ESTERO, FL - Coming into Saturday night, the Norfolk Admirals and the Florida Everblades were trending in opposite directions. The Admirals had lost six in a row (1-8-1 in their last ten) and the Everblades had won their last four games (8-1-1 in their last ten). However, both those streaks came to a screeching halts inside Hertz Arena on Saturday night.
Jake Theut was making his third straight start for Norfolk, while Cam Johnson made the start for Florida. In the first three matchups of the season, it was the Admirals who scored the game’s first goal. On Saturday night, they did again.
The Admirals started off the first period with a bang just 20 seconds into the game, with Jakob Reichert netting his third goal of the season. One of the Admirals newest additions from the Cincinnati Cyclones, Freddy Gerard, made his presense felt quickly on his first shift, assisting on the goal. The quick scoring did not end there, as Alex Rodriguez scored just 41 seconds later, on an assist from Taylor Ross. The goal marked Rodriguez’s 13th of the year, which leads all Admirals players.
The 2-0 lead for Norfolk lasted for a short minute and 28 seconds, as Florida’s Joe Pendenza got one passed Theut to make it 2-1. After the quick start by both clubs, the rest of the period went on with no scoring, as the Everblades outshot the Admirals in the period, 11-10.
The second period was much of the same, with special teams being the driving force for the Admirals. Three minutes and 49 seconds into the period, Brycen Martin scored on the power play with assists coming from Ross and Rodriguez to net their second points of the night. The goal marked Martin’s first with the Admirals since he was traded from Fort Wayne. Eight minutes later, Reichert scored his second of the game off another assist from Gerard.
Despite the production offensively, Theut was the one who stole the show against the best offensive team in the South division and third best in the entire ECHL. The Everblades had a chance to put a dent in the Admirals lead with 16:39 remaining in the third, when Brayden Sherbinin joined Martin in the penalty box after a tripping call, giving Florida a 5-on-3 opportunity.Theut was peppered with shots from all angles, but he stood tall, making a few spectacular saves.
"It feels really good," said Theut after the win. "It's great for our team, especially for the first one on this roadtrip. The morale is much higher and we are going to be buzzing going into Orlando."
Theut would go on to win his first game of the season in impressive fashion, allowing only one goal on 37 shots. After an empty net goal from Rodriguez, the Admirals would cruise to a 5-1 victory, snapping the teams’ six-game skid.
"The boys played extremely well together tonight," said head coach Rod Taylor. "When the chips were down, it was the next person stepping up. It was a lot of fun to watch and they really deserved this win. It was such a great team effort on all the goals. It really could have gone the other way with all our new guys in the lineup, but I think the atmosphere in the locker room was good and everyone understood what was going on. But I think that's why we came out and played so well in this game tonight."
"Guys are really hungry to prove themselves," said Theut. "We're a very hungry group and I think we are going to have some strong success down the road here."