The Norfolk Admirals returned home from their most successful road trip of the season hoping to carry the momentum from a 3-2 performance in to the final few home games before the Christmas break. The only problem--someone forgot to pack that momentum on the bus for the ride home.
Wednesday night, in front of a crowd that could only be described as being "in the hundreds," the Admirals faced off against the Reading Royals (Philadelphia Flyers). Reading got on the board mid-way through the first period, beating Norfolk goaltender Adam Courchaine, winner of two last week and two of the three on the just-finished road trip, to go up 1-0. Three minutes later, Admirals' forward Alexandre Ranger finished off a Norfolk cycle down low, burying a pass sent from the corner by Radoslav Illo. Reading would go up 2-1 two minutes later, and that's how the period would end.
Reading scored their third of the game shortly in to the second period at the four-minute mark, but the Admirals hung in there, getting goals from Illo and Steven Whitney, both from rebounds off shots from the blue line. But the real story of the third, and indeed the turning point of the game, came at 9:27 of the second period. Both teams lined up at center ice after the Admirals scored their third of the game to tie it up at 3-3. Reading forward Derek Mathers lined up on the wing across from Norfolk forward Tommy Mele and launched a heavy cross-check at Mele while waiting for the puck to drop. Mele stumbled back but stepped back in to position. The puck dropped, the gloves dropped, but neither Mele or Mathers really landed anything significant. Defenseman Gabriel Verpaelst took exception to Mathers' crosscheck and challenged Mathers, who kindly obliged. While the fight started with Verpaelst and Mathers, it ended with a line brawl involving all ten skaters and Reading goaltender Connor Knapp motioning to Courchaine to dance at center ice. In all, 54 minutes in penalties were handed out. Reading came out of the scrum with a two-minute power play, and while they failed to capitalize during the period, the damage was done, and any momentum the Admirals gained from that third goal was sucked right out of them. The second period ended 3-3, and so did any chance of an Admirals' win. Reading scored three unanswered including an empty net goal and out-shot Norfolk 20-3 in the third period.
The weekend brought the Adirondack Thunder (Calgary Flames) to Scope for Friday and Saturday evening games. The Admirals beat Adirondack on their recent road trip 6-1, handing the Thunder just their fourth loss of the season. Friday night's crowd was a significant improvement from Wednesday, with the many Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops on hand for the annual Teddy Bear Toss. The game would start much the same way as Wednesday's with the visiting Thunder scoring just past the half-way point of the first period. Norfolk's Jonathan Lessard triggered the barrage of bears at the 17:35 mark of the period, carrying the puck down the right wing over the Thunder blue line and launching a wrister that beat Adirondack goaltender Drew Fielding top shelf glove side to tie the game at 1-1. After a brief pause to clean the ice of stuffed animals, the teams would get back to it, and less than a minute later the Thunder took the lead again with the final goal of the frame.
Much like Wednesday's game, the Admirals staked their opponent to a 3-1 lead on a Thunder goal at 4:26 of the second on a bad Norfolk line change that gave Adirondack a 2-on-1. And just like Wednesday, the Admirals kept pushing to come back, closing to within a goal on Lessard's second of the night, a spinning shot from in front that buried a rebound that squirted out from a large crowd in front at 18:24 of the second. Defenseman and Captain Jordan Hill tied the game at 3-3 just over three minutes in to the third period, but as Wednesday's game went, so did Friday's. The Admirals allowed two unanswered Thunder goals in the third period and lost 5-3, Courchaine's third loss as an Admiral.
Saturday night's rematch wasn't as high scoring as the previous two games, and it would take just two goals to secure the win. Courchaine would once again find himself between the pipes for Norfolk, his sixth straight appearance since being acquired via trade. Defenseman Nick Pageau picked up both Norfolk goals, his first and
second of the season, one at 3:43 and the other at 9:05. Thunder forward Michael Kirkpatrick scored Adirondack's only goal at 16:15 of the first to round out the scoring, but Courchaine locked it in and stopped 35 of 36 Thunder shots for his third win as an Admiral.
--Through 29 games, the Admirals are 10-18-0-1 with 21 points and have gone 5-5-0-0 in their last ten. They currently sit at 27 of 28 teams.
--Defenseman Samuel Noreau is second in the ECHL and first among defensemen with 100 PIMs in 22 games. Gabriel Verpaelst is fourth among defensemen with 71 PIMs and his nine majors rank him fourth in the ECHL and first among defensemen in that category.
--Norfolk ranks third in PIMs with 528, averaging 18:21 per game.
--The Admirals rank seventh in the ECHL on the Power Play, up one spot from last week.
--Norfolk ranks last in shots against in second and third periods and 27th out of 28 in Shots Against Per Game, giving up an average of 35.83.
--The Admirals have given up a league worst 45 goals in third periods. They also rank 27th out of 28 in Goals Against Per Game at 3.48 while only averaging 2.72 Goals For.
Notable skater stats (three games):
Nick Pageau (2G + 1A = 3Pts)
Steven Whitney (1G + 2A = 3Pts)
Jonathan Lessard (2G)
Alexandre Ranger (1G + 1A = 2Pts)
Radoslav Illo (1G + 1A = 2Pts)
Alexis Loiseau (2A)
Michael Pelech (2A)
Samuel Noreau (2A)
Jordan Hill (1G)
Scott Allen (1A)
Tommy Mele (1A)
Quinn Smith (1A)
Through 29 Games:
Goals Leader: Tommy Mele (10G)
Assists Leader: Charles-Olivier Roussel (17A)
Points Leader: Steven Whitney (6G + 13A = 19Pts) / Charles-Olivier Roussel (2G + 17A = 19Pts)
PIMs Leader: Samuel Noreau (100 PIMs, 8 19jors)
Adam Courchaine 3-3-0-0 3.06GAA 0.905SP
Philippe Cadorette 0-1-0-0 6.58GAA 0.820SP
The Admirals are off until December 26th when they hit the road again for four games before playing at Scope on January 2nd.
Follow me on Twitter: @VAPuckhead