Don Simek makes sure the Crunch will sleep with the fishes.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the win.
NOR Simek, (17) (Lashoff, Tarkir), 4:21 (PP)
NOR Tyrell, (5) (Lashoff, Parrish), 19:40
SYR Bell, (10) (MacKenzie), 2:26 (PP)
SYR LaVallee-Smotherman, (6) (Sestito, Frischmon), 19:32
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.
Norfolk brought out the big 16 inch main guns tonight, and blasted Hartford into oblivion.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 3 goals on 24 shots and bathed in sweet, sweet goal support for the victory.
NOR Simek, (16) (Jones, Tyrell), 11:57
NOR Bochenski, (17) , 14:49 (PP)
HFD Dupont, (11) (Nightingale, Roche), 16:19
NOR Hall, (10) (Craig, McGinnis), 0:53
NOR Lashoff, (6) (Szczechura, Bochenski), 12:07 (PP)
NOR Jackson, (1) (Bochenski, Parrish), 17:52
NOR Craig, (17) (Tyrell, Lashoff), 1:18
HFD Crowder, (11) , 12:45
NOR Wishart, (8) (Szczechura, Lashoff), 17:37 (PP)
HFD Nightingale, (2) (Owens, Brashear), 19:45
Brandon Bochenski, Ryan Craig, and Matt Lashoff were the game's three stars. It's a shame the Admirals can't keep all this weaponry past the end of the Olympic break, because they're terrifying now that they've got Parrish and Bochenski in the fold, Lashoff is playing better, and guys like Tyrell and Fadden are starting to show their potential. Bochenski set the all-time Norfolk Admirals record for goals scored in the AHL with his first period marker.
Norfolk outshot Hartford 45-24 in the game. Awesome.
Ty Wishart is now up to 8 goals and 25 points for the season. The goal of a 30 point season is in the crosshairs.
Paul Szczechura has 1 goal and 9 points in 9 games since being sent back down to Norfolk, including 3 multi-point games in his last 5 outings.
Juraj Simek, the Don of the Presov Mafia, has goals in 4 of the past 5 games and 4 goals and 6 points in his past 6.
Tyrell has 2 multi-point games in his past 3 outings and 1 goal and 5 points in his past 4.
Lashoff has 2 goals and 7 points in his last 6 games.
Norfolk moves back to within 4 points of Albany for 2nd place in the East Division with the Rats holding 1 game in hand by virtue of their victory and Albany getting pasted 9-2 tonight by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The 4th place Pens are 4 points behind Norfolk with 2 games in hand. Norfolk is also 6 points up on 5th place Adirondack with the Phantoms holding 3 games in hand. 6th place Syracuse is 8 points back with 2 games in hand. Last place Binghamton is fading, 11 points back of Norfolk with 5 games in hand.
In the crossover, Norfolk holds a 3 point lead over Providence, Hartford, and Bridgeport with the Bruins holding 2 games in hand and the Wolf Pack and Sound Tigers each with 1 game in hand.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
No Lashoff? No Parrish? No problem.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the win. He's now 5-6-1 on the season with 1 shutout, a 2.01 GAA, and a rock solid .925 sv%. He's actually got better numbers than Tokarski.
LOW Palmieri, (18) (Vasyunov, Walter), 12:48
NOR Fornataro, (7) (Craig, Fadden), 17:33
NOR Simek, (15) (Szczechura), 12:16
NOR Craig, (15) (Tyrell, Szczechura), 17:25
NOR Craig, (16) (Fadden, Wishart), 18:39 (PP)
NOR Mihalik, (1) (Tyrell, Hall), 16:01
Ryan Craig, Paul Szczechura, and Vladimir Mihalik were the game's three stars. It was another banner night for the Presov Mafia between Janus' win, and both Juraj Simek, and Mihalik's goals. Mihalik's marker was his first of the season, and with a +3 night he jumped to +1 for the season.
Lowell got former Lightning d-man Cory Murphy back for this game, so they dressed 5 natural defensemen for this game rather than the 4 from last night, but it didn't matter. Even with Matt Lashoff out for a second straight game attending to family matters and Mark Parrish held out, presumably for a recall to the Lightning, the Admirals still dominated the Devils.
Norfolk remains in 3rd place in the East Division, 4 points behind 2nd place Albany, which dismantled Binghamton 7-0 tonight. Albany holds 1 game in hand. They widened their lead on 4th place Adirondack to 6 points after the Phantoms fell to Portland 5-4. Adirondack has 3 games in hand. They are now tied at 52 points with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after the Penguins upset Hershey 5-0 tonight. So the Pens are 6 points back of Norfolk with 2 games in hand. In 6th place is Syracuse, which lost 2-0 tonight to Manchester. They're 8 points behind Norfolk with 2 games in hand. All the way in 7th place in Bighamton, which is now 11 points back of Norfolk with 5 games in hand.
Norfolk's win moves them 1 point ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic Division, so the Admirals are starting to take the crossover off the table. Even if they finish 3rd in the East Division, finishing ahead of the crossover 5th place Atlantic team is critical for the Admirals if they want to avoid a date with Hershey in the first round of the playoffs. 5th in the Atlantic is now a 3-way logjam with Providence, Hartford, and Bridgeport all at 57 points. Providence knocked off Springfield 3-1 tonight and Bridgeport beat Hartford 6-4 to create the three team pile-up. Both Providence and Hartford have 1 game in hand on Norfolk.
Norfolk's next game is on Monday, which will be an epic clash in Albany against the River Rats. An Admirals win could pull the team to within 2 points of 2nd place in the East Division.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Jim Johnson is 4-0-0 as Head Coach.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the win.
NOR Lashoff, (4) (Simek, Hale), 2:51 (PP)
HFD Byers, (12) (Locke, Roche), 10:05 (PP)
NOR Parrish, (11) (Fadden, Wishart), 14:12
HFD Crowder, (10) (Ambuhl, Owens), 2:42
HFD Roche, (1) (Locke), 6:49
NOR Tyrell, (2) (Cruthers), 10:10
NOR Hale, (1) (Smolenak, Lashoff), 19:09 (PP)
HFD Locke, (19) (Williams, Heikkinen), 15:08 (PP)
NOR Fadden, (2) (Fornataro, Jackson), 17:14
Mark Parrish was named the game's first star. It's absolutely amazing. After being nowhere statistically for the first half of the season, Mitch Fadden and Dana Tyrell have stepped up and found the scoresheet regularly on this road trip. After going 38 games without a goal, Tyrell now has a goal in each of the past couple of games. And, after going scoreless for the first 15 games of his pro career, Fadden now has 1 goal and 5 points in the past 4 games.
After a scoring change on the game winning goal, Ty Wishart now has 4 multi-point games in his last 6 contests. He's got 20 points now. Why not 30? You can also file Matt Lashoff having his first multi-point night of the season tonight in the category of good news. Much like Radek Smolenak, who started to get on track in the last game and had an assist tonight, the Admirals need Lashoff to start playing to his potential if they're going to push their way into the playoffs.
All in all, despite allowing 4 goals, the Admirals can feel very good about tonight's win considering their captain, Ryan Craig, is away from the team temporarily while he and his wife are having a baby. With the win, Norfolk now creeps to just 2 games under .500. More to the point, the Admirals have jumped to with 1 point of Adirondack for the final playoff spot in the East Division, with Adirondack holding 2 games in hand. They're tied with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at 44 points with the Penguins also having 2 games in hand. They've also moved 2 points ahead of Binghamton, but the Senators hold 4 games in hand.
Norfolk gets a day off before heading back to Springfield, which is in last place in the Atlantic Division, on Friday night. Here's the big one, though: circle it on your calendars. Norfolk has a colossal 4 point divisional tilt in Adirondack on Saturday night. Looking at the schedule, the formula for the Admirals to make the playoffs is pretty simple: they have 14 road games left and 20 at home. They're playing 2 games over .500 on the road by and games under .500 at home. If they can start protecting home ice better and win the lion's share of the 4 point divisional tilts left on their schedule, they will get in. Norfolk has 4 games left against Adirondack (2 home/ 2 away), 6 games left against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (4 home/ 2 away), and 3 games left against Binghamton (0 home/ 3 away).
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Late tonight, after the conclusion of the Admirals' game against the Adirondack Phantoms, the Lightning and GM Brian Lawton announced that Head Coach Darren Rumble has been relieved of his duties. Assistant Coach Jim Johnson has been named the new Head Coach and Assistant Coach Leigh Mendelson will remain with the team. Rumble departs the Admirals, officially, with a 50-61-6-5 record in one and a half seasons with the team, although he unofficially assumed the role of Head Coach midway through the 2007-2008 season. Norfolk is currently 17-23-2 this season, which is last place in the AHL's East Division and six points out of a playoff spot.
In my mind, two things contributed to Brian Lawton's decision to make a move. First, although the Lightning have promoted several players to Tampa Bay this season, Norfolk returned a very deep roster dotted with numerous NHL and AHL veterans. While it may not have been fair to expect this team to be competing with Hershey for the division title, this roster probably should be in the thick of the pack in the East Division fighting for second or third, not in last place. The second factor is that, although some prospects like Blair Jones and Dustin Tokarski are having excellent seasons, some of the Lightning's most prized prospects have struggled, namely Matt Lashoff and Dana Tyrell.