I mean it!
When I went to the season opener, I saw a disorganized team get shutout by Wheeling. Saturday night, I saw a team that was never tentative score some incredible goals and keep their winning streak going. Norfolk played a fantastic game tonight-probably the best a team with the Norfolk Admirals crest has played in two years. Last year had plenty of chances, but there was a serious dearth of talent in net coupled with an absolutely disappointing offense for a number of reasons.
Twenty-seven seconds into the game, the Admirals struck first. Edmonton draft choice Ben Betker fired a shot from the point, Wheeling goalie Brian Foster left a juicy rebound, and the Admirals fought to put it in. Rookie Connor Rankin (AHL Contract) stuffed in the puck, giving him his second goal in as many games. The Admirals continued to attack, though Rankin’s goal was met with an answer by Zack Torquato on a point deflection. Give up? Of course not. Not a minute later, Gabriel Verpaelst would take a shot on net that was put in by Josh Currie.
Wheeling would again answer back, and bad turnover by Joe Marciano would allow the Nailers to even up the score. On the ensuing faceoff, Verpaelst and Patrick McGrath started to fight. In a move that’s pretty standard now, both combatants threw off their helmets. Yes, it is a penalty, but it’s expected that both players will serve seven minutes in the box. Instead, the refs put both players in the box and made it 4-on-4 to end the period. Sounds good to the Ads.
Michael Pelech would take a shot on net, and Charles-Olivier Roussel activated to swipe the rebound home. Norfolk then lead 3-2 and never looked back. The second period was one of the most entertaining periods of hockey I’ve seen. Both teams traded chances for over 10 minutes before a whistle was blown. Wheeling outshot the Admirals by six in the period, yet never seemed fully in control. At certain points the teams would have great zone time, but nothing overwhelming.
Alexandre Ranger decided he wanted to break out of all of it. Ranger played an incredible game, everywhere on the ice, trying to make anything happen. He made the most of it when he received a pass from Marcus Hinds at Norfolk’s blue line, started towards the defensive zone, got behind Wheeling defenseman Harrison Rupp, and then tucked it in to make it 4-2. Nothing could top that goal.
Josh Currie disagreed. Shorthanded, he took a pass from the Admirals’ defensive zone through the neutral zone, went around one defender, and beat two others, and hit a shot from the right ring-while slightly off-balanced. Currie’s goal was simply impressive. As you might have guessed, Currie is the team’s leading scorer with 4+5=9, as well as shots on goal with 28. Late in the period, the Admirals would ice the puck four consecutive times. Eric Veilleux would cal a timeout, and the Nailers would take this opportunity to pull their goalie for the extra attacker. Steve Whitney found the puck and finally got his first goal of the year.
With their third win a row, the Admirals improved to .500 on the year and 3-1 at home. The Ads, tonight, were a fun team. Scoring came because they pounced on rebounds, they made smart passes, and they weren’t passive. Problems still exist, mainly taking really bad penalties. The team didn’t get outshot by a large margin (and was most likely dealing with score effects for most of the game) and took the most of their opportunities. Ty Rimmer was once again outstanding in goal, posting a quality start. I think this is more indicative of the team than their awful road trip. Florida and Orlando look to be very good, possibly excellent teams. Norfolk has played well early against a decent Wheeling side, and won games against a possibly okay Quad City and a very poor Greenville team.
South Carolina looms for the Admirals Sunday afternoon. While Branden Komm posted a very tidy 20/21 Saturday night in a 4-1 win over Elmira, I’d expect Vitek Vanecek in goal. Vanecek is a Capitals prospect, and I’m sure Washington wants as much playing time as possible for him. Speaking of: what’s up with Eetu Laurikainen? Bakersfield is going with a Brossoit/Scrivens tandem and Laurikainen is more or less just sitting there for practice. Norfolk could use him as Phillipe Cadorette is out with an injury, and they had to trade for Nic Riopel, who will likely start tomorrow.
Marcus Hinds recorded his first professional point on Ranger’s goal…Greg Chase saw a 6-game point streak come to an end…Ty Rimmer now has a .921 save percentage…former Ads Brad Thiessen and Ryan Faragher are 1-2 right now in ECHL save percentage…Some familiar names on the Stingrays: Andrew Rowe, David Pacan, Nick D’Agostino, Jared Staal…