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Admirals' Log: Practice Makes Perfect

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The Norfolk Admirals found themselves with lots of time to practice, playing just one game in 12 days going in to the weekend. The players made the most of that time and filled the opponents' nets early and often at home Friday and Saturday night.

Alexandre Ranger scores his first professional goal against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits Friday November 6, 2015
Alexandre Ranger scores his first professional goal against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits Friday November 6, 2015
Courtesy John Wright/Norfolk Admirals

The Norfolk Admirals had it easy leading up to the weekend, having played just one game in twelve days before their first three-in-three of the season.  The coaching staff took advantage of every practice, considering it was the first time the players and coaches were really able to teach and learn the system with just a couple of practices and preseason games before jumping in to Game 1 with both feet. 

First up, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (New York Rangers).  Norfolk didn't waste any time getting on the scoreboard, potting the first of four goals just 2:38 in to the first period.  Captain Jordan Hill scored his first goal of the season, following up on shots from Josh Currie and Tommy Mele and finally beating Swamp Rabbits' goaltender Mackenzie Skapski.  Just 62 seconds later, Marco Roy pushes a stolen puck out from behind the net to a waiting Greg Chase who buried his fourth of the season.  The Admirals killed off three Greenville power plays, allowing just one shot on goal while short-handed.

The Swamp Rabbits "hopped" back in to the game with two goals in the second period, beating goaltender Ty Rimmer twice with low percentage shots from the blue line and the half-wall.  The Admirals had seen this just a week prior, giving up a two goal lead in the third period and needing a shoot-out to win.  Fans wondered as the second period ended--would this team be able to turn the tide back in their favor.

Fans only had to wait six minutes in to the third period to find out.  LW Jonathan Lessard, finding himself behind Swamp Rabbits forwards breaking out of the offensive zone, hustled to steal the puck back before it crossed over the blue line.  Michael Pelech took a pass from Lessard and threw the puck on net.  The scramble in front saw on the goal line, narrowly kept out by a Greenville defender.  Alexandre Ranger drove the net and and blasted home his first professional goal to give the Admirals a lead they wouldn't give up for the rest of the game.

Norfolk found themselves on their third power play of the game with just over nine minutes left in the game.  The Admirals pressed hard on the man-advantage and set up their fourth goal of the game.  A shot by defenseman Gabriel Verpaelst ended up on Currie's stick down low.  Currie, seeing a man open, threw the puck across the front of the Swamp Rabbits' net to a wide open Connor Rankin, who finished off the play for his first professional goal.

Saturday night brought the Wheeling Nailers (Pittsburgh Penguins) to town for the third match-up between the teams.  Once again looking to get on the board early, the Admirals scored their first goal :27 seconds in to the first period.  Defenseman Ben Betker blasted a shot from the point that Connor Rankin followed up to net his second of the season.  To add insult to injury, the Nailers were assessed a two-minute penalty for "Incorrect Starting Line-up" and found themselves a man down on the goal-following face-off.  The score would remain 1-0 for another ten minutes before Wheeling would strike to tie the game at 10:22.  On the very next shift, just :34 seconds later, forward Josh Currie would find the back of the net for the first of two on the night, pushing the puck behind Nailers' goaltender Brian Foster to go up 2-1.  Wheeling would get their final strike of the game, beating Ty Rimmer with two minutes left in the period, but the Admirals' continued dominance in the end zone would pay off with just :26 seconds left in the first.  Forward Michael Pelech battled in the corner, coming out with the puck and sending to the front of the net.  A Wheeling defender was there in the slot to block the pass but mistakenly put the puck on defenseman Charles-Olivier Roussel's stick as he streaked in from the point.  Roussel wasted little time and buried the puck behind Foster.

Despite being out-shot in the second period 14-9, the Admirals were the recipient of the period's only goal in a hard fought period with a six minute stretch of no whistles.  At 16:27, Alexandre Ranger scored the game's  "prettiest" goal, carrying the puck in across the Wheeling blue line and beating a defender one-on-one.  Ranger turned in from the corner, skated across the ice in front of the Nailers' net and out-waited Foster, lifting the puck over him as he dropped down in anticipation of the shot.

Norfolk's Josh Currie scored his second of the night at the 13:29 mark of the third period with the "trickiest" goal of the night.  Currie found himself with the puck while on the penalty kill and carried it up ice in to Wheeling's defensive zone.  Currie pushed the puck through two defenders and continued towards the net, launching a heavy wrister at the far post beating Foster for Norfolk's fifth of the night.  Five minutes later, Steven Whitney scored his first of the season in to an empty Nailers' net.  Ty Rimmer got his second win of the weekend, stopping 36 of 38.

The Admirals' weekend wrapped up on the road against the South Carolina Stingrays (Washington Capitals).  Norfolk's offense unfortunately dried up, able to muster just 18 shots and one goal from Marco Roy, while the Stingrays peppered recently signed goaltender Nic Riopel with 34 shots and three goals against.  The silver lining was a hard-working Admirals' defensive showing, holding South Carolina to just two shots in the third period.

The offense was spread around pretty well this weekend, with rookies as well as veterans chipping in through the weekend.  Greg Chase saw his six game point streak end Saturday night.  The three consecutive wins was the first winning streak of the season.  Norfolk found it self recovering to the .500 mark with Saturday's win but fell to one under with Sunday's loss.

Notable skater stats for the week:

Josh Currie (2G, 2A)
Marco Roy (1G, 3A)
Alexandre Ranger (2G, 1A)
Connor Rankin (2G, 1A)
Charles-Olivier Roussel (1G, 2A)
Jordan Hill (1G)
Greg Chase (1G)
Steven Whitney (1G)
Michael Pelech (2A)
Gabriel Verpaelst (2A)
Tommy Mele (1A)
Jonathan Lessard (1A)
Ben Betker (1A)
Joe Marciano (1A)
Marcus Hinds (1A)

Through nine games:
Goal Leader: Greg Chase / Josh Currie (4)
Assist Leader: Josh Currie / Marco Roy (5)
Points Leader: Josh Currie (4G + 5A = 9pts)
PIMs Leader: Gabriel Verpaelst (25 PIMs)

Ty Rimmer:  4-4-0  2.73SP  .921 GAA
Nic Riopel: 0-1-0  3.17SP  .912 GAA

Norfolk returns home Tuesday night to host the Elimra Jackals (Buffalo Sabres), then hits the road this weekend to face off against Elmira and followed by back-to-back games against the Reading Royals (Philadelphia Flyers) for their second three-in-three of the season.

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