NORFOLK, Va. – Juraj Simek’s deflection goal with 6:36 left in regulation snapped a 3-3 tie and Justin Keller netted his first professional hat trick to help the Norfolk Admirals (25-24-3-1) defeat the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (23-26-1-1) 5-3 on Wednesday night at Norfolk Scope Arena. Next up for the Admirals is a Friday-Saturday set of games this weekend against former Admiral Mike McKenna and his Lowell Devils.
The Admirals opened scoring just 1:57 into the game. Matt Fornataro entered the attacking zone along the right wing and sent a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot that eluded the blocker of Penguins goaltender John Curry for Fornataro’s sixth goal of the season.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tied the game at 1-1 just over two minutes later. Joe Vitale sent a pass from the left corner to the right point. Nate Guenin collected the pass and sent a high wrist shot through traffic past a screened Norfolk netminder Dustin Tokarski at 4:19.
The Penguins took a 2-1 lead midway through the opening period. Chris Lee sent a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that went high past the blocker of Tokarski at 9:54.
The Admirals answered back just over a minute later. Justin Keller picked off a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton clearing attempt at the right point of the Penguins zone and dropped a pass to Paul Szczechura. Szczechura returned the puck to Keller in the left circle and Keller sent a low wrist shot between the legs of Curry at 11:13 for his tenth goal of the season.
Keller gave the home team a 3-2 lead with just 5.9 seconds remaining in the first period. Juraj Simek sent a shot from the right point that hit the blocker of Curry. The rebound popped to Curry’s left. Keller pounced on the loose puck and sent a backhand shot into the yawning cage for his second goal of the game.
After a scoreless second period, the Penguins tied the game at 3-3 just 1:50 into the final frame. Joe Vitale sent a feed from the left corner to Nate Guenin at the right point. Guenin sent a shot through traffic that deflected off two players on its way past the right leg of Tokarski.
The Admirals re-claimed the lead with a power play goal 13:34 into the third period. Matt Lashoff sent a high shot from the middle blueline. Juraj Simek was on top of the crease and was able to deflect the shot down and past Curry for his thirteenth goal of the season.
Keller wrapped up the hat trick with 53 seconds remaining. With an empty net in front of him, Keller skated through the neutral zone near the visitor’s penalty box on a partial breakaway. He was hooked from behind and fell to the ice, which would have resulted in a penalty shot. However, when a penalty shot would have been awarded and the other team’s goaltender is removed for the extra attacker, by rule the goal is automatically awarded. That gave Keller his third goal of the game and his first professional hat trick.
Dustin Tokarski (22 shots, 19 saves) earned the win. John Curry (29 shots, 25 saves) took the loss.
Norfolk was 1-6 on the power play. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was 0-3.
The Admirals will conclude a six-game homestand on Friday and Saturday nights against the Lowell Devils. The puck drops both nights at 7:15 p.m.
Friday night is Military Appreciation Night with special ceremonies taking place before and during the game. Active and retired military, reservists and military dependants can purchase red level tickets for just $9 at the Norfolk Scope Box Office with valid ID. Military groups of 25 or more may purchase tickets in advance for just $8 through the Admirals office at (757) 640-1212.
On Saturday night, the Admirals will give away 2,000 series two trading card sets, courtesy of 96X.
For a complete schedule and details of the promotions, please visit norfolkadmirals.com or call (757) 640-1212.
To purchase tickets to any Admirals game, you may visit the Scope Box Office weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., visit any Ticketmaster outlet, call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 or visit Ticketmaster online at ticketmaster.com. Don’t miss a minute of the action by purchasing your 2009-10 season tickets today. Stop by the Admirals’ Administrative Offices at Scope, call (757) 640-1212 weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. or visit norfolkadmirals.com anytime!
1. Justin Keller – NOR
2. Juraj Simek – NOR
3. Nate Guenin – WBS
NOTES … The Admirals (25-24-3-1, 54 points in 52 games) will remain alone in third place in the AHL’s East Division. The Adirondack Phantoms (24-23-2-2, 52 pts in 51 games) kept pace and remain two points back of Norfolk in fourth after a victory over the Rochester Americans tonight. The idle Syracuse Crunch (22-23-3-3, 50 pts in 51 games) slide to fifth place while the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (23-26-1-1, 48 points in 51 games) remain in sixth place. The seventh-place Binghamton Senators (21-23-3-1, 46 points in 48 games) picked up two points with an overtime victory over the Albany River Rats (27-19-3-3, 60 points in 52 games) tonight. Binghamton is just eight points back of Norfolk while the Admirals trail the second-place River Rats by just six points … Justin Keller’s first AHL hat trick came in his sixth career AHL multiple-goal game and his 236th career AHL game … Keller has points in four straight games (5G, 2A) and five of his last six games (6G, 2A) … With a pair of assists tonight, Paul Szczechura has points in three straight games (1G, 4A) … Matt Lashoff also had a pair of assists and now has points in three of his last four games (1G, 3A) … With a goal, Matt Fornataro has points in eight of his last 11 games (6G, 3A) … With a pair of assists, Mark Parrish has points in nine of his last 14 games (3G, 8A) … With an assist, Ty Wishart has points in eight of his last 13 games (3G, 9A) … Scratches: Radek Smolenak … Attendance: 2,243.