Jaroslav Janus stopped all 24 shots he faced tonight for his first shutout as a professional. He didn't have to face a ton of quality chances, but he got himself in front of the ones Lowell did have. His athleticism is outstanding, and if his positioning ever catches up, he'll be an NHLer.
NOR Parrish, (13) (Fornataro, Fadden), 11:58
NOR Simek, (14) (Keller, Mihalik), 17:40 (PP)
NOR Tyrell, (3) (Tarkir), 17:37 (SH)
Janus, Dana Tyrell, and Mark Parrish were the game's three stars. It was a big night for the Presov Mafia all around between Janus' shutout, Juraj Simek having a power play goal, and big Vladimir Mihalik getting his 10th point of the season. All three players were born in Presov, Slovakia, and all three played well tonight.
For my money, Tyrell was the best player on the ice tonight, though. He's starting to exhibit a level of hockey sense in how to use his speed that I've never seen in his career, and it's got to have the Lightning salivating. He's so quick and his acceleration is so outstanding, defensemen are terrified of him. He's starting to use that to his advantage and curling when he gets into the zone to buy an extra 2-3 feet of ice, or slowing up a step to also buy him some space, and it gives him the chance to make the pass or shoot. It's a lot like how Martin St. Louis uses his speed, and Tyrell's shorthanded goal was a prime example of it. He barrelled into the zone on a 2-on-2, started to slow up as an Admirals trailer was jumping into the zone, and just allowed the traffic to flow by the net before blistering a top corner shot for the goal. Buy stock in Tyrell now while it's still undervalued. You'll make your money back five fold. On a related note, Mitch Fadden is an absolute magician with the puck when he has time and space. He's fun to watch when he's running the power play from the right wing half board.
Norfolk outshot Lowell 41-24 in the game, and it seemed like they played 3/4 of the night in the Devils' zone. In fairness, Lowell only dressed 4 natural defensemen tonight due to injuries and call ups. Norfolk gets Lowell again tomorrow night, and considering the way the blueliners on Lowell's tongues were wagging from fatigue, it's a prime chance for Norfolk to get back-to-back wins in two nights against the same opponent, which is difficult to do.
From a standings standpoint, it was a nearly perfect night for the Admirals. In the East Division, 2nd place Albany fell to Hershey, so the Admirals now close to within 4 points of second place with the River Rats having 1 game in hand. 3rd place Norfolk extended its lead over 4th place Adirondack, which was idle, to 4 points with the Phantoms holding 3 games in hand. They also extended their lead over 5th place Syracuse to 6 points after Syracuse was defeated by Portland. Syracuse holds 2 games in hand over Norfolk, and fell into a tie at 50 points with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which defeated Binghamton tonight in a shootout. The Pens hold two games in hand on the Admirals. The Admirals extended their lead over 7th place Binghamton to 9 points in the process, but the Sens hold 5 games in hand.
In the crossover, Providence blew out the Atlantic Division's 5th place team, Hartford, pulling the Admirals to within 1 point of the Wolf Pack with Hartford holding 1 game in hand. As readers of this blog are probably sick of hearing at this point, if the 5th place team in the Atlantic Division finishes ahead of the 4th place team in the East Division, they will still go to the playoffs, so it's important for the Admirals to not only take care of business in their division. They also need to try to make sure they outpace 5th place in the Atlantic to maximize their playoff chances. Bridgeport and Providence are tied for 6th in the Atlantic with 55 points, 1 point behind Norfolk with the Bruins having 1 game in hand on the Ads.
Norfolk has 15 home games remaining on the schedule and 11 on the road. They've pulled to 2 games under .500 at The Scope and they're 4 games over .500 away from home. Point being: if the Admirals can keep improving on their Division-worst home mark, they'll be in fantastic shape.
Jim Johnson is 9-1-1-1 in his first dozen games as Head Coach. Instant gratification.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Norfolk caps the Mother of All Road Trips with a 13 round shootout victory. They finish their long journey 6-0-1, undefeated in regulation.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 1 goal on 37 shots before stopping 9 of 13 shooters in the penalty shot session for the victory in his first shootout as a pro.
NOR Fornataro, (5) (Wishart, Craig), 14:58 (PP)
BRI Haley, (4) (Gannon), 16:11
NOR- Jones, Fadden, Simek, Cruthers, Wishart
BRI- Smith, Mauldin, Moore, Haskins
Ty Wishart and Tokarski were named the game's first and third stars. Amazingly, this was only the second shootout of the season for Norfolk. They sure did get their money's worth, though, by going 13 rounds. I said in the NHL recap the other night when the Lightning played the Ducks that shootouts usually aren't that exciting. Well, trust me, this one was exciting.
Norfolk came out very strong in the first period and could've easily had a 3-0 lead after the opening frame were it not for how well Bridgeport's goaltender, Scott Munro, played. In particular, I though the line of Ryan Craig, Blair Jones, and Dana Tyrell were excellent on the forecheck in that period and throughout the game. As the game progressed though, the Admirals started to tire and they were dragging mightily by the time overtime came around. This was their 7th road game in 10 days, and it's a testament to their conditioning that they rose to the occassion and pulled out wins these past couple of days.
Mitch Fadden is electric with the puck in space, and he had the cold blooded trigger finger of an assassin in the shootout tonight. If he can just bulk up to help him be stronger on the puck along the wall, he's got a chance to be a really good NHL player.
The victory pushes Norfolk back to .500 for the season at 23-23-3 with 49 points. For the moment, they hold third place in the North Division outright by 2 points with 4th place Adirondack locked in a 1-1 tie at Rochester as of this posting. 5th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton kept pace with a 3-1 win over Manitoba, and remain 3 points back of the Admirals with 2 games in hand. 6th place Syracuse, which is now 5 points back of Norfolk, is idle and will gain a game in hand. Last place Binghamton is down 1-0 to Hershey as of this posting and have now fallen 7 points behind Norfolk. Binghamton will have 4 games in hand on Norfolk, but they're in danger of losing their 4th game in a row and falling out of the chase.
Norfolk has also moved within 3 points of Hartford and Bridgeport, which are tied at 52 points for 5th in the Atlantic Division. Norfolk holds 2 games in hand on Bridgeport, but none on Hartford. If the 4th place team in the East finishes ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic, they will get in and nullify the possibility of a crossover.
Norfolk's big schedule advantage is that they now have 20 home games and just 11 road games remaining. They are 4 games under .500 at home and 4 games over .500 on the road. Traditionally, though, The Scope has been one of the toughest places to play in the AHL, and if the Admirals can regain their superiority there they should be in fantastic shape. Norfolk will get their first home test under Head Coach Jim Johnson Wednesday. It will be a big one, as they face Hershey, which has been the class of the league for much of the past two seasons.
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.
Jim Johnson is 3-0-0 as coach.
Dustin Tokarski returned to the Admirals just in time to lay down a 24 save shutout for his club. That's solid.
NOR Tyrell, (1) (Craig, Hall), 12:44
Dana Tyrell and Tokarski were the game's first and third stars. Congratulations to Tyrell on his first goal of the season and second as a professional. Dana had 1 goal and 6 points in 11 games as an amateur tryout at the end of the 2007-2008 season. The Admirals outshot Lowell 33-24 in the game.
The Admirals now creep to 3 games under .500 for the season as their road trip rolls on. Oddly, the team is 12-11-2 on the road and 8-12-0 at home, even though playing at The Scope traditionally has been a huge advantage for Norfolk. Norfolk has 15 road games left on the schedule and 20 at home, so if they can start to defend home ice better, that may make the difference in They are 2 points behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the final playoff spot in the division with the Penguins holding a game in hand. Norfolk has the Hartford Wolf Pack up next on Wednesday.
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.