Admirals Draw #4 St. John's in Semifinal, Wrestle Game 1 from IceCaps
NORFOLK, Va. – After winning three games in a row over top-seeded Manchester to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Admirals tied their season-high win streak with a fourth straight victory in Game 1 at St. John's Tuesday night.
Norfolk's identity throughout the year prevailed yet again in the face of one of the best offensive attacks in the league. Stiff defense, rock-solid goaltending, and gritty play deep in the opposing zone paid off to the tune of a 3-1 decision versus the IceCaps on the road for a 1-0 series lead.
Nic Kerdiles put the Admirals in charge midway through the first period when Andre Petersson's successful forecheck caused a turnover in the corner. Petersson fed the stolen puck into the slot for the lonely Kerdiles who sent a shot over the left shoulder of IceCap goalie Michael Hutchinson. The Wisconsin product's second goal of the postseason gave Norfolk a 1-0 lead at 10:14.
The IceCaps finally answered to tie the game at 1-1 early in the third period. As their power play expired, defenseman Josh Morrissey let loose from the left point and Andrew Gordon redirected the slap shot to knot it up three minutes and 20 seconds into the final frame. One of the more impressive traits of this Norfolk squad in these playoffs has been their ability to respond when allowing a tying goal. For the third time in two games, they displayed their resilient nature and regained the advantage for good later in the period.
As defenseman Kevin Gagne challenged Hutchinson with a shot, Zack Stortini planted himself in front of the net and pounced on the rebound. Hutchinson made the initial save but relinquished a loose puck that landed at Stortini's feet. The veteran realized John Kurtz by himself at the other side of the crease and kicked the rebound through sticks and skates for Kurtz who finished at the doorstep. Kurtz's first of the playoffs and sixth of the season pushed Norfolk back on top with exactly 13:00 remaining in regulation.
For the third time in the postseason, the Admirals seized a one-goal lead with at least eight minutes to play and successfully defended it for the rest of the game, thanks in large part to tremendous play by Norfolk goalie John Gibson. The rookie made 42 saves on 43 shots for his second-highest single game total of the season. With an empty net at the other end, Kerdiles disrupted a St. John's pass down low, poked it around the defenseman at the blue line and eased the dagger into the vacant goal to make the 3-1 Norfolk win official in the opening game of the semifinal series.
Eastern Conference Semifinal Schedule: Norfolk vs. St. John's The Admirals (4-1) lead the IceCaps (3-2), 1-0, after Game 1 of the 2014 Calder Cup Eastern Conference Semifinal. Game 2 begins this evening at 7:30 p.m. NDT in Newfoundland and 6:00 p.m. ET in Norfolk. Following tonight's game, the series flies south for three games at the Norfolk Scope Arena on Saturday, May 10, Monday, May 12, and Tuesday, May 13 (if necessary).
Game 1 Norfolk (3) at St. John's (1) 6:00 p.m. ET May 6
Game 2 Norfolk at St. John's 6:00 p.m. ET May 7
Game 3 St. John's at Norfolk 8:00 p.m. ET May 10
Game 4 St. John's at Norfolk 7:15 p.m. ET May 12
*Game 5 St. John's at Norfolk 7:15 p.m. ET May 13
*Game 6 Norfolk at St. John's 6:00 p.m. ET May 16
*Game 7 Norfolk at St. John's 6:00 p.m. ET May 17
*If necessary. All times are Eastern and subject to change.
NORFOLK PLAYOFF LEADERS Goals: Nic Kerdiles (3)
Assists: Sami Vatanen (3)
Points: Nic Kerdiles (4)
Games: 15 players (5)
PP goals: Max Friberg (1)
SH goals: None
+/- Rating: 4 players (3)
PIM: Nolan Yonkman (7)
GAA: John Gibson (1.34)
Spct: John Gibson (.955)
Wins: John Gibson (4)
Losses: John Gibson (1)
GPI: John Gibson (5)
Minutes: John Gibson (313:47)
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINAL SERIES: GAME 2 PREVIEW
The Admirals attempt to return to the Norfolk Scope Arena with a two-games-to-none advantage and can take control of this series tonight in Game 2. Sensational goaltending by Gibson highlighted the first game of the semifinal as the rookie stopped a postseason career high of 42 shots, which is also the second most of his young career. Eighteen of those 43 total shots came in the second period and Gibson was up to the task on each and every one of them. However, it was the highest total of any of the five games Norfolk played so far and most of the weight landed on the shoulders of the first-year goaltender. Blocking shots and lightening Gibson's load will be of the utmost importance throughout the rest of the series against St. John's who ranked third in the league in goals scored during the regular schedule.
Norfolk was also guilty for five penalties in Game 1, but discarded each of them, reflecting how reliable the AHL's best penalty kill has been throughout this season. They are 21-for-22 when a man down (95.5%) and will need that consistency if this habit persists. Despite the shot count and the five penalties, Norfolk's defense let up just one time on an unfortunate deflection in the third period by Andrew Gordon as an IceCap power play expired. A significant veteran presence along the blue line with the likes of captain Garnet Exelby, Nolan Yonkman and Steve Eminger will go a long way in closing shooting lanes, relieving pressure at the net, and in taking a 2-0 series lead.
ST. JOHN'S LEADERS Goals: Andrew Gordon (4)
Assists: Zach Redmond (4)
Points: Andrew Gordon (5)
Games: 17 players (5)
PP goals: Andrew Gordon, Brendan Kichton (1)
SH goals: Andrew Gordon (1)
+/- Rating: John Albert, Andrew Gordon (+4)
PIM: Jason Jaffray (7)
GAA: Michael Hutchinson (1.62)
Spct: Michael Hutchinson (.946)
Wins: Michael Hutchinson (3)
Losses: Michael Hutchinson (2)
GPI: Michael Hutchinson (5)
Minutes: Michael Hutchinson (296:18)
• One of Anaheim's top prospects, left winger Nic Kerdiles, recorded his first multi-goal game of his professional career in Tuesday night's win against St. John's in Game 1. Kerdiles scored the first goal of the game and then flooded the Mile One Centre exits with an empty-netter as time wound down in the third period. It was the second multi-point game of his career.
• Who else but John Gibson? The 20-year-old blanked the IceCaps through 43:20 in Game 1 and denied the Eastern Conference's fourth seed a ridiculous 42 times on 43 shots. He leads all playoff goaltenders in wins (4), saves (150), minutes (313:47), and is tied for first in save percentage (.955) and games played (5). Gibson is one-hundredth of a point behind first for the best goals-against average in the postseason (1.34).
THE ADMIRALS’ WEEK AHEAD Tonight, May 7 ... Game 2 at St. John's, 6:00 p.m.
Sat., May 10 ... Game 3 vs. St. John's, 8:00 p.m.
**Upcoming Home Games, Events, & Promotions**
Saturday, May 10 vs. St. John's, 8:00 p.m.
Monday, May 12 vs. St. John's, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, May 13 vs. St. John's, 7:15 p.m. (if necessary)
GAME TICKETS Individual playoff tickets are on sale now for each guaranteed game. Purchase at the Scope Box Office, all Ticketmaster Outlets, charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000 and online at www.ticketmaster.com.
For any questions regarding playoff ticketing, 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.
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