Norfolk, Va. — The Norfolk Admirals came out with guns a blazin’ Thursday night, launching an attack of power and might against a defenceless dory that was the St. John’s IceCaps bobbing on the waters of Chesapeake Bay.
The Admirals showed why they were the class of the American Hockey League this season with a thoroughly dominant performance in a 6-1 rout in Game 1 in the Eastern Conference final at The Scope Arena in Norfolk.
Safe to say nobody was expecting an easy series against the Admirals, owners of a record 28-game win streak during the regular season, but this one wasn’t even close.
The Admirals chased goaltender Eddie Pasquale from the net at 13:42 of the second period after he allowed four goals on 21 shots.
To make matters even worse for St. John’s, forward Brock Trotter, the IceCaps’ leading scorer in the post season, took a nasty tumble into the boards with 8:06 left in regulation time and had to be helped to the dressing room.
Trotter lay on the ice for several minutes before making his way to the IceCaps’ room on his own steam.
The IceCaps were tight-lipped on Trotter’s status following the game.
And this is a St. John’s team that was missing Spencer Machacek, the team’s leading scorer during the regular season out with a suspected leg injury.
“We didn’t bring our best game, obviously,” said St. John’s coach Keith McCambridge. “As the game moved on through the first period, I thought they picked up the pace and they executed better than us. And you saw the result.
“But it’s not a one-game series, it’s a seven-game series and right now we’re focusing on getting a split out of this building.
“That said, we have a chance tomorrow to regroup and get focused on what we need to do. I know that team in there and I know that team realizes what they put on the ice tonight isn’t close to good enough for this time of year. And they expect better out of themselves.”
Defenceman Mike Kostka scored twice for the winners. Singles came from Michel Ouellet, Jean-Phillipe Cote, Ondrej Palat and Keith Aulie.
Zach Redmond spoiled Dustin Tokarski’s shutout bid at 2:11 of the third period.
Tokarski finished with 29 saves, but was hardly tested. In fact, the IceCaps had managed only two shots on goal through the first 10 minutes of the second period.
The Admirals scored once the first — the floodgates opened in the second with three unanswered goals — when Koska’s shot from the point got past a screened Pasquale with Patrice Cormier off for goalie interference.
While he wasn’t credited with an assist on the play, Brandon Segal did the spadework, camping himself in front of the IceCaps’ goalie for the screen.
The goal was one of two power play goals for the Admirals, who had struggled in the playoffs at a seven-for-60 rate, a lousy average for a team that had the second-best power play in the league during the regular season.
But the IceCaps’ performance Thursday managed to cure that ill.
Meanwhile, St. John’s failed to cash in on its own power play opportunities in the first, when the IceCaps had a brief five-on-three advantage and later a four-on-three situation.
“At the end of the day,” sighed McCambridge, “overall, when I look at our game and the way we played, if we had gotten a goal there, were we going to play good enough to win that game? Probably not.
“We just didn’t have enough personnel going tonight.”
The IceCaps have a day to lick their wounds before Game 2 Saturday night. Now the best McCambridge and Co. can hope for is a split of the opening two games before the series shifts to St. John’s Monday and Tuesday and, if necessary, next Saturday.
“We’re not deflated,” he said. “We’re in the third round of the Calder Cup playoffs, we’re one of four teams still playing.
“We realize we need to be better. We have a good veteran group in there, a real close-knit group, I’m pretty confident we’re going to come out with a stronger effort.”