Tokarski, Dustin

AHL Game Night: 3-26-10 Penguins at Admirals

Things are about to get very desperate.

WBS-3
NOR-2

Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 21 shots for the loss.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
WBS Wallace, (24) (Smith, Conner), 10:08 (PP)

Third Period
WBS Tangradi, (14) (Lee), 5:44 (PP)
NOR Lashoff, (7) (Craig, Hall), 11:05 (PP)
WBS Wallace, (25) (Smith, Engelland), 19:19 (EN)

Matt Lashoff was the game's third star.

Norfolk has seven games left to try to make the playoffs. They've fallen 3 points back of the Penguins for 3rd place in the North Division, putting them in 4th place in the division which places them in crossover peril from the 5th place team in the Atlantic Division. In the Atlantic, 3rd place Manchester thumped 5th place Bridgeport and 4th place Lowell beat Springfield in overtime. That means Manchester moves 5 points up on Norfolk with 1 game in hand, Lowell moves 4 points up on Norfolk and Bridgeport remains 2 points up on the Admirals. That means that if the playoffs began tomorrow, Norfolk would be staying home.

Norfolk draws the best team in the Atlantic Division, Worcester, tomorrow night, so things won't get easier.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-24-10 Penguins at Admirals

It's a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

WBS-3
NOR-0

Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 34 shots for the loss. He deserved better. He played a brilliant first period and definitely gave the Admirals a chance to win the game. Other than the Pens' third goal, he has nothing to be ashamed about.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
WBS Conner, (20) (Wagner), 9:56 (SH)
WBS Johnson, (16) (Letestu), 15:46
WBS Lovejoy, (9) , 17:49 (PP)

Tokarski was named the game's third star. Norfolk actually played a pretty strong defensive game for 55 minutes and only came unglued after the shorthanded goal by Chris Conner. I thought Ty Wishart and Scott Jackson's pair was particularly strong, especially when compared to the last game against the Penguins.

Blair Jones may have a tough, sleepless night. He had a wide open chance in the slot on Thiessen that he missed by inches on the stick side when the game was 0-0 in the third that could have significantly altered the impact of the game. He later was involved in a vicious fight with Zach Sill in which both sides took some pretty big haymakers.

The damage in the standings is ugly. In fact, it's the nightmare scenario. 2nd place Albany thumped Adirondack 6-2, extending their lead on the Admirals back to 8 points, with Norfolk now holding 2 games in hand. Wilke-Barre/Scranton leapfrogged 1 point ahead of Norfolk into 3rd in the East Division, meaning the Admirals are now in peril from the crossover rule. Over in the Atlantic, Manchester defeated Lowell, so now the 3rd place Monarchs are 3 points up on Norfolk with a game in hand and the 4th place Devils are 2 points up on Norfolk. Even worse, 5th place Bridgeport moved into a tie with the Devils by beating Syracuse 5-2, so if the playoffs started right now, Norfolk would be out and Bridgeport would cross over into the East Division to play division champ Hershey.

Needless to say, Friday's game against the Pens is the most critical game of the year. With 8 games remaining this season, the Admirals can't afford to fall 3 points behind the Pens with the Pens holding a game in hand and feel good about their chances to get the 3rd seed in the division and avoid the crossover.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-20-10 Phantoms at Admirals

Tic, the Cap'n, and the Bottle Rocket get the win.

ADK-1
NOR-3

Dustin Tokarski was brilliant in the win stopping 38 of 39 shots he faced. He took Andreas Nodl's lunch money twice in the game to make sure the Admirals got the win and the necessary 2 points. When he's on like he was tonight, he's cooler under pressure than Billy Dee Williams and the other side of the pillow, combined.

First Period
NOR Craig, (22) (Tyrell, Mihalik), 7:14
ADK Dingle, (5) (Klotz, Lehtivuori), 14:39

Second Period
NOR Hall, (15) (St. Pierre, Tyrell), 19:43

Third Period
NOR Tyrell, (9) (Jackson, Craig), 19:18 (EN)

Tokarski, Adam Hall, and Dana Tyrell were the game's three stars.

The unsung hero of the game, though, was Ryan Craig, who not only was Johnny on the Spot on the first Admirals goal, popping in a rebound that was laying beside the goal line, but whose faceoff wins set up the other two Admirals talleys, including his critical faceoff win on Tyrell's empty netter. He is leading this team by example, and his line with Hall and Tyrell is arguably one of the 5-10 best in the AHL right now. I sure hope the Lightning can find a way to keep Ryan in the organization, because he's one heck of a captain for the Admirals. In fact, I'm beginning to think the "C" stands for commodore. I just promoted him in rank.

For Tyrell, it was the first 3-point game of his pro career. His previous 7 multi-point games this season were 2-pointers. He shot from downtown tonight. He now has 23 points in his last 18 games and 8 multi-point efforts in that span. He set up the Admirals' first goal by beating out an icing with his speed, he helped shovel the puck back to the points for a helper after Craig's faceoff win on the second goal, and his blazing speed victimized former Lightning forward Jason Ward to beat out another icing for the empty net goal.

Vladimir Mihalik set a new career high in points with 17 with his assist on the Admirals' first goal. He was also as surly as I've ever seen him at his own net front.

In the standings, which mean everything right now: Norfolk still sits in 3rd place in the East Division with 78 points in 71 games and 9 games left to play. 2nd place Albany fell 2-1 to Binghamton tonight, so the Admirals have pulled to within 6 points again of the River Rats and the Ads hold 1 game in hand. 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defeated Rochester 5-4 to keep pace with the Admirals and remain 1 point back of Norfolk with 1 game in hand. The rest of the division looks done with Binghamton 10 points back and Syracuse and Adirondack now 12 points back.

In the crossover, which is becoming a cluttered mess again, Manchester defeated Bridgeport in overtime, which unfortunately awarded a 3rd point in that game, and Lowell defeated Portland in overtime as well. So the Atlantic Division looks like this: 3rd and 4th place Manchester and Lowell have 79 points, 1 ahead of Norfolk, with the Monarchs holding 2 games in hand and the Devils holding 1 game in hand. 5th place Bridgeport is 2 points behind the Admirals with 1 game in hand. Why is this important? If the Admirals fall to 4th place in the East Division they must finish ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic to reach the postseason.

So, coming down the stretch, things are starting to bunch up with 6 teams fighting for 5 spots. And, that sets up a colossal 2-game set at The Scope on Wednesday and Friday between Norfolk and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton that could be season defining for the Admirals. Both teams will bleed, sweat, and pay the price with 3rd place in the division and possibly the playoffs on the line. And, with David Hale coming off IR in Tampa Bay, one wonders if some defensive help might be on the way from the Lightning just in time.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-19-10 Phantoms at Admirals

Heeeeeyyyyyy there goes a snowman!

ADK-4
NOR-8

Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 32 shots, but bathed in the clear, cool waters of rejuvenating goal support for the win.

First Period
ADK Holmstrom, (1) (Marshall, Pyorala), 3:46
NOR Craig, (21) (Hall, Fornataro), 8:45 (PP)
NOR Tyrell, (7) (Craig, Hall), 14:22

Second Period
ADK Ross, (10) (Pyorala, Bourdon), 0:14
NOR Hall, (14) (Lashoff, Craig), 5:36
NOR Keller, (14) (Mihalik, Tarkir), 8:57
ADK Nodl, (10) , 9:54
NOR Keller, (15) (Lawrence, Jones), 13:29

Third Period
NOR Ashton, (1) (Panik, Marks), 2:36
ADK Kalinski, (9) (Bellamy, Bodrov), 5:27
NOR Fadden, (6) (Fornataro), 6:39
NOR Tyrell, (8) (Jackson, Hall), 9:22

Adam Hall, Dana Tyrell, and Justin Keller were the game's three stars.

Norfolk got the benefit of facing two extremely inexperience netminders, Teslak (13 games of AHL experience coming into the night) and Mayotte (8 games of AHL experience entering the night), and absolutely punished them for daring them to step off the bus all game long. Norfolk gets Adirondack again tomorrow night, and I know it's hard to beat a team twice on back-to-back nights, but both of those young netminders have to be shell shocked.

Congratulations to Tyrell on the first multi-goal game of his professional career. Some folks may look at his numbers for the season and draw the conclusion he's had a pedestrian rookie season (8 goals and 31 points in 64 games). But, it should be pointed out that since 2-12-10 the speedy forward has posted 6 goals and 20 points in 17 games. We always expected Tyrell to get off to a slow start while he shook off the rust after knee surgery, and we always thought he'd have a strong second half. But, I don't think we ever believed he'd be this strong. In those 17 games he has 7 multi-point outings, all 2 point affairs, including tonight's game. He's got world class speed and acceleration and world class ethic, and has shown that he has underrated hockey sense in the offensive zone. He's one to watch, for sure.

Congratulations to Carter Ashton on his first professional goal, set up by Richard Panik for his first professional assist. That's a scoresheet combo I'm sure the Lightning would love to see often over the next 5-10 years.

Vladimir Mihalik tied his career high in points (16) with his assist on Justin Keller's first goal.

With the win, Norfolk reaches 76 points, which surpasses their point total of 75 from a season ago. They still sit in 3rd in the East Division and moved to within 8 points of 2nd place Albany with the Admirals holding a game in hand. 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton stayed just 1 point behind the Admirals with the Pens holding a game in hand by overcoming a 3 goal deficit against Springfield tonight. 5th, 6th, and 7th place Syracuse, Adirondack, and Binghamton are all 10 points back of Norfolk with all three holding 1 game in hand on the Admirals. So, coming down the stretch, this is shaping up into a 3-5 team dogfight between the Admirals, Penguins, and a logjam of about three teams (Manchester, Lowell, and Bridgeport) in the Atlantic that could wind up in 5th place in that division but still make the playoffs because of the crossover rule.

In the crossover, 3rd, 4th, and 5th place in the Atlantic Division are beginning to bunch up. Lowell lost tonight and Manchester lost in a shootout, so they're tied 77 points, 1 point ahead of the Admirals and 2 points ahead of 5th place Bridgeport, which beat Syracuse. So the Ads hold a slim 1 point lead on Bridgeport with the Sound Tigers hanging onto a game in hand, but if you look at the past 10 games as the trend, Bridgeport may climb up to third in the Atlantic and it may be Manchester or Lowell that slips all the way to 5th. 6th place Providence remains alive, 6 points back of the Admirals and 5 back of the Tigers.

So, now, it's a 10 game sprint to the finish line for the Admirals and we'll see if this snowman they just hung on Adirondack gives them a little extra kick in the final 100 meters. Norfolk has 7 games remaining at home and 3 on the road. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has 5 at home and 6 on the road. Ultimately, though, this is coming down to the three head-to-head matchups the Admirals have with the Penguins in the remaining few weeks of the season. Win and they're in. Lose and they'll be scoreboard watching what the Atlantic Division teams do, which is not the position you want to be in.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-17-10 Admirals at Penguins

And now things get really tight in the playoff race.

NOR-1
WBS-2

Dustin Tokarski allowed just 2 goals on 25 shots, but his first period softie allowed to Jesse Boulerice ended up being the margin of defeat.

First Period
WBS Boulerice, (4) (Conner, Lee), 4:23
WBS Johnson, (13) (Haddad, Wagner), 13:19 (PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NOR Fornataro, (9) (Wishart, Fadden), 15:22

It was a beautiful stickhandling play by Matt Fornataro that helped pull the Admirals to within one goal late in the game. Defenseman Ty Wishart got his 31st point of the season on the play, but he should be chastized along with Vladimir Mihalik for some very soft play along the wall in the defensive zone, especially in the first period. The soft goal, the soft play along the wall, and a disgustingly bad 0-for-8 power play doomed the Admirals in this one. That, and Mitch Fritz losing his mind at the end of the second period, including the ever-classy crotch chop to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton crowd, drawing a double minor and game misconduct that killed off about a quarter of the third period for a Pens team that only held on by one goal.

On the bright side, the two pro debuts went pretty well tonight. Carter Ashton almost had a beautiful goal chipping the puck between two defenders and showing surprising burst to split them and get himself a breakaway. He got in too tight on the backhand, though, and couldn't lift the puck to notch the goal. He had another chance a few minutes later when he spun out in front from behind the net on his backhand. Had he been a little more patient, he could've taken another half stride and maybe stuck it in far post. Richard Panik had one good chance from the slot, but the defining play for him was a downright nasty check he threw coming back into the Admirals zone. Downright nasty. In case you didn't know, he's strong as a bull.

Norfolk's lead over the Pens is down to 1 point with the Pens holding 1 game in hand. Uh oh. Norfolk has 11 games left to play in the season: 3 on the road and 8 at home. Norfolk draws Adirondack at Scope on Friday.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-13-10 Sound Tigers at Admirals

Norfolk goes 0-for-10 in the shootout this weekend.

BRI-3
NOR-2 (SO)

Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 25 shots and 1 of 5 shootout conversions for the shootout loss. I feel bad for Tic this weekend. He stopped 80% of the shootout attempts he faced. That's not shabby. But, if your team goes 0% on their attempts, you can't win.

First Period
BRI Haskins, (9) (Witt, Smith), 16:03

Second Period
NOR Simek, (19) (Marks, Wishart), 7:32

Third Period
NOR Fornataro, (8) (Tyrell, Wishart), 0:37
BRI Reich, (7) (Joensuu, Mauldin), 5:44

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
BRI- Smith
NOR- NONE

Matt Fornataro and Kai Kantola were the game's second and third stars.

Congratulations to Ty Wishart for reaching the 30 point plateau for the season with a pair of assists tonight. With a dozen games to go, Bolt Prospects asks, why not 35, Ty?

Things are tightening up considerably in the playoff race for the Admirals. By virtue of Albany's win today and Norfolk's overtime loss, they've fallen 6 points out of 2nd place in the East Division. The point gained does allow Norfolk to stay 4 points ahead of 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with the Pens having 2 games in hand. 5th place Syracuse lost to Rochester and now the Crunch are 10 points back of the Admirals with 2 games in hand. Despite wins tonight, 6th place Binghamton is 12 points back with 2 games in hand and last place Adirondack is 13 points back with 3 games in hand.

Norfolk's also facing some serious pressure in the crossover scenario with Bridgeport gaining two points on them this weekend in their shootout wins. They sit in 5th in the Atlantic and are on a serious hot streak. The Sound Tigers are now 1 point behind Norfolk and they're playing so well, they've almost chased down the 4th place team in the Atlantic, Lowell, which is 2 points ahead of the Admirals with a game in hand. Norfolk holds a 7 point edge on 6th place Hartford with the Pack having a game in hand and an 8 point edge on 7th place Providence with the Bruins holding 2 games in hand. Bear in mind, if the Admirals fall to 4th in their division, they must finish ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic to make the postseason.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-12-10 Sound Tigers at Admirals

Norfolk gets shut out in the shootout.

BRI-3
NOR-2 (SO)

Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 26 shots and 1 of 4 shooters to convert in the shootout session for the shootout loss.

First Period
BRI Haskins, (7) (Flood, Smith), 7:41

Second Period
NOR Craig, (20) (Hall, Tyrell), 1:34

Third Period
NOR Hall, (13) (Tyrell, Jackson), 3:34
BRI Haskins, (8) (Bentivoglio), 12:32

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shotout
BRI- Figren
NOR- NONE

Dana Tyrell and Ryan Craig were the game's second and third stars. For Tyrell, it's his 6th multi-point game in his past 13 contests.

The luster is off the once perfect Juraj Simek in shootouts as he has been stopped in each of his last two attempts. The other Admirals who failed to convert were Justin Keller, Matt Fornataro, Blair Jones, and Mitch Fadden. Credit to Bridgeport goaltender Scott Monroe. Norfolk's shootout lineup is typically a murderer's row.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-6-10 River Rats at Admirals

A golden opportunity goes by the boards, and we're reminded how incredibly difficult it is to beat a good team on back-to-back nights.

ALB-4
NOR-2

Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 28 shots for the loss. The young netminder has back-to-back losses for the first time since early January.

First Period
NOR Tyrell, (6) (Hall, Craig), 10:44
ALB Samson, (29) (Osala, McBain), 17:23
ALB Bowman, (15) (Micflikier, Rodney), 18:47

Second Period
ALB Samson, (30) (Dodge, Terry), 1:55
ALB Chaput, (10) (Osala, Samson), 5:21

Third Period
NOR Jones, (9) (Lashoff), 14:01

Albany moves out to a 3 point lead with 1 game in hand on the Admirals for 2nd place in the East Division. 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was idle and remains 7 points back with 3 games in hand. 5th place Adirondack was blanked 1-0 by Binghamton and will fall into 6th place, 12 points behind Norfolk with 4 games in hand. They'll be passed by Syracuse, which bumped off Portland 4-3, and will now be 10 points back with 3 games in hand.

In the crossover, Bridgeport, which is 5th in the Atlantic, thumped Providence 4-1, so the Sound Tigers are 5 points back of the Admirals with 1 game in hand. Providence is 7 points back with 2 games in hand. Hartford is 10 points back with 3 games in hand. If the Admirals fall to 4th in the East, they must finish ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic to make the postseason.

Norfolk will be scoreboard watching until Friday when they finally get back into action hosting the Sound Tigers at The Scope. Norfolk has 10 games remaining at home and 4 on the road. Albany has 6 at home and 9 on the road. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has 8 at home and 9 on the road.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-3-10 Admirals at Penguins

Things tighten up a bit in the playoff chase...

NOR-2
WBS-4

Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 33 shots in the loss.

First Period
WBS Grant, (2) (Johnson, Tangradi), 5:50
NOR Hall, (11) (Tyrell, Craig), 9:25

Second Period
WBS Wallace, (18) (Smith, Conner), 8:22 (PP)
NOR Jones, (8) (Tarkir, Fadden), 10:07

Third Period
WBS Pushkarev, (6) (Lee, Tangradi), 8:06
WBS Jeffrey, (19) (Wallace), 19:56 (EN)

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton now pulls within 5 points of Norfolk with the Pens holding 3 games in hand. The good news is that, after tonight, Norfolk has just 4 road games remaining on their schedule and 12 at home.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Day: 2-28-10 Admirals at Crunch

Don Simek makes sure the Crunch will sleep with the fishes.

NOR-3
SYR-2

Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the win.

First Period
NOR Simek, (17) (Lashoff, Tarkir), 4:21 (PP)
NOR Tyrell, (5) (Lashoff, Parrish), 19:40

Second Period
SYR Bell, (10) (MacKenzie), 2:26 (PP)
SYR LaVallee-Smotherman, (6) (Sestito, Frischmon), 19:32

Third Period
NOR Simek, (18) (Szczechura, Mihalik), 15:54

Juraj Simek and Matt Lashoff were the game's first and second stars. Simek, the Don of the Presov Mafia, is now 2 goals shy of the first 20 goal season of his AHL career and has had multi-point nights in each of the past two games.

Vladimir Mihalik, the Luca Brasi of the family, assisted on Simek's winner and finishes the month of February at +13 with 6 out of 11 games at +2 or better. He had only one minus game the entire month, and had 2 goals and 5 points, too. He's now 2 points shy of his AHL career high of 16 points set in his rookie season.

Norfolk moves back into a tie for 2nd in the East Division at 70 points with Albany. The Rats are losing 4-2 late in the third period to Portland as of this posting. If that score holds up, all will be square with Albany holding 1 game in hand. Norfolk picked up 1 point on 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which lost in a shootout to Hershey 2-1. They are now 7 points back of the Admirals with 3 games in hand. Norfolk also picks up 2 points on idle Adirondack, which is 10 points back with 3 games in hand. The Crunch are now 12 points back with 2 games in hand, but are on a 2 game losing streak and sub-.500 in their last 10 games. They're falling out of the mix quickly. Binghamton is being fitted for a toe tag. They're now 20 points behind the Admirals and not even 6 games in hand can save them.

In the crossover, the Atlantic's 5th and 6th place teams, Bridgeport and Providence, are idle, so Norfolk is now 7 points up on Bridgeport and 9 points up on Providence with the Sound Tigers holding 1 game in hand and the Bruins holding 3 games in hand. Hartford, which is tied in points with Providence, is down 3-1 to Lowell in the 2nd period as of this posting. They'll burn one of their 2 games in hand they hold over the Admirals, win, lose, or draw tonight. If the Admirals were to fall to 4th in the East Division, they would have to finish above the 5th place team in the Atlantic Division to make the postseason.

So, it was a critical weekend, and the Admirals got their minimum requisite 4 of 6 points and came 1 goal shy of really burying the Phantoms' playoff chances too. That leaves Norfolk in a very nice position schedule-wise for the rest of the season. The Admirals have just 5 games left on the road and 12 games left at the friendly confines of The Scope left on the schedule. That's a potentially huge advantage for the Admirals down the stretch. Compare that to Albany, which has just 7 home games left this season.

And, on a very nice note, the Admirals' win tonight places them at 19-13-3 this season on the road, so they've clinched a better than .500 road record. That's pretty impressive for a team that was 10 games under .500 away from Scope last year. Their 33 wins also ties their win total of all last year and they are just 5 points shy of their point total for all last season, too. The corner is being turned. It'll be interesting to see if the Admirals can finish off this run they're on and clinch home ice for the first round of the playoffs, and if they'll be able to utilize some of the Lightning's best prospects as ATO's once their junior seasons are over to help push the team over the top in the postseason.

Expect a couple of moves with the Lightning returning to work on Tuesday. Janus heading back down seems a certainty, and my money is on Parrish moving back up as well.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

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