Back-to-back games against the same opponent are a way of life in the American Hockey League. The scheduling strategy is used to cut down on trips – i.e. to save money – and few teams are affected more than the Admirals.
Norfolk is a six-hour bus ride from its closest East Division rival – Philadelphia – and as a result will play the same opponent on consecutive nights 11 times this season. The two-game sets are like mini-playoffs, and present a special challenge for coaches and players alike. Admirals coach Steve Stirling spent 10 minutes after last Friday’s 5-1 win against Binghamton at Scope cautioning his players to expect a different performance from the Senators on Saturday.
“The intensity level goes up, especially for the team that lost the first game,” Stirling said, “but the team that won the first game should be excited, too, because they have a chance at a sweep.”
Binghamton set the tone for the rematch before the first game ended, instigating several fights in the third period of Friday’s loss. The Admirals appeared up for the challenge when Justin Taylor scored a power-play goal less than four minutes into Saturday’s rematch. But the Senators kept battling – there were three more fights in the first period Saturday night – and they soon gained the advantage. When it was over Binghamton skated off with a 5-1 win, reversing Friday’s score and outcome.
“We knew they would come out hard,” Admirals captain Dan Jancevski said, “but we didn’t match their work ethic.”
Jancevski said the Admirals rode the emotion of playing their first home game before an enthusiastic crowd on Friday. Saturday just didn’t feel as special, and it showed.
NOTES: Taylor’s goal was his second in two nights. He sat out the first four games along with Rob Klinkhammer and Shawn Collymore awaiting immigration clearance.
Taylor, 24, has played three seasons in the AHL, and was signed to a pro tryout contract on Oct. 3. He scored only eight goals in 51 games last season with Omaha.
“I’m getting a good opportunity with this team, and playing on a real good line with [Norm] Milley and Klinkhammer,” he said.
Ryan Munce entered Saturday’s game ranked second in the league with a 1.30 goals-against average, but was lifted after allowing four goals on 20 shots in 40 minutes. That allowed Jonathan Boutin to see his first action of the season. He was plenty busy, stopping 15 of 16 shots.
“I could see everything, and the defense was talking a lot,” he said.
Boutin was expected to be Karri Ramo’s backup entering training camp, but was beaten out by Munce. Boutin played well in two pre-season games with Mississippi before being recalled.
“That was a lot different – those were Central League teams,” he said of his two games with the Sea Wolves.
Boutin knows he could be returned to Biloxi when Ramo recovers from his high-ankle sprain.
“It’s their call,” he said of management. “I just need to play 100 percent every time.”
The Admirals have another busy weekend. They play host to Philadelphia on Friday and Bridgeport on Saturday, then bus to Philadelphia for a game on Sunday.
MISSISSIPPI NOTES: The Sea Wolves play their East Coast Hockey League home opener Saturday against the Reading Royals. South Mississippi native Brad Arnold of the band Three Doors Down will sing the national anthem.
The Sea Wolves were outscored, 10-2, in dropping their first two games to the Florida Everblades. Pat Oliveto and Lance Monych scored for Mississippi and Morgan Cey made 57 saves.