On Wednesday, the Connecticut Whale and Norfolk Admirals opened their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series (ECSF series ‘I’) at The Scope in Norfolk, Virginia. An exuberant Norfolk crowd of 3,223 was treated to an overtime thriller, as the Whale and Admirals battled hard through three periods, tied at 2-2.
Overtime didn’t last long, however, as the Whale received a lucky-bounce just three minutes in to win the game 3-2, and take a 1-0 series lead.
The scoring began at 5:43 of the first-period, when Norfolk’s Ondrej Palat recorded his first goal of the playoffs to give the Admirals a 1-0 lead. Palat was situated to the right of Whale’ goaltender Cam Talbot, and found a loose rebound which he quickly snapped into Connecticut’s goal. Brandon Segal and Trevor Smith assisted on the score.
At 8:18 of the opening period, the Whale tied the game on a goal by rookie Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, his second of the post-season. Audy-Marchessault buried a Tim Erixon rebound past Norfolk’ goalie, Dustin Tokarski for the goal. Twelve seconds later, at 8:30, Whale’ forward Marek Hrivik continued his playoff heroics, tallying his fifth goal of the post-season to give the Whale a 2-1 lead. The play was started by J.T. Miller, who beat two Admirals’ defenseman to the puck behind Norfolk’s net and shuffled a pass to Casey Wellman who was waiting near the left face-off dot. Wellman sent a centering feed to Hrivik, who lifted a shot past Tokarski for the lead.
Norfolk tied the game at 16:56 of the first-frame on a goal scored by Pierre-Cedric Labrie, his second of the playoffs. Labrie collected a Mark Barberio rebound in the crease, and fired a shot past Talbot’s left-pad to tie the score at 2-2. Alex Killorn also assisted on the goal.
Period 2 was filled with four Whale power-play chances; each of which was shut down by an impressive Norfolk penalty-kill. Near the mid-way point of the period, the Whale was given a two-man advantage for 63-seconds. The Admirals penalty-killers made four clears during the duration of Connecticut’s chance, eliminating the entire opportunity.
The Whale penalty-kill was also tested during the second-period, as it was forced to take care of three Norfolk opportunities. Connecticut also killed-off two early penalties in period 3, as the second- and third-frames both finished scoreless, and overtime was required.
At 2:53 of the overtime, Whale forward Andreas Thuresson skated over the offensive blueline; received a Jordan Owens pass, and fired a seemingly harmless shot towards the Admirals net. The puck took an awkward bounce off an Admirals’ defenseman, and caromed over a kneeling Tokarski and into Norfolk’s net—giving the Whale its game 1 win, 3-2. Owens and Brendan Bell assisted on Thuresson’s first goal of the post-season.
After the game, Thuresson was named the contests’ first star, followed by Labrie and Talbot…Talbot made 31 stops in the game and recorded his fourth win of the playoffs…the Whale power-play was 0-for-5 in the game, and its penalty-killing was 6-for-6…Audy-Marchessault led the team with eight shots in the game, followed by Owens who had four, and Hrivik and Mike Vernace who both had three…tonight’s win gives the Whale a four-game playoff winning-streak…
Final score: Whale 3, Admirals 2 (in overtime; Whale leads series 1-0)
The Whale and Admirals pick-up again on Friday for game 2 of the series, which will be played in Norfolk and puck-drop is scheduled for 7:30pm (ET).
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