When the Norfolk Admirals eliminated the Manchester Monarchs from the Calder Cup Playoffs last Friday, they did so on the power of an overtime goal from Alex Killorn.
The Admirals found themselves in overtime again in Game 1 of their second-round series against Connecticut, however, the Whale got a goal from Andreas Thuresson 2:53 into the extra session to get a 3-2 win in Norfolk on Wednesday night.
“It was frustrating to see the puck hit our goalie, pop up and go over into the net,” said Admirals captain Mike Angelidis. “It shows that in overtime, there’s no such thing as a bad shot because anything can happen. I don’t fault Tokarski, though. He played great and without him, this would’ve been a completely different game.”
While Dustin Tokarski may want Thuresson’s game-winning goal back, it is hard to criticize the Admiral goalie’s recent play. Tonight’s loss was his first defeat in three months, snapping a streak in which he had won his last 15 decisions, including both of his playoff starts in the first round against the Monarchs.
As a team, it was just the Admirals’ second loss in their last 33 regular-season and playoff games. But while the loss was admittedly rare, it puts Norfolk behind the eight ball early in its best-of-seven series against the Whale, given that the series will shift to play three straight games in Connecticut following Friday night’s Game 2.
“It’s a cliché, but it is a best-of-seven series,” said Admirals head coach Jon Cooper. “Did we lose the first game? Yes. Did we give up home-ice advantage? Yes. But there are potentially six games left in this series and it starts for us on Friday.”
In the loss, an Admiral who continued his fine postseason play was Alex Killorn, who got his team-leading sixth assist of the playoffs by using his skate to direct a pass that Pierre-Cedric Labrie deposited past Cam Talbot to tie the game, 2-2, late in the first period.
Ondrej Palat was the other Admiral to find the scoresheet in Game 1, scoring his first professional playoff goal by ripping a wrist shot over Talbot’s glove hand to open the series’ scoring 5:43 into the first period.
However, despite the Admirals’ two first-period goals, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Marek Hrivik scored 12 seconds apart in the first period for the Whale, who were backstopped all night by the superb goaltending of Cam Talbot.
Talbot stopped all 22 shots he faced after the first period, improving to 4-0 in the playoffs for the Whale, who are a team that remains unbeaten in the playoffs after also sweeping the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
“We’re just going to have to fire the puck at the net and get more rebounds,” said Angelidis. “Talbot is a good goalie and he’s big. But we have to get in front of him and cause traffic to make life more difficult for him than we did tonight.”
But while the Whale showed on Wednesday that they’re a much improved team from the unit they were that dropped four straight regular-season games to the Admirals, Angelidis added that his team learned a valuable lesson about its opponent on Wednesday night.
“We know now we can play with these guys,” said Angelidis. “They’re a great hockey team. They picked up a lot of guys since we last played them and are a completely different team. But I still think that we just have to fix our own problems because I think we can play with anybody.”
The Admirals, the team which won a professional-hockey record 29 straight games this season, next have an opportunity to halt the Whale’s four-game postseason winning streak on Friday night in Game 2.
“We won 29 straight games and that’s great,” added Cooper. “But this is a 30-team league and anybody still left is a good hockey team. We respect that team in the other locker room, but for us, we just have focus on getting back to playing a 60-minute game and putting forth a better effort on Friday.”