A brave Norfolk Admirals team has nothing to be ashamed about effort-wise in this playoffs.
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.
WBS Wagner, (1) (Walker, Craig), 2:13 (PP)
WBS Wagner, (2) (Potter, Walker), 3:58 (PP)
WBS Wagner, (3) (Wallace, Potter), 18:36
NOR Pouliot, (4) (Ritola, Vernace), 14:18
NOR Jones, (1) (Ritola, Milam), 16:03 (PP)
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.
The Presov Mafia almost completes the comeback.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on 11 shots before being pulled after the first period. Jaroslav Janus entered and allowed 2 goals on 20 shots the rest of the way before allowing 1 of 5 shooters to convert to take the shootout loss.
ALB Magnan, (2) (Anderson), 2:01
ALB Wiseman, (14) (Mills, Gionta), 12:08
ALB Zajac, (2) (McIntyre), 18:24
NOR Szczechura, (17) (Labrie, Harju), 2:03
NOR Roy, (3) (Milam), 15:17 (PP)
ALB Zalewski, (13) (Perkovich, Wiseman), 19:29
NOR Durno, (17) (Labrie, Angelidis), 1:00
NOR Szczechura, (18) (Pouliot, Vernace), 3:16 (PP)
ALB Anderson, (21) (Wiseman, Urbom), 3:50
NOR Mihalik, (1) (Wright), 7:34
Paul Szczechura was the game's 2nd star. After months of wandering aimlessly without his family's Michael Corleone, Juraj Simek, to direct him, Vladimir Mihalik finally scored his first goal of the season 7:34 into the final frame to tie the game and force overtime. Janus and Mihalik almost made Albany sleep with the fishes.
Mike McKenna turned away 40 shots and all 5 shooters he faced to get some revenge on his former club.
Norfolk keeps pace with Hershey, which lost in OT to Portland, will gain a point on Charlotte with the Checkers getting the snot beat out of them 6-1 in the final period in Syracuse (BoltProspects projects Syracuse will beat Charlotte!), and they lose 1 point to Binghamton, which blanked Springfield 2-0. So, at the end of the night, Norfolk will be tied with Charlotte for 3rd in the East Division at 84 points with 2 games in hand and they'll remain 7 points back of Hershey with 3 games in hand. They'll also be 7 points up on Binghamton with 1 game in hand. 12 games remain in the regular season, and just a couple more wins will likely give Norfolk enough points to get a playoff spot, considering they also picked up a point on Worcester in the crossover tonight and will be a full 10 points up on the Sharks with 1 game in hand. Worcester would have to make up a 10 point deficit in their remaining 11 games, and that seems unlikely. So now, it's all about seeding and the outside chance of catching Hershey and getting home ice for the opening round.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
With 95% of their opening night lineup in, the Admirals handled their business.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 1 goal on 23 shots for the win.
The Admirals outshot Charlotte 39-23 in the match. Norfolk's goals were scored by Matt Fornataro, Mitch Fadden, Mark Barberio, and Juraj Simek. Mike Angelidis had assists in triplicate, with helpers also belonging to Paul Szczechura, Vladimir Mihalik, Kevin Quick, and Alex Berry.
Norfolk begins their regular season on Saturday night at Binghamton against the Senators.
Game story from norfolkadmirals.com.
TAMPA BAY â€“ The Tampa Bay Lightning have trimmed their roster by 21 players today, Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman announced. The team now has 28 players in camp. All 21 players will report to the Norfolk Admirals training camp, which begins on Tuesday.
The prospects that were reassigned to Norfolk include forwards Mitch Fadden, Stefano Giliati, Alex Hutchings, Juraj Simek, and the barely graduated James Wright and Paul Szczechura; defensemen Mark Barberio, Radko Gudas, Scott Jackson, Vladimir Mihalik, Kevin Quick, and Ty Wishart; and goaltenders Jaroslav Janus and Dustin Tokarski.
Forwards Matt Fornataro and Tim Marks, who were invited to the Tampa camp as try-outs, have AHL contracts with the Admirals and will join the Lightning organizational players for the opening of the Norfolk training camp on Tuesday.
Angelidis, Fritz, Jones, Mihalik, Simek, and Szczechura must all clear waivers before their reassignment to Norfolk is complete.