GREENVILLE, SC — The Norfolk Admirals kicked off their six-game road trip on Friday night against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Greenville had gone 3-1 in the season series up till this matchup. In one of those Swamp Rabbits’ victories, they scored eight goals on former Admirals goaltender, Alex Sakellaropoulous.
On Friday night, it was Norfolk’s turn to put up eight goals on Greenville and the Admirals pulled out an 8-5 victory.
Roman Durny made his seventh start of the season, looking for win number three. It was Durny’s second start in three games and he was looking to put the aching memory of last Friday’s start in the rear-view mirror. Idaho’s Keegan Kanzig scored with 17 seconds left to give the Steelheads a 3-2 victory.
The scoring got started just two minutes in and set the tone for how the night was going to go. Alex Rodriguez scored his team leading tenth goal of the season to give Norfolk a 1-0 lead. Charlie O’Connor and Sebastian Vidmar picked up the helpers on the goal.
The Admirals dominated the play on both sides of the ice for the first five minutes of play. Just as they had all the momentum, Greenville brought it to a screeching halt, courtesy of Matt Marcinew. He scored his ninth goal of the season on a redirection in-between the circles to tie the game up.
Ryan Salkeld responded four minutes later with his fourth goal of the season to give the Admirals a 2-1 lead. The Portsmouth, VA native was a scratch in the last two games and knows his role may be limited, but looks to cash in on the opportunities he’s given. On Friday night, he did just that.
“It’s mental grind, but you have got to stay focused,” said Salkeld. “When you’re given opportunities, you try to succeed in them. Ben (Holmstrom) is so smart out there, he makes everything so easy.”
Rod Taylor elected to go with Salkeld, Holmstrom and Phil Hudon as his top line on Friday night. That line contributed on three of Norfolk’s eight goals.
Michael Pelech would tie the game up at two for Greenville to end the high-scoring first period. But that would be just the start to a long night of scoring.
The second period had seven goals by both Norfolk and Greenville. Liam Pecararo continued his monsterous season with his 16th goal of the season just 38 seconds into the period.
Holmstrom would come back three minutes later to tie it up at three with his fifth goal of the year. Hudon and Brayden Sherbinin would pick up the assists, as Hudon would finish the night with two assists.
Just 30 seconds later, Nathan Perkovich scored from a near-impossible angle and beat Durny over the shoulder to give the Swamp Rabbits all the momentum. At this point in the game, neither team had committed a penalty. It was back-and-forth, smash mouth hockey. The Admirals would respond at 5:49 with Zack Phillips scoring his fourth goal with Norfolk to tie it up at four.
Pecararo would go off for a two-minute slashing penalty to give the Admirals a man-advantage. Coming into Friday night, Norfolk’s power play had been struggling mightily, going 0-for-18 in their last four games. One man who would help turn the fortunes around on the power play was defenseman, Austin McEneny.
The 22-yearold was making his return to the lineup after being out with a lower-body injury since November 17. McEneny came out guns blazing and gave the Admirals a one goal lead with his first of the season, on the man-advantage. That goal would turn out to be the game-winning goal.
Christian Horn got in on the fun with an electrifying goal, his second of the year, to pad the Admirals lead to two. Greenville would get one back at 19:15 of the second period.
To start the third, the Admirals had to kill 1:55 second of Greenville power-play time on an interference penalty by Sam Thibault. This would turn out to be the defining moment in the game, as the Admirals were able to kill the penalty and look to bring their lead back to two.
“I just wanted our forwards to skate forward,” said Admirals assistant coach Ryan McGinnis on the penalty kill. “We made adjustments and we wanted those two forwards to actually dictate the pace and where the puck was put. That way, we could continue on skating forward to force them to dump pucks. It was a big kill.”
Horn added his second goal of the season to give Norfolk a two-goal cushion late in the third period. The Plymouth, MN native hadn’t scored since the third game of the season against Orlando. He walked away with three points on the night and first star of the game honors.
“It felt so good,” said Horn on his performance. “It’s crazy how two months can go by so fast and realize you haven’t put the puck in the back of the net. You know, shots from the circle seem a little far. So once they go in, it’s just a confidence booster for me. After the first one went in, I was shooting the puck more and the second one followed.”
Holmstrom would put the cherry on the top with an empty netter and the Admirals pulled out a thrilling victory. With the win, Norfolk has now reached double digits in the win column with ten. Durny made 35 saves to pick up his third professional win. For Greenville starter, Ryan Bednard, he’ll want to put this game far out of his mind, as he allowed seven goals on 37 shots and was pulled after 48 minutes of play.
“There were a lot of unknowns coming into tonight,” said McGinnis. “The landscape of this league is that guys come and go. One thing that I give this group credit for is that our top guy to our bottom guy is so close. On skill level and talent, so I think that’s why we have success when guys like McBride, Halverson and Povorozniouk are not in the lineup. Everyone is very similar in their style of play. We got the two points which is good, but I almost guarantee that Greenville will be better tomorrow and we will emphasize that in the morning."