Norfolk, VA – Since the turn of the calendar year, the Norfolk Admirals have sprinted to a 9-2-0 record including a three-game sweep at home against the second-seed in the Eastern Conference, the Manchester Monarchs.
The Admirals have been a resilient bunch as captain Brodie Dupont put it, “Through the diversity of the beginning of the year to how far we’ve come now, in terms of playing as a team, sticking through the 60 minutes, 65 when we have to and the shootout when we have to and trusting each other, we’ve come a long way. There is a lot of character and a lot of the resilience. That’s where it’s coming from and we’re building it. It’s still a work in progress, but we’re getting much better at it.”
Defenseman Aaron Harstad is one of the few players that has remained on Norfolk’s roster since October and has successfully transitioned through an early season coaching change. The third-year pro also touched on the team’s resiliency saying, “I think we haven’t got down. We’ve had a lot of new players since the beginning of the year. So, it’s kind of different that way, but since the new coach came (Robbie Ftorek), he really emphasized a full 60 minutes and I think we all have bought into that and it’s been shown the last ten or so games.”
What changed the team for the better? Dupont answered, “Personnel, coaches and guys buying in. So, it’s a work in progress. Basically, structure came in and we all bought into Robbie’s system. He’s obviously a really detailed and good coach. We’ve got some guys coming back from injury and we brought in some new personnel to help with our back end. We’ve been getting some great goaltending.”
Through the coaching transition and the turnstile player turnover a team can get down, however, they remained upbeat, positive and it helped them for the better. As Dupont noted, “That’s one thing that almost helped us when you go through losing parts of the season. It seems the guys that weren’t a part of the losses didn’t really feel it so they are able to bring the morale up every time you get into a little bit of a slump. For instance when I came in November, I wasn’t part of the beginning of the season. I didn’t feel that negativity. We lost a few when I got here off the bat and then we brought new guys in and it lifted the morale again. That plays a part in it. Next, we brought in a new coach. There are all these changes that always keep you up and aware. It doesn’t let that negativity creep in. We’ve got some great guys in the room.”
In December, Coach Ftorek dismissed former captain Josh Brittain and appointed Brodie Dupont the team’s captain a few weeks later. Harstad chirped about Dupont’s message to the team since becoming captain, “I think he’s a personable, well-liked guy. He brings it day in and day out. His hard work shows on the ice and everyone hops on his back and follows him that way.”
One thing that is noticeable with Ftorek’s coaching style is his ability to have a calming effect on his players, not letting them sink when they’re trailing late in a game. His ability to calm his bench speaks volumes as Dupont said, “That would be my way to describe him: calm, subtle and a detailed coach. Details, calmness and all the leadership he brings, his experience, it all trickles down to our bench.”
Norfolk has a long fight ahead of them to make the playoffs, but 2017 ECHL All-Star, Harstad notes that the team is up for the challenge and the fight out of the Eastern Conference’s cellar starts now. “It’s our goal to make the playoffs. We’re not playing not to make the playoffs. We’re getting on a run here and hopefully we’ll keep it going.”
With Norfolk continuing to rack up points and sweeping top seeded teams, hopefully the Admirals resiliency will propel them to make a post-season push.