Let’s jam-pack all of the AHL stuff we can while it lasts.
Norfolk completed what would be considered a successful road trip this past weekend under what would be less dire conditions. Entering the weekend, Norfolk sat in last place in the East Division and Conference , not even in the orbit of a playoff spot. After this weekend, they were…next to last!
Binghamton played host to the Ads for a back-to-back set, and they are a team trending in the wrong direction. Emerson Etem took advantage of their porous defense over the weekend, especially on Friday. Facing goalie Peter Mannino, Etem notched a hat trick, including a power play marker. John Gibson would get the start, but give up 23/26 shots faced. Norfolk eventually ended up winning the game, 5-3.
Saturday was a decidedly tighter game. The game was pretty uneventful until Binghamton’s Derek Grant scored a short-handed goal to put the Sens up 1-0. After a debatable icing call in the second period, William Karlsson would win a faceoff, and Emerson Etem would get the equalizer. The score held up until the overtime, when defenseman Andrew O’Brien found the scoresheet on a left-circle slapshot with a nice feed from Nic Kerdiles. The Ads would travel home with at least 4 points.
Sunday’s game against Hershey-the last AHL game against the Bears-was disappointing. Jason LaBarbera and the defense were generally very good, but ended up giving a goal to Chandler Stephenson that truly decided the game. Offensively, no one could get going despite decent chances. Emerson Etem was stopped blank on a nice power play try, putting his scoring streak to a slight halt. The Ads earned 4/6 points on the road, which is usually a very good thing. Given how far the team is from the playoffs, and how late it is in the season, every game needs to be a win. Of course, Norfolk did not have this team in the fall. Injuries in Anaheim forced several different moves at the AHL level, including fielding an ECHL-quality defense for a good while. Now, this team is affected by roster moves that would not have been possible earlier. Two of these are the inclusion of Colby Robak and Mark Fistric, who were sent down due to a logjam on the Ducks’ defense. I’m not sure how far this team will go (or what will happen) but it looks to be competitive down the stretch.
How good is the former first-round draft choice? Etem has played 18 AHL games, and already leads the Ads with 13 goals while adding another 6 assists, good for 19 points. Those 19 points tie him with Louis Leblanc, who has played 44 games for the Ads. Etem is 4th on the team in scoring in that short span, as well. He’s so good that he lead all AHL players in goals for the month of January in goals. It’s undeniable how much he has helped the offense.
Rookie Jaycob Megna and waiver-clearance Colby Robak joined the team this weekend. Megna is an Anaheim draft pick who was sidelined this year by injury. He finally got a chance to play in Friday and Saturday’s game. I didn’t notice him that much, as he was third pairing, with some penalty killing time. I don’t have a truly comprehensive thought about him. He was played on Sunday in favor of Andrew O’Brien. I didn’t quite get that move other, as AOB had scored the OT game-winner the night before. Best I can figure is that the team wanted to look at Megna some more and give AOB some rest.
Colby Robak made it to Saturday’s game, noticeably in the power play. He can really move the puck, has great skating ability, and seems defensively aware. He’s a very good addition to an Ads defense that needs guys who can take the puck up the ice. While he didn’t register a point over the weekend, he has some success at the AHL level as an offensive blue-liner. Robak will definitely be in the lineup this weekend against Worcester.
Josh Manson and AOB had goals this weekend, giving them 2 apiece. Shea Theodore still leads all Ads defensemen with 3 goals.
Today at 100 Degree Hockey, there is a list of the affiliations of NHL and AHL teams. Readers of this blog are most likely aware that Norfolk will be bought by the Anaheim Ducks and relocated to San Diego. In the wake of the AHL Admirals will be an ECHL team, owned by the Edmonton Oilers. During an interview with broadcaster Pete Michaud, Ads owner Ken Young mentioned that the team actively sought out an NHL parent. He mentioned they were in talks with a few teams, with one wanting to move their operations to the Northeast. The report by 100 Degree Hockey confirms that the Florida Panthers will be moving their team to Portland, Maine; Arizona will then go to San Antonio. Norfolk is closer to South Florida (mhmm). Teams apparently didn’t want to put their AHL ops here because of location. It’s kind of ridiculous when you consider the isolation of the Charlotte Checkers.
In reality, if a team came to Norfolk, someone would have to “host” Anaheim. Then, that AHL team would be forced to sell to the Ducks. AHL teams did not want this fate to come to them, and most likely decided to say no to any affiliations (possibly with a little help from the league). Thus, where we are now.