Controversially, Norfolk gets to Marc Bureau (#28) to conclude the regular season.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 2 goals on 19 shots for his 15th consecutive victory. He'll finish the season tied for 8th in the AHL in victories with 23 and tops on the Admrials with a .914 save percentage, one point better than tandem-mate Dustin Tokarski and his .913 mark. Tokarski finishes with a league leading 32 wins, for his part. It's never a bad thing when you have 2 goalies in the top-10 in the league in wins.
ADK Holmstrom, (15) (Manning, Gustafsson), 2:19 (PP)
NOR Segal, (18) (Smith, Conacher), 15:30
NOR Conacher, (37) (Segal), 17:27
ADK Akeson, (14) (Testwuide), 12:15
NOR Conacher, (38) (Segal, Smith), 18:00
NOR Conacher, (39) (Segal), 19:58 (EN)
Why controversial, you ask? With 14 seconds remaining in the final frame, Adirondack had a goal waved off for goaltender interference after defenseman Keith Aulie got beat wide by the Phantoms' Mike Testuwide, a sin he committed far too often earlier this season with the Lightning. Norfolk dodged a big bullet with the wave off to secure their 28th consecutive victory, much to the chagrin of the Phantoms and their fans. In fairness to Aulie, Adirondack would have never been that close were it not for a horrendous turnover by Tyler Johnson that allowed Adirondack to score their second goal. Heading into the playoffs, everyone's got to tighten up that much more.
There's one more bit of regular season business to wrap up now. With Cory Conacher scoring his first professional hat trick, he has moved out to a 2 goal lead over Texas' Matt Fraser for the Willie Marshall Award, the AHL's equivalent of the Rocket Richard Trophy. Conacher entered the day 1 goal behind Fraser, and was actually benched again today, momentarily, after taking a delay-of-game minor. Once he got back on the ice again, though, he and linemate Brandon Segal made sure that their efforts in the Admirals' final regular season game would leave some Exit Wounds. As of this posting, Fraser has just about 15 minutes left to try and score 2 goals to get back even with Conacher, who picked just the right time to get back on track offensively.
Richard Panik failed to score a goal in his final 7 games of the regular season, leaving him 1 shy of a 20 goal rookie campaign. It's just about the only goal, personal or team, that someone on the Admirals didn't manage to accomplish, although Conacher's hat trick did leave him 1 shy of 40, in retrospect.
Norfolk now draws the Manchester Monarchs in the first round of the playoffs, beginning next Friday with Game One. Because of a scheduling conflict with an annual military drill and band show, the Admirals won't have home ice advantage for the best-of-five series despite finishing 30 points ahead of the Monarchs in the standings. Norfolk and Manchester haven't played all season, and in the playoffs just as in boxing, styles make the fight, so we'll see how these two teams match up. Manchester is veteran laden, but is missing a couple of good younger players that are currently up with the LA Kings for their playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks. I think the lack of familiarity may play in the Admirals' favor, as Manchester is a little bit older and hasn't seen the speed that Norfolk brings to the rink both with their skating and the transition game that guys like Mark Barberio and Mike Kostka start from the blueline, but you never know until the game gets onto the ice. With so many rookies contributing to Norfolk's success that have never seen professional playoff hockey, we don't know how they'll react to the pressure, especially in a nightmare scenario if Manchester can pick off one of the first two games at Scope.
It's critically important that the Admirals set the 28 game regular season streak aside and focus on the fact they desperately need to set the tone quickly and win Game One and Game Two in Norfolk. Fortunately, the Admirals have the AHL Coach of the Year, Jon Cooper, to get them refocused for the postseason. The Admirals also got Jon Kalinski back in the lineup this weekend, and the expectation is that Mike Angelidis will be back next weekend for the club. So, other than Richard Petiot, Norfolk looks to be almost completely healthy heading into the looming war of attrition that is professional playoff hockey.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Jaroslav Janus stopped 20 of 21 shots for his 14th straight victory. He now has a .914 save percentage and is tied for 8th in the league in wins.
NOR Smith, (25) (Segal), 2:55
NOR Ouellet, (16) (Aulie), 7:17
NOR Oberg, (7) (Palat, Johnson), 17:29
NOR Segal, (17) (Picard, Kostka), 5:17
NOR Devos, (7) (Aulie, Ouellet), 7:07
ALB Zharkov, (16) (Gelinas, Perkovich), 14:13 (PP)
Good to see Keith Aulie get off to a strong start for the Admirals. These 20-30 games coming up to end the regular season and the playoffs are so crucial for his development to get him ready to potentially take an NHL spot in the Fall. It might very well be the most critical 20-30 games of his career, thus far.
After a brief stint in the NHL, Brandon Segal is Out for a Kill!
26 straight wins and the Admirals keep rolling. I mentioned last weekend how impressed I was that the team has been winning these close games late in the last dozen or so games of the streak, and it is impressive. But, there's no substitute for running out to a 3-0 lead and crushing a team early like they did tonight and like they were doing a lot in the first half of the streak. They have 2 games left in the regular season and take their unprecedented streak of excellence into Binghamton tomorrow night.
For those scoreboard watching and wondering who Norfolk's first round opponent will be, both Manchester and Portland got big wins tonight, but Syracuse is getting hammered by Rochester 5-1 late in the third. If the Syracuse score holds up, then Portland will jump into 7th place at 81 points with 1 game left on their schedule, Syracuse will drop to 8th place at 80 points with 2 games left, and Manchester will be at 79 points in 9th place with 2 games left. Adirondack still has a mathematical chance, as they can still get to 80 points if they win their last 2 games, but it really looks like Portland, Syracuse, and Rochester fighting for 2 spots, and the potential of an ironic and interesting Norfolk/Syracuse first round matchup looms large.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
The Admirals get to Jason Wiemer, and oddly their journey didn't take them to The Hideaway.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. His 21 wins is tied for 12th in the league, as he continues his push to try to give Norfolk two goaltenders in the top-10 in the AHL in victories.
NOR Barberio, (13) (Oberg, Johnson), 18:15
BNG Downing, (9) (Dziurzynski, Hamilton), 16:34
NOR Johnson, (30) (Gudas, Jackson), 2:51
NOR Smith, (23) (Segal, Cote), 16:46
Tyler Johnson, Janus, and Jean-Phillipe Cote were the game's three stars. Johnson becomes the second Admiral to hit 30 goals.
Mark Barberio hit 60 points for the season with his goal tonight. Soak that in for a moment.
24 consecutive victories for the Admirals, and this one happens to clinch the AHL equivalent of the President's Trophy. The club will have home ice throughout the playoffs for as long as they survive. With 4 games left to go in the regular season, the only question left on a team level is who their fiirst round opponent will be, and as of this moment, it would be the Manchester Monarchs. The rest boils down to personal goals. Specifically, will Richard Panik get to 20 goals.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Jaroslav Janus allowed just 1 goal on 21 shots for his 12th straight victory and 20th of the season. For the moment, Janus moves into a tie with several others for 11th in the AHL with 20 wins.
STJ Gagnon, (13) (Redmond, DeSantis), 2:11 (PP)
NOR Palat, (9) (Picard, Killorn), 15:42
NOR Devos, (6) (Labrie, Conacher), 10:41
22 straight wins! You probably all thought I was going to go with Dan Boyle, right? No, I kicked it really old school with the Shawn Chambers reference.
Norfolk will be raising at least one banner to the rafters of Scope in the Fall. They've just about clinched the East Division (1 point gained or 1 point lost by Hershey will do it), and they've just about put a lid on the Eastern Conference as a whole, as well. By sweeping this 2 game set against the IceCaps, they shrunk their magic number for the conference by 8 points. They now hold a 15 point lead on St. John's, with just 8 games left on the IceCaps' schedule. St. John's can't catch the Admirals in ROW, which means that the next point earned by the Admirals or lost by St. John's will just about clinch the #1 seed in the East for the Admirals. They also temporarily have opened up a 10 point lead on Oklahoma City, with the Barons currently in action and winning. The magic number for the top spot in the entire AHL is 6 points.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for his 11th straight victory. He's run his season save percentage to .911 and he's moved into the top-20 in the league in wins and may soon be free and clear into the top-10. That's right, the Admirals could have two goalies in the top-10 in the AHL in wins. Nice.
ALB Gelinas, (15) (Tedenby), 14:14 (PP)
NOR Cote, (3) (Barberio, Picard), 14:32
NOR Johnson, (28) (Panik, Palat), 12:08
Janus and Richard Panik were the game's first and second stars. Panik attack, y'all!
19. That's where the Norfolk win streak now sits (hence the Brian Bradley reference). They now are holders of every single regular season win streak record in the books in the AHL, even the not so terribly valid ones, snapping Syracuse's mult-season win streak record of 18 spread over two seasons. They go for an even 20 tomorrow, and the intriguing question will be whether Jon Cooper continues to ride Janus or if he goes back to freshly returned Dustin Tokarski between the pipes. Tokarski, for his part, still leads the AHL in wins despite his two week odyssey with the Lightning.
9 games remain in the regular season for the Admirals. With the Penguins losing tonight, they'll stretch their division advantage to 12 points, with the Penguins holding 1 game in hand. So, another 3 or 4 wins probably will be enough to put the division away. In the conference, St. John's fell in the shootout to Syracuse, allowing the Admirals to expand their lead to 11 points over the IceCaps with St. John's holding 2 games in hand. Norfolk draws St. John's in Norfolk next week, giving the Admirals the chance to put the IceCaps on the canvas for good if they can take care of business.
Box score from TheAHL.com.