Tokarski, Dustin

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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