbera isn’t that great and can’t be put out there every game. Skalde’s strategy did appear to shift from “attack” hockey to “offensive zone possession” hockey, wherein pucks are kept far away from the goalie. Bobkov would be a great test of this system and he’s going to need to play next week.
Anaheim, though, needs to work on finding some goalie talent. It doesn’t appear to be there in the system beyond Frederik Andersen and John Gibson.