NORFOLK, VA- Steven Whitney scored the lone goal in the overtime shootout to help lead the Norfolk Admirals to 5-4 victory over the Springfield Falcons Friday night at Scope.
The game got off to a hot start when Springfield’s Frederic St. Denis scored on a rocket from the point to jump out to an early 1-0 lead. St. Denis’s shot flew through traffic in front of the net and slipped past the left should of Norfolk netmninder John Gibson for the goal at 3:45 of the opening period.
It didn’t take long for Norfolk to respond. The Admirals tested Springfield’s Mike Clemente early in his first start of the season, throwing pucks at the net relentlessly.
A Zack Stortini shot bounced off his right pad and right to the stick of Antoine Laganiere who promptly flushed it home to draw the Admirals even at one. Laganiere’s goal at 4:54 triggered a hail of teddy bears as fans threw stuffed animals onto the ice as part of the annual “Toy Toss” which benefits Toys for Tots.
The second period opened with Springfield’s Dalton Smith and Norfolk’s Zach Stortini trading blows just 10 seconds in. Moments later, The Falcons’ Broc Little broke the tie when he found a rebound and backhanded it to an open left side of the net. Springfield took the lead at 12:41 in the middle frame.
Norfolk knotted things up at two just as power play opportunity expired. Rickard Rakell centered a pass from the left corner to Devante Smith-Pelly on the inside hash marks of the left circle. Smith-Pelly turned and wristed a shot far post to the top shelf to punctuate the connection and bring the contest to its second tie at the 15:10 mark.
The Admirals continued their pressure in the Springfield zone and earned another power play. Quite similarly to the second Norfolk goal, the Admirals found the back of the net as a Falcon exited the penalty box.
Garnet Exelby snapped one towards net that pinballed from Dave Steckel’s stick to Zach Stortini’s sticks and then into the net beating Clemente for the third time, giving the Admirals a 3-2 advantage. The goal completed a Gordie Howe hat trick for Stortini, who finished the game with a goal, assist, and fighting major.
The Admirals brought their 3-2 lead into the third period and built upon it when Steven Whitney spotted Charlie Sarault in the neutral zone. Sarault took the pass, crossed the Springfield blue line and pulled the trigger from the slot. Clemente was too slow and watched the puck fly into the top right corner for a fourth Admirals marker at 6:59 extending Norfolk's lead to 4-2.
A Norfolk penalty opened the door for a Springfield comeback late in the third. Jonathan Marchessault stretched for a loose puck and rifled it by Gibson to cut the lead to one with two minutes and 15 seconds remaining in regulation.
Just 35 seconds later, Springfield tied the game after winning a-won faceoff in the Norfolk zone, Cody Goloubef teed up a shot near the blue line. Gibson couldn’t see through the screen and paid for it as the Falcons knotted it up at four with less than two minutes to play.
No goals in the five-minute overtime skate forced a shootout. Both Clemente and Gibson stood tall and denied five shooters each. Gibson made another save on Springfield’s sixth attempt, giving Whitney a chance to win it.
Whitney seized the opportunity and fooled Clemente. He faked right and finished on the left, lifting the puck past the outstretched leg of Clemente to secure the 5-4 victory.
Gibson made 21 saves and six in the shootout while Clemente saved 31 out of 35 shots in regulation with five more in the shootout.
The Admirals improve to 13-8-0-4 on the season and Springfield is now 17-4-1-2. The Falcons return to the Norfolk Scope tomorrow night to end the weekend series. The puck drops at 7:15 p.m.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow at Scope beginning at 7:15 p.m. Fans can bring their dogs to the game with the purchase of a ticket and a $2 donation to the Norfolk SPCA. For more information contact the Admirals office at 757-640-1212.
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.
For 10-packs, or discounted group tickets 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