Hope everyone had an opportunity to enjoy a few days off over the Christmas break. I was really hoping to be able to report on a Norfolk Admirals' win, maybe even two, but alas even Santa can't deliver the "un-grantable" wish. I'm still convinced someone forgets to pack the momentum on to the team bus because the Admirals have been unable to carry any from one win to the next with any kind of consistency. Norfolk would hit the road the day after Christmas to face off against the South Carolina Stingrays (Washington Capitals) hoping their luck on the road would change. Again, the "un-grantable" wish.
Saturday night started off much like most of the Admirals' previous road games, spotting their opponent to a few goals before getting on the board. The Stingrays scored two goals early (3:05, 6:16) in the first period and out-shot the Admirals 10-5. South Carolina netted their third goal of the game at 3:13 of the second period on the man-advantage, pushing the game almost assuredly outside the reach of the Norfolk's 2.70 goals per game average. The third South Carolina goal would also spell the end of goaltender Adam Courchaine's night, bringing in the recently cleared-healthy Nic Riopel who saw only two starts in an Admirals' uniform this season.
The goaltending change seemed to spark something on the Norfolk bench because the Admirals were finally able to find the back of the net at 11:19 of the second. Forward Alexandre Ranger scored his ninth of the season on the power play, a shot from the slot that broke his stick but still managed to beat Stingrays' goaltender Branden Komm. Just under seven minutes later Jonathan Lessard beat Komm to pull within one goal, but it was the closest the Admirals would come to tying it up. The period would end with the Stingrays out-shooting the Admirals again, this time 15-5.
South Carolina put up two more in the third period including an empty-netter to seal the victory 5-2. Norfolk was out-shot 34-19.
Sunday afternoon's rematch was no better for the Admirals. South Carolina goaltender Branden Komm stood tall in his second straight start, fighting off all 25 Norfolk shots. Nic Riopel gave up two and the Stingrays would add an empty-net goal to beat the Admirals 3-0.
Speaking of beating, the first period saw a combined total of 78 penalty minutes between both teams to include what amounted to six "fights" (only four actual fighting penalties were called). As was the case on the home-stand prior to Christmas, an Admirals' opponent took away all their momentum with a fight, knocking Norfolk off its game.
--Forward Tommy Mele was fined an undisclosed amount as a result of his major penalty and game misconduct for spearing Saturday night. I'd say that's probably one of the reasons for the fisticuffs on Sunday. Even if it wasn't, it's clear there's some bad blood between these teams.
--As mentioned above, goaltender Nic Riopel was cleared to play over the Christmas break. Going in to break I'd have said Riopel would have backed up Courchaine, but Courchaine hasn't exactly cemented his place in the net of late. Riopel got his third start of the season earlier today.
--Not much else notable from the weekend. Norfolk continues to live in the basement and are 11 points out of a playoff spot. Like Norfolk goals, excitement about the team is hard to come by.
Notable skater stats (two games):
Alexandre Ranger (1G + 1A = 2Pts)
Jonathan Lessard (1G)
Scott Allen (1A)
Michael Pelech (1A)
Gabriel Verpaelst (1A)
Through 31 Games:
Goals Leader: Tommy Mele (10G)
Assists Leader: Charles-Olivier Roussel (17A)
Points Leader: Steven Whitney (6G + 13A = 19Pts)
Michael Pelech (5G + 14A = 19Pts)
Charles-Olivier Rousell (2G + 17A = 19Pts)
PIMs Leader: Samuel Noreau (100 PIMs, 8 Majors)
Adam Courchaine 3-4-0-0 3.37GAA 0.897SP
Nic Riopel 1-2-0-0 1.80GAA 0.942SP
Norfolk concludes their four game road trip with two games against the Atlanta Gladiators (Boston Bruins) on Tuesday and Wednesday before returning home on Saturday.
Follow me on Twitter: @VAPuckhead