By Chris Carlson
© November 29, 2012
The magic, most assuredly, is gone.
The Norfolk Admirals slipped two points deeper into last place in the East Division with a 5-2 loss to fourth-place Hershey (8-10) on Wednesday night, the team's sixth straight loss and ninth in 10 games.
While last year's breezy jaunt to 28 straight wins, a Calder Cup and North American professional hockey history made an encore impossible, Norfolk (7-11-0) has gone from last year's magic ride to this year's painful slog.
"The turnaround is close," Norfolk coach Trent Yawney said. "But right now, they think it's a long way away."
Along with last year's players, gone after the Admirals switched affiliations during the offseason, last year's good fortune is nowhere to be found. Norfolk is one loss short of tying its franchise record for consecutive losses set in 2002.
"It's a hard time for the team right now," goaltender Igor Bobkov said. "We're trying to be optimistic. That said, six in a row, we're trying to find a way."
In the second period, the Admirals had three odd bounces off the boards, none of which they converted. In the third period, three open chances slipped past.
The first strange bounce came off the glass directly in front of the Hershey goal, but the net was knocked loose as an Admiral rammed the puck home and the goal was disallowed. A second strange carom sent a loose puck sliding through the slot, and a third wound up on the stick of Emerson Etem, but resulted in 1 of 24 saves by Hershey goaltender Braden Holtby.
The Bears, who outshot Norfolk 35-26, only needed one break of their own to bust the game open.
With the score tied at 1 and 8:23 remaining in the second period, a pass deflected off the skate of Etem and onto the stick of Jon DiSalvatore as he rushed toward the Norfolk net.
DiSalvatore's first shot was blocked by Bobkov, but the puck rebounded right back to his stick and he chipped home his second attempt. Fifty-one seconds later, Bobkov was screened on a slapshot from the blue line by Bears defenseman Patrick McNeill and Hershey turned a tie game into 3-1 lead in less than a minute.
The Admirals closed the gap to 3-2 in the third period, but couldn't convert three excellent scoring chances on back-to-back power plays. Devante Smith-Pelly and Patrick Maroon whiffed on shots in the crease and Kyle Palmieri rang a shot off the post before Hershey scored to bump its lead to 4-2. The Bears added an empty-netter.
It's the fourth time in five games that Norfolk has lost 5-2. In all nine losses over the past 10 games, the Admirals have scored one or two goals. During that span, they've been outscored 25-11.
"If it was here we go again, they wouldn't have played the way they did in the third," Yawney said. "Right now, they feel bad and they're a caring group."
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