Given their current record, I wasn’t expecting much from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Wednesday night as they came to Norfolk to battle the Admirals. They are last in the Northeast division, with 28 points and have lost five straight road games.
They didn’t appear to be the team that their statistics indicate and were backed by a solid performance by goaltender Kevin Poulin. Poulin made some impressive saves and denied a portion of the Admirals’ scoring attempts with a quick glove and agile moves in front of the net.
The Norfolk Admirals are holding their own in the East division standings, now tied for second with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Norfolk started off the night Wednesday slowly, not quite showing the fire they have in previous games. Bridgeport was in control most of the first period, leading the scoring just over 8 minutes into the game. The Admirals seemed to be a little out of sync and lacking in overall cohesion. There was something missing that was obviously found again in the locker room because the Admirals improved at the start of the second period.
The Admirals appeared to be more energetic, aggressive and organized. Their passing was spot-on and defense stepped up, supporting a very mobile Dustin Tokarski. Tokarski was named number one star of the night for good reason. He proved quite impressive throughout the night, making some pretty crucial saves that could have otherwise sent the Admirals down, or at least into overtime.
The Admirals’ offense came on stronger as well, with steady performances by league-leader in goals, Cory Conacher; as well as Phillip-Michael Devos, Mike Kostka, Richard Panik and Carter Ashton. There is certainly no bottom to the depth of scoring talent on the team this year.
The Admirals were given the perfect chance to tie the game when they skated with a two-man advantage due to dual penalties by Bridgeport. Mike Kostka slapped a shot into the net from Conacher’s pass, bringing the Admirals into the game.
Devos scored what was to become the winning goal of the night from a backhanded pass by Carter Ashton. The record-breaking crowd of 5,695 went wild and cheered on the Admirals, rocking the house with enthusiastic revelry.
Trevor Smith was penalized for spearing and assessed a game misconduct, putting the Admirals down a man but strong in their four-man unity. The Admirals allowed only two shots on goal, which Tokarski stopped with his notable calm, sure moves.
The third period brought on further Admirals penalty-killing action as they went 5-on-3 and came out keeping their one-point lead.
The Admirals surged ahead to victory after overcoming a rather slow first period to give the highest mid-week crowd in AHL Admirals history a night worth cheering.
The Norfolk Admirals meet up with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers again on Friday night at the Scope. The puck drops at 7:30. They will then go on the road for a match-up Saturday night with the Hershey Bears. The next home game is Friday, January 6 against the Albany Devils.