Friday, November 23, 2012

Phantoms 2, Norfolk 1 11/23

Goaltender Scott Munroe was brilliant in the third period Friday, turning aside all 12 shots he faced and helping the Adirondack Phantoms escape with a 2-1 victory over the Norfolk Admirals.

To put that in perspective, Munroe had only faced 14 shots through the first 40 minutes of play. The Phantoms outshot Norfolk 19-5 in the second period, but sat on the lead a little bit more than they should have and Norfolk peppered Munroe with 10 shots in the first half of the final frame. Adirondack had three.

“We haven’t been really protecting too many leads this year,” said Munroe, who stopped them all. “That takes time too and that takes work. It’s kind of a learning process as well. That could be part of it. I thought we sat back a little more than we did in the first two periods.”

Brayden Schenn called the performance "sick." Erik Gustafsson said it was "unbelievable." Whatever adjective you use, Munroe has won back-to-back starts, stopped 59 of the last 61 shots he's faced and improved his goals-against average (2.24) and saves percentage (.930) into top-10 in the AHL totals.

There's a lot on Munroe in the game story, but I wanted to touch on a topic that didn't make it in. In a scoreless first period, Schenn dropped the gloves with John Mitchell after a questionable hit on Adirondack's Marc-Andre Bourdon. You can view video of the fight on YouTube here.

"I didn't think it was a clean hit," Schenn said. "Maybe he didn't touch the puck or whatever. You don't want to see a guy hit like that. That's all really there was to it."

It was Schenn's third pro fight and first in the AHL. As a rookie, he fought Boston's Chris Kelly and New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk in his 54-game NHL stint last year. Both of those are YouTube links.

I was kind of surprised that Schenn was the one who came to Bourdon's aid. You generally don't see a skilled player jumping in there. Though Phantoms coach Terry Murray, who had coached Schenn when the two were in the Los Angeles Kings organization, said it wasn't anything new.

"Schenner is a gritty player," Murray said. "He's there to respond to a hit that happened to a teammate. I'm not surprised by it at all. I've seen it several times before."

That fighting major, incidentally, were Schenn's first penalty minutes of the season. He didn't have any through the team's first 15 games and was the only Phantoms player who could make that claim.

After the game, he joked he was no longer under consideration for the Lady Byng Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL player who combines a high level of playing ability with sportsmanlike conduct, but said he didn't know what it was that had kept him out of the penalty box for so long.

"You see him playing the right way every night," Murray said. "He tries to play hard, competitive. He has the puck on his stick a lot, so he's not on the chase of trying to recover pucks because he does have a good puck-possession attitude. He carries the puck with authority and makes plays. Usually, he's drawing the penalty."

Gustafsson had two assists, giving him five points (1-4-5) in the past three games. He had four (1-3-4) through the team's first 13.

"We got our power play working a little bit better," he said. "We got (recently-called-up winger Jason Akeson) on our unit, which is really good. I don't know, it's going to be hard for a defenseman to put up points unless you do it on the power play, so as long as our power play is clicking pretty good I think I'm going to keep on putting up points."

Akeson had an assist on Sean Couturier's power play goal, giving him four in two games. Center Rob Bordson added his first of the season 49 seconds later. That stood up as the game winner.

"My role is a little more defensive this year," Bordson said. "I try to work hard in both ends. Tonight, I just kind of got my break. Feels good to get the first one out of the way. Hopefully there's a lot more to come."

Adirondack has now won three straight at home. A win tomorrow night against visiting Hershey would push them to 9-8, which would be the first time they've been above .500 since opening night.

"You don't want to be below .500," Bordson said. "Then you're not in the playoff race at all. It's the first two months of the season, but you don't want to get too far behind. We have to start piling up some wins, getting to overtime, whatever it is to get points."

Added Gustafsson: "We were struggling at the beginning of the year. We played good one night and then we played bad the next two. Now I think we all realize what we have to start winning game after game."

Around the division, Connecticut scored four unanswered in the final 11:27 to beat Bridgeport, 7-5. Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored 19 seconds into overtime as Portland beat Springfield, 6-5. Raman Hrabarenka scored his first professional goal, but Albany fell to Rochester, 5-2. Hershey was idle, but is coming off a 4-0 loss against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Wednesday.

This, incidentally, was Norfolk's seventh loss in eight games. They are 7-9.

Finally, ECHL affiliate Trenton beat Evansville 3-2 behind contributions from recently-reassigned Andrew Johnston (goal) and Matt Konan (assist). But there was a scary scene at the end of the game, writes Mike Ashmore for our Journal Register Company bretheren, The Trentonian.
Johnston appeared to be badly injured with 1:31 left in the game when (Evansville's Patrick) Kennedy boarded him in the right wing corner in Trenton’s defensive zone, causing a huge gash on his face that bled profusely onto the ice. He did skate off with a towel held to his face, clearly aggravated with the play.
“I’m feeling good,” Johnston said. “(I hit my head) in the side of the boards there. I think the visor came down and the head went into the rail. But the guys did a good job stitching me up. I hope to (play tomorrow), I’ll see how I am in the morning.”
Until next time,


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