NORFOLK, VA. - The first series win of the season. Ah, yes, the perfect way to roll into the home side of the 2017 schedule.
THIS PAST WEEK IN ADMIRALS HOCKEY (December 12 - December 19)
4-3 W vs. South Carolina (SO)6-3 L vs. South Carolina5-2 W vs. South Carolina
Before the game action even got underway it became evident that it would be a week full of moves. On Monday, the team traded defenseman Sam Noreau and the rights to Alexandre Ranger in exchange for forward Ben Murphy and goaltender Steven Summerhays. While many fans weren't thrilled with the departure of the big blue liner of Noreau, the move made sense for the Admirals as they received a goaltender in a time where they were in desperate need of one.
After Eetu Laurikainen was injured on the team's New York / New Hampshire road trip and it was announced team he would miss at least a month, so the team was forced to go with an emergency backup behind Connor Knapp for four straight games. Coming back to Norfolk and using an "EBUG" (emergency backup goalie) wasnâ€™t an option. In comes Summerhays, the first of two goalies this week. More on that in a minute.
In addition to Summerhays, Ben Murphy also joined the team. With Alex Ranger having been loaned to AHL San Antonio and being gone for another month, Murphy's able-bodied presence was seemingly enough of a return within itself. His scoring contributions over the series against the Stingrays were just further proof.
The second new goalie of the week became Brandon Anderson, whose rights were acquired on Tuesday from the Reading Royals. Anderson, who had been playing under Robbie Ftorek's son Sam with Roanoake of the SPHL, arrived with a 2-4-1 record in the lower-tier and it had been over a year and a half since his last ECHL start.
Tuesday was a tale of two moves as well and accompanying Anderson was the reassignment of Mikael Tam from Bakersfield. Tam, who had been banged up to start the season, hadn't played a game yet with the Condors and was sent here to Norfolk to get some work in. One would say he accomplished that this past week.
By the time Wednesday, the first game day of the week, rolled around, two more moves were being made. With Adam Phillips, Aaron Harstad and Anthony Calabrese all on the shelf due to injury, a battered backend was forced to go with recent pick-ups Alex Micallef, Travis Armstrong and Brandon Blair on the road trip, all of whom who have been let go since. Help came to the blue line just prior to puck drop though, with Paul Cianfrini signing after starting the season over in Hungary. Cianfrini, an ECHL veteran, will provide a stable stay-at-home defensive presence and jumped right in the mix for all three against South Carolina.
Along with Cianfrini came Dmitrii Sergeev. Sergeev, currently under contract with the St. Louis Blues of the NHL, had been in-and-out of the lineup with the Missouri Mavericks of the ECHL and comes to the Admirals with his parent club hoping he will see consistent ice-time. Despite not arriving in time to play Wednesday, the coaching staff certainly made sure he was in the lineup, in a bit of a different way.
500 words of transactions later, we can finally get to the game recaps now.
Wednesday night the team turned to the newcomer Anderson in net for the series opener against the Stingrays. For Cianfrini, Murphy, Tam and the new netminder, it was a successful start. The Admirals were the stronger team all evening, totaling 46 total shots on goal. Both sides exchanged a total of five goals in the second period with South Carolina taking the majority. Mikael Tam scored Norfolk's first goal of the evening and Brodie Dupont tallied the other. In the third, T.J. Foster buried a breakaway to knot the score at 3-3, forcing the game into overtime and eventually a shootout. In the skills competition, Anderson buckled it down and Dupont was the only skater to find the back of the net, thus giving the Admirals a 4-3 SO victory to open the series.
On Thursday, the Admirals found out even more help was on the way. Frankie Simonelli became the second defenseman assigned from the California AHL affiliate. While he wouldn't arrive in Norfolk until Saturday, he made his presence felt when he did.
Friday night, shaky goaltending plagued the Admirals, as Anderson unfortunately could not be the answer two games in a row. Allowing three goals on the first 11 shots he saw, head coach Robbie Ftorek was forced to yank him in favor of Connor Knapp. Luckily, at that point it was only a 3-2 game thanks to Paul Rodrigues striking for the Teddy Toss goal in the first and Josh Brittain snapping his 24 game scoring streak. The second period concluded with a score of 4-3 and the third Admirals goal came from the newcomer, Ben Murphy. Murphy, who was staked out in front deflected home a Mike Krieg drive for his first as a member of the Norfolk organization. Unfortunately the Stingrays would beat Knapp twice in the third and take away a series-evening 6-3 victory.
Saturday the Admirals picked up their first series win of the season, riding the wave of a Mikael Tam hat trick. Tam, who also added an assist, had two of his three come on the power play and one of them additionally was an empty-net goal. It was also the first start of the year for Summerhays, who was acquired earlier in the week. Stopping 23 of 25, the start provided a promise in net for the Admirals that seemingly hasn't been existent for quite some time.
Although the team's success would lead one to believe that perhaps the roster changes would slow up, the team went out and made two moves to even better their recent influx in scoring. Dante Salituro was added from the Blue Jackets organization and Brendan Walker was acquired from the Rapid City Rush, both of whom are expected to make their debut while on the road this week.
Salituro, at a young 20 years old was a force for the Ottawa 67's of the OHL the past four seasons. With the Blue Jackets not having an ECHL affiliate, the promising goal scorer will receive ample playing in the Hampton Roads area.
Walker, a former ECHL All-Star brings his talents to Norfolk after starting the year in South Dakota. Gwinnett, Utah, Rapid City, even in the United Kingdom, you name it, Walker has scored there.
LOOKING AHEAD (December 20 - 27)
The Admirals are looking to pick up two more crucial wins to enter the holiday break this week as they travel to Greenville and South Carolina on Wednesday and Friday this week, respectively.
First up, the Admirals will get their first shot at revenge against the hares, who they've only seen once this season. The Swamp Rabbits picked up a 2-0 shutout victory back on Wednesday, October 19 at Scope. Exactly two months ago today, the game seems like a world in the past for the existing Admirals. A new head coach and countless transactions later, the team will have a 14-9-2 team up against them that is currently on a three-game win streak. The great news for the Admirals is that the Swamp Rabbits and Stingrays have a battle set for tomorrow night, thus making Wednesday's tilt the second half of a back-to-back for the Rabbits, including one that requires travel in between. That makes things that much tougher for the will-be home team.
Friday night it's the Stingrays once again, just this time in their barn. Likely null to thrilled with having two of three taken from them last weekend, the 'Rays will look to get back to their ways when they beat the Admirals 5-1 back over the Thanksgiving trip. Derek DeBlois now has eight points in four games with the team, so he'll be looked to once again for an offensive output.
ADMIRALS LEADERS (SKATERS):Games Played: Gabriel Verpaelst and Josh Brittain (25)Goals: Brendan Walker (7 - Total) John Dunbar (7 - With Admirals)Assists: Brenden Walker (11 - Total); Nick MacNeil (8 - With Admirals)Points: Brenden Walker (18 - Total) Nick MacNeil (14 - With Admirals)Power Play Goals: Brenden Walker (3 - Total); Mikael Tam (2 - With Admirals)Shorthanded Goals: Nick MacNeil (1)+/-: Ben Murphy (4 - Total; 2 With Admirals)Penalty Minutes: Gabriel Verpaelst (80)
ADMIRALS LEADERS (GOALIES): Games Played: Connor Knapp (14)Wins: Connor Knapp (2)Losses: Connor Knapp and Eetu Laurikainen (11)Minutes: Connor Knapp (774)Goals Against Average: Steven Summerhays (2.02)Save Percentage: Steven Summerhays (.920)
SOMETHING YOU DIDN'T KNOW:
This week we are proud to announce to you another new member of the staff! Nate Morell has joined the crew under the position of Assistant Equipment Manager and was a part of the success this weekend. Nate will be assisting Head Equipment Manager David Roper with duties and we are thrilled to have him on board.
Nate, pictured below on the right, is a Hampton Roads native and is also a gold medalist at the Special Olympics for figure skating. If you see him at an upcoming game, be sure to introduce yourself and say hello to our newest staff member!