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Admirals Stat-urday: WE'RE IN!!!

Your Norfolk Admirals have been in playoff mode for a month, scraping and clawing to stay with the four other divisional teams fighting for a post season berth. The long hours on a bus, hard work, and determination paid off with a two game sweep of the Hershey Bears and the "x" next to their name in the standings!

Brad Thiessen Carries the Admirals in to the 13-14 Calder Cup Playoffs
Brad Thiessen Carries the Admirals in to the 13-14 Calder Cup Playoffs
Courtesy John Wright/Norfolk Admirals

1 The Norfolk Admirals lead the AHL in killing penalties.  In 75 games played, they have allowed only 37 power
play goals while being shorthanded 307 times, killing 87.9 percent.

2 Andre Petersson scored two goals last Saturday against the Worcester Sharks (San Jose Sharks), putting his total at five since joining the Admirals and 22 on the season.  In total, Petersson has 53 points in the 2013-2014 season (22G, 31A).

3 Max Friberg, who netted the game winning empty net goal Friday night to seal the win against the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals), is riding a four game point streak, netting two goals and two assists this week.  On the season, Friberg has 40 points (17G, 23A). His goal Friday was his third insurance goal of the season., and while it wasn't the game-winner, it certainly "insured" the Admirals trip to the post-season.

4 Nic Kerdiles, recently signed to an ATO, put up four points this week.  On Sunday against the Portland Pirates (Phoenix Coyotes), Kerdiles notched his first professional goal, assisted on two goals Wednesday night against Hershey, and set up Dave Steckel's game winner Friday night.

5 Rookie Center William Karlsson chipped in five points this week for the Admirals with a goal and four assists. 
Karlsson now has eight points on the season (2G, 6A).

6 The Admirals have won six of their last ten games and have points in seven (6-3-1).  They have just one more regular season game to play this evening against the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa Senators).

7 Brad Thiessen has started seven consecutive games for the Admirals, including a three-in-three weekend and a
back-to-back night series.  In that time he's gone 5-1-1, allowing just 14 goals on 198 shots, a 2.06 Goals Against
Average, and a .929 save percentage with one shutout.  On the season Theissen has a 2.26 GAA and .930 save percentage.

8 The Admirals completed a two game sweep of the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) Wednesday night (5-3) and Friday night (3-1) to clinch the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

9 Veteran Center Dave Steckel scored his ninth goal for the Admirals and tenth of the season Friday night against Hershey.  It was his second game-winner of the season, but will be remembered as the most important goal of the 2013-2014 campaign as it clinched a berth in the post-season.

10 Antoine Laganiere scored his tenth of the season and first game-winning goal last Saturday in a 3-0 shutout of the Worcester Sharks, the middle game of a 3-in-3 weekend that Norfolk swept.

--The roller coaster ride that the Admirals have been on the past two months finally ended last night with a 3-1 win over the Hershey Bears and the return to the post season after last year's disappointing final weekend.  The win at home was big for the Admirals as well as their fans, who filled Scope to capacity and pushed the average attendance over 5000 for the third consecutive year.  I've written above that Norfolk has clinched the eighth playoff spot, but they aren't locked in to Eight Place--there are still several games to be played today, the results of which could see them finish as high as Sixth, which means their opponent is still TBD.

No matter though, as the playoffs are the start of the second season, and the advancing team must win three of five games to move on, and as everyone knows, anything can happen.  What should not be overlooked, however, is the contribution of the recently signed prospects.  Guys like Kerdiles, Karlsson, Matt Bailey, and Josh Manson showed up and grabbed regular roster spots, contributing speed, scoring, size, and defense.  They were asked to play their best, to elevate their game, to push themselves and their teammates, to jump in to the middle of a dog-fight and come out swinging.  They did that, and because of the strength of the core players, the contributions of the prospects, and the style of play instilled by Coach Yawney, the Admirals made it out of the regular season with nothing to lose and everything to win.

--Brad Thiessen.  Last weekend he started all three games from Friday to Sunday, and won all three, including a shutout on Saturday night.  He started off the season in Europe and decided it wasn't a good fit, so he packed up and moved back to North America, hoping to find a team willing to give him a shot.  Norfolk provided the opportunity, signing Thiessen to a contract to back-up John Gibson.  Thiessen got a couple starts, but it was understood that he was there to "warm the bench" until Gibson needed a break.

That was until the beginning of April, when Gibson was called up to Anaheim, and all of a sudden the goalie who didn't start the season in North America was asked to carry his team in to the post season, and to do it while on the outside of the playoff race looking in.  Ladies and gentlemen, despite typing his name three times in this very paragraph, I've already forgotten who the Admirals' goaltender was before Brad Thiessen.

His stats are quoted above (more here), but Thiessen brings so much more than "good" goaltending to the Admirals.  His style of play is one of little wasted energy and perfect positioning.  His rebound control is exceptional, and his puck redirection (sending shots to the corners and in to the netting) is outstanding.  He is calm, he is collected, and his demeanor both during games and after shows his maturity and professionalism.  He is exactly what this Norfolk Admirals team needed, and he was there when they needed him most.

This time of year he is at his best, and his runs in the post season with the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins) have forever immortalized him as one of the best that organization has ever had and endeared him to fans.  Sure, he didn't show up in Norfolk as the goalie of the "future," but he is definitely the goalie of "right now."  Both Thiessen and the Admirals have benefited from fate, and as fate would have it, Thiessen is going to the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

--Norfolk's win against Hershey allowed everyone, fans and team alike, to breath a collective sigh of relief.  They clinched with one game left in the regular season, essentially a "throw-away" game whose outcome will only help determine an opponent and not their status in the post-season.  The Admirals coaching staff decided to spare a few players a nine-hour bus ride up to Binghamton and back, and according to Admirals' play by play man he believes that list includes Nolan Yonkman, Garnet Exelby, David Steckel, Zack Stortini, Brad Thiessen, and Steve Eminger.  It's expected that Mark Fistric, who was assigned to Norfolk on a long-term conditioning assignment, will be rejoining Anaheim at some point this weekend.

For now it's just a waiting game.  What's different between this regular season's last day as compared to last season is that the Admirals aren't waiting for help to get in to the playoffs.  They decided for themselves they wanted in, and they did something about it.  No, for now it's just waiting to play that final game, waiting for their opponent to be decided, and waiting for the schedule to be published, and everyone can relax just a little bit, at least until Round 1, Game 1 of the Calder Cup Playoffs starts!

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