The Admirals found the back of the net more than once. And lost
Norfolk Admirals fans were abuzz with the news old fan-favorite John Kurtz was back in the fold. The forward played all three years of the Ducks affiliation with the Ads, mainly as an energy line guy. Perhaps his insertion into the lineup led the Ads to score a whole four goals on the night. Another Ducks-era hallmark showed up: Trent Yawney’s philosophy.
Unlike most Friday nights, the Ads went with Connor Knapp in goal. Like most nights, he faced a heavy workload. At first, it looked like he would get some breaks. Nick MacNeil scored first for the Ads, at the net. It wouldn’t last for long, as the Monarchs would come back shortly thereafter with a goal past Knapp. It looked like more of the same of this year. However, Adam Phillips would take a net drive down the right side of the ice and find Jaedon Descheneau for a cross-crease feed. Descheneau took a few jabs and put in the net. The Ads had scored two goals! The Ads would go into the second period with a lead.
In the second, it went kind of ridiculous. Adam Phillips would take a shot from the point which Paul Rodrigues would tip in for a goal. Adam Harstad would raise that with another point shot, this one going crossbar and in to make it 4-1. Manchester, with goals from former Binghamton Senator Alex Guptil and Quentin Shore, cut the deficit to one. Beyond the two point shot goals, the story of the Admirals second period was Mike Krieg. Krieg, a defenseman, took three separate penalties. He had a high-stick, a delay of game, and a trip. The most egregious of these might have been the high-stick. On the trip, Krieg was attempting to stop a 2-on-1 from developing the other way and helping out Knapp. Adding in a penalty to Philips, the Ads had 4 penalties altogether in the third period. The result showed on the shot clock, with the Admirals mustering only 5 shots to Manchester’s 12.
The penalty kill has an odd strategy of deploying Samuel Noreau and Gabriel Verpaelst as the first pairing. During the course of the five-versus-five segment, Rod Aldoff chooses to start this pair almost exclusively in the offensive zone. What this tells me is that Aldoff (or Ben Boudreau) does not believe in this pairing to get out of the defensive zone. More to the point, Noreau appeared to be playing 6th defenseman minutes all night. If you don’t trust a player during the regular course of action, why would you do so in a more critical role?
The third period was especially rough for the Admirals. Mike Krieg took another minor penalty, but the Admirals managed to clear it. Norfolk was awarded a power play, but did nothing with it. The problem for most of the third period is that the Admirals spent the entire time in the defensive zone. For most of the period, the Ads and Monarchs played at five-on-five. Instead of getting into the offensive zone, Norfolk sat back and let shot after shot pile up on Connor Knapp. At some point, this falls onto Rod Aldoff. The new coach of the Admirals is one of those coaches who preaches about “defensive responsibility”, which ends up in hockey like tonight. Sitting back is not a way to do this, especially now. Manchester controlled the period and needed one more goal. With fewer than two minutes left, they pulled their goalie. The gamble paid off and the Monarchs scored.
Both teams continued to play for overtime until a fracas behind the Monarchs net gave Derek Angeli a double-minor and Joey Diamond a minor penalty. The game went to overtime, and the Monarchs scored with about three seconds left in the man advantage. Norfolk is still the only team without TWO wins.
In an article in the Pilot this week, it as mentioned how Aldoff stressed hockey’s offense starts in the defensive zone. Philosophically, I’m not sure how much I agree with this, especially considering shot generation is the best defense. Staying and playing in the defensive zone is especially taxing. Aldoff also mentions how he will find new players if things don’t work out. While the ECHL is home to a never-ending list of transactions, this might not be the best approach. At a certain point, you have to realize everyone on your team is not going to shoot zero percent for the year. Frustration leads to different moves, and some of them can be good. Then, there are moves like bringing back Sam Noreau. He isn’t particularly mobile and should probably be utilized as a 7th defenseman. Problem here is that the Admirals are only carrying six blue-liners. I’m not sure why Aldoff has failed to acquire a defenseman after Frankie Simonelli was called up to Bakersfield. It would be the most apparent move for most coaches. Some changes will definitely be made tomorrow. I imagine one of Dominic Alberga or Maxime St-Cyr will be in the lineup tomorrow, and I am leaning St-Cyr. If he had the luxury, I could definitely see Aldoff taking out Krieg in favor of another defenseman. The negative penalty differential definitely hurt, but it wasn’t what ultimately ended it for the Ads.
Aldoff needs to evaluate himself, and not just his players. Quickly getting rid of someone for not performing one night or another is not a reliable evaluation of their play. I realize this is the ECHL, and that there is little margin for error. However, if you keep getting the same results with different players, maybe the problem is the process. At some point, you have to take that into consideration.