Toledo, OH- The Norfolk Admirals traveled to Toledo to play a three-game series against the Toledo Walleye. This marked the first time in six years that Norfolk had visited the Huntington Center. Despite taking an early 3-0 lead, Norfolk relinquished their advantage in the third period, conceding three goals. However, they ultimately secured victory with a 4-3 shootout win.
Kristian Stead made his return in the cage for the Admirals and put up an impressive performance in their riveting victory. Stead exhibited commendable skill by saving 24 out of 27 shots, which included three vital saves during the shootout, ultimately resulting in his team's triumph.
During the initial 20 minutes of the game, the Admirals exhibited a commanding presence on the playing surface. Keegan Iverson received an assist from Denis Smirnov in the neutral zone, then proceeded to deftly skate towards the net and successfully score the first goal of the game for the Admirals. Iverson sniped his shot past Walleye's goalie Jan Bednar, on the blocker side.
The Walleye were forced to go on the penalty kill on three separate occasions due to tripping penalties, and the Admirals were able to capitalize on one of those occasions. Danny Katic gained possession of the puck and passed it across the crease to Smirnov, who successfully scored a backdoor goal which extended their lead to 2-0 within the first six minutes of the game.
The Admirals remained ahead with a 2-0 lead, outshooting the Walleye 7-2 in the first 20 minutes of the game.
During the second frame, the Admirals found themselves with several opportunities to extend their lead in the opening two minutes, firing five shots in the process. Despite their best efforts, however, they were unable to add to their advantage during this time. Andrew McLean was subsequently called for tripping, providing the Walleye with a chance to get on the board.
Fortunately for the Admirals, Stead performed admirably, fending off the Walleye's pressure and ensuring that the clean sheet remained intact.
At the five-minute mark, Keaton Jameson unleashed a powerful shot from the left-wing circle, striking Bednar's glove. Brady Fleurent was on hand to follow up the rebound, putting it past Bednar for his fourth goal of the season and giving the Admirals a commanding 3-0 lead.
Following the goal, the Walleye attempted to spark a revival, with Adrien Beraldo engaging in fisticuffs with Iverson after his initial hit coming up the ice. Despite the subsequent increase in energy within the arena, Norfolk held firm and maintained their three-goal advantage after 40 minutes.
The Admirals also enjoyed a significant advantage in shots on goal, managing 14 in comparison to the Walleye's eight.
During the third period, the momentum of the game shifted significantly, as the Walleye scored two goals within the first four minutes, reducing the deficit to one goal. Brandon Hawkins scored his 23rd goal of the season, off a one-timer, beating Stead's left shoulder from the right-wing circle, within the opening 77 seconds. Three minutes later, Riley McCourt scored a power-play goal, his third of the season, making the score 3-2.
Following the pair of goals, the Admirals regained their composure and regained their footing, reducing the momentum gained by the opposition. The pace of play increased on both ends of the ice, as the game reached its final 10 minutes.
In the last minute of the game, Toledo had an extra player on the ice and capitalized on a shot in front to tie the game with 51 seconds left. Sam Craggs scored his 21st goal of the season, evening the score.
There were numerous opportunities for both teams in the seven-minute overtime period, with three close chances for the Admirals, but both goalies remained perfect, necessitating the game to be decided in a shootout.
In the first two rounds, both Bednar and Stead made vital saves, giving their teams a chance in the third round. Stead once again displayed his resilience by making a crucial save at the top of the third round, setting the stage for Smirnov to possibly win it. Smirnov skated through the left side of the ice before making his way to the slot and sniping it past the glove, giving Norfolk a 4-3 victory.
Sentara Health Three Stars of the Game
1. NOR - D. Smirnov (1 goal, 1 assist, +1)
2. TOL - R. McCourt (1 goal, 1 assist, +2)
3. TOL - S. Craggs (1 goal)
The Admirals are scheduled to return to the ice for their second game against the Walleye tomorrow evening. The puck is set to drop at 7:15 p.m.