NORFOLK, Va. – Three goals in the first period and timely defense powered the Norfolk Admirals (39-25-3-7) to a 5-3 victory over the Hershey Bears (38-26-5-5) on Wednesday night at Norfolk Scope Arena.
The Admirals’ Brad Thiessen (7-6-2) saved 19 of 22 shots faced as Hershey’s Philipp Grubauer (13-12-2) stopped 27 of 31 shots in the loss.
Norfolk’s Josh Manson kicked off a first period jam-packed with scoring when he received a pass at the blue line from Chris Wagner deep in the Hershey zone. Manson ripped a shot off the rear boards that came back towards Grubauer and off the back of his right leg for a goal six minutes and 40 seconds into the game.
The Bears responded promptly with a goal two minutes later coming off an odd-man rush into Admirals’ territory. Cameron Schilling crossed the blue line and slid a soft pass to Chandler Stephenson who slung a wrister by the outstretched left skate of Thiessen. Hershey’s equalizer lit the lamp at 8:39 of the first period.
Hershey seized control later on when Nicolas Deschamps rolled a puck through the slot that reached Michael Latta at the far post. Latta crossed Thiessen’s face with a toe drag that left the Admirals’ goaltender out of position and the net wide open for Latta’s marker at 15:06 of the first period.
Just as the Bears answered quickly, Norfolk did so in similar fashion on a power play with just over a minute remaining in the period. Andre Petersson placed a puck at the feet of William Karlsson who chunked a one-timer that was heading wide left of the net. Fortunately, Emerson Etem stood near the crease screening Grubauer and the puck rippled through his jersey back towards the net. Grubauer, at the edge of the blue paint, saw the puck redirect past his right side to tie the game at 2-2. Etem’s power play goal at 18:52 of the first increased his count to 23 goals this season.
With the first intermission seconds away, Norfolk registered their third goal of the period. Chris Wagner received a pass down low from rookie Nic Kerdiles before moving the puck in front. The pass deadened off a Bear’s skate for an oncoming Matt Bailey who roofed a backhand over Grubauer’s left shoulder with 12 seconds left in the first.
An entertaining opening period finally reached its conclusion with the Admirals up, 3-2, at the first intermission.
The Hershey net looked bigger and bigger as Norfolk tacked on another goal in the second period to make it 4-2. Etem cut off a pass along the rear boards behind the Bears’ goal and centered it for Max Friberg rushing to the net. Friberg switched from his forehand to his backhand, fooling Grubauer and drifting a shot between Grubauer’s recovering right skate and the near post. Friberg’s patience in front of the cage led to his sixteenth goal of the season and Norfolk’s second power play tally of the night at 7:58 of the second. Unlike the first period, the middle frame featured a single goal in its 20 minutes of action.
The Admirals started the third on top, 4-2, until the Bears cut the lead in half six minutes and 22 seconds into the final period. Deschamps flew a snap shot from the middle slot between Thiessen’s glove and left shoulder to make it 4-3.
Hershey pulled Grubauer with less than two minutes to play for a sixth attacker, but failed to take advantage. Dave Steckel intercepted a pass in the Admirals' zone and led Karlsson into the neutral zone. Karlsson coasted a backhander into the empty net to seal a 5-3 win over the Bears.
Norfolk was 2-for-4 on the power play and held the Bears scoreless on five power play attempts.
The Admirals surge past Hershey into sole possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after the win Wednesday night at Scope Arena. Norfolk looks to defend home ice once again Friday night and goes for the two-game sweep of Hershey and a playoff berth. Game time for Friday is 7:30 p.m.
Don’t miss a minute of Admirals action by purchasing your season tickets today. 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 norfolkadmirals.com anytime.
1. Emerson Etem - NOR
2. Nic Kerdiles - NOR
3. Nicolas Deschamps - HER