Fargo Advances; Wright Helps Vancouver Force Game 7

N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 4/13

Wright's big game sends series to seventh game ... Fadden finished ... Witkowski scores first playoff goal as Force advances.

60.8%

In case you were wondering, the Lightning have a 60.8% chance of receiving one of the top two picks in the NHL Draft Lottery to be conducted on Tuesday. The 2009 NHL Entry Draft is considered to have two top prospects: C John Tavares of London of the OHL and D Victor Hedman of MODO of the Swedish Elitserien. Hedman, in particular, may be a good fit for a Lightning team desperate for a legitimate number one defenseman.

The Lightning have an 18.8% chance of winning the lottery and moving up to the top pick, at which point they might select the offensively gifted Tavares and create an offensive trio in Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, and Tavares the likes of which would make even the Pittsburgh Penguins with Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin envious. Or, the team could make a deal with the Islanders to move down to the #2 spot to take Hedman, who may be a more natural fit. Interestingly, the Islanders hold the San Jose Sharks' pick, which will be 29th or 30th in the first round, that the Lightning previously held before the Andrej Meszaros trade, and might be part of a fair package for the Lightning to move back a spot.

The lottery will be held at 8 pm on Tuesday and carried on Versus.

Fargo on Brink of Upset

N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 4/11

USHL – Division Semifinals

Fargo Force 4 @ Omaha Lancers 2
Fargo leads Best of 5 series 2-0
D Luke Witkowski, FGO: 0-0-0, +1, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Playoff totals: 2 GP, 0-1-1, +3, 4 PIM
Season totals: 55 GP, 6-16-22, +30, 118 PIM

Witkowski and No.3 Fargo completed the road sweep of No.2 Omaha, and return home Sunday to try to close out the series in North Dakota.

In the CHL, Kelowna (over Fadden's Americans), Cape Breton (Ward), and Spokane (Tokarski) can all close out their series Sunday.

NHL Game Night 4/11: Lightning at Thrashers

All bad things must come to an end.

TB-2
ATL-6

Mike McKenna allowed 4 goals on 15 shots for the loss before giving way to Karri Ramo, who allowed 2 goals on 11 shots the rest of the way. The Lightning have a signing decision with McKenna coming up this offseason, and I doubt allowing a goal to go through him and then being pulled was the final impression "Mack" wanted to make on management. Just my opinion, but we've probably seen the last of McKenna with the development of Riku Helenius in the AHL and the arrival of Dustin Tokarski to the pro ranks next season.

First Period
07:10 ATL Armstrong (21), (Bogosian, Enstrom)(PP)
16:30 ATL Perrin (7), (Reasoner, Exelby)(SH)
17:17 TB Pettinger (8), (Halpern, Quick)(PP)

Second Period
09:15 ATL Kovalchuk (43), (White, Hainsey)
14:09 ATL Hainsey (6), (Peverley)(PP)
16:32 ATL Armstrong (22), (Kozlov, Peverley)

Third Period
00:46 TB Stamkos (23), (unassisted)
06:20 ATL Stuart (5), (Reasoner)

The Lightning end up dropping from 31 wins and 71 points a year ago to 24 wins and 66 points this season. You know, for the amount of crap OK Hockey and their GM Brian Lawton talked garbage about the former GM, coaches, and scouts, I sure hope they man up and take accountability for the fact they did even worse this season, and then learn some valuable lessons (like defense and coaching are important, for instance). Post mortem to follow in the coming days. Draft lottery Tuesday night.

Noah Welch was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 14:58. He came on toward the end after an awful start to his stint with the Lightning. My preference would be to have Welch as a depth player in the organization offering veteran presence to the Norfolk Admirals next season. I'd love to see he and Richard Petiot wear the battleship next year.

Zenon Konopka was -1 with 7 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 9:05. He was also 57% on draws. He does offer energy to the fourth line in the form of being an agitator and fighter, but I wanted to see more on the forecheck from Konopka. I like a fourth line that chews the ends off the boards, personally.

David Koci was -1 in 6:01. Long term, I think the Lightning need to draft and cultivate somebody who can play 8-10 minutes a night and fight the other team's heavies. I'm not sure Koci is that guy.

Paul Szczechura was -1 with 4 shots, and 3 hits in 17:05. He was also 36% on draws. In the last week or two, I don't think there's another bubble guy who helped his stock more to make the team next season than Szczechura.

Martins Karsums was -1 with 1 shot in 11:26. I didn't see enough from Karsums to make me believe he shouldn't be ticketed for Norfolk next season, if he stays in North America.

Kevin Quick got his first NHL point, and assist, and was -1 with 1 shot in 14:57. There were shifts he looked overmatched tonight defensively and he reminded you that he's still got a couple of years in the making.

Matt Lashoff was -3 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 23:02. He'll want to burn the tape of this game, methinks.

Vladimir Mihalik was -1 with 2 blocked shots in 15:59. In his final callup of the year, his positioning and poise seemed to improve. However, you'd still like to see the assertiveness and aggression level go way up. He is just way too soft for a man his size right now. There's no excuse for anybody to ever physically beat him coming out from behind the net or the corners.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night 4/11: Admirals at Penguins

You get the sense Norfolk and the Lightning farm system has finally turned the corner.

NOR-4
WBS-3

Craig Kowalski allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the victory, including stopping 21 of 22 in a Katey-bar-the-door final frame.

First Period
WBS Henrich, (3) (Wallace, Jeffrey), 7:53
WBS Bissonnette, (9) (Daoust, Vitale), 8:30
NOR Sgroi, (2) (Buck, Simek), 10:47
NOR Smolenak, (24) , 15:59

Second Period
NOR Buck, (1) (Swanson, Simek), 6:13
NOR Jones, (20) (Lundin, Segal), 10:56

Third Period
WBS Vitale, (2) (Bissonnette, Lovejoy), 16:52

ATO Brandon Buck was the game's first star, with Kowalski and Blair Jones being named second and third stars respectively.

Jones capped a season in which he was an iron man playing all 80 games with his 20th goal. It's the first 20 goal campaign of his career. Mike Lundin got his 29th point, finishing just shy of the 30 point plateau.

Norfolk was the nastiest spoiler in the east in the final couple of weeks of the season. They knocked Binghamton out of the playoffs last night and they denied Wilkes-Barre/Scranton the division title in tonight's game. That's with a lot of ATO's playing on the team's lower lines and lower pairing. Impressive. Like I said last night, Darren Rumble is becoming a hell of a coach. We may see him in Tampa Bay some day. The Ads jump from 29 wins and 65 points a season ago to 33 wins and 75 points this season. Post mortem in the following days.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Tokarski Stops 60 in 4OT Win; Barberio's Season Ends

N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 4/10

Witkowski and Fargo strike first ... Cunti and L'Oceanic moving on to face Volts ... Tokarski comes out a winner in second longest WHL game ever ... Barberio going home ... Fadden watches as Ams fall at home.

Lightning Target Gilroy Wins Hobey Baker

Damian Crisdotero of the St. Pete Times is reporting on his blog that Boston University defenseman Matt Gilroy has been named the winner of the Hobey Baker Award, given to the NCAA's best player. Gilroy, who turns 25 this July, is a 6'2" 202 lbs. senior defenseman who will become an unrestricted free agent after BU's title game matchup with Miami of Ohio tomorrow. Gilroy has been courted by several teams, including the Lightning who have been heavily interested in Gilroy since last season. The team had Gilroy in Tampa last summer, and they have sent assistant coach and BU alumni Mike Sullivan to Boston to recruit Gilroy earlier this year.

Gilroy had 8 goals and 36 points in 44 games this season and has been lauded for his skating and passing ability. Of added interest to the team's pursuing Gilroy is that he is also the semi-rare and coveted right-handed shot. Because of his age, there is no limit to what Gilroy could earn as a free agent, and he is considered to be NHL ready right out of school. The question is: will Gilroy turn down bigger money from larger northern markets in order to have the opportunity to play in the NHL sooner with the Lightning?

AHL Game Night 4/10: Admirals at Senators

Unbelievably awesome.

NOR-6
BNG-1

Craig Kowalski allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory.

First Period
NOR Keller, (17) , 5:51
NOR Segal, (24) (Jones), 7:47 (PP)
NOR Segal, (25) , 12:25

Second Period
NOR Segal, (26) , 3:22 (SH)
NOR Graddock, (1) (Zingoni), 5:23
NOR Keller, (18) (Lundin), 9:50
BNG Smith, (7) (Hennessy, Bois), 11:07 (SH)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Brandon Segal, Justin Keller, and Kowalski were named the game's three stars.

On paper, the Admirals had no business even being competitive in this game. Norfolk had nothing to play for other than pride and the possibility to climb out of the division basement. At the other end of the rink, Binghamton came into this game tied with Philadelphia for the final playoff spot in the division and desperate for points. Norfolk's bottom lines and bottom pairings were riddled with ATO's due to call-ups and injuries. This should have been a cake walk for Binghamton, but just like their last game out against the Penguins, the core of this Admirals team absolutely refuses to lay down.

In my mind, over the past two years Darren Rumble has developed into a hell of a coach. He got several of these young players like Radek Smolenak to start believing in themselves down the stretch of last season, and this season he's instilled a sense of pride in a minor league system that hasn't had any since they were the Atlanta Knights of the IHL.

I think the team tonight also took the guess work out of who you keep and who you let go. All of the top-six forwards and top-four d-men from this game need to be retained, which means Geoff Kinrade needs a contract. With the further development of this clubs young players and the introduction of some new talent like Dana Tyrell, next season is one where the Admirals should legitimately be a playoff team.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

NCAA Game Night: 4/9

2009 Frozen Four - Semifinal
Vermont Catamounts 4 vs Boston University Terriers 5
F Matt Marshall Ver: Did not play

Word of the night...talented

NHL Game Night 4/9: Capitals at Lightning

Game outing by the young defense.

WSH-4
TB-2

Karri Ramo allowed 3 goals on 32 shots for the loss in his final start of the season.

First Period
00:36 TB Stamkos (22), (Konopka, St. Louis)
09:19 WSH Laich (21), (Backstrom, Green)(PP)

Second Period
05:37 WSH Laich (22), (Green, Nylander)
06:08 WSH Steckel (8), (Bradley, Aucoin)

Third Period
12:53 TB Pettinger (7), (Szczechura, Mihalik)
19:55 WSH Green (31), (unassisted)(EN)

Noah Welch had 3 hits and 3 blocked shots in 21:52. He's improved lately. I can't deny it.

Zenon Konopka had an assist and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 12:54. He was also 100% on draws. He had a strong first period, but got shuffled down to the lower lines later in the game.

David Koci had 2 penalty minutes in 6:30.

Paul Szczechura had 1 assist, 2 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 16:31. He was also 50% on draws. He's really putting a stamp on the end of this season to make his case to be on the team next year. He's been flying the past couple of games.

Martins Karsums was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 11:30. Karsums was the antithesis of Szczechura tonight, making the case why he belongs in Norfolk next season. He didn't get back in time on Washington's winning goal.

Kevin Quick had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:54. My gosh can he skate and my gosh does he have no fear with the puck on offense. Offensively, Kevin Quick's balls are so big their gravity effects the tides. I still say he needs to prove he can be a dominant player at the AHL season next year before he makes the jump in 2010-2011. However, he sure does remind you of Dan Boyle.

Vladimir Mihalik had 1 assist and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 13:14. He made a couple of nice plays, including a good pass that resulted in the Stamkos goal. He was in better position tonight, so his skating looked less awful. You could still time the release of his shot with a sun dial, though.

Geoff Kinrade was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 17:32. Sullivan even used him at the end of the game when the extra attacker was out. I was fairly impressed. He skates really well. Not Kevin Quick well, but well enough that you notice it. Contract?

The Panthers missed the playoffs again. Haaaa haaaa!

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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