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Norfolk Upsets Top Ranked Manchester to Move Onto Semi-Finals

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Number 8 seed Norfolk wins 3 games in the best of 5 first round over number 1 team Manchester to move onto the second round of playoffs.

John Wright

Last time in the AHL a number one seed was beaten by a number eight seed was 2007.   That was, until last night.  Introducing the new keeper of that record, the 2014 Norfolk Admirals.  It took four games (remember first round in AHL is only best of five), but the Admirals are on their way to accomplishing their next upset in the Semi Finals!

And here’s how they did it!

Game 1: Norfolk 0 Manchester 2. Not much to see here… With three of Norfolk’s top scorers (Emerson EtemDevante Smith Pelley, Rickard Rakell) on recall to Anaheim, the one thing we were worried about, lack of offense, showed in this game.  Even though the Admirals outshot the Monarchs 30-26, the quality of Monarchs shots out did quantity of the Admirals.  Manchester scored two unanswered goals to take the game and 1-0 series lead

Game 2: Norfolk 3 Manchester 2.  When the Monarchs went up two goals in the first period, us Admiral Fans moaned, groaned, and started getting worried.  We were worried that we were going to get our butt’s kicked.  We were worried about being swept.  We were worried about only seeing one home game.  Turns out we were worried for nothing.  During the first intermission, someone in the Admirals locker room must have found their inner Herb Brooks.  We will never know what happened in the intermission, but it was the turning point of the series.  Norfolk got their first PPG (and now we know their only PPG) ending Jean-Francois Berube's shut out streak of the Admirals at 92:46 minutes.  Norfolk went on to dominate the rest of the game with two more goals to get the win and even the series at 1-1.

Game 3: Norfolk 1 Manchester 0 (OT). Yes, you read that right… ONE TO ZERO.  This is the game that made me realize I might have high blood pressure, weak heart, and high stress problems.  First period, pretty much an even played period.  Great shots, great chances, great goaltending for both teams.  Second period made me hate the world.  It was probably the single most stressful period of hockey I have ever been a part of.  Norfolk would let Manchester get 15 shots while only taking one.  Norfolk could not get out of their zone and John Gibson had to put on a heck of a show with save after save.  After taking the second period off, Norfolk was ready for the third.  They out shot Manchester 14-4 and Berube decided he needed to put on a show himself saving all 14 sending us into overtime.  As I hid my tears of anxiety inside my jersey, Norfolk and Manchester kept exchanging chance after chance to end this.  Five minutes went  by, nothing. Ten minutes, nothing. Fifteen minutes… What??? Max Sauve? Goal? Huh? I was a bit delirious at this point, but sure enough, Admirals forward Max Suave, after being scratched the first game, ended the Goalie’s duel to give Norfolk a 2-1 series advantage.

Game 4: Norfolk 3 Manchester 2. Between Game 3 & Game 4, the Admirals gained a very valuable asset back from Anaheim.  Rickard Rakell was returned to Norfolk Thursday night and made an immediate impact.  Paired with Nic Kerdiles and Andre Petersson, Rakell had a great scoring opportunity in the opening minutes.  Just three minutes in, Rakell passed the puck to Sami Vatanen who sent it flying at the net where Kerdiles was parked in front of the net for a tip in. The game then went back and forth, Manchester tied it up, Norfolk scored, and Manchester tied it up.  Blood started to boil, hits started to get harder, chances became rarer, and the game got dirtier.  Shots for each team dropped dramatically.  In the third period, the Admirals got six shots compared to 11 in the first.  Same for the Monarchs, they got three shots in the third compared eight in the first. After not converting on an early power play in the third and then killing a penalty, the Admirals started to take control.  They were playing to WIN.  Chris Wagner, who had a goal in the second period, shot the puck at the net where Matt Bailey and Max Sauve were waiting.  Sauve was able to get the tip in the game winning goal, his second game winning goal in a row! Norfolk wins the series 3-1!

Series by Numbers:

WINS: 3 LOSSES: 1

GF: 7 GAA: 6

PP: 1/10 (10%)

PK: 1/17 (94.1%)

SHOTS FOR: 110

SHOTS AGAINST: 114

MOST POINTS: Sami Vatanen (3A)

MOST GOALS: Maxime Sauve (2g)

MOST SHOTS: Andre Petersson (15)

BEST +/-: Maxime Sauve & Matt Bailey (+3)

WORST +/-: Garnet Exelby & Josh Manson (-2)

MOST PIMS: Nolan Yonkman

GOALIE WINS: Gibson (4GP/3W)

GOALIE SV%: Gibson 4GP- 0.947%

GOALIE GAA: Gibson 4GP (1.42)

If you recall, I predicted Norfolk in 4. I had the influx of youth and dominating Penalty Kill winning this series for Norfolk. Norfolk was able to hold Manchester’s top scorer to two points, they were able to kill 16 penalties in 4 games and able to WIN.  All the pieces were there.

Norfolk will get a few days off with the second round not predicted to start until later next week.  Come back in a couple days to see my preview once the opponent is decided and schedule is set.