ECHL Playoffs Series Recap: Norfolk Admirals vs. Trois-Rivières Lions | Round 1

Scrum happens in front of the Admirals net after a whistle.
Wyatt Nash | Inside The Rink

The 2014-15 season brought a lot of pain to the Norfolk, VA community, with the Norfolk Admirals missing out on the playoffs and the Anaheim Ducks relocating their American Hockey League affiliate to San Diego, CA. Professional hockey was not entirely lost, as it was announced the city would bring back an ECHL team for professional hockey to stick around. The journey has not been a fun one for the Admirals’ fanbase. The team was unable to have a winning season and missed out on playoffs year after year. A decade later, the city of Norfolk had something to be excited for in late April again. Their beloved Admirals clinched their first playoff birth since re-joining the ECHL with an incredible turn-around season from last year to face the Trois-Rivieres Lions in the North Division Semifinals.

The Admirals and Lions met for the first time in the playoffs and a total of 14 times between the 2023-24 regular season and Kelly Cup Playoffs. The series did not disappoint as it was a very chippy and entertaining series, but also highly penalized. The Admirals were forced to start the Kelly Cup Playoffs on the road despite being the higher seed due to events being prebooked at Norfolk Scope. They were determined not to use that as an excuse but more motivation to get the job done. The Admirals came out hard to start the series, taking game one by a 4-2 scoreline despite being out-shot in the game 35-25. Norfolk leaned heavily on goaltender Oskari Salminen in game one, as well as a couple of goals from Brady Fleurent to lift the Ads to that important game one win. The chippiness started in the final 56 seconds of game one. Through the first 59:04, the teams combined for a total of 24 penalty minutes. In the last 56 seconds, the teams doubled that number for 50 minutes in penalties. From there, anyone could sense what type of a series it was going to be.

Game two rolled around, and the Admirals were not in it from the get-go, allowing the Lions to even the series at one game a piece. The Manitoba Moose called up Salminen before game two, leaving Yaniv Perets to make his first career Kelly Cup Playoff start, but it was surely one he wanted to forget. Trois-Rivieres took an early 2-0 lead just 9:17 into the game, scoring both on just six shots. The Admirals could not get anything going as they turned the puck over too many times to count and gave up easily on plays. By the start of the third period, Norfolk found itself down 4-1. The third period was a much better look and a promising sight that the team has no quit in them, but it was too little too late. The Ads exploded for three goals in the final frame to make it a 5-4 game, but the Admirals did not have enough time or gas in the tank to knot the game up and send it to overtime. Brandon Osmundson was a huge piece in the comeback attempt, scoring twice in just under 9 minutes, while Fleurent scored the Admirals’ fourth goal with just 36 seconds left in the game.

Game three was a huge bounce-back performance from Perets as he turned away 24-of-25 in the very close game that ended 2-1 Admirals to take a 2-1 series lead. Josh McDougall scored both goals for the Admirals. The Admirals struggled to keep the Lions’ shot count contained in the first period, being outshot 12-5. Perets came up big in the first frame to keep the game scoreless and buy his team more time to get things rolling, and they did just that in the second period. All three goals came in the second period as McDougall opened the scoring at 9:28 then extended Norfolk’s lead to 2 just over 3 minutes later.

Game four was a special moment for the Admirals and their fan base, as it was the first time they stepped foot on home ice for a playoff game in a decade. The Admirals fed off the energy of the crowd as they exploded for three goals in the final 10 minutes of the first period and tacked on another to go up 4-0 just 22 seconds into the second period. The Admirals started to play more reserved, complacent hockey as Trois-Rivieres made it a one-goal game at the 8:27 mark of the third period. Many fans were holding their breath as the pesky Lions team kept fighting back after smelling blood from rattling off three goals. At 15:28, Simon Kubicek would be the hero to give the Admirals an insurance goal to make it a 5-3 game and Darick Louis-Jean would tack on another with an empty-net goal at 17:24. With an excited Norfolk fanbase, the Admirals took game four to lead the series 3-1.

With Trois-Rivieres’ season on the line, the Admirals knew it would be even more difficult to put the Lions away and create chances for themselves. Trois-Rivieres came out flying, opening the scoring at 6:36 with a goal from Chris Jandric. The Lions extended their lead to two at 4:24 of the second period off a goal from Jakov Novak. Down by a pair of goals, the Ads once again had a “never say die” attitude and found a way to beat a hot Zachary Emond between the pipes for Trois-Rivieres, scoring two goals in the span of 8:25 to draw the game back level, but it only took the Lions 22 seconds to retake the lead as Novak collected his second of the night, and what would be the eventual game-winning goal. The Lions tacked on another goal at 5:50 of the third to seal the deal and force a game six in Norfolk Scope.

Usually, you hear people say “third times the charm,” and it’s mostly true a good amount of the time, but not in the instance. The Admirals had their second crack at closing out the series and getting some well-earned rest, and they were successful. Lions’ forward Novak opened the scoring in game six at 10:49 of the first period. Unlike game five, the Admirals did not allow the Lions to gain momentum from the early goal as they would score the next three goals to take a 3-1 lead at 10:21 of the second period. Despite a couple of goals in the third period by the Lions, the Admirals were able to get one and take a 4-3 win in the game and win the series in six games to move on to the Kelly Cup North Division Finals, where they will face the Adirondack Thunder in a one seed vs. two seed series.

The Admirals did a lot of good things to help them win their first playoff series since re-joining the ECHL, but they also had some bad moments that they will need to clean up to make a deeper run in these playoffs.

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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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