GREENVILLE, SC — The Holiday Break may have come just at the right time for the Norfolk Admirals.
As members of the Admirals dispersed around different parts to the world to celebrate the holidays with their families, they had to carry the stinging reality they are in last place in the South division. They also had to carry around the fact they are also on a three-game losing streak, courtesy of the Idaho Steelheads.
And those losses against Idaho were not just ordinary losses; they were gut-wrenching defeats.
The Steelheads marched into Norfolk Scope looking to play spoiler last week, and that’s exactly what they did. The Admirals were playing the finale of their nine-game homestand and had only seen the Steelheads for just six matchups in team history. Idaho outscored Norfolk 9-3 in three games and pulled out three wins, including a goal with 17 seconds left in the third period of Friday's matchup by Steelheads defenseman, Keegan Kanzig.
Prior to the Steelheads series, The Admirals had been playing some of their best hockey of the season. The ever-frustrating 11 game losing streak was in the rear-view mirror, Brandon Halverson was coming off two straight wins for the first time this season and Shawn McBride was loaned back from the AHL's Hartford Wolfpack. The Admirals defeated the first-place South Carolina Stingrays by scoring three unanswered goals to win in overtime, 5-4. The next night, the Atlanta Gladiators marched into town and Norfolk replicated themselves, scoring three unanswered goals to win, 3-2.
To say the club was oozing with confidence and swagger would be an severe understatement.
As the new calendar year turns into a new decade, Rod Taylor’s bunch looks to put the Idaho series behind them and reverse course as the second half of the season commences tonight. The Admirals will kick off the first of six on the road with a two-game set against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Friday night inside Bon Secours Wellness Arena. This is the first time Norfolk has made the trip down South to Greenville this season, as the Swamp Rabbits currently lead the season series, 3-1.
With Brandon Halverson being loaned to the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL on December 26, the Admirals have signed goaltender, Danny Tirone. The 25-year old native of Trumball, CT joins the Admirals after played in nine games with the Fayettsville Marksmen, going 7-1-1 in those games with a staggering 1.88 goals against average (GAA).
The Swamp Rabbits have rebounded nicely after finishing last season at the bottom of the South division. They have remained in third place for the majority of the season, playing .500 hockey. But with the Orlando Solar Bears making a push as of late, Greenville has slid down to fourth place, coming in with a 14-14-0-1 record. Greenville’s most consistent and lethal player thus far has been forward, Liam Pecararo. The 23-year old Michigan native has blown up like nitro since coming to the ECHL, leading all rookies in goals (13) and is second in points (28), which leads all Swamp Rabbits players.
-Halverson and McBride will not be traveling with the team, as they are both headed back to the AHL. McBride was called back up by Hartford on Wednesday, while Halverson was loaned to Tucson.
-The Admirals have been rock-steady on the penalty kill this season. Through 11 games now, Norfolk has killed 41 of 45 penalties, which totals out to 91%. On the other side, things are a little different for the man-advantage. In the last nine games, the Admirals have only converted on four of 38 chances (10%), including a sobering 0-for-8 on the PP in Saturday’s matchup vs Idaho.
-Scoring first was almost a guarantee for Norfolk at the start of the season. In November, that hit a snag, then came back to life in the homestand. In the last 11 games, the Admirals have scored the game’s first goal in seven of those games. They went 4-3 in the games they scored first.
-Alex Jaeckle and Ryan Salkeld are the only members of the Admirals in the plus department as of today. Jaeckle sits with a +9, while the former Hampton Roads Whaler currently has a +5.
-Josh Holmstrom and Alex Rodriguez are the only two members of the Admirals to play in all 30 games to start the season.
-JC Campagna made his return to the lineup last Saturday against Idaho after being out of the lineup since November 16. The 26-year old immediately contributed the best way he knows how, putting up four shots-on-goal in the first period alone.
The Admirals and the Swamp Rabbits will face-off for the fifth time this season, with puck drop set for 7:05pm ET. You can see all the action on ECHL TV and listen on the Admirals Radio Network, with the Pregame Show starting at 6:40pm ET.
Written by Weston DeWitt