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.