Five Tampa Bay Lightning prospects will proudly don their home countryâ€™s sweater this holiday season to compete in the Under-20 World Junior Championships. The WJCs are arguably the most exciting international hockey tournament outside of the Olympics and playing for oneâ€™s country during this event is a career builder.
Last year Carter Ashton, Brett Connolly, and Canada came up short in the finals, allowing five third period goals to Russia in the gold medal game to lose, 5-3. Host team USA beat Sweden for the bronze in Buffalo, New York.
The last Lightning prospect to win a gold medal was Dustin Tokarski for Canada in 2009 when â€œThe Tikâ€ was player of the game in the championship game â€“ a win over Victor Hedman and Sweden. Dana Tyrell was also a part of that Canadian team, but was injured in pre-tournament action and missed the tournament.
Hereâ€™s a look at each Lightning prospect participating in this yearâ€™s event, to be held December 26 through January 5 in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta. Check NHL Network listings for broadcasts.
Norfolk's biggest win of the season thus far.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the win. He snaps a brief 2 game personal skid in a spot where his club absolutely needed a win.
NOR Fornataro, (2) (Smith, Devos), 0:53 (PP)
NOR Ashton, (14) (Gudas, Jackson), 4:32
WBS Street, (10) (Henningson, Merth), 10:41
WBS Lerg, (11) (Walker, McDonald), 1:42
NOR Johnson, (11) (Cote, Tokarski), 7:06
NOR Conacher, (18) (Smith, Jackson), 13:31
NOR Ouellet, (7) (Ashton, Angelidis), 19:40
For Norfolk, this was a huge game. They did not want to go into Hershey tomorrow trying to stave off the divisional sweep. That's a bad spot to be in on your 3rd game in 3 nights in one of the toughest buildings in the league to earn points in. They absolutely needed tonight's win to keep contact in the divisional hunt, and if they can steal a win from the Bears tomorrow, well that's just a bonus present in this holiday season. With the win, Norfolk is 2 points back of the Bears and Pens for the top spot in the East Division.
Carter Ashton (pictured) played well last night, but was Holtby'ed off the scoresheet on more than one occasion. He's starting to get active again, and that bodes well. Meanwhile, Johnson has 5 goals and 7 points in his last 8 games. That leads to an interesting question. Nate Thompson went out early in tonight's Lightning game and speculation is a forward may be recalled at some point. Is it Ashton? Is it Johnson? Trevor Smith?
Norfolk draws Hershey tomorrow at 5 pm. My guess is that Oberg rides the shuttle back for that game. When that game is over, the Admirals are off until 12/28. So, anyone's fair game for a call up from a manpower standpoint. The Lightning don't play again until Wednesday, when they start a 2 game swing through San Jose and Colorado. The question then is whether Matt Gilroy and/or Nate Thompson will be healthy, and whether Oberg and/or a forward will need to make the trip with the team and possible spend Christmas in Tampa.
No pressure, kids, but I suspect there will be some Tampa execs with eyes on the Hershey game.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 4 goals on 22 shots for the loss. He's dropped 4 of his last 5 and his save percentage has fallen to .890. Considering Dustin Tokarski has won 4 of his last 5, there's some separation between the two that is being established.
ADK McGinn, (3) (Holmstrom, Akeson), 5:49 (PP)
NOR Ashton, (13) (Johnson, Jackson), 6:18
ADK Holmstrom, (5) (Testwuide, Hamel), 7:23
ADK McGinn, (4) , 13:02
ADK Jancevski, (2) (Harper, Kessel), 4:09
ADK Hamel, (10) , 14:50 (EN)
At least Carter Ashton broke his 5 game scoreless streak.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Nope, THAT was probably rock bottom.
Dwayne Roloson allowed 6 goals on 21 shots for the loss before Mathieu Garon allowed 1 on 5 shots the rest of the way. 7 goals on 26 shots is pitiful. Was goaltending the reason for the loss? No. But you can't win with a save percentage that's an eyelash above .750. Can't do it.
I'm tired of puckhandling mistakes ending up in the back of the net. I'm tired of play acting leading to pucks ending up in the back of the net. These guys need to be playing a very stripped down very focused style right now, and not circus hockey. It's a zoo between the pipes every other game right now.
TOR Macarthur (7), (Gardiner, Connolly), 00:41
TB Lecavalier (9), (Stamkos, Malone)(PP), 8:38
TOR Connolly (3), (Kulemin, Franson)(PP), 17:56
TOR Bozak (3), (Kessel, Connolly)(PP), 19:22
TOR Colborne (1), (Frattin, Liles), 17:45
TOR Bozak (4), (unassisted), 3:07
TOR Lupul (11), (Bozek, Phaneuf), 4:28
TOR Crabb (3), (Frattin, Gardiner), 14:28
It was pretty pitiful to allow a goal right off the bat. Then the team responded and looked as good on the forecheck and on the power play as I think I've seen them this season up until Victor Hedman whiffed on what probably should've been a goal off a Marty St. Louis feed, and then took an unlucky 4 minute minor, and the wheels came off. And then the wheels came off again when Roloson once again showed why he should never stray from his net. It's embarrassing. I felt like I was watching a Brian Lawton/Rick Tocchet team, not a Steve Yzerman/Guy Boucher team.
The situation is not improving to any extent I feel comfortable with. I don't think huge changes have to be made, but I don't think the old, "The answers are in the room," is working. You can't tell me the guys in Norfolk are so bad that they aren't at least worth a look to see if they can inject some fresh blood and enthusiasm into the lineup. This team just looks flat at the start of every game and I honestly wonder how anyone could argue that things would be worse with Carter Ashton or Radko Gudas or Mark Barberio getting an opportunity. You can't tell me that Blair Jones and Bruno Gervais are so much better than those players that it isn't worth even considering, and I don't give a damn how far away the organization thinks Gudas and Barberio are. If you believe they'll bite as dogs they'll bite as puppies. What's the worse that could happen? They'd give up 7 goals to the Maple Leafs?
Brett Connolly had 1 blocked shot in 11:28.
TJ back to early season form.
Jaroslav Janus made 26 saves on 28 shots for the win.
NOR Ashton, (12) (Fornataro, Johnson), 5:27
STJ Postma, (3) (Machacek, Klingberg), 16:44 (PP)
NOR Smith, (7) (Conacher, Dimmen), 1:22
NOR Smith, (8) (Conacher, Landry), 4:32
NOR Angelidis, (3) (Wyman), 11:11
STJ Klingberg, (9) (DeSantis), 2:58 (SH)
NOR Johnson, (5) (Ashton, Conacher), 8:14
NOR Johnson, (6) (Barberio, Vernace), 15:35 (PP)
Remember Tyler Johnson (pictured)? He had 6 points in the first 4 games of the season before cooling off with 3 points in the subsequent 11. And then, boom, 3 point night. There's so much depth on the Admirals and it's truly under-appreciated. Trevor Smith has 20 points in the first 17 games this season, and he's barely figured in the three stars discussions in each game. Heck, he's not even the team's leading scorer, because Cory Conacher has 21 points, and he doesn't even have a contract with the Lightning, yet. There's 4 players on the Ads (Conacher, Smith, Ashton, and Mark Barberio) that are currently over a point-a-game. It's impressive.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Can you imagine how good this team would be if they'd play 60 minutes?
Mathieu Garon allowed 3 goals on 12 shots before being lifted for Dwayne Roloson. Roloson bailed him out stopping all 28 shots he faced and all 4 shooters in the penalty shot session for the shootout win.
FLA Campbell (1), (Versteeg, Fleischmann)(PP), 1:49
FLA Kopecky (2), (Skille, Weaver), 13:05
FLA Santorelli (1), (Kulikov), 15:21
TB Malone (4), (Stamkos, Brewer)(PP), 16:20
TB Stamkos (10), (Gilroy, St. Louis), 17:46
TB Purcell (5), (Downie, Brewer), 8:11
Roloson, Steven Stamkos, and Teddy Purcell were the game's three stars.
My three stars would've included Steve Downie, who had the tying goal Kontos'ed from him by Teddy Purcell, and Matt Gilroy, who swooped into the zone late in the second period and then dished the perfect saucer to Stamkos to get the deficit down to 1 goal heading into the final frame.
For those who like to complain about Victor Hedman, I'll refer you to that first period as an example of why you should appreciate the young man. It took 20 minutes for the Lightning to adjust to playing without their bell cow on the backline.
I wish this team would figure out how to play a full 60 minute game. This 30-40 minutes of effort schtick is not going to keep getting them W's. The flat first periods have to stop.
Brett Connolly had 2 shots and 2 hits in 13:37. He showed really good speed cranking up a 3/4 ice rush that ended up in a wraparound attempt in the third period. It'll be interesting to see that part of his game develop where he carries it more.
Blair Jones had 1 hit in 6:41. He's like an awful cacophony of legs and arms that couldn't avoid hitting you on the forecheck if he tried.
Tic throws his hat in the ring for Prospect of the Week.
Dustin Tokarski (pictured) had a 37 save shutout victory. In his 2 starts this weekend, he stopped 47 of 48 shots he faced, and it's only crummy goal support that kept him from going 2-0-0. He's pushed his save percentage back up over .900 (.903) and his GAA has pushed back down to 2.54. Remember, he gave up 11 goals in his first 2 starts this year, so this is significant improvement.
NOR Labrie, (2) (Ashton, Landry), 8:19
NOR Angelidis, (2) (Conacher, Dimmen), 18:15
NOR Ashton, (11) (Labrie), 14:24
No player splits opinion on the Bolt Prospects staff like Labrie, whose skating is stiff as a corpse but works his butt off on every shift and hits everything that moves. To me, Labrie is one of those guys like Corey Spring, back-in-the-day, who is a good minor league soldier who gives you so much more than the sum of his parts.
Ashton, ho hum, temporarily moves back into a tie for 3rd in the league in scoring, and first in goals.
Still no Ritola in the lineup. Norfolk returns home Wednesday night to square off with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in their first encounter of the season with the hated Pens.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Bolt Prospects would like to acknowledge one monster who has been mashing his way all through October. Some Bolt Prospects readers felt tricked this past week when we didn't name this prospect the Player of the Week, but we were holding a treat in reserve. True, there were several worthy honorable mentions who scared up some excitement along the way. There was the wolf man, Brett Connolly, who came out of nowhere to crack the Lightning's NHL roster. There was the evil genius, Mark Barberio, and his stylish 2 goals and 11 points in 10 games. And, there was the leprechaun, Matthew Peca, who got his own pot o' gold today when he was named the ECAC's Rookie of the Month.
But the nail in the coffin came when the AHL gave a certain power forward (sort of a pale Incredible Hulk) a minor award (hardly worth mention in the same breath as Bolt Prospects' Prospect of the Month).
(Norfolk Admirals press release) The American Hockey League announced today that Norfolk Admirals right wing Carter Ashton has been named the Reebok/AHL Rookie of the Month for October. Ashton scored a league-leading nine goals and paced all AHL rookies with 13 points in 10 games for Norfolk as the Admirals raced out to a 7-2-0-1 start.
Ashton began his first full professional season with a two-goal effort, including the overtime winner, in a 6-5 victory over Charlotte on Oct. 7. He notched a goal and an assist each on Oct. 8 vs. Charlotte and Oct. 21 vs. Binghamton, and authored four multiple-point performances among his first five games of the season. Ashton then scored a goal in four straight games to finish October, netting markers on Oct. 23 at Charlotte, Oct. 26 at Adirondack, Oct. 28 at Providence and Oct. 29 at Syracuse.
Dominant, workmanlike win.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the win.
NOR Ashton, (8) (Gudas, Picard), 4:30
NOR Smith, (4) (Labrie, Ashton), 19:26
NOR Tyrell, (2) (Wyman), 2:49
PRO Cunningham, (1) (Bartkowski, MacDonald), 17:21
PRO Chaput, (2) (Miller, Bodnarchuk), 4:05 (SH)
NOR Dimmen, (1) (Picard, Conacher), 7:01 (PP)
With his 2 point night, Ashton is now tied for 5th in the league in scoring at 13 points, 3 points back of Joe Colborne of Toronto. Teammate Cory Conacher (pictured) is now tied for 8th in the league, 2 points back of Ashton with 11. The two forwards pace all AHL rookies in scoring.
Norfolk outshot Providence 41-22 in the game, and subsequently doubled them up on the scoreboard.
With the win, Norfolk leaps Hershey for the top spot in the league at 13 points after the Bears stubbed their toes in Springfield in overtime tonight. Their 40 goals scored also pace the league. On paper, this is a championship caliber team, if they get the goaltending and if their defense continues to mature as the season churns on.
They roll into Syracuse tomorrow night to face a tough test against a Crunch team that has only lost once, so far, in regulation.
Box score from TheAHL.com.