They playoff race is in full swing. Norfolk is sitting 2 points out of a playoff spot, but there are a few more teams with the same situation. Every game for the last few week of the season have to be looked at as “must win” type games. It’s Crunchtime and the Syracuse Crunch are in town for a weekend series with the Admirals.
Friday nights game had everything you could imagine in a typical Admirals game and a few surprises. There was a fight, plenty of goals, a third period meltdown, and an overtime thriller. The Syracuse Crunch came to town looking less like the team that used to be the Calder Cup Admiral squad from last year. They were still a formidable opponent for the Admirals.
Syracuse struck first with a Brett Connolly goal at 3:51 into the first period. Connolly sent a backhanded shot from the left corner that went into the net off of Admirals goalie, Frederik Andersen. The Crunch struck once again at 17:07 of the first. Former Admiral fan favorite, Eric Neilson, deflected a Danick Gauthier wrist shot past Andersen for the 2-0 lead. Neilson’s goal was his first of the season and first as member of the Crunch. The Admirals would finally get on the board in the final seconds of the period. Kyle Bonis would get his first professional point since joining the Admirals from the OHL. Bonis sent the puck behind the net from the right circle. Patrick Maroon scooped up the puck and came up on the left side of the net and sent the puck past Riku Helenius for his nineteenth goal of the season at 19:46 of the first period.
Syracuse came out in the second and appeared to have this game under their control. Norfolk was struggling and could not get their offense started. It was a back and forth defensive battle for most of the period. The Crunch scored at 18:59 to take the 3-1 lead. Alex Hutchings recovered a rebound from a Jean-Philippe Cote shot. Cote sent a wrist shot in on Andersen and the rebound bounced out to Hutchings who shot it past Andersen
Syracuse took a 4-1 lead just ten seconds into the third period and it looked like another nail in the Admiral coffin. J.T. Brown made a pass from the left circle that was tipped by J.T. Wyman and then on to the stick of Dan Sexton who redirected it past Andersen. The Admirals answered back with a pair of goals less than two minutes apart. McMillan stole the puck from the Crunch in the Admirals defensive zone and skated up towards the Crunch goal. He passed the puck across the crease to a waiting Devante Smith-Pelly who slammed the puck home at 0:50 of the third period. Rod Pelley and Chris Wagner worked together to help cut the Crunch lead to 4-3. Pelley sent a breakout pass to Wagner who would close in on Helenius and sent a backhand shot into the net for his seventh goal of the season. Patrick Maroon closed out the scoring for the third period as he tipped a Nate Guenin shot past Helenius at 8:49 to tie the game a 4 goals each.
Former Admirals captain Mike Angelidis took a slashing penalty late in the third period and started the Overtime period in the penalty box. The Crunch were shorthanded as the Admirals made their way into the offensive zone. Sami Vatanen sent a pass from the left point to Charlie Sarault in the right circle. Sarault, a newly signed Admirals from the OHL, collected the puck and centered a pass to Patrick Maroon. Maroon would slide the puck past the pads of Riku Helenius for the Admiral 5-1 win at 1:44 of overtime.
Helenius (16-12-0) stopped 25 of 30 shots for Syracuse. Andersen ( 19-14-1) stopped 26 of 30 shots for the Admiral win. Norfolk was 2-for-6 on the power play. Syracuse was 0-for-4.
Norfolk and Syracuse meet once more tonight at Scope.
1. Patrick Maroon – NOR
2. Brandon McMillan – NOR
3. Chris Wagner – NOR