Coach Cooper sets the Admirals record with the team's 9th straight win.
Dustin Tokarski stopped 28 of 30 for his 25th win of the season. He moves one ahead of Ben Bishop, who was traded to the Senators organization today, into the top spot in the AHL in wins, and he has to be the odds on favorite to lead the AHL at season's end after the trade. Even if the Sens leave Bishop in Bingo, Binghamton is dead last in the East Division, so he won't have a very good team in front of him. Tokarski has a 4 win advantage on the next closest goaltenders beyond Bishop. So, it's really his to lose. He's now 7-1-0 in February with 2 shutouts, a 2.00 GAA, and a .926 save percentage, so he certainly should be in line for some award consideration come March 1st, too.
WBS Street, (18) (Grant, Mormina), 12:27 (PP)
NOR Barberio, (9) (Johnson, Segal), 17:02 (PP)
NOR Cote, (1) (Johnson), 4:44
WBS Picard, (4) (Craig, Gibbons), 9:50
NOR Ashton, (19) (Dimmen, Conacher), 17:56 (PP)
Carter Ashton and Jean-Philippe Cote were the game's first and third stars. Alexandre Picard was the game's second star, but it was their Alexandre Picard, the former Lightning defenseman, and not the current Lightning farmhand. Ashton snapped a 9-game goalless streak with the tally, and he's now 1 shy of the 20-goal plateau in his rookie campaign.
With 2 assists today, Tyler Johnson continued his hot February. He's got 3 goals and 11 points in his last 8 games, and he's actually 3 points ahead of Ashton for second among Norfolk rookies behind the uncatchable Cory Conacher.
Glad to see Richard Panik not miss any time after the dirtiness in Hershey yesterday. As I said, that will get cleaned up on Wednesday, I'm sure.
Let me be the first to pronounce Bolt Prospects as the official campaign headquarters for Jon Cooper's (pictured with the Godfather of Lightning hockey) bid for AHL Coach of the Year. 9 straight wins snaps the previous franchise record for the Admirals, and when you consider there's 4 Admirals regulars with Tampa Bay right now due to injuries and trades, you realize how amazing a coaching job he's been doing. The other thing you really have to commend is how he's blended so many rookies into the winning formula. Jeff Dimmen, Ondrej Palat, Panik, Ashton, Johnson, and Conacher: that's 6 rookies he's coached up and worked into the rotation of a team that now is tied for tops in the entire AHL in points. And they're not the only rookies who have contributed. Philip-Michael Devos has also been a regular in this lineup, as well. It's been a remarkable job so far, and Julien BriseBois and Steve Yzerman have every right to break their arms slapping each other on the back for that hire. He's been damned good.
Norfolk now holds a 4 point lead on the Penguins for 1st place in the East Division and an 8 point lead on 3rd place Hershey, with the Bears holding a game in hand. They've also moved into 1st in the Eastern Conference by 2 points over St. John's, although the Ice Caps have a formidable 4 games in hand. For the moment, though, the Admirals are tied for tops in the AHL in points, and are tops in wins, goals, and goal differential (+47!).
Wednesday, they'll have the opportunity to put Hershey firmly behind the 8-ball with a 4-point game at Scope that could allow the Admirals to bury their arch-rivals in a 10-point hole that will be very difficult for Hershey to climb out of. The rest of the week holds a 2-game set on Friday and Saturday against a very mediocre Springfield Falcons team. So, Norfolk's got a big-time opportunity to keep the momentum rolling and really extend their lead in the East Division and start to set their sites higher on being the best team in the Eastern Conference and even the entire AHL. It's really, really exciting times.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
And, Nacho kicks the extra point!
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 22 shots for the victory. Much like Dwayne Roloson against the Sharks last night, here's a young man who loves his goal support. Despite his ugly save percentage on the night, by collecting his 23rd win of the year, Tic moved back into a tie with Peoria's Ben Bishop for the league lead in wins.
NOR Kostka, (8) (Johnson, Smith), 2:43 (SH)
SYR Holzapfel, (9) (Jacques, Caputi), 5:07 (PP)
SYR McMillan, (8) (Sexton, Carle), 9:37
NOR Johnson, (18) (Conacher, Fornataro), 16:11 (PP)
NOR Picard, (3) (Smith, Palat), 19:16 (PP)
NOR Conacher, (29) (Oberg, Barberio), 5:45
SYR Holzapfel, (10) (Gordon), 5:58
NOR Angelidis, (12) (Kostka), 9:57 (SH)
NOR Smith, (21) (Kostka, Oberg), 12:00 (PP)
NOR Labrie, (12) (Dimmen, Conacher), 13:00
SYR Schofield, (7) (Palmieri), 14:40
Mike Kostka and Trevor Smith were the game's first and second stars. Kostka, for the moment, sits in a tie for 5th amongst all defensemen at 31 points in 48 games. Mark Barberio still paces the field at 43 points in 51 games, and he's opened up a 4 point gap on second place.
Lost in the sizable shadow of Kostka and Barberio, though, has been the play of suitcase virtuoso Evan Oberg (pictured). He now has 16 points in 33 games this season, but the bulk of those points have come recently. He has 10 points in his last 10 contests, which is impressive while pulling dual duty in between his role as the Mayor of Concourse B at Norfolk International Airport.
Ondrej Palat has 5 points in his last 4 games. Impressive, but Tyler Johnson raised Palat with 7 points over the same span. It took nearly 5 months, but Johnson has run down fellow rookie Carter Ashton in both points and goals. The two are now knotted up at 18 goals a piece and TJ's now moved 1 point ahead of Ashton at 35 for the season.
Lapping the entire field of rookies, league-wide, is phenom Cory Conacher. His 29 goals and 60 points are 4th amongst all scorers, and his tally tonight moved him out of a 3-way tie for the top spot in goals. Consider the possibilities, Lightning fans. The organization could have the goal scoring champions at both the NHL and AHL levels in the same season. That's quite the feather in the Lightning's cap.
Norfolk's victory allows them to keep pace with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the top spot in the East Division, and by virtue of Hershey losing a 6-0 decision to Providence, they've opened up a 3 point lead on the third place Bears. Winning the East Division looks like it may be CRITICAL to the Admirals' chances come the playoffs. They want to avoid a possible 4/5 matchup against the Bears or Penguins in the first round and get a less experienced club from the Atlantic or Northeast in the first round, instead.
The Admirals rematch Syracuse tomorrow. As always, we stress how difficult it is to beat the same team on back-to-back nights, especially when you thump them the first night. Let's see if Norfolk has learned that lesson yet.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Dustin Tokarski stopped all 24 shots he faced for the shutout win. He also stopped a Robert Bortuzzo penalty shot in the third period to keep the bagel on his plate.
Tokarski tied his professional high of 4 shutouts and raised his season save percentage to .906 with the effort. He's 4-1-0 so far this month with 2 shutouts, a 1.60 GAA, and a .938 save percentage. The young man's known for being clutch, and now that the stretch run is starting, it appears Tic Time is, too.
NOR Smith, (20) (Gudas), 0:59 (SH)
NOR Palat, (4) (Cote, Johnson), 17:51
NOR Labrie, (11) (Panik, Palat), 12:57
NOR Johnson, (17) (Barberio, Kostka), 14:38 (PP)
Carter Ashton was stopped by Scott Munroe on a penalty shot of his own in the second period.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie extended his point streak to 6 games, with 4 goals and 7 points over that span. "Nacho" bested his pro career high of 26 points, set last season, with his 27th point on the goal.
With his 1 goal and 1 assist night, Tyler Johnson very quietly moved within 1 goal and 1 point of catching fellow rookie Ashton in those statistical categories. Perhaps Bolt Prospects co-founder Tim Bennett is right that TJ's being unfairly lost in the shuffle this season.
Panik attack, y'all.
Norfolk outshot Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 33-24 in the contest.
I want you all to take in the full scope of what the Admirals accomplished tonight. With a tie for first in the East Division on the line, they went into the Penguins' barn and didn't just beat them. No, they humiliated them. They beat them up (35 minutes in penalties for the Ads including 3 fighting majors and 6 roughing minors). They shut them down. They lit them up. There's no silver linings for the Penguins in this game, other than the fact that their 1 game in hand on Norfolk still allows them to be listed as the division leader in the standings.
Norfolk and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton are tied at 65 points atop the East Division, each 5 points back of conference leading St. John's. Hershey lurks just 1 point back of the Ads and Pens. Norfolk's 31 wins are third in the AHL behind only Oklahoma City and St. John's, which both have 32. Norfolk returns home on Friday to face Syracuse for a 2 game set. The Crunch are 2 games under .500 and a very distant 4th in the East Division standings.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the loss.
HER Potulny, (14) (Bourque, Aucoin), 3:56 (PP)
NOR Johnson, (15) (Panik, Conacher), 8:46 (PP)
HER Potulny, (15) (Bourque, Aucoin), 18:44 (PP)
NOR Conacher, (25) (Johnson, Dimmen), 18:59
HER Hanson, (9) (Ford), 1:14
Norfolk outshot Hershey 40-22, but as has been the case seemingly about a half dozen times over the years, just when the Ads look ready to make their move and establish themselves as the better team, Holtby or one of the other Caps prospect goaltenders stands on their heads. Holding that team, as explosive as it is, to 22 shots is unheard of. To play that well and still lose hurts badly.
And the Panik attack continues. In the last 16 games, Richard Panik has 6 goals and 13 points and he's now riding a 5 game point streak. It's not quite as impressive as Carter Ashton's ridiculous 11 goals and 17 points in the first 16 games this year, but it's in the ballpark (upper deck, perhaps, but in the ballpark).
Monday night is the AHL All-Star Game and the Admirals will return to action next Friday against Adirondack. Fortunately, the Penguins got spanked by Binghamton, so they pull into the break just 3 points back in the division despite the loss to the Bears.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Labrie is Superman.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory.
NOR Ashton, (17) (Kostka, Panik), 11:32
HER Micflikier, (19) (Eakin), 6:30
NOR Labrie, (7) (Smith, Conacher), 10:04
Labrie got off the plane, then got into a phone booth to put on his cape and score the game winning goal. There's not many tough guys who could do what he did: play a strong 2-way game in a 4th line role in Tampa and then turn around and go play on a top line and score the winning goal down in the AHL. This guy's not going away. He's not a flash in the pan.
Mark it down: 1/27/12 was the day Panik got back to 0.50 points per game. Panik attack, ya'll.
Norfolk's win ties them with Hershey at 55 points, but they're now 3 points behind the suddenly surging Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. On the one hand, playing in this division makes it extremely tough to get a high seed, which is tough on Norfolk. On the other hand, though, they'll be a lot more battle tested come the postseason having played more games against quality opposition.
Box score from TheAHL.com.