HARTFORD, Conn. – Paul Szczechura scored twice as the Norfolk Admirals (39-26-9-6) closed out the 2010-11 regular season with a 6-3 victory over the Connecticut Whale (40-32-2-6) on Sunday evening at the XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The win moved Norfolk one point ahead of the Binghamton Senators for the fourth spot in the American Hockey League’s East Division. The Admirals will begin their quest for the 2011 Calder Cup on Friday night with Game One of their best-of-seven East Division Semifinals series against the #1 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The puck drops from the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza at 7:05 p.m.
Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Blair Jones, Mattias Ritola and Mike Angelidis also scored for Norfolk while Jaroslav Janus stopped 17 of 20 shots for the win in goal.
The Admirals opened scoring midway through the first period with Pouliot’s team-leading 25th goal of the season. Ritola stole the puck from a Connecticut attacker and fed Pouliot in the left circle. Norfolk’s leading scorer cut across the slot and deked a backhand shot before sending a forehand shot past the outstretched left leg of Whale goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris at 9:26.
The Admirals’ lead doubled just over six minutes later with Szczechura’s first goal of the game. While skating with a five-on-three power play, Troy Milam sent a one-timer from the top of the left circle that Szczechura tipped into the net at 15:46.
Norfolk took a 3-0 lead with only 38 seconds remaining in the first period. Pouliot sent a pass from the right circle to Jones at the opposite side of the goalmouth. Jones one-timed the puck into the net for his 24th goal of the season and a second Norfolk power play goal.
Connecticut replaced Grumet-Morris with goaltender Cameron Talbot to begin the second period, and John Mitchell cut the Admirals’ lead to 3-1 just 1:02 into the frame with a shot past Janus stick-side.
However, the Admirals erased any momentum Connecticut had gained just over two minutes later. Ritola dropped a pass to Jones in the left circle and Jones sent a shot on net. The rebound came back to Jones in the right circle, and Norfolk’s all-time leading scorer collected an assist by feeding Ritola in the left circle for a one-timer at 3:15.
Szczechura’s second goal of the contest at 5:34 of the second period put Norfolk ahead 5-1. Szczechura accepted a pass from James Wright behind the net and sent a quick shot past Talbot for his 22nd goal of the season.
The Whale attempted to come back against the Admirals starting with a Pavel Valentenko shot from the right point through traffic at 13:10 of the second period. Jyri Niemi then scored on the power play 11:56 into the final frame to cut Norfolk’s lead to 5-3.
However, Angelidis netted his 20th goal of the season with 2:24 remaining in regulation off a turnover to seal Norfolk’s 6-3 win.
Jaroslav Janus (20 shots, 17 saves) picked up the win. Dov Grumet-Morris (20 shots, 17 saves) did not receive a decision after playing the first period. Cameron Talbot (17 shots, 14 saves) got the loss in relief playing the second and third periods.
Norfolk was 2-4 on the power play. Connecticut was 1-1.
The Admirals open the playoffs on Friday night with Game One of their best-of-seven East Division Semifinals series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The puck drops from the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza at 7:05 p.m. Follow all of the action at 102.1-FM and 1490-AM The Game, 1021TheGame.com and ahllive.com.
Season tickets for the 2011-12 season are now available! Low monthly payments available for a limited time only. 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 for more details or to purchase your tickets!
1. Paul Szczechura – NOR
2. Mattias Ritola – NOR
3. Derek Couture – CT
EAST DIVISION PLAYOFF RUNDOWN … All East Division teams have now completed their 80-game regular season schedules. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (58-21-0-1, 117 points) won the East Division title and will face the #4 Norfolk Admirals (39-26-9-6, 93 points) in the first round. The Hershey Bears (46-26-3-5, 100 points) finished second and will face off against the third-place Charlotte Checkers (44-27-2-7, 97 points) in their East Division Semifinals matchup … The winners from the Penguins/Admirals and Bears/Checkers semifinals will meet in the East Division Final. That winner will face off against the winner of the Atlantic Division Final in the Eastern Conference Final. The Eastern Conference Final winner and Western Conference Final winner will advance to the Calder Cup Final to determine a champion … The East Division did produce another playoff team, as the Binghamton Senators (42-30-3-5, 92 points) finished fifth and will cross over into the Atlantic Division Semifinals by virtue of having more points than the fourth-place team in the Atlantic Division … For complete standings and an explanation of the qualification rules for the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs, please visit theahl.com.
NOTES … Norfolk’s 93-point season is tied for the third-best season in AHL Admirals history … Norfolk registered the second-most goals in a single season in AHL Admirals history (265) … Marc-Antoine Pouliot became just the third player in AHL Admirals history to lead Norfolk in goals, assists and points in a single season. Pouliot recorded 25 goals and 47 assists for 72 points, joining Kyle Wanvig (2007-08) and Tyler Arnason (2001-02) as the only Norfolk players to lead all three categories in a single season … James Wright and Mike Angelidis were the only two Norfolk players to appear in all 80 regular season games and became the first duo to appear in all 80 games in a single season for Norfolk since Marty Wilford and Ajay Baines did so in 2003-04 … Troy Milam led all Norfolk defensemen with 15 goals and 37 points … Norfolk had five players record at least 20 goals – Pouliot (25), Blair Jones (24), Johan Harju (23), Paul Szczechura (22) and Angelidis (20) … Did not play: Kevin Quick, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Tim Marks, Mitch Fritz, Cedrick Desjardins, Pat Nagle, Matt Fornataro.