AHL Game Night: 3-20-10 Phantoms at Admirals

Tic, the Cap'n, and the Bottle Rocket get the win.

ADK-1
NOR-3

Dustin Tokarski was brilliant in the win stopping 38 of 39 shots he faced. He took Andreas Nodl's lunch money twice in the game to make sure the Admirals got the win and the necessary 2 points. When he's on like he was tonight, he's cooler under pressure than Billy Dee Williams and the other side of the pillow, combined.

First Period
NOR Craig, (22) (Tyrell, Mihalik), 7:14
ADK Dingle, (5) (Klotz, Lehtivuori), 14:39

Second Period
NOR Hall, (15) (St. Pierre, Tyrell), 19:43

Third Period
NOR Tyrell, (9) (Jackson, Craig), 19:18 (EN)

Tokarski, Adam Hall, and Dana Tyrell were the game's three stars.

The unsung hero of the game, though, was Ryan Craig, who not only was Johnny on the Spot on the first Admirals goal, popping in a rebound that was laying beside the goal line, but whose faceoff wins set up the other two Admirals talleys, including his critical faceoff win on Tyrell's empty netter. He is leading this team by example, and his line with Hall and Tyrell is arguably one of the 5-10 best in the AHL right now. I sure hope the Lightning can find a way to keep Ryan in the organization, because he's one heck of a captain for the Admirals. In fact, I'm beginning to think the "C" stands for commodore. I just promoted him in rank.

For Tyrell, it was the first 3-point game of his pro career. His previous 7 multi-point games this season were 2-pointers. He shot from downtown tonight. He now has 23 points in his last 18 games and 8 multi-point efforts in that span. He set up the Admirals' first goal by beating out an icing with his speed, he helped shovel the puck back to the points for a helper after Craig's faceoff win on the second goal, and his blazing speed victimized former Lightning forward Jason Ward to beat out another icing for the empty net goal.

Vladimir Mihalik set a new career high in points with 17 with his assist on the Admirals' first goal. He was also as surly as I've ever seen him at his own net front.

In the standings, which mean everything right now: Norfolk still sits in 3rd place in the East Division with 78 points in 71 games and 9 games left to play. 2nd place Albany fell 2-1 to Binghamton tonight, so the Admirals have pulled to within 6 points again of the River Rats and the Ads hold 1 game in hand. 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defeated Rochester 5-4 to keep pace with the Admirals and remain 1 point back of Norfolk with 1 game in hand. The rest of the division looks done with Binghamton 10 points back and Syracuse and Adirondack now 12 points back.

In the crossover, which is becoming a cluttered mess again, Manchester defeated Bridgeport in overtime, which unfortunately awarded a 3rd point in that game, and Lowell defeated Portland in overtime as well. So the Atlantic Division looks like this: 3rd and 4th place Manchester and Lowell have 79 points, 1 ahead of Norfolk, with the Monarchs holding 2 games in hand and the Devils holding 1 game in hand. 5th place Bridgeport is 2 points behind the Admirals with 1 game in hand. Why is this important? If the Admirals fall to 4th place in the East Division they must finish ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic to reach the postseason.

So, coming down the stretch, things are starting to bunch up with 6 teams fighting for 5 spots. And, that sets up a colossal 2-game set at The Scope on Wednesday and Friday between Norfolk and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton that could be season defining for the Admirals. Both teams will bleed, sweat, and pay the price with 3rd place in the division and possibly the playoffs on the line. And, with David Hale coming off IR in Tampa Bay, one wonders if some defensive help might be on the way from the Lightning just in time.

Box score from TheAHL.com.