Sami the Savior? - Rick Stewart
All good things must come to an end. The St. John's IceCaps handed the Admirals their first loss of the season and the franchise's first regular season loss since February 10th.
[Ed. Note: We're a little late on the Admirals recaps. Shawn is single-handily saving the rail system in Virginia against the storms on the East Coast. Stay safe, everyone!]
The Admirals started off very slow on a night that many will now remember as 'The Streak Killer'. The Norfolk Admirals franchise had won 32 straight regular season games since February 10th of last season up to this point.
I listened to the game on the radio, so I can't give info on how they looked, but it sounded like they were sloppy and not trying real hard. The St. John IceCaps', affiliates of the Winnipeg Jets, quickly jumped ahead in shots on goal, after the Admirals gave them three power plays opportunities to start the period. Norfolk was out-shot a crazy 16-5 in the first. Frederik Andersen's strong goaltending kept the poor performing team in it.
The second period contained a majority of the game's offense. St. John's Zach Redmond started off the scoring 11:33 minutes into the second period with Jason Jaffray providing the assist. Jaffray was diagnosed with a severe concussion last season after a giant, legal hit by then-Admirals defenceman Radko Gudas. Maybe Jaffray wanted revenge on the logo on the Norfolk sweaters this night. [Ed. Note: Jaffray became a member of the Ducks organization in a trade with Calgary (for Logan MacMillan and future considerations) the summer prior to the 2010-11 season. He blew out his knee in a pre-season scrimmage and was out the entire year. Jaffray became a free agent at the end of the season and signed with Winnipeg.]
Jaffray picked up his second point of the night on the power play just under two minutes later, putting the Admirals down 2-0. Alex Burmistrov and Redmond were credited with the assists. Shortly after the goal, Peter Holland received a 10 minute misconduct for "Abuse of Officials", more on this later.
With 36 seconds left in the second period, Young forward Devante Smith-Pelly cut the score in half with his first goal of the season; it was a bit of a surprise that he hadn't netted one yet. Hampus Lindholm and Patrick Maroon provided the helpers on the play. Once again, the Admirals were out-shot in the period, 14-9.
Going in to the third period, the Admirals were losing 2-1 and being out-shot 14-30. Eight minutes into the period, Will O'Neil put the IceCaps back up by two goals with Hunter Tremblay and Ben Maxwell getting assists. [Ed. Note: Ben Maxwell was with the Ducks about three minutes last season after being picked up on waivers from Winnipeg. Maxwell played around a half-a-dozen games with Anaheim before being put back on waivers; Winnipeg did not implement 'no give-backs' and swiped him back.]
After O'Neil's goal, thing sounded pretty grim. On Twitter, fans were kinda sad. Highly touted prospect Sami Vatanen would have none of this. The Admirals went on the power play with 4:55 minutes remaining in the game. Holland won the face off and DSP sent a quick pass to Vatanen, who was lined up on the blue line. Sami unleashed his now famous - in my mind, at least - cannon of a slap shot to easily beat goalie Mark Dekanich.
It wasn't enough, though. The game ended 3-2 in favor of St. John's, breaking the 32 game franchise win streak. The IceCaps out-shot the Ads 43-30 in the game. Both teams went 1-for-5 on the power play.
Before the power play goal for Norfolk, the Ads' Maroon and the IceCaps' Eric O'Dell both received 10 minute misconducts for "Unsportsmanlike Conduct". There was a total of 32 minutes in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the game.
This season, the refs seem to be using unsportsmanlike conduct just call whatever they want, whenever they want. Admiral Gabe Guentzel was very, very clearly hooked in the third, and he was called for a two-minute minor of unsportsmanlike conduct; the call was later changed to diving. [Ed. Note: I watched the game and the misconduct calls were ridiculous. If Corey Perry played in the AHL right now, he'd be kicked out with a game misconduct within the first 30 seconds of every game.]
The good news from the contest is that Vatanen is a freaking beast. Norfolk fans were treated to the offensive talents of Mark Barberio the last couple of seasons, but in my opinion, Vatanen probably has equal, or greater, talent now than Barberio did in his tenure here. Sami's vision on offense is fantastic. He has great speed and showed it off multiple times by beating forward and d-men constantly into the zone; on defense, he can be physical and take control of the puck.