NORFOLK, Va. – The Norfolk Admirals (40-25-3-7) are headed to the postseason after pulling out a 3-1 win and two-game sweep over the Hershey Bears (38-27-5-5) on Friday night at Norfolk Scope Arena.
The Admirals’ Brad Thiessen (8-6-2) turned aside 21 pucks on 22 shots and Hershey’s Philipp Grubauer (13-13-2) stopped 23 of 25 shots.
Norfolk jumped out front early with a goal from Emerson Etem just two minutes and 19 seconds into the game as William Karlsson collected a puck behind the net and circled to the near boards. Etem stood inside the left circle close to the slot and wheeled a one-timer short side to take the first lead of the game, 1-0. He extends his goal streak to three games and has a point in each of his last seven contests.
Hershey drew even later in the first when defenseman Tyson Strachan contained a puck along the blue line before sending a shot through traffic. Bodies in front blinded Thiessen effectively and the puck rippled the net at 14:53 of the opening period to tie it at one a piece.
The 1-1 score held late into the second period until rookie Nic Kerdiles spotted Dave Steckel sneaking to the back door. Kerdiles flipped a pass from outside the right ring across the goal face. Grubauer knocked the pass down with his stick but Steckel fought around a Bear in front and curled the puck between the far post and Grubauer’s outstretched skate. Steckel’s tenth goal of the season sounded the horn with exactly one minute to go in the middle frame and the Admirals brought a 2-1 advantage into the final period.
Steckel’s marker and a late empty-net goal from Max Friberg proved to be enough as the Admirals fought off the Bears in the last 20 minutes to secure their spot in the postseason. This is the tenth playoff appearance in Norfolk’s AHL history and their first playoff berth since winning the Calder Cup in 2012.
Norfolk went 0-for-3 on the power play but held Hershey scoreless on four man advantages.
The Admirals also eliminated Hershey from playoff contention, denying the Bears of a tenth straight playoff appearance.
The 2014 Calder Cup Playoff tickets go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, April 23. Season ticket holders may purchase playoff tickets starting Monday, April 21. Stop by the Admirals’ Administrative Offices at Scope, call (757) 640-1212 weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. or visit norfolkadmirals.com anytime.
1. Emerson Etem - NOR
2. Dave Steckel - NOR
3. Tyson Strachan - HER