N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 4/11
USHL â€“ 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.
All bad things must come to an end.
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.
07:10 ATL Armstrong (21), (Bogosian, Enstrom)(PP)
16:30 ATL Perrin (7), (Reasoner, Exelby)(SH)
17:17 TB Pettinger (8), (Halpern, Quick)(PP)
09:15 ATL Kovalchuk (43), (White, Hainsey)
14:09 ATL Hainsey (6), (Peverley)(PP)
16:32 ATL Armstrong (22), (Kozlov, Peverley)
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.
You get the sense Norfolk and the Lightning farm system has finally turned the corner.
Craig Kowalski allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the victory, including stopping 21 of 22 in a Katey-bar-the-door final frame.
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
NOR Buck, (1) (Swanson, Simek), 6:13
NOR Jones, (20) (Lundin, Segal), 10:56
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.
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.
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?
Craig Kowalski allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory.
NOR Keller, (17) , 5:51
NOR Segal, (24) (Jones), 7:47 (PP)
NOR Segal, (25) , 12:25
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)
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.
Game outing by the young defense.
Karri Ramo allowed 3 goals on 32 shots for the loss in his final start of the season.
00:36 TB Stamkos (22), (Konopka, St. Louis)
09:19 WSH Laich (21), (Backstrom, Green)(PP)
05:37 WSH Laich (22), (Green, Nylander)
06:08 WSH Steckel (8), (Bradley, Aucoin)
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!
N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 4/8
Tokarski slams the door on Vancouver ... Fadden scores, but leaves hurt ... Cunti scores as Rimouski moves closer to closing out Barberio and Moncton ... Cape Breton loses again on home ice ... CHL playoff updates.
Interesting nugget buried deep in one of Erik Erlendsson's blogs:
Lightning prospect and former Kings first round pick Lauri Tukonen has been in Tampa to get an injury looked at. Tukonen missed much of the second half of the season with Lukko of the SM-liiga with an injury. Now, Erlendsson says in the blog that Tukonen isn't an impending signing, but it's something that makes you wonder.
Also, thanks to Erik for linking to the BP profiles for several players.