O`Dell and Gordon shine in series-clincher over Admirals
© Keith Gosse
Patrice Cormier of the St. John`s IceCaps gets tangled up with Norfolk Admirals defenceman Josh Manson while in pursuit of the puck Friday night in Calder Cup playoff action at Mile One Centre.
By Robin Short
Telegram Sports Editor
Andrew Gordon plotted the course, and Eric O’Dell steered the ship past the Admirals as the St. John’s IceCaps punched their ticket to the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference final Friday night with a 5-2 win over Norfolk before a jam-packed house at Mile One Centre.
It’s the second trip to the conference final in three years for the IceCaps, who defeated the Admirals in six games in the best-of-seven second-round Calder Cup playoff series.
The IceCaps now await the winner of the other conference semifinal between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Providence Bruins.
The IceCaps will have home ice in that series, meaning the first two games will be played in St. John’s beginning next Saturday.
Gordon and O’Dell both had a goal and an assist for the IceCaps, with both scoring at critical times in the contest.
O’Dell netted his seventh goal of the playoffs – and sixth in the past four games – at 10:21 of the second period to stake St. John’s to a 2-1 lead.
After Kyle MacKinnon scored what would be the game-winner at 17:03 of the second, Gordon gave St. John’s a two-goal lead early in the third, tallying his sixth of the post season 3:27 in.
Gordon came up big when it mattered, as captain Jason Jaffray was scratched from the lineup because of injury after taking the pre-game warmup.
“I thought Andrew Gordon really took a step forward, really stepped up with regards to leadership,” coach Keith McCambridge said. “He’s been a strong leader for us all season long, but really was a good, strong calming voice on the bench for some of the players.
“He knows how to play in big games like this and he’s shown that all season long, especially in these playoffs.”
As for O’Dell, he’s been doing the heavy lifting for the IceCaps in the post season, with seven goals and an assist in 10 games. He’s showing exactly why the Winnipeg Jets suited him up for 30 National Hockey League games this season, where he tallied up three goals and seven points.
“To be honest, I’m feeling so comfortable out there,” he said. “My confidence is so high, and I know I have to play well, play my game if our team wants to move forward in the playoffs.
“I feel like I’m doing good right now. I just have to keep it going.”
The loss ended a good run for the Admirals, who squeaked into the playoffs as the eighth seed following a late-season run and pulled an upset on the No. 1 seed Manchester Monarchs in the first round.
Goaltender John Gibson was the key cog in that series, providing the Admirals with outstanding goaltending, while Sami Vatanen logged ample minutes as the leader on the blueline.
And then they were gone, recalled to the parent Anaheim Ducks for their Stanley Cup playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings.
“That’s part of the gig here in the American league,” said Admirals coach Trent Yawney, still looking to move past the second round of the playoffs in seven years coaching Norfolk teams, “but when you lose good players, it’s tough.
“Some other guys did great jobs, and I’m proud of the guys we had left here. But it makes things a little tougher for some guys being put in roles maybe they’re not comfortable with.”
Jerome Samson and Ben Chiarot also scored for the winners. Andre Petersson and Steve Eminger replied.
It was the IceCaps opening the scoring in the first period, just as they’ve done in nine of 10 playoff games this spring, when Adam Lowry streaked down the left wing and unloaded a hard shot on Norfolk goaltender Brad Thiessen.
Thiessen, however, gave up a big rebound, and Samson was Johnny on the spot to bang in the rebound for his third goal in the post season.
That lead lasted only 1:44, when Petersson wired a shot over Michael Hutchinson’s glove with the IceCaps’ Will O’Neill in the penalty box for holding.
Hutchinson kept the IceCaps in the game through the opening 20 minutes, making several big saves, including one off Emerson Etem, who was sprung loose on a partial breakaway.
His best save of the period, however, came late in the frame when he zipped across his crease to make a big-time glove save off Petersson, who unloaded from the faceoff circle.
O’Dell continued his torrid play in the second period, scoring at the 10:21 mark as the IceCaps enjoyed a five-on-three power play after Eminger fired the puck over the boards with the IceCaps already enjoying the man advantage.
But the never-say-die Admirals responded with Eminger’s marker.
MacKinnon picked the right time for his first on the year and the game-winner after a nice move by Brenden Kichton at the blueline started the play which finished with MacKinnon banging in the rebound.
It was a much improved period of play for St. John’s, which doubled Norfolk 14-7 on the shot clock.
It was all St. John’s in the third period, with Gordon getting things going, fooling Thiessen from a tough angle for his sixth goal of the playoffs. Then Chiarot put the nail in the Admirals’ coffin, tallying his third goal of the post season 41 seconds later.
O’Dell was game’s first star, while Hutchinson took second-star honours with a 26-save night. The third star went to Chiarot, who also had a goal and an assist and finished plus-three.