ECHL: Norfolk Admirals 2023-24 Season Recap

Admirals salute their home crowd after a game vs the South Carolina Stingrays
Photo Credit: Wyatt Nash | Inside The Rink

Before the start of the 2015-16 season, the Norfolk Admirals re-joined the ECHL when the Anaheim Ducks announced they would move their American Hockey League team to San Diego to be closer to the team. Since then, it has been a rough journey for the team and the community. The Admirals were unable to have a winning season until this season. The 2022-23 season saw the Admirals finish dead last in the league, going 21-46-2-3 for just 47 points. The 2023-24 season saw a completely different and win-hungry Norfolk Admirals squad. The Ads finished their 69-game season, rather than 72 due to Newfoundland Growlers being terminated, with an incredible 41-21-7 record for 89 points, which was good enough for 7th in the league, just two points back of 6th place Jacksonville Icemen and four points back of 5th place Greenville Swamp Rabbits. The Admirals were 22-12-2 on home ice at Norfolk Scope Arena while going an incredible 19-9-5 on the road.

The Admirals announced their end-of-year “Most Devoted Stats,” and they did not disappoint. According to their X (formerly known as Twitter), the Admirals were first in the league in group sales growth and second in average attendance growth throughout the entire league. The season the Admirals had brought back a ton of joy and excitement for Norfolk Admirals hockey and the fanbase was tremendous to show their support and show the team how much they appreciated the efforts shown on the ice.

Via @NorfolkAdmirals on X

Numbers Through the Year

The Admirals were a goal-scoring machine this season, ranking sixth in goals for with 245, averaging 3.55 goals per game, which ranked them fourth in the league. They also were outstanding when it came to keeping pucks out of their net. The Admirals surrendered just 199 goals this season, which ranked as the third-fewest in the entire league, behind the Icemen and the Florida Everblades. However, they ranked seventh in the league, allowing 2.88 goals per game, as they played three fewer games than the majority of the league. Out of the 245 goals scored for the Admirals, 10 came from shorthanded opportunities, which tied them for third in the league. Through 12 games in the playoffs, Norfolk averaged 3.25 goals per game for 39 goals. Though their goals for looked good, their goals against were not as the Admirals averaged 3.17 goals against per game for 38 goals.

The Admirals’ special teams this season were completely different from what fans have seen in the past. During the regular season, the Admirals ranked in the top 10 for powerplay (22.2%) and penalty kill (81.7%), both of which were ranked seventh in the league. Things slowed down in the special teams department during the playoffs, however. The Admirals were 80.4% on the penalty kill, and their powerplay dropped a lot from the regular season, going just 16.7% in the postseason.

Playoffs

A decade in the making, the Hampton Roads community saw playoff hockey for the first time when the Admirals locked up second place in the ECHL North Division. Round one saw the Admirals take the best-of-seven series over the Trois-Rivieres Lions, 4 games to 2. They would meet the Adirondack Thunder in the North Division Finals and get off to a hot start, taking both games on the road to open the series. The Admirals eventually met their match and would lose the next four straight to lose the series 4-2, sending the Thunder through to the Eastern Conference Finals. It was a phenomenal effort from the Admirals, who have not played into mid-May in years. It gave the team and the city a glimpse into what can come in the next few years.

Notable Players

Stepan Timofeyev was a name Admirals fans heard consistently all year, and rightfully so. The 28-year-old St. Petersburg, Russia native was coming off a good first season with the Admirals in the 2022-23 season, where he played in 43 games after being loaned to them by the Birmingham Bulls in the Southern Professional Hockey League. In his second season, Timofeyev notched 20 goals and 33 assists for 53 points in 62 games played during the regular season. Of those 53 points, 11 came from the powerplay with four goals and seven assists while also tallying one goal and one assist while on the penalty kill. Timofeyev was one of the top forwards in terms of plus/minus as he was a plus-15 on the campaign, which was fourth among forwards, showing he can play a 200-foot game. In eight games played in the postseason, Timofeyev posted four goals.

Second-year Admiral Danny Katic was a powerplay menace this season. Of the 50 points he secured this season on 24 goals and 26 assists in 60 games played, 14 points came on the powerplay with five goals and nine assists. This included an eight-game point streak from January 13 to January 27, a six-game point streak from February 9 to March 8, and a five-game point streak from March 22 to March 30. During the playoffs, Katic picked up where he ended the regular season and picked up 10 points in 12 games played, recording two goals and eight assists. In these 12 games, Katic managed to record five assists on the powerplay. Much like Timofeyev, Katic showed he can play on both ends of the ice and does not look just to put up points. He tied for the Admirals lead in plus/minus with a plus 20 rating with rookie and hometown kid Brandon Osmundson.

Osmundson joined the Admirals partway through the season. He started his first full professional hockey career in the Southern Professional Hockey League with the Huntsville Havoc. Before joining the Admirals, the Chesapeake, VA native had a tremendous start with the Havoc, posting 13 points with nine goals, which led the Havoc at the time, and four assists in 16 games played. With the Admirals affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, calling players up, Osmundson had an opportunity to go back home and prove he deserved a place on the team more. Osmundson collected his first ECHL point in Reading, PA, when the team visited the Reading Royals. From that point, Osmundson went on to collect 28 more points, totaling 29 points with nine goals and 20 assists in 43 games during the regular season. From February 9 to February 18, Osmundson collected a five-game point streak with six points against Trois-Rivieres and the Maine Mariners. Though just a rookie, Osmundson was trusted with some powerplay time and a ton of time on the penalty kill. He would collect one goal and one assist on the powerplay while tallying a shorthanded goal. In his first professional postseason, Oz recorded two goals and two assists in eight games played. His two goals came from what would have been an amazing late comeback for the Admirals in game two of the North Division Semi-Finals.

Photo Credit: Latoya Fournier | Inside The Rink

Darick Louis-Jean has been an Admirals fan favorite this year and there is no wonder why. Louis-Jean had the best plus/minus among all defensemen with a plus-20 rating. More of a defensive defenseman, Louis-Jean produced at a good rate, putting up career-high numbers with nine goals and 18 assists for 27 points in 59 games played. Louis-Jean had a six-game point streak where he notched four goals and six assists. Louis-Jean was loved by the Norfolk faithful for his heavy-hitting presence. Listed at 6’1, 196 pounds, Louis was not one opponents wanted to mess around with.

In his first year as a professional, Thomas Milic was outstanding during his time with the Admirals. The 21-year-old New Westminster, British Columbia native was a star in net, going 11-3-1-1 in 18 games played, posting a 2.45 goals against average and a .908 save percentage with two shutouts to start his career. Milic was named to the ECHL All-Star roster after going 9-2-1 with a 2.44 GAA and a .910 save percentage with two shutouts in his first 14 games played. Milic was also named ECHL Goaltender of the Week in the opening week of the season. With all he showed at the ECHL level, Milic earned himself a call-up to the Moose, where he would spend the rest of the season. Milic has seen a ton of success at the AHL level in just his first year as a pro. Milic has seen action 33 times for Manitoba with a 19-9-2 record. His numbers were impressive, putting up a 2.72 GAA and a .900 save percentage with one shutout. Though he is only listed at 6’0, the way Milic played in the net made him seem a lot bigger than that. His quick lateral movement made him stand out from the taller goalies in the league. It was rare to see him out of position, even on those cross-crease passes. With his play, Milic earned himself an Entry Level Contract with the Winnipeg Jets on May 3, which begins in the 2024-25 season.

Oskari Salminen was a second key piece in the Admirals’ run to the playoffs. Prior to coming to the Admirals, Salminen had spent the prior season and a half with the Moose in the AHL. Salminen could not solidify himself a permanent spot on the team as his numbers were not up to AHL-level standards. Oskari came to Norfolk with a 4-7-0 record with a 4.00 goals-against average and a .867 save percentage for the Moose. The team thought a move down would help him with confidence, and it did just that. In 12 games wearing the Navy Blue and Gold, Salminen went 8-2-1 with a 2.82 goals against average and a .897 save percentage. During the playoff run, Salminen saw time between the pipes twice, going 1-1 with a 3.51 GAA and a .891 save percentage. Salminen will most notably be remembered for the goal he scored against the Atlanta Gladiators in a 5-2 win at Norfolk Scope, which saw the Admirals clinch a playoff spot that same game.

The final key piece to the Admirals’ season between the pipes was Yaniv Perets. The Carolina Hurricanes signed goaltender has been a stable piece for the Admirals all year long. Perets has been with the team from the start of the season, but the Quinnipiac University graduate was called up to the NHL to be the backup to Pyotr Kochetkov after Antti Raanta was placed on waivers in just his first professional season. During the regular season, Perets made 34 appearances, going 18-11-3 with a 2.99 GAA and a .889 save percentage with two shutouts. The 24-year-old would make his first start of the Kelly Cup Playoffs in game two of round one, where he had a shaky game. After losing his first playoff game, Perets had a big rebound game in game three and would be a big reason the Admirals would make it to the second round, coming up with numerous big saves that could have cost the team wins if he had not made them. In 10 games during the playoffs, Perets went 5-4-1, holding a 3.04 GAA and a .888 save percentage.

Photo Credit: Sarah Pietrowski | Inside The Rink

Offseason Outlooks

The offseason will be a big one for the Admirals. Many players have shown they can play at the AHL level, and a few of them already have. I expect some players to get looks in Manitoba with the likes of Mark Liwiski, Carson Golder, and Oskari Salminen, just to name a few. If this does happen, the Admirals will have to look for players that have similar playing styles and competitive edge to fill those skates.

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Zachary Alvarado

Inside The Rink journalist covering the Wheeling Nailers and Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL. I am a Duquesne University Sports Information and Media major graduating in December. I have been passionate about hockey since I was 4 years old.

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