Norfolk Admirals

AHL Playoff Game Night: 4/23/11 Admirals at Penguins

A brave Norfolk Admirals team has nothing to be ashamed about effort-wise in this playoffs.

NOR-3
WBS-6

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Wins the Series 4-2

Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 27 shots, including an unsuccessful third period penalty shot by Joe Vitale in the third period. Considering the winning goal was essentially a 3-on-1, there's not much more Tic could've done tonight. He finishes the playoffs with 1 shutout, a 2.20 GAA, and a .924 save percentage, and he looks like a lock to be Norfolk's starter next season. In all likelihood, Cedrick Desjardins will be the backup in Tampa Bay next season, and Tokarski's play down the stretch seems to indicate he's the type of netminder who wants and needs to be the clear cut #1 in order to be at his best after struggling a bit as a tandem starter with Desjardins. He's regained the title of the Lightning's "Goaltender of the Future" and the priority for next season, his third pro season, will be for Tokarski to prove he can be that consistent #1 goalie before potentially moving up to the NHL in the 4th season of his pro career. At least, that seems to be what the plan is for Tic.

First Period
WBS Wagner, (1) (Walker, Craig), 2:13 (PP)
WBS Wagner, (2) (Potter, Walker), 3:58 (PP)
WBS Wagner, (3) (Wallace, Potter), 18:36

Second Period
NOR Pouliot, (4) (Ritola, Vernace), 14:18
NOR Jones, (1) (Ritola, Milam), 16:03 (PP)

Third Period
WBS Vitale, (2) (Wallace, Collins), 7:23
NOR Wright, (1) (Fornataro, Pouliot), 10:35 (PP)
WBS Wallace, (1) (Vitale, Potter), 18:57 (EN)
WBS Sill, (1) (Strait, Thiessen), 19:21 (EN)

Marc-Antoine Pouliot was the game's third star.

When you consider the Penguins came into this series the best team in the Eastern Conference, and the Admirals had to win their last game just to avoid having to cross over into the Atlantic Division, the Admirals have nothing to feel ashamed of in playing this series so tightly. The hard work and character of this Admirals team is worthy of mention, and the team and organization have come such a long way in 4 seasons since the Lightning started their affiliation with Norfolk.

Coincidentally, the East's crossover team, Binghamton, just knocked off Manchester in Game 7 to advance to the Atlantic Division final against Portland. One wonders what shape a Norfolk/Manchester series might have taken if Norfolk hadn't beaten Connecticut to close the regular season.

The big question now is what this Norfolk Admirals team will look like next season, with several of their older players facing contract decisions and several of the Lightning's best young prospects ticketed for Virginia next season.

Will veterans like Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Chris Durno, Mike Vernace, Mathieu Roy, and Troy Milam be back with the team next year? What about long-time pros like Blair Jones, Mike Angelidis, Mattias Ritola, and Vladimir Mihalik? Mihalik and Ritola just finished their 4th years of pro hockey and Jones and Angelidis finished their 5th. Many of these players will surely have opportunities to play in European leagues next season. We know Johan Harju will, for instance, and the question is whether Johan will stay in North America after a disappointing second half. And will Kevin Quick's time in the Lightning organization be over as well?

Conversely, the Admirals will need to free up spots for several of the Lightning's top prospects. Carter Ashton and Charles Landry have already made appearances for the club this season in the playoffs. Richard Panik and Tyler Johnson seem like locks to be in Norfolk next season, too.

Next season could be a big change for the Admirals organization, as the last vestiges of previous regimes pass on. Change is inevitable for a minor league club, but the Admirals seem destined for even more change than is the norm. The good news is that they seem to have good goaltending locked down and even better coaching after a successful inaugural campaign by Head Coach Jon Cooper and assistant Mike Flanagan along with player development consultant Steve Thomas. This group seems to have taken a decent foundation laid by earlier teams and made it even stronger this year, and that foundation can help the new Admirals grow to be even more successful than this year's edition, in time. Look at how well guys like Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas took to the league this season. It portends good things.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 4/22/11 Penguins at Admirals

What an awful week for the Lightning organization.

WBS-2
NOR-1

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Leads the Series 3-2

Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 25 shots in the loss. He's dropped to 2-3 in these playoffs, but he's got a very respectable 1.82 GAA and .937 save percentage thus far.

First Period
WBS Petersen, (1) (Sterling, Hutchinson), 8:06 (PP)
WBS Petersen, (2) (Sterling, Hutchinson), 19:13 (PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NOR Barberio, (1) (Ritola, Milam), 9:45 (PP)

Mark Barberio was the game's second star. Congratulations to him on his first professional playoff goal. It was a big one, as it got the Admirals back in the game and Norfolk nearly cracked Brad Thiesen a couple of time to knot up the score afterward. But, in the end, it was not meant to be.

For the Lightning and Admirals to get swept in 5 home playoff games this week is just rough to take. Rough. To. Take. It hurts. Things looked so promising after the weekend when the teams took all 3 games they played. I certainly didn't expect a week of futility like this. Painful.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Ashton Joining Admirals

The Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned forward Carter Ashton to the Norfolk Admirals from his junior club, the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League, Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Ashton, 20, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound right wing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, is a first-round draft pick of the Lightning (29th overall in 2009). He split this season between Tri City and the Regina Pats, scoring 33 goals and 71 points with 106 penalty minutes in 62 games between the clubs. He also netted 17 power play goals, tying him for fifth place in the WHL.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 4/20/11 Penguins at Admirals

Shorthanded Admirals can't quite get over the hump.

WBS-4
NOR-2

Series Tied at 2-2

Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 33 shots for the loss.

First Period
WBS Potter, (1) (Sill, Wagner), 4:48
NOR Harju, (1) (Pouliot, Fornataro), 16:04

Second Period
WBS Strait, (1) (Sterling, Vitale), 2:38
NOR Pouliot, (3) (Mihalik, Fornataro), 13:25
WBS Craig, (1) (Lerg, Sterling), 18:17 (PP)

Third Period
WBS Vitale, (1) (Collins, Potter), 15:38

Marc-Antoine Pouliot was named the game's second star.

Norfolk was allowed to insert Alex Hutchings in the lineup and they added Charles Landry, but they were still without 6 of their best forwards due to injuries and recalls. They may get one or both of Mattias Ritola and/or Blair Jones back for Game Five and with Tri-City being eliminated last night, there's the possibility of adding Carter Ashton to the lineup. Maybe they can get Angelidis or Berry back too? We'll see.

Game Five seems like a must-win, and the Admirals need as many hands on deck as possible.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Landry to Join Admirals

The Tampa Bay Lightning reassigned defenseman Charles Landry to the Norfolk Admirals from Montreal of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Landry, 5-foot-11, 187 pounds, appeared in 57 games with the Montreal Juniors this season, recording career bests with 11 goals and 40 points. He also registered a plus-26 rating. Landry led the team in goals by a defenseman, was third in points by a defenseman and was tied for third overall in plus/minus. He also posted one goal and three points in ten playoff games for the Juniors.

A 19-year-old native of Napierville, Quebec, Landry has played in 234 QMJHL games between Montreal and the Drummondville Voltigeurs. He has registered 22 goals and 96 points during his career. He has also skated in 43 post-season games, amassing six goals and 12 points.

Originally undrafted, Landry was signed to a three-year, entry-level contract by the Lightning on September 15, 2010. He represented the Lightning at the 2010 Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament as an invitee.
--Norfolk Admirals

AHL Playoff Game Day: 4/19/11 Penguins at Admirals

A brave effort by the Admirals comes an eyelash short.

WBS-2
NOR-1

Norfolk Leads the Series 2-1

Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 25 shots for the loss.

First Period
WBS Veilleux, (2) , 17:58

Second Period
NOR Giliati, (1) (Roy, Vernace), 15:40 (PP)

Third Period
WBS Lerg, (1) (Hutchinson, Thiessen), 10:20 (PP)

Stefano Giliati and Tokarski were the game's second and third stars. Giliati played a heck of a game and was arguably the team's most dangerous forward.

Due to injuries, the Admirals were already without the services of Alex Berry and Mike Angelidis going into the week. They lost 2/3 of arguably the best line in the AHL to recall when Mattias Ritola and Blair Jones were moved up to Tampa Bay earlier in the day. Captain Chris Durno then went out very early in the game with an injury and never returned, and was soon followed to the locker room by Paul Szczechura, who was injured by Brian Strait after the whistle in a very questionable play. So, the Admirals played the Penguins to a stalemate with no less than 6 of their best forwards out of the lineup until a Pierre-Cedric Labrie double minor for high-sticking gave the Pens the opportunity to get the go-ahead goal.

The difficulty for the Admirals now is that Ritola and Jones won't return for Game Four tomorrow night, and Durno and Szczechura's injuries are obviously serious to have missed the remainder of the game when the team was so shorthanded. The Admirals do have a healthy Alex Hutchings on the roster, but Hutchings was not listed on the team's Clear Day roster as a player in residence. So the team may be very shorthanded again in Game Four. Tonight might have been the Admirals' best chance to get to a third win before Friday. You knew things were dire when Admirals radio voice Pete Michaud let a Freudian slip that the Pens were about to tie up the series if they could hold off Norfolk in the final few minutes of the game.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 4/16/11 Admirals at Penguins

Shock and awe in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

NOR-2
WBS-0

Norfolk Leads the Series 2-0

Dustin Tokarski stopped all 27 shots he faced for the shutout victory. That's a man who has only allowed 1 goal so far in this series. He had a reputation of being a big game, money goaltender in the playoffs as a junior, and it's translated so far in his first playoff run as a pro. He's 59/60 so far, for a .983 save percentage.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NOR Szczechura, (1) (Labrie, Fornataro), 19:52

Third Period
NOR Pouliot, (2) (Mihalik), 19:56 (EN)

Tokarski and Paul Szczechura were the game's first and second stars.

That just happened. Norfolk followed the road game script to perfection en route to a big win that now makes them the prohibitive favorite to make it out of this round to face the winner of the Hershey/Charlotte series. The AHL follows a 2-3-2 playoff format, so Norfolk now just needs to win 2 out of 3 at Scope to close out the series. As with tonight, though, they need to be prepared for a surging, desperate Penguins team during the first 20 minutes of Game Three on Tuesday night. The Admirals probably wish they could play Game Three tomorrow night so the Penguins would have less time to regroup, because right now Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is in stunned disbelief of what has happened in the series so far.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 4/15/11 Admirals at Penguins

Norfolk stuns Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Now they have a tiger by the tail.

NOR-2
WBS-1

Norfolk Leads the Series 1-0

Dustin Tokarski allowed just 1 goal on 33 shots for the victory in his first professional playoff game. For Norfolk, if they get goaltending, they're capable of beating anyone, and they got goaltending from Tic tonight.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NOR Ritola, (1) (Milam), 5:23
NOR Pouliot, (1) (Ritola), 18:27

Third Period
WBS Veilleux, (1) (Walker, Potter), 17:13

Tokarski, Mattias Ritola, and Marc-Antoine Pouliot were the game's three stars. The like of Ritola/Pouliot/Jones is as good as any in the AHL right now, and there isn't a hotter player in the league than Mattias Ritola. Mind you, the rest of the Admirals forwards haven't been as stellar over the past month, but that line gives the Admirals enough firepower to win games with competent defense and goaltending. The Penguins learned that tonight.

So, Norfolk has accomplished what they set out to accomplish in the first two games of the series, which was to steal home ice before heading back to Norfolk in the 2-3-2 format. However, the challenge becomes very different in Game Two. The Admirals now need to recognize they've got a tiger by the tail. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is now going to be desperate to win Game Two, because a loss may be a death sentence for the Penguins. So, Norfolk is going to face a higher level of intensity than they've seen all year, particularly in the first 20 minutes of Game Two. If they're not careful, they'll be blown out and momentum will reside on the Penguins' bus headed down to Virginia. However, if they handle the surge from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton early and can keep the game within a goal heading into the final frame, the Ritola line and special teams can deliver the big time upset. Make no mistake, WBS should be favored heavily in Game Two, but Norfolk has enough, on paper, to pull the stunner off again. At the very least, if Norfolk is competitive in Game Two, momentum will still be on the Admirals' side going into Game Three, Four, and Five, having already accomplished what they needed to in Pennsylvania.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Day: 4/10/11 Admirals at Whale

It's an organization-wide Lightning vs. Penguins playoff matchup.

NOR-6
CT-3

Jaroslav Janus allowed 3 goals on 20 shots for the victory.

First Period
NOR Pouliot, (25) (Ritola), 9:26
NOR Szczechura, (21) (Milam, Barberio), 15:46 (PP)
NOR Jones, (24) (Pouliot, Ritola), 19:22 (PP)

Second Period
CT Mitchell, (8) (Couture, Valentenko), 1:02
NOR Ritola, (9) (Jones), 3:15
NOR Szczechura, (22) (Wright, Harju), 5:34
CT Valentenko, (5) (Yogan, Dupont), 13:10

Third Period
CT Niemi, (3) (Grachev, Couture), 11:56 (PP)
NOR Angelidis, (20) , 17:36

Paul Szczechura and Mattias Ritola were the game's first and second stars. With his 3 point effort, Ritola finishes the regular season with 9 goals and 27 points in 17 AHL games.

Mike Angelidis became the 5th and final Admiral to hit 20 goals this season. Chris Durno finished 1 shy at 19 and Matt Fornataro and James Wright had 17 and 16 a piece.

In 56 games, Blair Jones set a new career high in points with 55. His previous high was 54 in 80 games two seasons ago.

Johan Harju finishes his rookie AHL campaign with 23 goals and 52 points in 63 games, and a +15 rating.

With the victory, Norfolk leapfrogged Binghamton into 4th place in the East Division. That means Norfolk will draw the top team in the Eastern Conference, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, in the first round. The Pens have the stingiest goaltending and defense in the conference, allowing just 183 goals (2.29 GAA). It'll also be an interesting meeting of old friends, as a key member of the Pens is BoltProspects alumni Ryan Craig. Craig had 19 goals and 48 points to finish 2nd on the Pens in scoring this season.

It's a brutally tough matchup. The key will be for Norfolk to focus on getting a win in the first two on the road. Get that win, settle into the grind of the series, and let the chips fall where they may. On paper, Norfolk is as talented as anyone in the conference, although there's a question mark in net with Dustin Tokarski recovering from getting slashed with a skate. If they get goaltending, though, they have a chance.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 4/9/11 Admirals at Crunch

Well, at least Harju got off the schnide.

NOR-4
SYR-5

Dustin Tokarski allowed 5 goals on 31 shots in his first game back from his date with a skate blade for the loss. He did stop a penalty shot in the game.

First Period
NOR Harju, (22) (Szczechura), 11:04

Second Period
SYR Palmieri, (29) (Schofield), 2:17 (PP)
NOR Berry, (14) (Roy), 7:39
SYR Macenauer, (13) (Green, Clark), 7:55
SYR Green, (15) (Deschamps), 10:05 (SH)
SYR Deschamps, (15) (Green), 11:45 (SH)

Third Period
NOR Harju, (23) (Jones, Barberio), 6:52
SYR Maroon, (26) (Holland, Guenin), 10:48 (PP)
NOR Vernace, (7) (Milam, Harju), 14:46

Johan Harju was the game's second star.

With an assist tonight, Mark Barberio made it to the 30 point plateau. Not a bad rookie season for the young man.

Good news/bad news: Charlotte won, so 3rd place in the East Division is out of the question. Binghamton lost, though, so if Norfolk wins tomorrow, they can climb to 4th in the East Division. More interesting, Connecticut lost, so Norfolk has clinched not worse than the #3 seed in the Atlantic Division via the crossover. They play Connecticut tomorrow night, and they now have two potential matchups: win and they get the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (and their .728 winning percentage). Lose and they draw the Manchester Monarchs (and their .620 winning percentage). Yes, the crossover rule is the dumbest in professional sports, and the only reason it's not an outrage to me is that I consider it only fair seeing how Norfolk was jobbed out of playoff spot last season by it. Not to be a conspiracy theorist, and Manchester is certainly no pushover, but perhaps the egg the Admirals laid in Syracuse over the past three nights had a silver lining?

Box score from TheAHL.com.

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