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Norfolk Admirals can’t connect on flurry of shots, fall in overtime against Adirondack

oNORFOLK — The Norfolk Admirals seemingly dominated — collecting 26 more shots — but Ryan Smith netted the winner with less than two minutes remaining to lift the Adirondack Thunder to a 2-1 sudden-death overtime victory in Game 3 of the North Division finals of the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs.

Travis Broughman fought off an Admirals defender, circled around the back of the cage and slipped in a centering pass and found Smith crashing into the crease. Smith one-timed it in for the Thunder, who cut the series deficit to 2-1.

An announced crowd of 4,309 showed up at Scope in the series’ first game in Norfolk.

Norfolk’s Mathieu Roy (15) tries a wraparound shot against Isaac Poulter (1) of the Adirondack Thunder during the second period of Game 3 of the North Division finals in the Kelly Cup Playoffs at the Scope in Norfolk, Va., May 8, 2024. The Norfolk Admirals lost 2-1 in overtime. (Peter Casey / For The Virginian-Pilot)

The Admirals used their speed to swarm all over the ice and find themselves in good positions to score. They finished with a 55-29 advantage in shots in a loosely called game that featured just five penalties, which gave the Admirals a lone penalty play opportunity.

“I don’t know what more we can do as a hockey team,” Admirals coach Jeff Carr said. “Fifty-five shots — complete domination from top to bottom. We get one power play and it was tackle football out there. We’re going to have to flush it and move on.”

Erik Middendorf tipped in the first goal of the game with a little more than eight minutes remaining in the first period as Adirondack took advantage of a power play opportunity following Simon Kubicek’s high-sticking penalty. Shane Harper flung a pass into the crease to find Middendorf.

The goal came during a back-and-forth period in which both Darick Louis-Jean and Carson Golder drew cheers from a raucous crowd
at Scope. The Admirals went into the first intermission with an 11-10 edge in shots and turned the intensity up a notch in the second period.

Josh McDougall pinged the puck off the post a little more than three minutes into the period, sparking a small flurry of shots back into the Adirondack crease.

Three minutes later following a cross checking penalty, the Admirals leveled the score at 1-1. Danny Katic snapped a shot on goal while skating through the crease from the left. Andrew McLean collected the rebound and slid a pass to an open Kubicek, who fired it home past Thunder netminder Isaac Poulter.

The low scoring, physical affair was markedly different from the previous two games, when both teams combined for 18 goals. The Admirals, who totaled seven goals in the third periods of games 1 and 2, drew some groans from the crowd as both Brandon Osmundson and Brady Fleurent forced saves from Poulter in the final period of regulation.

Poulter finished with 54 saves, while Admirals counterpart stopped 27.’

“You tell the guys to keep fighting through tackles and cross checks,” Carr said.  “We’ll come back and know we have to overcome a lot of stuff that we shouldn’t have to.”

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