KALAMAZOO, MI - Josh Pitt's hat trick was the key factor for the Kalamazoo Wings (35-27-1-3) on Friday night, taking down the Norfolk Admirals (24-36-4-0) by a score of 5-3.
Norfolk burst out of the gate, finding the back of the net just 2:41 in on a combination from Joey Benik and T.J. Foster. After a long stretch pass by the Toronto Marlies prospect from his own zone, Benik held up and waited for #19 to join him, hitting him perfectly in stride for a finish to make it 1-0 early.
The Admirals continued on with heavy pressure for the first ten minutes of the opening frame, however found themselves on the wrong side of a 2-1 score at the buzzer. A cross-checking minor on Jordan Abt gave Kalamazoo their first power play of the night, one that took just 16 seconds to capitalize on. Josh Pitt's first of the evening came with helpers from Justin Taylor and Eric Kattelus to even the score at 1-1.
Using the tally to trampoline the momentum, the home team gained a 2-1 lead with just over two minutes left in the period. Tanner Sorenson beat Philippe Desrosiers with a remarkable shot on the goaltenders glove hand side for his 17th of the year.
Still gripping the momentum, Josh Pitt's second of the evening put Kalamazoo up by a pair in the second. Walking in from the blue line, Blake Kessel beat a couple of defenders and put the initial shot on, leaving the rebound right in the crease and withinin Pitt's reach.
That was the only marker of the middle frame, setting up what would be a chaotic third period. Both teams combined for three goals in the first 4:55 of the frame, all coming just over the span of 1:37 and exactly 47 seconds apart each.
T.J. Foster's second of the night came from two feet behind the goal line in Kalamazoo's end, intentionally banking one off the skate of Nick Riopel and into his own net. Jordan Abt's first pro point came as an assist and netminder Philippe Desrosiers earned a helper as well, setting the puck up for Foster before he went end-to-end.
47 seconds later Cameron Darcy put Kalamazoo back up 4-2 though, walking in from the wall and stuffing one upstairs. It appeared Norfolk's defense had a brief lapse, allowing the Tampa Bay Lightning's draft selection to cruise in all alone on Desrosiers uncontested.
Fortunately for the Admirals sake, Nick MacNeil cut the game back to 4-3 just 47 seconds later. Scott Jacklin, who earned an assist on the goal for his fifth point in five games since joining the team, placed the initial shot on goal and after the first rebound attempt by Ben Murphy was turned aside, #12 was there to swoop in for his 12th of the season.
Following the frenzy both goaltenders put on a display of saves to keep it a one goal game, undoubtedly the best work of the evening from Desrosiers and Riopel. However, the final dagger came from the home side with just 4:35 to go, the hat trick marker for Josh Pitt. A little shuffle from the neutral zone by Peter Schneider gave the rubber to the rookie from Western Michigan, where he would go through converted defenseman Trevor Gerling and bury past the Admirals netminder for his third.
That solidified his spot as the first star on a night where Kalamazoo clinched a spot in the playoffs with the 5-3 victory.
Riopel earned his 17th win of the season stopping 36 of 39, while Desrosiers took the loss allowing five on 43 shots. Despite the defeat it was the fifth game in a row that the Dallas Stars prospect made at least 35 saves.
The Admirals and Wings will go at it again tomorrow night in Kalamazoo at 7:00. On Sunday the Admirals will conclude their road trip in Toledo against the Walleye at 5:15. Both games can be heard on 102.1 FM The Tide or watched on ECHL.TV.
On Wednesday, March 29 the team will return home to take on the Atlanta Gladiators in the final Wednesday night matchup of the season at Norfolk Scope Arena. Tickets are on sale now on Ticketmaster.com and at the Scope box office.