St. John's held off a Third Period rally by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to defeat the Penguins 3-2 in Game Seven of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series. That means the #2 seed IceCaps will face the #1 seed Norfolk Admirals in the Eastern Conference Finals.
From the Norfolk Admrials' press release:
Norfolkâ€™s Complete Third Round Playoff Schedule (All Times EDT):
Game 1 - Thursday, May 17, 7:15 p.m., Norfolk Scope Arena (Game H)
Game 2 - Saturday, May 19, 8:00 p.m., Norfolk Scope Arena (Game I)
Game 3 - Monday, May 21, 6:00 p.m., Mile One Centre
Game 4 - Tuesday, May 22, 6:00 p.m., Mile One Centre
*Game 5 - Saturday, May 26, 6:00 p.m., Mile One Centre
*Game 6 - Tuesday, May 29, 7:15 p.m., Norfolk Scope Arena (Game J)
*Game 7 - Wednesday, May 30, 7:15 p.m., Norfolk Scope Arena (Game K)
PANIK ATTACK, Y'ALL!!!
Norfolk Wins the Series 4-2
Jaroslav Janus allowed 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. The one goal he allowed was on a weak rebound that ended up ping-ponging behind him, but he was perfect from thereon out. His 30 saves included a penalty shot stop on Connecticut's best scorer, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, who did Janus a favor by taking his attempt at the pace of a snail's crawl. Easy money for a goaltender as quick and athletic as Janus.
CT Audy-Marchessault, (4) (Hrivik, Wellman), 14:49
NOR Johnson, (2) (Palat), 10:52
NOR Panik, (2) (Killorn, Oberg), 17:01
Richard Panik and Janus were the game's first and second stars. Panik is made of steel. He took a slapshot to the face in the Third Period and looked tough as nails immediately popping up and skating to the locker room for his medical care. No nonsense. Stitch me up. He gets back out midway through Overtime, and on his first shift he absolutely dejocked Cameron Talbot on a backhand-forehand deke for the breakaway winner in Overtime. He was ineffective the final month of the regular season, but what has impressed me in these playoffs is that although the points haven't come in droves, he's been very strong on the puck on the forecheck and he's contributed in other areas. I felt so good for the young man to get the winner.
What a stretch pass by the already immortal Alex Killorn to get Panik that breakaway. Good Lord. I hope Norfolk's trainer did up Panik's face with that kind of laser-like surgical precision.
Other than Alexandre Picard, I don't know if there's been any Admirals player who has been as consistently strong as Ondrej Palat in these playoffs. That guy was a playmaking demon tonight. I'm not surprised Norfolk won it in Overtime. I am surprised Palat didn't set up or score the winner. It seemed like he set up at least a half dozen dangerous chances in the game, including Tyler Johnson's key tying goal in the Third Period. I'm really starting to love me some Ondrej Palat.
It really is a game of (less than) inches. Marek Hrivik had a shot in the Third Period that hit the underside of the crossbar and was waved off that would've given Connecticut a 2-0 lead and likely the game. With Cameron Talbot looking like a wall in net and the Whale defense looking stifling through the first 40 minutes of play, it really did look like the Admirals were going to have to play Game Seven late Sunday afternoon. 1/4 inch lower and Norfolk probably loses. Instead, the Admirals mashed down on the gas pedal and ended up outshooting the Whale 34-7 in the Third and Overtime, after getting outshot 24-12 in the first two frames.
Norfolk awaits the winner of Game Seven between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and St. John's tomorrow night in the Eastern Conference Finals after the Penguins took Game Six from the IceCaps earlier tonight 4-2. Norfolk should resolve that whoever makes it out of that series, the Admirals jump on them immediately in Game One. Whoever survives that Game Seven will be emotionally drained and have to travel from St. John's all the way to Norfolk. Jump on them and don't look back. In the West, Oklahoma City finished out their series tonight and they'll face Toronto in the Western Conference Finals.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
The line must be drawn here!
Norfolk Leads the Series 3-2
Jaroslav Janus stopped all 22 shots he faced for the victory. Remind me never to play poker against Jon Cooper, because he's obviously a gambler with impeccable instincts to switch back to Janus between the pipes. In fact, I'd have to say Cooper pressed all the right buttons team-wide to get them ready for this critical game.
NOR Picard, (5) (Labrie), 15:15
NOR Picard, (6) (Jackson, Palat), 2:43
NOR Palat, (3) (Johnson, Cote), 14:06
NOR Labrie, (3) (Angelidis, Segal), 19:54
Picard continues to play like a man possessed. He had just 6 goals in 42 regular season games, but his pair of tallies tonight got him to 6 in just 9 postseason contests. He was dominant tonight, and was definitely the leader of a focused Norfolk attack. In fact, we have an exclusive transcript of Picard's emotional pre-game speech to the team below (not really):
Palat, for his part, continues to obliterate all expectations with a well-rounded game that has made him, consistently, one of the Admirals' best performers to this point in the playoffs. Not only did he have a goal and an assist tonight, but he also knocked Andre Deveaux, who is built like a tank, off the ice for a good portion of play with a hit. He's strong offensively. He's strong defensively. He's killing penalties. He's even hitting people. What a great late round pickup by the Lightning's scouts.
Tyler Johnson returned from injury and assisted on Palat's goal.
If I was a Connecticut Whale fan, I'd be pretty upset that Game Five essentially became a neutral site game in Bridgeport, which had to curtail their intensity a little bit in a critical Game Five situation. Fortunately, though, I'm not a Connecticut Whale fan. Stinks for you, Whale fans.
Game Six is Friday in Norfolk and both teams will now make the 8-9 hour bus trek to Scope. The good news is that St. John's failed to close out Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last night in double overtime, so if Norfolk can handle business on Friday, they won't be at any disadvantage from a rest standpoint going into the Eastern Conference Finals. The momentum is all in the Admirals' favor now. They need to finish the drill. The line has been drawn here.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
It's a 3 game series now.
Series Tied at 2-2
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 23 shots for the loss. He'll want that first goal that went through him by Marchessault back. As with most goals like that, it became a big difference in the game.
CT Audy-Marchessault, (3) (Deveaux, Newbury), 19:05
CT Tanski, (1) (Tessier, Grant), 3:56
NOR Panik, (1) (Killorn), 7:42
CT Wellman, (4) (Valentenko, Hrivik), 16:48
CT Newbury, (1) (Erixon, Talbot), 17:51 (EN)
The silver lining of the game is the breaking of a month plus long slump by Richard Panik. Norfolk needs more Panik attacks.
Tyler Johnson was scratched after injury led him to be ineffective in Game Three.
The scene shifts to Bridgeport for Game Five on Wednesday. Tonight's attendance was only 1,641, so I'd say the experience won't be altogether different on Wednesday. St. John's can close out their series in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tomorrow, so Norfolk may very well live to regret allowing this series drag on to 6 or 7 games, even if they make it into the Eastern Conference Finals.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Norfolk withstands Connecticut's best shot.
Norfolk Leads the Series 2-1
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the victory. The stat line is ho hum, but he gave the Admirals exactly what they needed. Under siege for much of the first half of the Second Period, Tokarski kept the game close and allowed the Admirals to get their legs underneath them and get a critical victory.
CT Wellman, (2) , 5:20 (PP)
NOR Palat, (2) , 8:01 (SH)
CT Deveaux, (2) (Hrivik, Newbury), 17:12
NOR Killorn, (3) (Kostka, Picard), 11:31 (PP)
NOR Smith, (3) (Barberio, Conacher), 12:16
NOR Angelidis, (1) (Ouellet, Gudas), 17:40
CT Wellman, (3) (Newbury, Erixon), 1:06 (PP)
Ondrej Palat and Tokarski were the game's first and third stars. Color me pleasantly surprised with Palat overall this season. He's better along the wall and defensively than advertised. Heck, he even kills penalties. Between Palat and fellow Eastern European Richard Panik, it's really no contest which of the two has played better so far in the playoffs.
Speaking of those from the Czech-or-Slovakia region, Radko Gudas played a ton in the final frame protecting the one goal lead, and played really well.
Alex Killorn is the truth.
Cory Conacher is... touched? Is that the diplomatic way to put it? Heavyweight Andre Deveaux decided to rough up Conacher after the whistle on a play in the Second Period, and Conacher actually chased after him like he wanted to fight him. Cory, brother, you're strong pound-for-pound, but Deveaux eats meals that weigh more than you do. Stick to whipping his behind on the scoreboard, where it really hurts.
Norfolk won tonight despite being outshot for the first time in these playoffs. They'll move on to Game Four tomorrow night with the chance to really put Connecticut behind the eight ball. Yes, they got "home ice" back tonight, but bear in mind Game Five is really a neutral site game in Bridgeport due to a scheduling conflict. The Whale can't afford to lose Game Four. Sweep the leg, Admirals. Sweep the leg.
In the other Eastern Conference Semifinal, St. John's swept the weekend and now hold a 3-1 series lead over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Another reason for Norfolk to get on the gas tomorrow is that they don't want the IceCaps to have a rest advantage heading into any potential Eastern Conference Finals series.
Box score from TheAHL.com.