Friday night, the Norfolk Admirals played host to the Syracuse Crunch in the mix of a four-game winning streak. It was only the third game of their season series against one another. The Ads went a successful 3-for-8 on the man-advantage and erupted in the third period by hanging a four spot in the final stanza alone. Along with two shorthanded tallies and two more even-strength goals, Norfolk sailed to a 7-4 victory over the Crunch at the Scope.
Before the game, the Admirals inducted two new members into the team hall of fame. Aaron Downey and Chris Phelps both received the honors, being cherished for phenomenal minor-league careers in Norfolk.
Only 1:09 in, Syracuse earned a power-play after Carter Ashton was sent to the box for an offensive zone tripping minor. Although the Crunch were a man-up, Norfolk soon tallied on a shorthanded, 2-on-1 break. Mike Kostka fired a shot low to the ice that squeezed through the five-hole of Antero Niittymaki to put the Ads on top.
It went on to be the lone tally in the period for either side, as both teams were given three power-plays. Shots were 6-4 in favor of the Orange and White.
Shortly into the middle frame, Syracuse went onto their fourth power-play of the contest as Kostka took a seat for tripping. The Crunch were soon able to cash in, as Dustin Tokarski failed to cover a loose puck on the ice leading to a wide open 4-by-6 cage for Riley Holzapfel and the puck on his tape. He easily shot into the net his ninth goal of the season to tie the game.
4:30 later, the Crunch took the lead for the first time as they continued to storm Tokarski’s crease. Brandom McMillan fired in another loose puck behind the confused netminder. Dan Sexton fired a shot from the slot that his square off the goal post and rolled into the middle of the blue-paint. As Tokarski and the rest of the Norfolk defense were oblivious to their surroundings, McMillan helped himself to his eighth goal of the season and his team to a 2-1 lead.
But with 3:49 remaining in the middle period, Tyler Johnson scored for Norfolk on the power-play to knot the game at 2-2. Johnson entered the offensive zone on an even rush, put on the breaks and fired a top-shelf shot past Niittymaki to make it an even hockey game on Norfolk’s seventeenth shot. The parade to the penalty box would only continue for Syracuse, and it costed them big, giving the Admirals a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
After a failed clear attempt along the near-side boards, Alexandre Picard received a centering pass down low and beat the former NHL goalie with a quick shot that beat him clean on the glove side. Out of the five total two-minute minors in the stanza, four were charged to the Crunch. It led the Ads onto 15 shots in the second frame alone, bringing their game total up to 19.
Into the third period, both teams traded tallies 13 seconds apart inside the fifth minute mark to make it a 4-3 nail-biter. Cory Conacher tipped a Mathieu Carle shot from the point to give the Ads their first two-goal cushion of the night. It was short live, however, as Holzapfel quickly netted his second of the night at the other end.
Minutes later, Norfolk began to pull away as Syracuse could no longer keep pace with the dominant Admirals’ offense. Captain, Mike Angelidis scored the team’s second shorthanded goal of the game. This time it was on a breakaway at the 9:57 mark, as Angelidis snuck behind the defense while the Crunch power-play unit went off for a line change.
Angelidis’ goal proved to be the game-winner, but the Ads were far from done. The onslaught of offense continued on Antero Niittymaki with two more goals at the 12 and 13 minute marks. Niittymaki was pulled after yielding his seven goal in an AHL game for the first time going back to the 2003-04 season.
Rick Schofield added a goal for Syracuse with 5:20 left to make the situation slighty more interesting, but the Blue and Gold easily hung on for a 7-4 win over the Crunch.
Both teams rematch each other the next night, Saturday, February 18. Same time and venue as the day before. Syracuse looks to bounce back, as the Admirals look to make it six straight wins.