NORFOLK - The Norfolk Admirals practiced in their own “barn” for the first time Tuesday, and coach Steve Stirling had no shortage of things to work on in advance of Friday’s home-opener against Binghamton.
The Admirals are 1 for 29 on the power play. They’ve also allowed seven power-play goals. That adds up to a 1-3 start, but there is plenty of reason for optimism. The three losses have been by a total of four goals, and backup goalie Ryan Munce played spectacularly in place of injured Karri Ramo.
“Coming home should give us a boost,” Stirling said. “We’ve got to establish this as a tough barn to come into.”
The Admirals held training camp at Chilled Ponds in suburban Chesapeake, and didn’t get a look at Scope, their 8,800-seat home arena in downtown Norfolk, until Tuesday.
”We’ve got to learn the nooks and crannies,” Stirling said. “The barn has some character. It’s our home for 40 games.”
An improved power play can go a long way to making Scope a happy home.
“We can practice all day for the next three days [on the power play] and it wouldn’t be enough,” Stirling said.
Stirling believes he has the right players on the ice, led by blueliners Dan Jancevski, Justin Fletcher, Bryce Lampman and David Schneider.
“Now we have to adjust to the defense and execute. ”Stirling said. “Only the players can do that.”
Veteran winger Norm Milley thinks the Admirals might be pressing on the power play.
“We need to get back to basics, creating traffic in front of the net,” said Milley, who leads the team with three assists but has yet to score. “Guys are trying to be a little too cute. ”I definitely want to score. I’ve hit a couple of posts, a crossbar. I need to shoot more.”
Milley hopes coming home – the team’s next four games are at Scope – will jumpstart the offense.
“It’s exciting to be home. The fans are excited. We need to take these next four games and get back on track.”
One area of pride so far has been the goaltending. Munce stopped 63 of 66 shots in a 2-0 loss to Bridegeport and a 2-1 win against Albany. The Lightning acquired Munce last January from Los Angeles in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick, and he went 6-4 with a 2.55 GAA after being assigned to Johnstown of the ECHL. He beat out Jonathan Boutin for the backup job to Ramo in training camp. Ramo suffered a high ankle sprain Oct. 10 in practice, and is expected to miss another three weeks.
Morgan Cey replaced Ramo on the roster and started one game, a 4-3 loss to Springfield. He was sent down to Mississippi on Tuesday and Boutin was recalled. Stirling wasn’t sure on Tuesday if Munce would start both games this weekend, or split starts with Boutin.
“Muncie came to camp prepared physically and emotionally, and has taken the ball and run with it,” Stirling said.
One potential source of offense for the Admirals is rookie center Chris Lawrence. The former third-round draft pick is only 20 years old, but has the size (6-4, 212 pounds) and pedigree (he scored 47 goals last season for Mississauga of the OHL) to make an impact. Lawrence scored his first pro goal – a shorthanded marker – in his first pro game Oct. 5 at Philadelphia.
“I know they have pretty big expectations for me,” Lawrence said. “Hopefully, I’ll get some more goals just hanging around the net and doing the dirty work.”
The Lightning brass will get glimpse of their ECHL affiliate today and Thursday when the Mississippi Seawolves practice at the St. Pete Times Forum. Mississippi opens the season Friday against the Florida Everblades in Estero.
The Sea Wolves won both of their pre-season games, beating the Austin Ice Bats, 5-1, and the Texas Brahmas, 3-1.Ryan Menei, acquired last week from the Texas Wildcatters, had three goals an assist in the two games. Brett Pilkington, acquired in the same deal, added a goal and two assists.