Tonight, when I was walking back to my car, someone asked me how I thought the Admirals would do. I said “It’s a young team with talent, good goaltending, not quite sure about the defense; probably sneaks into the playoffs”. Honestly, I was talking out of my ass. I kinda want to believe what I said.
Tonight was the first game of the 2013-14 season, even if it was pre-season. The boards were blank except for GEICO ads because of their sponsorship of the Challenge Cup with the Ads and Checkers. I had no idea what to expect from the game, because who the hell were half of the players on the roster? Turns out it was a bit of a track meet, at least in hockey terms.
Much-hyped prospect John Gibson got the start in net for the Ads with Mike Murphy for the Checkers. Murphy played 8 games last year, 7 in Moscow and one for the Checkers, with a save percentage lower than .900. Nonetheless, you gotta play the other team. Norfolk dressed a decent amount of likely starters, though Stefan Noesen was a scratch.
In the first, the Ads started out with some good o-zone pressure, getting shots at Mike Murphy. It paid off when Stefan Warg fired a shot from the blue line that got tapped in to the net by John Mitchell.
The Admirals would find themselves in a number of special teams situations, especially the power play early on. At the outset, they did a good job of keeping possession and forcing shots. Kevin Gagne made the most of a power play opportunity, skating in to the slot and firing one past Murphy to put the Ads up 2-0. Norfolk had a good thing going, with a clean sheet from Gibson and two goals largely from the work of defensemen.
The 2nd period of the game was a bit different, with the teams settling in and finding a groove. Early in the frame, Mike Murphy misplayed a puck behind his net that Max Friberg stole and set-up Chris Wagner for one of the easiest goals of his life. Later on, Murphy would do some acrobatics in the net to stop a goal, leading to Charlotte’s first goal. Thankfully, the Ads finished strong with Mike Little (who might be headed to the ECHL) on a breakaway to Joseph Cramarossa for a nifty goal.
Third period is where things got interesting for the wrong reasons. Norfolk squandered an early power play, and found themselves pressured in their own end. Charlotte shot a puck at John Gibson, it went the other way, and Gibson couldn’t recover. Defense should have had that one. Ads would then go on to get a lot of penalties. You can’t do that, it will come back to you. Charlotte scored a fluky power play goal with a Checker batting a puck out of the air. I guess there’s no video review in the pre-season to see if it was a high-stick. Oh well. It was a tense game until the end, when the Checkers pulled their goalie…and Teigan Zahn decided to fight because of course.
Norfolk positives were definitely the power play, play from the blueline, and the PK for the most part. John Gibson looked good, stopping 23 of 26 shots. He’ll most likely get those “1A” starts, after Freddie Andersen. The offense as the whole looked good, too, putting up 34 (!) shots. Granted, it’s the preseason, but last year’s Admirals were setting records for lowest shots. If this is what Jarrod Skalde brings-some damn shots-I’m all for it.
Negatives are definitely the slew of penalties. Yeah, asshole guy behind me, the ref sure does suck. That guy (not that guy, but you know) is gonna be at every game. Norfolk needs to get out early, get shots, and play well in their own end. Yes, there were two sloppy goals by Charlotte but you gotta keep the puck away from the other team. We’re still not sure (right now) who is coming back to the Ads. Either way, I think this team has enough young talent to put some goals up.
Additional notes….As were Mat Clark, John Mitchell, and Zack Stortini