Etem, Smith-Pelly Inject Much Needed Offense in Admirals' Win

Devante Smith-Pelly 2013-2014 Norfolk Admirals - John Wright / Courtesy Norfolk Admirals

Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelly spent most of their day on a plane and most of their night on the score sheet.

Final Score: Norfolk 5, Charlotte 2

First Period Recap: To the fan with regular attendance to Norfolk Admirals' games this season, the start of Wednesday night's game against the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes) started off like most of the previous games--the Admirals being out-shot and in the penalty box early.  Wednesday's game would be a little different from games past however, as reinforcements from Anaheim made their presence known forcefully in a 5-2 win over the Checkers.

Norfolk would find itself down a man just 1:18 in to the first, and down two men just 31 seconds later.  The Admirals managed to kill off both penalties, and for good measure Norfolk goalie John Gibson made a point to let the Checkers know he wouldn't be pushed around, making a glove save and finishing it with a "firm" face-wash of Charlotte winger Phillipe Cornet at the 3:05 mark of the first.

Roughly three minutes later however, the Checkers found themselves on the board after cashing in on a failed clearing attempt by the Admirals.  Center Brendan Woods threw the puck back to the offensive blue line to a waiting Danny Biega, who fired a low wrister towards the net.  The puck hit one of the players in the slot, dropping almost perfectly on the stick of forward Matt Marquardt who lifted the puck up over the shoulder of Gibson.  At this point Norfolk was being out-shot 8-0.

Less than a minute later, the Admirals scored on just their second shot of the game.  Recently assigned Devante Smith-Pelly would bury the rebound off a shot from defenseman Matt Clark set up by another late addition Emerson Etem, a rare "garbage goal" as compared to recent games.  Norfolk had one power play in the period and failed to score, and ended up trailing in shots 16-7.

Second Period Recap: The first part of the second period was relatively uneventful.  Both teams exchanged rushes and decent fore-checks in the other's end, but neither could capitalize.  They only managed five shots a piece through the first ten minutes of the period, but Norfolk would find themselves with a man-advantage at the 10:55 mark of the second.

The line of Etem, Rickard Rakell, and Smith-Pelly, which played most of the game together at even strength, were put together as a power play unit along with defenseman Kevin Gagne and Alex Grant.  The line would need little time to convert, as Etem easily flipped a loose puck over Charlotte netminder John Muse after a strong effort by Smith-Pelly to drag the puck to the front of the net while carrying a Charlotte penalty killer on his back.

Three minutes later the Checkers tied up the game with a redirected shot from the point beating Gibson.  The goal would be the last one of the game for Charlotte, but Norfolk was just getting started.  The second period ended with no further scoring, and Norfolk would out-shooting the Checkers 12-10 in the period.

Third Period Recap: The Admirals' first goal of the third came, once again, from the line of Rakell, Etem, and Smith-Pelly, and once again on the power play.  Defenseman Kevin Gagne started from below his own goal line and turned on the jets, moving through the neutral zone and in to the offensive zone faster than you could say "coast-to-coast." Once he entered the zone he found a wide open Etem who quickly put the puck low on net.  As if it had been scripted days before, the rebound found its way to Rakell's stick and he wasted no time putting it behind Muse.

The second goal of the period came from Max Friberg, just his third of the season.  A short-handed Friberg pushed a pass from Mat Clark past a Checkers' defender just as the Checkers gained the man advantage after a short 4-on-4.  Friberg went in alone, saw five-hole, put the puck in the sweet spot, and watched along with 3000 Norfolk fans as the puck trickled under Muse's pads and in the net.

The final goal of the third was an empty-netter scored by John Kurtz.  Kurtz, who spends much of his time in grinding and PK situations, was streaking down the middle of the ice with Smith-Pelly in a two-on-one play.  Smith-Pelly looked off the Charlotte defender in front of him and threw the puck across the ice to Kurtz, who easily redirected it in to the net.  Kurtz immediately went to the corner to to hug Smith-Pelly who was grinning from ear to ear.

Of note, both Etem and Smith-Pelly flew from Dallas to Anaheim last night.  They got in around 1 am and were back on a plane to Norfolk around 6am.  They arrived at Scope sometime around 5pm EST for a 7:15 puck drop.

John Gibson went 33 for 35, with  2 Goals Against and a .943 save percentage.

Norfolk was outshot 35-29 and went 2 for 5 on the power play.  Charlotte was 0 for 4.

Three Stars:
3 Kevin Gagne
2 Mat Clark
1 Emerson Etem

Devante Smith-Pelly 1G + 2A = 3 points
Emerson Etem  1G + 2A = 3 points
John Kurtz 1G = 1 point
Rickard Rakell 1G = 1 point
Max Friberg 1G = 1 point
Mat Clark 2A = 2 points
Kevin Gagne 2A = 2 points
Dave Steckel 1A = 1 point

Norfolk's next game, the first of a double-header against the Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins), is Friday at 7:30pm.

Follow me on Twitter: @VAPuckhead

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