The Lions were out to return to winning ways Wednesday night in the first of the team’s three-game series against the Admirals in Norfolk, Virginia. On paper, at least, this appeared to be as good a time as any to do so, as Trois-Rivières had won all three previous games back in November against the Admirals by an overall margin of 17 to 7.
Both teams displayed their desire to add to their overall points total from the opening faceoff, with each side having excellent scoring opportunities. Norfolk’s Nico Blachman was close to opening the scoring with a shot from the slot, but Lions’ netminder Francis Marotte was up to the challenge. At the other end of the ice, the Lions’ D-Jay Jerome took a Cedric Montminy feed, but his shot clanged off the post to the right of Admirals’ goalie Cale Morris. A few minutes later Norfolk went on the offensive: Blake Murray beat Lions’ defenceman Dillon Hill and then Marotte to give the Admirals a 1-0 lead. Then with 6:16 to go in the first period, Norfolk’s Tanner Schachle scored on an Admiral power play to double the lead. However, Lions’ forward Brendan Soucie responded moments later with a shorthanded goal, halving the Norfolk lead to 2-1: His tight angle shot sailed perfectly into the top corner.
At the start of the second period the Lions benefited from a penalty to Norfolk’s Callum Fryer, and the Trois-Rivières power play resulted in a Colin Bilek goal set up by Nicolas Guay and Brett Stapley, tying the game at 2-2. The goal appeared to change the game’s dynamic as the Lions proceeded to storm the Norfolk goal. Five minutes later, Stapley found defenceman Alex Breton supporting the rush. Alone in the slot, Breton unleashed a powerful shot that left Morris with no chance, making it 3-2 for the Lions. The Admirals regained momentum when Eric Cooley scored on a rebound to even the score yet again. Norfolk continued to press and took the lead in the waning minutes of the period: Murray passed to Schachle and his one-timer beat Marotte tomake it 4-3. Despite a strong performance, the Lions returned to the locker room down a goal.
Even though seven goals were scored in the first two periods, the goal frenzy was far from over. Stapley’s brilliant end-to-end rush finished off with a Trois-Rivières goal, leveling the score once again. But the Admirals weren’t ready to concede: Darren McCormick scored a shorthanded goal – his first goal of the season – to return the lead to Norfolk. The Lions continued to mount pressure of their own, and Francis Thibeault took advantage of confusion in front of Morris' net to make the score 5-5. It looked as though overtime was in the cards, but the Lions’ Chad Pietroniro committed a turnover in the defensive zone that resulted in the Admirals’ Stepan Timofeyev scoring with 2:06 left in the period. Norfolk’s Mathieu Roy sealed the deal in the dying seconds with an empty net goal.
The end result of a crazy game from start-to-finish was a 7-5 Lions’ loss. Trois-Rivières’ Stapley had an excellent game, contributing a goal and two assists. The teams go back at it in game two of the three-game series on Friday night.