And the streak reaches Rudy Poeschek.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 38 shots for the victory. He raised his save percentage to .908 and posted his 9th straight win and 28th overall for the season in his first start back from Tampa Bay. Looked like a standard Dustin Tokarski effort to me. He'll be tough on himself even though the first goal was on a breakaway, the second one appeared to go through him on a one-timer, and the third was off a rebound he might want back. But, in general, his movement and positioning was pretty well spot on and he made the key saves he needed to to get the win. Classic Tic.
NOR Palat, (7) , 1:00
ALB Zharkov, (15) , 13:29 (SH)
ALB Tedenby, (4) (Gelinas, Whitney), 8:42 (PP)
NOR Killorn, (1) (Conacher, Devos), 15:02
NOR Johnson, (29) (Panik, Barberio), 1:06
NOR Picard, (6) (Palat, Kostka), 13:55
ALB Anderson, (10) (Mills, Harrold), 18:39
Johnson's got goals in 9 straight games and is now 1 shy of a 30 goal rookie season.
I watched tonight's game specifically to see how Killorn is fitting in, and the answer is: seamlessly. They've put him on what I would classify their second line with Conacher and Devos, and he doesn't get lost in the wash. He's assertive and he's noticeable. He's playing a nice, simple north-south game down the wing with speed and shooting it every chance he gets. He tied for the team lead in shots last night and he did so again tonight. He's also sticking his nose in on the wall and he got his first pro goal tonight by going to the front of the net to the danger zone. He found an open path to the cage laterally from the left wing board down low along the goal line, and Conacher hit him with a nice feed, and then he made a pretty little finish switching forehand to backhand in tight with a d-man coming down on him. I'm looking forward to seeing him in a few weeks in the playoffs once he gets better accustomed to his teammates and we see more of the playmaking side of his game, too, but there was nothing tonight that I saw that made me believe we have made any mistakes ranking him so highly on this website. He's the real thing, and I think his effectiveness on each shift may be helped by the fact he's not going to have to log 20-25 minutes a night like he did for Harvard. He's also come to the right place to develop in a hurry playing for the Rookie Whisperer, Jon Cooper. Tonight, 3 of the 4 goals were scored by rookies, which has been the norm for much of this streak. Just add Killorn to the list.
Palat is playing on what is Norfolk's top line right now with Johnson and Richard Panik, and what I really have been shocked by is the development of Palat physically over the course of the last year. This isn't a guy who believes corners are only for bus stops and mail boxes anymore. This guy digs, and despite his size, he wins his fair share of battles. When you couple that with his playmaking abilities, you have yourself a player.
The most impressive prospect tonight, to me, was Panik, though. I am giddy at the development of Panik over the past few months. He wasn't perfect tonight in the sequence that led up to Albany's extra-attacker goal, but put that aside, and the tape of this game and the Admiral's win in the second game a week ago against Charlotte will show you just what a dynamic all-around player he has become in a short time. Last week was the dazzling between the legs goal and the hands. If you watch him, he's like guys like Lecavalier in that he'll try to do some really creative things that most players won't attempt in pro hockey, because he can. He did that once or twice tonight too on plays where he tried some setups that just missed clicking. Also, tonight, you saw the power game out of Panik. The turnover on Palat's goal was the direct result of Richard coming to destroy someone on a hit, and later in the game he absolutely killed Vladimir Zharkov finishing off a clean check that clearly dinged up Zharkov. The Panik attack is continuing to evolve, and whereas a month ago you might have been able to dismiss him as a guy who was living off the power play, right now he's playing the kind of game that projects well in all phases. Heck, Cooper's even using him with Conacher on the PK, and he's doing a really good job with that, too. If he continues to work as hard as he has been over the past little bit, the sky is the limit for this young man. He could be an All-Star caliber NHL player if he keeps his head and his heart in it. Remember, a year before his entry draft, Panik was projected as a top-10 pick before the bottom fell out due to some things that were beyond his control (limited ice time for his Czech Extraliga club) and some that were in his control (not training like a professional). So, the talent is there, and God bless Jon Cooper for reaching Panik and getting him on track.
Norfolk's win is it's 20th in a row (hence the Rudy Poeschek reference), and thanks to St. John's and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton going head-to-head tonight, a win tonight was going to help one of their magic numbers. Because the IceCaps knocked off the Penguins 2-0, Norfolk moves their division lead out to 14 points with the Pens holding 1 game in hand. So, with 8 games left in the regular season, the magic number for the division is close at hand (4 points, assuming the Admirals manage at least 1 more regulation/OT win). They also maintained an 11 point gap in the conference on St. John's, with the IceCaps holding 2 games in hand. So the Admirals have a magic number for the conference of about 10 points (ties get complicated, of course). Wednesday, St. John's comes to Norfolk to start a 2 game set with the Admirals, so winning those games will whittle that magic number down for the conference in a hurry, and by this time next Friday, the Admirals could have a lot of things effectively wrapped up, if they can keep on this streak another couple of games.
For those wondering, the team also holds a 6 point lead on Oklahoma City for the best mark in the AHL, with the Ads surrendering 1 game in hand. So, the magic number for home ice throughout the playoffs would be at about 13 points right now (again, ties get complicated).
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Sunday. Sunday. Sunday!
Jaroslav Janus allowed 2 goals on 32 shots for his 9th consecutive victory, besting tandem mate Dustin Tokarski's previous Admirals record of 8 set just a couple of weeks ago. He now has raised his save percentage to .906, which matches Tokarski's AHL save percentage, and his 17 wins ties him with several others for a spot in the AHL's top-20 in that statistical category.
NOR Conacher, (32) (Smith, Labrie), 7:07
NOR Cote, (2) (Devos), 8:59
CHA Boychuk, (15) (Terry, Sanguinetti), 13:42 (PP)
NOR Dimmen, (3) (Ouellet, Gudas), 1:55
NOR Johnson, (26) (Oberg), 6:26
NOR Palat, (6) (Johnson), 7:35
NOR Hutchings, (1) (Palat, Oberg), 15:02 (PP)
NOR Panik, (17) (Smith), 16:45
CHA Boychuk, (16) (Dalpe, Sanguinetti), 14:33
Ondej Palat (pictured) and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and second stars.
Tonight's box score should be the yard sign for Jon Cooper's candidacy for AHL Coach of the Year. Not only did Norfolk match the AHL single-season winning streak record with the win, but look at the scorers in this game. 7 different goal scorers. 6 of the goal scorers are AHL rookies. 7 rookies contributed points tonight. This is not a veteran-heavy team, nor is it being carried by 1 or 2 players. This team is young, athletic, and deep, but none of that means anything without a coach who builds a program and gets his young athletes to buy into the system.
Panik attack, y'all.
Oh yeah, and with Springfield's victory over Portland tonight, Norfolk also clinched a playoff spot, too. Norfolk now has 91 points (they only had 93 points all of last season, and that was a good team), which puts them 8 up on St. John's in the conference and 12 up on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the division. What stuns me the most, though, is that they've run their cushion on Hershey up to 19 points. Wow. What that all means is that, if they can finish strong and win the conference, the Admirals will very likely get a first round opponent with a negative goal differential for the season. Advantage Norfolk, which leads the league now with a ludicrous goal differential of +70. +37 (Toronto) is the next closest mark in the league, for reference. What that hopefully means is the Admirals can get out of the first round quickly. As any hockey fan knows, the playoffs are as much about attrition as they are about anything else. The Lightning's '04 Cup win would likely not have happened had they not disposed of the Islanders and Canadiens quickly in the first two rounds, giving them the gas to outlast the Flyers and Flames in a pair of 7-game series at the finish line. Conversely, the Lightning having to go 7 games against the Penguins in the first round in the 2011 playoffs likely led to them being out of gas by Game 7 against the Bruins. Norfolk is putting themselves in a position to potentially win the attrition war, and if they do, we know they have everything else to make a serious championship run.
History will be made, as the commercials say, Sunday at 3 pm against this same Charlotte team. A victory gives Norfolk the all-time, single-season AHL win streak mark. As Herb Brooks said to Team USA before they played the Finns in the Gold Medal match in 1980 after their legendary upset of the Russians, "If you lose this game you'll take it to your (expletive) graves... YOUR (EXPLETIVE) GRAVES!"
Finish the drill, Admirals. Make us proud.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Jaroslav the Bear Slayer!
Jaroslav Janus stopped 26 of 27 for the victory, raising his season record against the Hershey Bears to 4-0-1. Janus also raised his season save percentage to .900 in the game, capping a stellar February where he was 4-1-0 with a 1.98 GAA and a .932 save percentage.
NOR Conacher, (30) (Johnson, Barberio), 6:20 (PP)
HER Kane, (15) (Eakin, Bourque), 12:56 (PP)
NOR Palat, (5) (Johnson), 14:39
Janus and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars.
Cory Conacher, who may get a Lightning contract as early as tomorrow, notched his 30th goal of his rookie campaign. He's 10 back of the Admirals record, stalking Troy Brouwer.
Yet another 2 point game for Tyler Johnson. Ho hum.
Your Cooper/Flanagan 2012 update: Coach Cooper ran the Admirals' franchise record winning streak to 10 games. Norfolk stretched their division lead to 6 points over the idle Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and they've buried the Bears 10 points back in third place now. They've also built a nice 4 point cushion on St. John's for tops in the Eastern Conference, although St. John's holds 4 games in hand. Friday and Saturday hold a 2 game set for the Admirals against the middling Springfield Falcons.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Coach Cooper sets the Admirals record with the team's 9th straight win.
Dustin Tokarski stopped 28 of 30 for his 25th win of the season. He moves one ahead of Ben Bishop, who was traded to the Senators organization today, into the top spot in the AHL in wins, and he has to be the odds on favorite to lead the AHL at season's end after the trade. Even if the Sens leave Bishop in Bingo, Binghamton is dead last in the East Division, so he won't have a very good team in front of him. Tokarski has a 4 win advantage on the next closest goaltenders beyond Bishop. So, it's really his to lose. He's now 7-1-0 in February with 2 shutouts, a 2.00 GAA, and a .926 save percentage, so he certainly should be in line for some award consideration come March 1st, too.
WBS Street, (18) (Grant, Mormina), 12:27 (PP)
NOR Barberio, (9) (Johnson, Segal), 17:02 (PP)
NOR Cote, (1) (Johnson), 4:44
WBS Picard, (4) (Craig, Gibbons), 9:50
NOR Ashton, (19) (Dimmen, Conacher), 17:56 (PP)
Carter Ashton and Jean-Philippe Cote were the game's first and third stars. Alexandre Picard was the game's second star, but it was their Alexandre Picard, the former Lightning defenseman, and not the current Lightning farmhand. Ashton snapped a 9-game goalless streak with the tally, and he's now 1 shy of the 20-goal plateau in his rookie campaign.
With 2 assists today, Tyler Johnson continued his hot February. He's got 3 goals and 11 points in his last 8 games, and he's actually 3 points ahead of Ashton for second among Norfolk rookies behind the uncatchable Cory Conacher.
Glad to see Richard Panik not miss any time after the dirtiness in Hershey yesterday. As I said, that will get cleaned up on Wednesday, I'm sure.
Let me be the first to pronounce Bolt Prospects as the official campaign headquarters for Jon Cooper's (pictured with the Godfather of Lightning hockey) bid for AHL Coach of the Year. 9 straight wins snaps the previous franchise record for the Admirals, and when you consider there's 4 Admirals regulars with Tampa Bay right now due to injuries and trades, you realize how amazing a coaching job he's been doing. The other thing you really have to commend is how he's blended so many rookies into the winning formula. Jeff Dimmen, Ondrej Palat, Panik, Ashton, Johnson, and Conacher: that's 6 rookies he's coached up and worked into the rotation of a team that now is tied for tops in the entire AHL in points. And they're not the only rookies who have contributed. Philip-Michael Devos has also been a regular in this lineup, as well. It's been a remarkable job so far, and Julien BriseBois and Steve Yzerman have every right to break their arms slapping each other on the back for that hire. He's been damned good.
Norfolk now holds a 4 point lead on the Penguins for 1st place in the East Division and an 8 point lead on 3rd place Hershey, with the Bears holding a game in hand. They've also moved into 1st in the Eastern Conference by 2 points over St. John's, although the Ice Caps have a formidable 4 games in hand. For the moment, though, the Admirals are tied for tops in the AHL in points, and are tops in wins, goals, and goal differential (+47!).
Wednesday, they'll have the opportunity to put Hershey firmly behind the 8-ball with a 4-point game at Scope that could allow the Admirals to bury their arch-rivals in a 10-point hole that will be very difficult for Hershey to climb out of. The rest of the week holds a 2-game set on Friday and Saturday against a very mediocre Springfield Falcons team. So, Norfolk's got a big-time opportunity to keep the momentum rolling and really extend their lead in the East Division and start to set their sites higher on being the best team in the Eastern Conference and even the entire AHL. It's really, really exciting times.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
And, Nacho kicks the extra point!
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 22 shots for the victory. Much like Dwayne Roloson against the Sharks last night, here's a young man who loves his goal support. Despite his ugly save percentage on the night, by collecting his 23rd win of the year, Tic moved back into a tie with Peoria's Ben Bishop for the league lead in wins.
NOR Kostka, (8) (Johnson, Smith), 2:43 (SH)
SYR Holzapfel, (9) (Jacques, Caputi), 5:07 (PP)
SYR McMillan, (8) (Sexton, Carle), 9:37
NOR Johnson, (18) (Conacher, Fornataro), 16:11 (PP)
NOR Picard, (3) (Smith, Palat), 19:16 (PP)
NOR Conacher, (29) (Oberg, Barberio), 5:45
SYR Holzapfel, (10) (Gordon), 5:58
NOR Angelidis, (12) (Kostka), 9:57 (SH)
NOR Smith, (21) (Kostka, Oberg), 12:00 (PP)
NOR Labrie, (12) (Dimmen, Conacher), 13:00
SYR Schofield, (7) (Palmieri), 14:40
Mike Kostka and Trevor Smith were the game's first and second stars. Kostka, for the moment, sits in a tie for 5th amongst all defensemen at 31 points in 48 games. Mark Barberio still paces the field at 43 points in 51 games, and he's opened up a 4 point gap on second place.
Lost in the sizable shadow of Kostka and Barberio, though, has been the play of suitcase virtuoso Evan Oberg (pictured). He now has 16 points in 33 games this season, but the bulk of those points have come recently. He has 10 points in his last 10 contests, which is impressive while pulling dual duty in between his role as the Mayor of Concourse B at Norfolk International Airport.
Ondrej Palat has 5 points in his last 4 games. Impressive, but Tyler Johnson raised Palat with 7 points over the same span. It took nearly 5 months, but Johnson has run down fellow rookie Carter Ashton in both points and goals. The two are now knotted up at 18 goals a piece and TJ's now moved 1 point ahead of Ashton at 35 for the season.
Lapping the entire field of rookies, league-wide, is phenom Cory Conacher. His 29 goals and 60 points are 4th amongst all scorers, and his tally tonight moved him out of a 3-way tie for the top spot in goals. Consider the possibilities, Lightning fans. The organization could have the goal scoring champions at both the NHL and AHL levels in the same season. That's quite the feather in the Lightning's cap.
Norfolk's victory allows them to keep pace with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the top spot in the East Division, and by virtue of Hershey losing a 6-0 decision to Providence, they've opened up a 3 point lead on the third place Bears. Winning the East Division looks like it may be CRITICAL to the Admirals' chances come the playoffs. They want to avoid a possible 4/5 matchup against the Bears or Penguins in the first round and get a less experienced club from the Atlantic or Northeast in the first round, instead.
The Admirals rematch Syracuse tomorrow. As always, we stress how difficult it is to beat the same team on back-to-back nights, especially when you thump them the first night. Let's see if Norfolk has learned that lesson yet.
Box score from TheAHL.com.