WORCESTER, Mass. – Steven Whitney scored twice as the Norfolk Admirals (36-30-4-1) held on for a 4-3 win over the Worcester Sharks (30-32-3-6) Friday night at the DCU Center.
Harry Zolnierczyk and Josh Brittain also scored for the Admirals while Patrick Maroon had two assists. Goaltender Frederik Andersen (23-15-1) made 39 saves on 42 shots for the win. Max Friberg and Kevin Gagne each made their North American professional debuts. Norfolk held a 4-0 lead in the second period before Worcester attempted a comeback that fell one goal short.
The Admirals have taken a two-point lead over the Hershey Bears for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with five games remaining in the regular season. Hershey fell at Providence today, 3-2. Norfolk is also just one point back of the Connecticut Whale for the seventh seed. The Admirals have one game in hand over the Whale, who fell at Manchester today, 3-1. The top eight teams from each conference make the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Admirals and Sharks square off again tomorrow night from the DCU Center at 7:00 p.m. in the second contest of Norfolk’s regular season-ending six-game road trip.
Norfolk took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period on a highlight-reel goal by Zolnierczyk. He accepted a pass from Charlie Sarault in the neutral zone and entered the attacking zone with a defender impeding his progress. As he was knocked backwards to the seat of his pants, he was able to slide a shot beneath Worcester goaltender Alex Stalock at 12:29 for his 11th goal of the season and his second since joining the Admirals.
The lead doubled less than two minutes later. Mat Clark sent a feed from the right point to Whitney in the low slot. Whitney sent a backhander into the net for his second goal of the season at 14:05 to put the Admirals ahead, 2-0.
Norfolk stretched its lead to 4-0 with a pair of goals early in the second stanza. Rod Pelley and Brittain entered the attacking zone on a two-on-one. Pelley lofted a pass from the left circle towards Brittain in the slot, and Brittain knocked the puck into the net out of mid-air for his 11th goal of the season and a 3-0 lead at 2:45.
Less than two minutes later, Chris Wagner split the defense in the neutral zone and carried the puck through the slot. Wagner then fed a trailing Whitney, whose shot from the bottom of the right circle found its mark at 4:39. The goal gave Whitney two tallies in the contest and three goals in just three professional games since joining the Admirals from Boston College last week.
The Sharks cut Norfolk’s lead to 4-1 on a goal by former Admiral Bracken Kearns at 12:01 of the second period. Daniil Tarasov sent a pass from behind the net to Kearns in the slot for the goal.
Worcester’s comeback continued with a pair of quick goals early in the third period. Matt Pelech sent a shot from the right point through traffic and past a screened Andersen at 3:27. Just 38 seconds later, Riley Brace stole the puck from Norfolk behind the net and sent a wraparound shot into the net at 4:05, cutting the Admirals’ lead to 4-3.
The Sharks out-shot the Admirals, 13-1, in the third period as they continued to apply pressure in search of the equalizer. However, Andersen and the Norfolk defense made the one-goal lead stand.
Stalock (16-15-3) stopped 20 of 24 shots in defeat. Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play, as the Admirals stretched their streak of consecutive opponent power plays killed to 29.