The record goes down, and it goes down hard.
Jaroslav Janus stopped all 20 shots he faced for his 10th consecutive victory. It's also his first shutout of the season, and he pushes his save percentage up to .909 for the year.
NOR Conacher, (33) (Kostka), 11:25
NOR Johnson, (27) (Palat, Panik), 17:14
NOR Hutchings, (2) , 5:38
NOR Panik, (18) , 6:53
NOR Conacher, (34) (Panik, Johnson), 8:07 (PP)
Conacher scored on a fortuitous bounce that went through Justin Peters for the game opening goal and then a shot from the right wing circle on the power play on a busted play that was supposed to go into the slot. The most impressive play of the day to me, though, was when he picked up 196 pound defenseman Michal Jordan and threw him to the ice like a piece of garbage during a goal mouth scrum.
You're going to see Panik's breakaway goal on youtube. The Panik attack came in the form of a deke to the right where he came back through his legs and roofed it going top shelf to his left. So much skill there for a guy who is also so strong on his skates. He had a 3 point night tonight to put him at 18 goals and 37 points in 54 games. To put that in perspective, Carter Ashton had 19 goals and 35 points in 56 games before he left the Admirals. The two are now tied for 15th in rookie scoring in the league, and the emergence of Panik and Tyler Johnson, who set an Admirals goal scoring streak record tonight, is what made Ashton expendable, to a degree.
So, the Admirals now own the all-time AHL record for a single-season winning streak at 18 games. They also tied the mark set by Syracuse a few years back of 18 wins that they spread over 2 years winning 15 to end one season and 3 to start the next. Norfolk can break that record, too, with a win against Albany on Friday. That's the last bit of streak business that's left to take care of before they need to divert their attention to locking down their division and the conference, and getting into the playoffs healthy and ready to smoke through the early rounds quickly.
I'll have a separate story up later on the streak from the perspective of Bolt Prospects and the Lightning organization sometime within the next day or two. Suffice it to say, there's a reason why we have spent the past 6-1/2 years or so doing the website, and days like this validate the effort.
With St. John's losing to Manchester today, Norfolk opened up a 10 point lead in the conference with the IceCaps holding 3 games in hand. So, Norfolk now controls its destiny in the conference with a key weekend set against St. John's still on the schedule. Norfolk also maintained a 10 point edge on the Pens in the division, with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton holding a game in hand. Remember, the AHL reduced its regular season schedule to 76 games starting this year, down from 80 in order to reduce heavy scheduling and promote better player health. So, Norfolk has just 10 games left on their schedule before the postseason, so the magic numbers are going to come up really quickly now for clinching. Norfolk's remaining games are against: Albany (3 games), Binghamton (3 games), St. John's (2 games), Adirondack (1 game), and Wilkes/Barre-Scranton (1 game). So only 3 of Norfolk's remaining contests are against teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today. Advantage: Admirals.
Oh, and all 5 goals today came from rookies. If Jon Cooper's not the AHL Coach of the Year this year, then obviously the award is trash.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Sunday. Sunday. Sunday!
Jaroslav Janus allowed 2 goals on 32 shots for his 9th consecutive victory, besting tandem mate Dustin Tokarski's previous Admirals record of 8 set just a couple of weeks ago. He now has raised his save percentage to .906, which matches Tokarski's AHL save percentage, and his 17 wins ties him with several others for a spot in the AHL's top-20 in that statistical category.
NOR Conacher, (32) (Smith, Labrie), 7:07
NOR Cote, (2) (Devos), 8:59
CHA Boychuk, (15) (Terry, Sanguinetti), 13:42 (PP)
NOR Dimmen, (3) (Ouellet, Gudas), 1:55
NOR Johnson, (26) (Oberg), 6:26
NOR Palat, (6) (Johnson), 7:35
NOR Hutchings, (1) (Palat, Oberg), 15:02 (PP)
NOR Panik, (17) (Smith), 16:45
CHA Boychuk, (16) (Dalpe, Sanguinetti), 14:33
Ondej Palat (pictured) and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and second stars.
Tonight's box score should be the yard sign for Jon Cooper's candidacy for AHL Coach of the Year. Not only did Norfolk match the AHL single-season winning streak record with the win, but look at the scorers in this game. 7 different goal scorers. 6 of the goal scorers are AHL rookies. 7 rookies contributed points tonight. This is not a veteran-heavy team, nor is it being carried by 1 or 2 players. This team is young, athletic, and deep, but none of that means anything without a coach who builds a program and gets his young athletes to buy into the system.
Panik attack, y'all.
Oh yeah, and with Springfield's victory over Portland tonight, Norfolk also clinched a playoff spot, too. Norfolk now has 91 points (they only had 93 points all of last season, and that was a good team), which puts them 8 up on St. John's in the conference and 12 up on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the division. What stuns me the most, though, is that they've run their cushion on Hershey up to 19 points. Wow. What that all means is that, if they can finish strong and win the conference, the Admirals will very likely get a first round opponent with a negative goal differential for the season. Advantage Norfolk, which leads the league now with a ludicrous goal differential of +70. +37 (Toronto) is the next closest mark in the league, for reference. What that hopefully means is the Admirals can get out of the first round quickly. As any hockey fan knows, the playoffs are as much about attrition as they are about anything else. The Lightning's '04 Cup win would likely not have happened had they not disposed of the Islanders and Canadiens quickly in the first two rounds, giving them the gas to outlast the Flyers and Flames in a pair of 7-game series at the finish line. Conversely, the Lightning having to go 7 games against the Penguins in the first round in the 2011 playoffs likely led to them being out of gas by Game 7 against the Bruins. Norfolk is putting themselves in a position to potentially win the attrition war, and if they do, we know they have everything else to make a serious championship run.
History will be made, as the commercials say, Sunday at 3 pm against this same Charlotte team. A victory gives Norfolk the all-time, single-season AHL win streak mark. As Herb Brooks said to Team USA before they played the Finns in the Gold Medal match in 1980 after their legendary upset of the Russians, "If you lose this game you'll take it to your (expletive) graves... YOUR (EXPLETIVE) GRAVES!"
Finish the drill, Admirals. Make us proud.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Norfolk has a date with history this weekend.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 1 goal on 13 shots (no, not a typo) for the win. Janus is now 16-8-2 on the season, which puts him at the door step of the top-20 in the league in wins. Dustin Tokarski still rules the roost with 27 wins despite being out of the league for the last week. Two good young goaltenders = good problem to have.
WBS Lerg, (23) (O'Reilly, Strait), 8:47
NOR Panik, (16) (Barberio, Johnson), 11:28 (PP)
NOR Gudas, (7) (Jackson, Hutchings), 11:59
NOR Johnson, (25) (Panik, Picard), 0:10 (PP)
NOR Oberg, (6) (Palat, Johnson), 2:37
Halfway through the month of March, Johnson's got to be the runaway favorite to win the league's Player of the Month award. He has 7 goals and 14 points in 6 games, which already matches what he put up in February. That's pretty amazing considering last month was no slouch for TJ, who put up 14 points in 13 games. He's now tied with Gustav Nyqvist at 55 points for 2nd among league rookies in points, and he's moved into a tie for 9th in the AHL in points, overall.
Johnson's linemate, Richard Panik, continues to quietly ramp up his play after a quiet first half of the year. He's within 1 point now of breaking into the top-20 in the league in rookie scoring himself, and the Panik attack shows no signs of letting up.
Mark Barberio is 5th in the AHL in assists. Discuss.
What I take away from tonight's game, given the Admirals outshot their nearest division rivals 33-13, is that they're going for it. And, I'm not talking about winning the division (now a 10 point lead over the Pens), or the conference (6 point lead over the IceCaps). This team wants the record, and they can tie the single-season win streak record of 17 on Friday in Charlotte. The Checkers are no slouches, mind you. They lead the Midwest Division and Norfolk will have to beat them on Friday and Sunday to set the record. And, despite the challenge, Norfolk's going for it. When a team holds another to 13 shots on goal, that's complete team buy-in at playoff level intensity. They just threw the keys to the tractor and the deed to the farm in the middle of the table. They're going for it, and it's going to take a team playing a playoff-level game to stop them.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Jaroslav Janus started his third game in three nights and stopped 27 of 30 for his 7th consecutive victory.
NOR Smith, (22) , 15:00
BRI Frischmon, (8) , 1:17 (SH)
NOR Barberio, (10) (Conacher, Johnson), 17:16 (PP)
NOR Panik, (14) (Smith, Johnson), 19:28 (PP)
BRI Mouillierat, (7) (Riley, Oleksy), 7:50
BRI McNeely, (7) (Sinkewich, Rakhshani), 11:14
NOR Barberio, (11) (Johnson, Ouellet), 13:12 (PP)
NOR Panik, (15) (Labrie), 15:52
NOR Johnson, (24) (Panik, Ouellet), 17:32 (PP)
Barberio's 2 goals moved him to 11 on the season, which is 2 better than his rookie campaign last year. He holds an 11 point advantage on St. John's defenseman Paul Postma for the league lead in scorers amongst blueliners.
Tyler Johnson has moved into 3rd amongst all AHL rookies in scoring, 3 points back of Gustav Nyqvist of Grand Rapids and 16 points back of teammate Cory Conacher.
Panik is enjoying the month of March so far with 3 goals and 8 points in 5 games. Today's Panik attack was his first 3-point game of his career.
Wednesday night in Norfolk becomes a big game for two reasons now. It was always going to be a big game with the rival Pens in town lurking 8 points back with a game in hand. But, now, it becomes even bigger with the Admirals' ridiculous, video game-like winning streak hitting 15 with a chance to run to 16. If the Admirals pull of the win against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, they hop a bus to Charlotte on Friday with the opportunity to tie the all-time AHL record for consecutive victories at 17. If they pull that off, the rematch is in Charlotte at 3 pm on Sunday, with a chance to make history. It will not be easy. The Pens currently are the 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and the Checkers are the 3 seed in the West. But, at least its not another 3 games in 3 nights marathon like this weekend was.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Norfolk harpoons its 14th win in a row.
Jaroslav Janus stopped 26 of 27 shots for the win. Janus has now reeled off 6 straight wins and moved his save percentage to .905, just 1 point back of Dustin Tokarski's .906 save percentage before he Oberg'ed off to join the Lightning.
CT Grant, (8) (Tanski), 8:11
NOR Angelidis, (14) (Hutchings, Devos), 12:17
NOR Kostka, (9) (Johnson), 1:56
NOR Johnson, (23) (Conacher), 19:18
Janus and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and second stars, as TJ continues to progress toward becoming an AHL superstar.
Now, as the Admirals attempt to chase down history, they have a big challenge tomorrow afternoon in Bridgeport. We may well see the season debut of Pat Nagle with a shot at a page in the record books on the line. Bridgeport currently leads the Northeast Division, so they're no pushovers and the Admirals may well see them in the playoffs. Now it gets even more interesting.
Box score from TheAHL.com.