NORFOLK, VA. - Gabriel Verpaelst played the role of hero for the Norfolk Admirals (13-22-4-0) on Wednesday, scoring the overtime winner to defeat the Manchester Monarchs (26-10-3-2) by a score of 4-3.
There was just one goal in the first period and it came following a fantastic individual effort from Corey Ward of the Monarchs. After bumping Admirals defenseman Frankie Simonelli off the puck in the corner to the right of goaltender Brandon Anderson, Ward distributed the puck to linemate Derek Arnold behind the net. Arnold would peel towards the front of the cage before slyly feeding a pass back through some skates to Ward on the other side of the Admirals goalie, where he would score. Anderson was unbeknownst to the pass, allowing Ward's ninth of the year to come with little opposition.
Monarchs goaltender Jonah Imoo was the highlight for 55 minutes of the contest, dominating the second period and single-handedly keeping his team ahead in the second period. The Admirals had 20 shots on goal in the frame alone but the Surrey, British Columbia native turned aside every one, including a sprawling post-to-post stop on Mike Krieg.
The third period began as a 1-0 game but just 1:05 in Conor Hardowa of Manchester doubled that lead for his team, making the most of carry over power play time from a Paul Cianfrini tripping minor. Hardowa, cruising down the right-hand wing beat Anderson high over the shoulder to push his teams lead to 2-0.
Imoo's code was cracked with 10:14 left in the third though, as T.J. Foster buried a rebound after Lukas Lofquist's shot from the point was left for the taking. Paul Cianfrini did the dirty work by prying the puck free from the wall, ushering it over to the 21-year-old Swede for his first point of the night.
2:12 later though the Monarchs would extend their lead back to two thanks to Craig Wyszomirski adding a rebound of his own. Rihards Bukarts made a beautiful play from the circle to the right of Anderson, finding Wyszomirski cutting to the net. The Merrimack College grad got an initial shot off but jammed home his own rebound, giving Manchester a 3-1 lead with just 7:24 left to play.
The man who set up the Admirals first goal of the night would contribute the second himself, as Lukas Lofquist picked up the scraps of a John Dunbar setup. Dunbar, blazing with speed, got a shot on Imoo and through a mess of traffic, Lofquist kicked the puck to himself and put the rubber into an unguarded net.
Momentum continued in the Admirals favor following the mark, as Mike Driscoll, playing in his first ECHL game, scored his first ECHL goal to tie the contest. Just called up hours before game time from the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs of the Southern Professional Hockey League, proved good things happen when you go to the net, as a T.J. Foster shot missed the cage by quite a bit, but the rebound took an odd bounce and wound up in Driscoll's lap with Imoo well out of position.
This pushed the game to extra time, where Norfolk would get back to their winning ways thanks to alternate captain Gabriel Verpaelst. In the Admirals zone, captain Brodie Dupont made a diving play to knock the puck off of a Monarchs stick, leading to a chance the other way for Joey Benik and Verpaelst. Two-on-one, Benik made the pass over to Verpaelst, where he outlasted Imoo by shifting to the backhand and sending the Scope crowd into a roar.
Carrying their 4-3 victory, the Admirals will see the Monarchs again on Friday and Saturday at Norfolk Scope Arena. Tickets are on sale now on Ticketmaster.com and at the Norfolk Scope Arena box office. For more information on the team, visit norfolkadmirals.com and like/follow the team on all major social media networks.Box Score