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April 1, 2009

Kowalski is a Bear Killer as Admirals Top Hershey 3-2

NORFOLK, Va. – Norfolk goaltender Craig “Killer” Kowalski was a Bear killer on Wednesday night at Norfolk Scope Arena as he made 34 saves to lead the Admirals past Hershey 3-2.

The Bears (47-21-1-6) opened scoring with the first shot of the game just 51 seconds after the opening faceoff on a two-on-one play. Alexandre Giroux sent a pass from the bottom of the left circle to Chris Bourque in the slot, and Bourque sent a shot past Admirals goaltender Craig Kowalski. However, Kowalski turned aside the following 11 shots in the first period to allow Norfolk to strike back.

The Admirals (30-36-3-5) knotted the score at one goal apiece with a power play tally 14:55 into the opening period. Blair Jones sent a shot from the right faceoff circle that deflected off the right skate of Hershey netminder Michal Neuvirth before going five-hole into the net for Jones’ 18th goal of the season.

Norfolk took the lead less than two minutes later with Radek Smolenak’s 22nd goal of the season. Ty Wishart sent a slap shot from the left point that bounced off the left leg of Neuvirth. Smolenak found the rebound near the bottom of the right circle and sent a quick shot into the net before Neuvirth could recover at 16:36.

The Admirals took a 3-1 lead midway through the second period on John Swanson’s first professional goal. Wishart sent a shot from the point that new Hershey netminder Daren Machesney stopped. However, the rebound went back into the low slot to Swanson, who was making his professional debut. Swanson sent a shot between the legs of Machesney at 10:48.

The Bears closed their gap to one goal early in the third period. Bourque sent a centering feed from the right half wall across the crease. Giroux re-directed the feed past the outstretched right leg of Kowalski at 1:01.

However, Kowalski battened down the hatches the rest of the way, turning aside 16 shots in the final frame to preserve the 3-2 victory.

Craig Kowalski (36 shots, 34 saves) earned the win. Michal Neuvirth (7 shots, 5 saves) did not receive a decision through one period of play. Daren Machesney (16 shots, 15 saves) took the loss after relieving Neuvirth following the first period.

Norfolk was 1-3 on the power play. Hershey was 0-4.

The Admirals will round out the home slate for 2008-09 with a pair of contests against the Philadelphia Phantoms this weekend. The puck drops on Friday and Saturday in the last ever meetings between the clubs at Scope each night at 7:15 p.m.

The first 2,000 fans through the gates on Friday night will receive the final set of 2008-09 Norfolk Admirals trading cards.

To purchase tickets to any Admirals game, you may visit the Scope Box Office weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., visit any Ticketmaster outlet, call Ticketmaster at (757) 671-8100 or visit Ticketmaster online at Don’t miss a minute of the action by purchasing your 2009-10 season tickets today. Season tickets start at just $42 per month! Stop by the Admirals’ Administrative Offices at Scope, call (757) 640-1212 weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. or visit anytime!

Three Stars:
1. Craig Kowalski – NOR
2. Chris Bourque – HER
3. John Swanson – NOR

Notes … Craig Kowalski is 2-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage in two games at Scope this season … With a pair of assists tonight, Norfolk captain Zenon Konopka has established a new AHL career-high point total of 56 points (16 goals, 40 assists) … Defenseman Ty Wishart returned to the Norfolk lineup after missing seven games with an upper-body injury. Wishart recorded two assists in his return … Forward John Swanson’s first professional goal proved to be the game-winner. Swanson, who was signed to an Amateur Tryout Contract earlier in the day, joins fellow ATO-contract player Geoff Kinrade (March 20 vs. Binghamton) as one of two Admirals to net the game-winning goal as their first pro goal in their pro debut this season … Scratches: F Bracken Kearns, F Jason Ward, F Grant Potulny and D Scott Jackson … F Steve Downie missed the game due to suspension … Attendance: 3,178.

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