Norfolk, Va.—The St. John’s IceCaps, in the most important game of their 2014 post season, came out with a secondary effort, allowing the Norfolk Admirals back into the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference semifinal following a 3-2 overtime win Tuesday night in Norfolk.
The gritty Admirals, undaunted after coughing up a late goal to send Game 5 into overtime, got a clutch power play tally from Andre Petersson at 13:10 of the extra session to set up a sixth game in the Calder Cup playoff series 7:30 Friday night at Mile One Centre.
If it goes to Game 7, it will be played Saturday night in St. John’s.
The IceCaps still lead the series 3-2.
It’s said the toughest game of a sports series to win in the clinching game, and that was evident last night, due in part to the IceCaps’ own fault.
Tuesday’s game might have been the IceCaps’ worst of these AHL playoffs. In the third period, for example, trailing 2-1 on a Norfolk goal by Shea Theodore only 48 seconds after the frame started, St. John’s had managed to cobble together only two shots on goal in the first 12 minutes of play.
“We didn’t have that killer instinct that everyone talks about,” said veteran forward Andrew Gordon. “We didn’t have the energy we wanted right off the bat.
“Any time you have a team on the ropes 3-1, they’re ripe for the picking. But you have to outwork them … you have to work them into position where they don’t want to play anymore. And we let them hang around long enough to win the game.
“And when a team hangs around like that, they’re one bounce away from beating you. Our effort wasn’t high enough to put them in a position to back down so they kept coming at us”
The Admirals entered the game trailing the series 3-1 after dropping 5-3 and 5-1 decisions to St. John’s Saturday and Tuesday at The Scope in Norfolk.
A tripping penalty to Gordon at 12:20 of overtime put the Ads on the power play. Petersson’s blast from the point eluded IceCaps goalie Michael Hutchinson, who was outstanding in overtime – 13 saves – but ordinary in regulation time.
It ruined another brilliant game by Eric O’Dell, who scored a pair of goals, his third and fourth in two games.
O’Dell forced overtime, swooping in on Brad Thiessen and delivering yet another clutch goal with 2:58 left in regulation.
It was the IceCaps who struck first Tuesday, not unusual given the fact St. John’s has scored the first goal eight times in nine games in this post season. O’Dell scored his third goal in two games, and fifth of the playoffs, 6:23 in. He faked a shot at the top of the circle, went to the middle and beat Thiessen.
The Admirals appeared to have tied the game 10 minutes later, when Petersson scored, but the goal was waved off and Norfolk was assessed a too many men on the ice penalty.
However, the Ads did net one that counted 10 seconds after Zack Stortini finished serving the Norfolk bench minor. Max Friberg raced down the right wing and beat Hutchinson on a shot from the top of the faceoff circle, one Hutchinson should have stopped, the first bad goal the IceCaps goalie has allowed in these playoffs.
Theodore, making only his third start in these playoffs, scored the go-ahead goal just 48 seconds after the first whistle in the third period, picking up a loose puck at the St. John’s blueline and skating in unchecked to cash in on his first goal of the playoffs.
It stood 2-1 Norfolk until O’Dell forced overtime.
“I’m sure they weren’t real thrilled with their effort in the first two periods either,” Gordon said of the Admirals, “it wasn’t the game we wanted, it wasn’t the game we anticipated.”
Thiessen made 36 saves for the Admirals. Hutchinson stopped 34 pucks.