God even hates Panthers fans in preseason.
Dwayne Roloson stopped 31 of 33 for the win. Hide the children and the silverware, old man Roli is back in town.
08:06 TB Ritola, (Kubina, Connolly)(PP)
06:31 TB Shannon, (Kubina, Bergeron)(PP)
12:55 TB Shannon, (Stamkos, Clark)
00:23 TB Ashton, (Brewer)
04:20 FLA Skille, (Robak)(PP)
16:20 FLA Repik, (Robak, Derlyuk)
18:46 TB Lecavalier, (Purcell, Hedman)
As the Lightning move a little closer to icing their opening night lineup, now reading the tea leaves gets more interesting.
Carter Ashton and Brett Connolly each got over 14 minutes of ice time, while Cory Conacher, Dana Tyrell, and Blair Jones got less, especially Jones. Connolly and Conacher remain decisive underdogs, but the battle between Ashton, Tyrell, and Jones for positioning is fascinating. Boucher knows what he has in Tyrell, and to a lesser extent Jones. For Ashton to get himself a goal and play 14+ quality minutes is a key step for him in trying to establish a comfort level with Boucher.
And, then there's the matter of Mattias Ritola, who is a different player now than when Boucher had him in the lineup the first half of last season. He got over 14 minutes and quite a bit of PK ice time. Like Ashton, for him to get a goal and play 14+ quality minutes helps establish a comfort level with the coaching staff. I'd say he was probably the big winner on the night.
Box score from NHL.com.
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 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.
Shorthanded Admirals can't quite get over the hump.
Series Tied at 2-2
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 33 shots for the loss.
WBS Potter, (1) (Sill, Wagner), 4:48
NOR Harju, (1) (Pouliot, Fornataro), 16:04
WBS Strait, (1) (Sterling, Vitale), 2:38
NOR Pouliot, (3) (Mihalik, Fornataro), 13:25
WBS Craig, (1) (Lerg, Sterling), 18:17 (PP)
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.
Western Conference Finals
No.4 Windsor Spitfires 1 @ No.1 Owen Sound Attack 8
Owen Sound leads best of seven series 1-0
D Geoffrey Schemitsch, OS: 0-2-2, +1, 2 PIM (holding)
Season Totals: 45 GP, 1-19-20, +17, 14 PIM
Playoff Totals: 9 GP, 0-6-6, +3, 2 PIM
G Michael Zador, OS: Did not dress.
Season Totals: 31 GP, 19-5-1-1, 3.23 GAA, .888 sv%, 0 SO
Playoff Totals: 4 GP, 2-0-0, 1.10 GAA, .958 sv%, 1 SO
A springtime snowman in Owen Sound. Andrew Shaw (undrafted) and Joey Hishon (Avalanche) each had two goals and Lightning prospect Geoffrey Schemitsch had two helpers to lead the Attack to a stomping of Windsor in the opening game of the OHL Western Conference Finals. Michael Zador did not dress for the Attack, and at the rate Scott Stajcer is going in net for Owen Sound, he likely wonâ€™t see the ice again outside of a possible trophy-carrying parade around the rink. Dallas Stars first rounder Jack Campbell allowed all eight goals for the Spits. Game 2 is Thursday in Windsor.
Western Conference Semifinals
No.4 Tri-City Americans 4 @ No.2 Spokane Chiefs 5 (OT)
Spokane wins best of seven series 4-2
RW Carter Ashton, TC: 0-1-1, -1, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 62 GP, 33-38-71, -6, 106 PIM
Playoff Totals: 10 GP, 3-5-8, E, 4 PIM
C Tyler Johnson, SPO: 0-0-0, E, 15 PIM (major-kneeing, game misconduct)
Season Totals: 71 GP, 53-62-115, +27, 48 PIM
Playoff Totals: 9 GP, 5-4-9, -1, 17 PIM
Tri-City held a 3-0 lead entering the third period against an opponent whose leading scorer, Lightning prospect Tyler Johnson, was forbidden to return to the game due to a misconduct. Before the Ams could stop dreaming about a Game 6 win and 3-3 series tie, Spokane had scored four times in the first nine minutes of the period to take a one goal lead. TC needed a power play goal to send the game to overtime, but Spokaneâ€™s Levko Koper (Thrashers) scored for the Chiefs to send the club on to the conference finals against Portland beginning Friday in Oregon.
With his team eliminated, Lightning prospect Carter Ashtonâ€™s junior career is now complete. The former Lightning first rounder, who already holds an NHL contract, can join the Norfolk Admirals if the organization so chooses. Next season heâ€™ll be competing for a spot with the big club out of camp.