The Norfolk Admirals had an entire week to recover from the beating they took last week in the Sunshine State, giving up 18 goals in three games. The players all remarked that practices were hard and they all looked forward to getting back to playing hockey the right way. And while this was Halloween weekend, the story isn't anywhere near as scary as last week's horror-filled road trip.
Rookie center Alexis Loiseau had a conversation Thursday night with head coach Eric Veilleux to discuss Loiseau's frustration with his lack of offense. Coach Veilleux told him to relax and play his game, that scoring wasn't important to him and that he (Veilleux) was the one putting him on the ice, so if he wasn't worried about it, then Loiseau shouldn't be worried about it either. That talk apparently got through, as Loiseau broke out Friday night at home against the Quad City Mallards (Minnesota Wild) in Norfolk's lone game of the week.
The Admirals would find the board first for the fourth time in eight games at the 12:44 mark of the first period. Norfolk executed an almost perfect offensive zone entry, putting the puck down low on the wall to Greg Chase. Chase would find Marco Roy in the high slot, who threw a shot-pass to Loiseau who skated hard to the front and deflected the puck high in to the back of the net past Quad City netminder Steve Michalek. It was Loiseau's first goal as a professional and would be the only goal of the first period.
Just over six minutes in to the second period the Loiseau and the Admirals would strike again. Norfolk sustained pressure in the Mallards' zone for the majority of their Power Play but failed to score before on the man advantage. Five seconds after the penalty box door opened Loiseau took a pass on the post from behind the net and tried to push the puck across to a wide open Alexandre Ranger but saw his pass blocked by a sliding defensemen. The puck came right back to his stick and Loiseau wasted no time burying his shot in to a wide open net left vacant by a diving Michalek.
Quad City came out of the locker room on fire in the third period after being out-shot 14-8 in the first and 14-9 in the second period and down by two goals. Mallards' wing Tanner Eberle faced off against Norfolk defenseman Mathieu Brisebois two minutes in to the period. Neither fighter really stood out, but it was clear the Mallards were pushing back hard.
With just over five minutes left in the period, Quad City found the back of the net after pinning the Admirals in their own zone for an extended period of time. Four minutes later, just as the PA announcer was calling out the last minute of play in the third, the Mallards would beat Admirals' goaltender Ty Rimmer again with the extra skater on the ice.
The 3-on-3 overtime period wasn't enough for either team to take the extra point. Norfolk would come out ahead in the shoot-out with goals from Steven Whitney and Loiseau.
Ty Rimmer picked up just his second win in six appearances so far, stopping 37 of 39 and two of three shooters in the shoot-out. Rimmer is now 2-4-0-0 with a 2.99 goals-against-average and a .917 save percentage.
Norfolk was good for two periods but seemed to slow down and allow Quad City to put them on their heels, giving up 18 shots and mustering just seven. Several players were quick to note that while they took the two punches (goals against) their self-confidence did not break, crediting last week's road trip as providing as good an example of adversity as the sport could throw at them this early in the season.
Head Coach Eric Veilleux was asked about his line-up for the shoot-out and if he had the players picked out before the game started. He admitted that the team hadn't even practiced the shoot-out once this season. Considering both shooters were able to find the back of the net, Veilleux may not have to incorporate it in to practice any time soon.
Notable skater stats for the week:
Alexis Loiseau (2G)
Marco Roy (2A)
Greg Chase (1A)
Gabriel Verpaelst (1A)
Through six games:
Goal Leader: Greg Chase (3)
Assist Leader: Josh Currie (3)
Points Leader: Greg Chase (3G + 2A = 5pts) / Josh Currie (2G + 3A = 5pts)
PIMs Leader: Jonathan Lessard (18 PIMs)
The Admirals are at home this upcoming Friday and Saturday against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (New York Rangers) and the Wheeling Nailers (Pittsburgh Penguins) before jumping on the bus to play the South Carolina Stingrays (Washington Capitals) for their first three-games-in-three-nights series of the year.
Follow me on Twitter: @VAPuckhead