The Admirals 25th home opener on October 11 is just four days away! So we are counting down the days recognizing 25 memorable moments in the 25 years of Admirals Hockey, in a segment we call 25 in 25. Each day we will highlight a great moment in the Admirals proud 25-year history to get you set for the 2013-14 home opener!
#4: A Cinderella Story, the 1998 Hampton Roads Admirals Call it a fairy-tale finish, or something scripted out of Hollywood. Regardless how you put it, you very well would be describing the 1998 Hampton Roads Admirals team.
Heading down the stretch of the regular season the Admirals lost eight straight games, and 12 of 13. The poor finish had the Admirals on the outside looking in of the ECHL playoff race heading into the final weekend of the regular season, and the team was in danger of not making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Despite this, the team still had a chance to squeak into the postseason. All they had to do was win three games in three days in three different cities AND hope that the Columbus Chill lost one of their final two games of that weekend. A task this tall would have many teams thinking about their postseason plans, but maybe, just maybe Lady Luck would be in attendance.
The Admirals won the first game at home on a Friday defeating Roanoke by a 4-3 score. Following the game, the team immediately hopped on the bus and drove eight hours overnight to Wheeling, West Virginia in order to get set for a Saturday night affair with the Nailers. A little bus-lagged; the Admirals took care of business by beating the Nailers 5-4. That same night, Peoria defeated Columbus, which set the stage for the Admirals to clinch a playoff spot with a win in their final game on Sunday afternoon against the Chesapeake Ice Breakers.
So the team got back on the bus and drove five more hours to Upper Marlboro, Maryland. A fatigued Admirals team managed enough energy to defeat the Ice Breakers 4-3 to clinch the ECHL's final playoff spot as the 16th seed. A remarkable feat indeed, the Admirals were in.
Ironically enough, their first round opponent would be the team that helped them get into the playoff picture by defeating Columbus two days prior -- the top-seeded Peoria Rivermen. The Rivermen's unintentional gesture would be one they would soon regret.
The Admirals swept the playoff favorite Peoria 3-0 in first round of best-of-five series. Rod Taylor and his "Rocket" slapshot scored the series-clinching goal in overtime of Game 3.
After knocking off the number one-seed, the Admirals now had to face the second-seeded Roanoke Express in the second round best-of-five series. The Admirals dropped the first two games of the series in Roanoke, and once again had to face the prospect of having to win three straight games or go home.
As the series shifted back to Norfolk for Game 3, the Admirals found themselves trailing by two goals. It would appear that the Cinderella story was over for the team. However as the clock struck midnight, the Admirals rallied and received the eventual game-winning goal by Victor Gervais to put the series at 2-1.
Following the game, head coach John Brophy and Roanoke coach Frank Anzalone exchanged words as they left the ice. The words turned into fists, and a post game melee broke out amongst coaches and players as tempers boiled over. The brawl resulted in Brophy and forward Jeff Corbett being suspended for three games, while Roanoke goaltender Daniel Berthiaume and J.F. Tremblay were suspended for three games.
Riding off the emotion of Game 3, the Admirals picked up a 2-1 victory in Game 4, to force an all-decisive game 5 in Roanoke.
Why not right? They won three in a row when their backs were against the wall to get into the playoffs, so why not mirror this task in the playoffs as well. That mirror on the wall saw the Admirals clinch the series on a Boris Zelenko goal in overtime to derail the Express and advance to the Conference Finals.
The win came late on a Monday night. The team instantly had to travel to Wheeling to start Game 1 of the Conference Finals on Wednesday. Before the series started, Goaltender Sebastien Charpentier learned of the loss of his grandmother just hours before the game. Distraught, Charpentier composed himself and led his team to victory in a five-hour triple overtime victory over the Nailers. This game was highlighted as #17 on our 25 in 25 countdown: #17: Admirals Win Emotional 3OT Game at Wheeling.
The Admirals dropped the next two games in Wheeling, and returned home trailing the best-of-seven series 2-1. However, the next three games were scheduled to be played at the Norfolk Scope. The Admirals rebounded in Game 4, then received another overtime winner from Rod Taylor in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead. The Admirals kept the magic alive by hammering the Nailers in Game 5 by a 5-1 score to advance to the Kelly Cup Finals against Pensacola.
When asked about his Championship Finals opponent from the Sunshine State, coach Brophy colorfully replied, "…their sun tans are cute." The truth of the matter was the Ice Pilots were a fast and finesse type team, where as the Admirals played more of a physical and grind it style.
Being the 16th seed the Admirals were never in line to have home-ice advantage in any series they had, but in a two-three-two schedule format, the Admirals knew they could take away home-ice from their opponent, if they could grab one of the first two on the road. After falling in the first game 7-4, the Admirals rebounded with a 3-1 win and returned home with the series tied at one.
Pensacola grabbed momentum back in the series in Game 3 with a
1-0 overtime victory. The heartbroken Admirals did strike back in Game 4 earning a 4-4 victory to even the series at two.
Nearly 9,000 fans at Scope watched Boris Zelenko net a hat trick in a 7-3 Admirals win in Game 5. The 16th and final seed in the ECHL playoffs was now just one victory away from capturing the Kelly Cup.
The series shifted back to Pensacola for Game 6 and a possible Game 7. The Admirals made certain there was no seventh game. After surrendering the first goal of the contest, The Admirals rattled off four unanswered goals and received great goaltending from Charpentier who was named MVP of the playoffs.
The Admirals improbable run to their third ECHL Championship is certainly a rags to riches story. Despite a lot of happy endings, some stories leave you crying in the end.
"When he (Pat Kelly) handed me that cup, I wanted to cry," said Admirals Captain Alex Alexeev when describing how he felt the moment he was handed the cup by ECHL Commissioner Emeritus Pat Kelly.
This story featured it all. It had highs and lows, overcoming adversity, a little violence at times, as well as tragedy. In this story, the good guys won in the end.
Opening Night Promotions & Festivities! The Admirals home opener will take place on Friday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m. against the Binghamton Senators. Come early and join us for Party on the Plaza beginning at 5:00 p.m. featuring live music by Brent Shepard, bounce houses & games for the kids, as well as food and beverages! The first 5,000 fans to walk through the gates will receive an Admirals Magnet Schedule! Following the game, Sara Lee will be giving away 3,000 loaves of bread to fans as the exit the arena!
The two teams will meet again on Saturday, October 12 at 7:15 p.m. Come early and check out the ODU Hockey Team battle American University at Scope. One game ticket will get you in to both games!
Game tickets are now on sale, and are available through the Norfolk Scope Box Office, all Ticketmaster Outlets, charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000 and online at ticketmaster.com.
Don’t miss a minute of Admirals action by purchasing your season tickets today. Stop by the Admirals’ Administrative Offices at Scope, or call (757) 640-1212 Office hours are Monday - Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Fans can also visit us online at www.norfolkadmirals.com