Good way to start the new year…
Inconsistency has marked the Admirals this season. After stringing together some wins, the Ads could not get out of their own way last week to get out of last place. With the new year upon them, the Ads had some redemption with a visit from the Adirondack Thunder. The Ads actually came out ahead.
The first period of the game struck me as somewhat uneventful, for the most part. Norfolk did show a return to a more aggressive penalty kill. The move to an active kill helped keep the pucks out of Brandon Anderson’s way and also produced a few quality chances on the night. The player who stuck out to me the most on the kill was Paul Rodrigues, who unfortunately took a costly penalty in the second. Norfolk would come out of the first period with the advantage. TJ Foster tried a series of moves to get one past JP Anderson, went around the net, and fired a pass to John Dunbar, who put it in to give the Admirals the lead. Dunbar’s goal tonight gave him 9 on the season, which leads all Admirals scorers. This takes into account players who were on multiple teams.
Norfolk’s second period opened up strong, with the Admirals controlling play. Eventually, they would cash in on a Power Play attempt. Nick MacNeil tipped in a Mikael Tam shot to give the Ads a 2-1 lead. The Ads maintained solid play throughout the second, and killed their only penalty. Going into the third, the Ads had a slim lead, though plenty of solid goaltending from Brandon Anderson and strong structural play.
The third period of the game saw the Ads slip a little bit. Their first mistake was Paul Rodrigues taking a slashing penalty right as a Nick MacNeil penalty was about to expire. Adirondack made haste of this opportunity, and former Ad Ty Loney went blocker side past JP Anderson to make it 2-1 Ads. Another tough situation would come soon thereafter, when Dmitri Sergeev would hook Dennis Kravchenko on a breakaway. Kravchenko was awarded a penalty shot, and Brandon Anderson managed to keep it away with a left pad save. Norfolk continued to march on towards a desired result, but saw Adirondack tie the game with fewer than 5 minutes remaining. Mikkel Aagard would get a nice feed, cut down the left wing, and fire blocker side (again!) to tie it up. Things were not looking great for a few seconds there. Nick MacNeil would go down the bench side of the ice, shoot towards the goal, and have a textbook deflection by Jaedon Descheneau. The goal was Descheneau’s 7th on the season, putting him in a multi-way tie. Brodie Dupont would add an empty-net goal to cement the lead for the Ads. The year 2017 starts with a win for Norfolk.
I am still unclear as to what to make of this Admirals team. Many of the best players on the team were not here at the beginning of the year, which might explain some of the awful start. The team is working better, but there are still some places of criticism. Penalties didn’t do too much harm tonight, but staying out of the box is always a good idea on a team that isn’t the definition of firepower. Robbie Ftorek’s strategy of using another defenseman as a forward seems to be a bit flexible, with those players operating more like energy guys at a desired position. I would say that Alex Pompeo is straight up a forward now, which might better suit his skillset. Brandon Anderson was a big reason for tonight’s win, with the penalty shot stop and turning away 34 of 36 shots. Those numbers were good enough to put Brandon Anderson up to an .891 save percentage. Brandon Anderson, no surprise, did a lot of work tonight with his glove. Still, that .891 save percentage is not necessarily reassuring.
Coming up this weekend, the Ads take on fellow cellar dwellers Elmira. Both teams have 7 wins apiece, but the Jackals have an extra overtime loss point and two games in hand. Norfolk can get out of last place if they find their groove and pick up two wins this weekend. The Ads no doubt want to do this after last week’s awful trip up north.
Gabriel Verpaelst‘s first game without a shot since December 21st against Greenville; Verpaelst has gone without a shot in just 6 of 31 games, and leads the team with 72 shots…Mikael Tam‘s assist gave him 11 points in 8 games, good for a clip of 1.38 points/game, and he has yet to go without a point this season; Tam now holds the current assist streak with 7 games, Florida’s Michael Kirkpatrick has the season-high with 8…Brodie Dupont finished with a game-high 9 shots; his previous high this season was 7 shots, which he accomplished two times (11/18/2016 against Idaho; 12/09/2016 against Manchester)… TJ Foster and John Dunbar both registered points tonight; Foster is averaging .72 points a game as an Ad and Dunbar has .59 points a game…Brenden Walker has yet to report to the team.