The website for Elitserien club Lulea is reporting that they have signed Lightning overage prospect forward Johan Harju to a 1-year deal. Harju was the Norfolk Admirals' lone representative in the AHL All-Star Game and appeared in 10 games for the Lightning this season, totaling 1 goal and 3 points.
A brave Norfolk Admirals team has nothing to be ashamed about effort-wise in this playoffs.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Wins the Series 4-2
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 27 shots, including an unsuccessful third period penalty shot by Joe Vitale in the third period. Considering the winning goal was essentially a 3-on-1, there's not much more Tic could've done tonight. He finishes the playoffs with 1 shutout, a 2.20 GAA, and a .924 save percentage, and he looks like a lock to be Norfolk's starter next season. In all likelihood, Cedrick Desjardins will be the backup in Tampa Bay next season, and Tokarski's play down the stretch seems to indicate he's the type of netminder who wants and needs to be the clear cut #1 in order to be at his best after struggling a bit as a tandem starter with Desjardins. He's regained the title of the Lightning's "Goaltender of the Future" and the priority for next season, his third pro season, will be for Tokarski to prove he can be that consistent #1 goalie before potentially moving up to the NHL in the 4th season of his pro career. At least, that seems to be what the plan is for Tic.
WBS Wagner, (1) (Walker, Craig), 2:13 (PP)
WBS Wagner, (2) (Potter, Walker), 3:58 (PP)
WBS Wagner, (3) (Wallace, Potter), 18:36
NOR Pouliot, (4) (Ritola, Vernace), 14:18
NOR Jones, (1) (Ritola, Milam), 16:03 (PP)
WBS Vitale, (2) (Wallace, Collins), 7:23
NOR Wright, (1) (Fornataro, Pouliot), 10:35 (PP)
WBS Wallace, (1) (Vitale, Potter), 18:57 (EN)
WBS Sill, (1) (Strait, Thiessen), 19:21 (EN)
Marc-Antoine Pouliot was the game's third star.
When you consider the Penguins came into this series the best team in the Eastern Conference, and the Admirals had to win their last game just to avoid having to cross over into the Atlantic Division, the Admirals have nothing to feel ashamed of in playing this series so tightly. The hard work and character of this Admirals team is worthy of mention, and the team and organization have come such a long way in 4 seasons since the Lightning started their affiliation with Norfolk.
Coincidentally, the East's crossover team, Binghamton, just knocked off Manchester in Game 7 to advance to the Atlantic Division final against Portland. One wonders what shape a Norfolk/Manchester series might have taken if Norfolk hadn't beaten Connecticut to close the regular season.
The big question now is what this Norfolk Admirals team will look like next season, with several of their older players facing contract decisions and several of the Lightning's best young prospects ticketed for Virginia next season.
Will veterans like Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Chris Durno, Mike Vernace, Mathieu Roy, and Troy Milam be back with the team next year? What about long-time pros like Blair Jones, Mike Angelidis, Mattias Ritola, and Vladimir Mihalik? Mihalik and Ritola just finished their 4th years of pro hockey and Jones and Angelidis finished their 5th. Many of these players will surely have opportunities to play in European leagues next season. We know Johan Harju will, for instance, and the question is whether Johan will stay in North America after a disappointing second half. And will Kevin Quick's time in the Lightning organization be over as well?
Conversely, the Admirals will need to free up spots for several of the Lightning's top prospects. Carter Ashton and Charles Landry have already made appearances for the club this season in the playoffs. Richard Panik and Tyler Johnson seem like locks to be in Norfolk next season, too.
Next season could be a big change for the Admirals organization, as the last vestiges of previous regimes pass on. Change is inevitable for a minor league club, but the Admirals seem destined for even more change than is the norm. The good news is that they seem to have good goaltending locked down and even better coaching after a successful inaugural campaign by Head Coach Jon Cooper and assistant Mike Flanagan along with player development consultant Steve Thomas. This group seems to have taken a decent foundation laid by earlier teams and made it even stronger this year, and that foundation can help the new Admirals grow to be even more successful than this year's edition, in time. Look at how well guys like Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas took to the league this season. It portends good things.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
It's an organization-wide Lightning vs. Penguins playoff matchup.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 3 goals on 20 shots for the victory.
NOR Pouliot, (25) (Ritola), 9:26
NOR Szczechura, (21) (Milam, Barberio), 15:46 (PP)
NOR Jones, (24) (Pouliot, Ritola), 19:22 (PP)
CT Mitchell, (8) (Couture, Valentenko), 1:02
NOR Ritola, (9) (Jones), 3:15
NOR Szczechura, (22) (Wright, Harju), 5:34
CT Valentenko, (5) (Yogan, Dupont), 13:10
CT Niemi, (3) (Grachev, Couture), 11:56 (PP)
NOR Angelidis, (20) , 17:36
In 56 games, Blair Jones set a new career high in points with 55. His previous high was 54 in 80 games two seasons ago.
Johan Harju finishes his rookie AHL campaign with 23 goals and 52 points in 63 games, and a +15 rating.
With the victory, Norfolk leapfrogged Binghamton into 4th place in the East Division. That means Norfolk will draw the top team in the Eastern Conference, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, in the first round. The Pens have the stingiest goaltending and defense in the conference, allowing just 183 goals (2.29 GAA). It'll also be an interesting meeting of old friends, as a key member of the Pens is BoltProspects alumni Ryan Craig. Craig had 19 goals and 48 points to finish 2nd on the Pens in scoring this season.
It's a brutally tough matchup. The key will be for Norfolk to focus on getting a win in the first two on the road. Get that win, settle into the grind of the series, and let the chips fall where they may. On paper, Norfolk is as talented as anyone in the conference, although there's a question mark in net with Dustin Tokarski recovering from getting slashed with a skate. If they get goaltending, though, they have a chance.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Well, at least Harju got off the schnide.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 5 goals on 31 shots in his first game back from his date with a skate blade for the loss. He did stop a penalty shot in the game.
NOR Harju, (22) (Szczechura), 11:04
SYR Palmieri, (29) (Schofield), 2:17 (PP)
NOR Berry, (14) (Roy), 7:39
SYR Macenauer, (13) (Green, Clark), 7:55
SYR Green, (15) (Deschamps), 10:05 (SH)
SYR Deschamps, (15) (Green), 11:45 (SH)
NOR Harju, (23) (Jones, Barberio), 6:52
SYR Maroon, (26) (Holland, Guenin), 10:48 (PP)
NOR Vernace, (7) (Milam, Harju), 14:46
Johan Harju was the game's second star.
With an assist tonight, Mark Barberio made it to the 30 point plateau. Not a bad rookie season for the young man.
Good news/bad news: Charlotte won, so 3rd place in the East Division is out of the question. Binghamton lost, though, so if Norfolk wins tomorrow, they can climb to 4th in the East Division. More interesting, Connecticut lost, so Norfolk has clinched not worse than the #3 seed in the Atlantic Division via the crossover. They play Connecticut tomorrow night, and they now have two potential matchups: win and they get the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (and their .728 winning percentage). Lose and they draw the Manchester Monarchs (and their .620 winning percentage). Yes, the crossover rule is the dumbest in professional sports, and the only reason it's not an outrage to me is that I consider it only fair seeing how Norfolk was jobbed out of playoff spot last season by it. Not to be a conspiracy theorist, and Manchester is certainly no pushover, but perhaps the egg the Admirals laid in Syracuse over the past three nights had a silver lining?
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Norfolk punishes Binghamton for having the audacity to come into town.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 17 shots for the victory. Life is good when the snowman works for you.
BNG O'Brien, (17) (Wick, Locke), 4:20
BNG Bass, (3) (Hoffman, Kinrade), 7:26
NOR Harju, (21) (Fornataro, Vernace), 14:08 (PP)
NOR Szczechura, (15) (Harju, Milam), 16:08
NOR Barberio, (9) (Giliati, Berry), 10:42
NOR Pouliot, (20) (Wright), 16:53
NOR Szczechura, (16) (Harju), 0:44
NOR Wright, (12) (Jackson, Fornataro), 7:16
BNG Daugavins, (16) (Kinrade, Wiercioch), 8:33 (PP)
NOR Wright, (13) (Berry, Milam), 15:53 (PP)
NOR Wright, (14) (Pouliot, Fornataro), 19:22
James Wright, Paul Szczechura, and Johan Harju were the game's three stars. For Wright, it was his first hat trick as a professional while Paul Szczechura became the 7th Admiral to break through the 15 goal mark this season. For his part, Marc-Antoine Pouliot became the 3rd Admiral to break 20 goals this year. Point being: Norfolk is scary deep and balanced at forward.
Norfolk extends to a 6 point lead on 5th place Binghamton in the East Division and burns another game in hand on Charlotte by pulling within 1 point of the idle 3rd place Checkers with 1 more game in hand. Norfolk also kept pace with 2nd place Hershey and are 8 points back of the Bears with 2 games in hand. In the crossover, Norfolk maintained a 7 point edge on the Atlantic's 4th place team, Worcester.
Playoffs are looking very good with 15 games left to go and the Admirals probably needing about 9-10 more points to get a playoff spot. Norfolk goes to Hershey on Sunday to try to make some headway against the 2nd place Bears.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Dustin Tokarski allowed just 1 goal on 22 shots for the victory. Tokarski is 7-2-2 since the start of February.
NOR Angelidis, (17) (Vernace, Berry), 11:51
NOR Nelson, (7) (Angelidis, Roy), 19:59
NOR Harju, (20) (Szczechura, Mihalik), 15:39
NOR Barberio, (8) (Labrie), 17:59
BNG Wick, (14) (Hoffman, Lehner), 2:12
NOR Pouliot, (19) (Fornataro, Harju), 13:10 (PP)
Mike Angelidis, Johan Harju, and Levi Nelson were the game's three stars. Harju became the second Admiral to hit the 20 goal mark this season. Blair Jones was the first, and Marc-Antoine Pouliot may be the next after scoring his 19th tonight.
It's hard to under-emphasize the importance of tonight's win for the Admirals. The club regained its 4 point gap on Binghamton for 4th place in the East Division and cashed in a game in hand to move within 3 points of Charlotte for 3rd with 2 games in hand still remaining. Just as well, Hershey lost 3-2 to Worcester tonight, so Norfolk moved within 6 points of 2nd place with 3 games in hand on the Bears and they maintained a 5 point gap on the Sharks and Connecticut Whale in the worst-case scenario where a crossover into the Atlantic Division bracket becomes necessary. A loss tonight would have been a disaster for the Admirals, but now Binghamton is the club sweating as they hold a playoff spot by a slim, single point.
There are 16 games remaining in the regular season. Norfolk faces these same Senators on Friday at Scope.
Box score and extended statistics from TheAHL.com.
It was Bear hunting season tonight at Scope.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 1 goal on 29 shots for the win. With Curtis McElhinney plucked away by Ottawa on waivers, the number one job in Norfolk is now Tokarski's, unless Cedrick Desjardins finds a way to return from injury. Tonight was a good opening statement for Tic.
HER Pinizzotto, (16) (Willsie, Greentree), 7:44
NOR Ritola, (1) (Fornataro, Tokarski), 12:51
NOR Jones, (19) (Vernace, Szczechura), 9:05 (PP)
NOR Jones, (20) (Pouliot, Milam), 9:41
NOR Pouliot, (18) (Milam, Harju), 19:55 (PP)
NOR Durno, (15) (Angelidis, Wright), 0:32
NOR Ritola, (2) (Pouliot, Gudas), 13:17
Blair Jones, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, and Mattias Ritola were the game's three stars. Jones became the first Admiral to hit 20 goals this season, matching his career high set two years ago. Difference is: his 20 goals in 2008-2009 came in 80 games and was largely the product of Jones playing a lot of point on the power play. He reached that threshold in 47 games this season and has developed into a far more well-rounded player. Ritola scored his first 2 goals as an Admiral and now has 11 points in his first 9 games with the club.
With Chris Durno scoring his 15th goal tonight, the Admirals now have 6 players with 15 or more goals: Pouliot, Jones, Johan Harju, Matt Fornataro, Durno, and Mike Angelidis. Entering the year, it appeared the formula for success in Norfolk would involve having multiple scorers chasing around 20 goals without pure snipers like the departed Brandon Bochenski. It certainly appears that formula has been followed so far.
With the win, Norfolk seized 4th in the East Division outright over Binghamton by 2 points, while still holding 1 game in hand. They also burned a game in hand on Charlotte and are now 3 points back of 3rd place with 2 games in hand. They're also now 7 points back of the Bears for 2nd place with 2 games in hand. In the crossover, Norfolk holds an 8 point advantage on the Atlantic's 4th place team, Worcester.
There are 20 games left in the regular season. Norfolk next faces Albany on the road on Friday. They'll face the Bears again this weekend (Saturday) in Hershey and finishes out the week in Binghamton on Sunday. With three games in three nights, it will be interesting to see if and when Coach Cooper starts Jaroslav Janus.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Norfolk comes from behind for its biggest win of the season.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 20 shots for the victory. It's not a good percentage for the game, but he does finish the month of February with a 4-1-2 mark, 1 shutout, a 2.06 GAA, and a .917 save percentage, which is more in line with the numbers he put up last season. He also evened his ledger up at 14-14-4 for the year.
NOR Milam, (11) (Ritola, Barberio), 9:07 (PP)
NOR Barberio, (7) (Ritola, Harju), 10:28 (PP)
ALB Henrique, (19) (Zalewski, Anderson), 16:04
ALB Leach, (2) (Magnan, Anderson), 5:28
ALB Anderson, (18) (Henrique, Zalewski), 16:41 (PP)
NOR Harju, (19) (Ritola, Barberio), 0:23 (PP)
NOR Jones, (18) (Milam, Harju), 4:39
Mark Barberio and Johan Harju were the game's first and third stars after guiding a shining Admirals performance on the power play. Barberio finished with 1 goal and 2 assists in the game, all on the power play. Barberio now has 7 goals and 22 points for the season, and today was his first 3 point game as a pro. Another game or so like that would really help him chase down that 30 point mark for the season. Harju, Norfolk's All-Star, now has 19 goals, which is 1 ahead of Blair Jones and 2 ahead of Marc-Antoine Pouliot for the team lead. The race is on to see who gets to 20 first, but it sure looks like all 3 will make it.
Today's win was very important in the standings. With Binghamton losing to Adirondack, Norfolk moved into a tie with the Senators at 71 points and the Admirals temporarily will hold the 4th spot in the division by virtue of a better winning percentage. The team also cashed in 1 of its games in hand on Charlotte and is now 5 points back of the 3rd place Checkers with 3 games still in hand. So, although I'm not sure I'd be thrilled about a first round series against Hershey, Norfolk is starting to get a handle again on their own destiny. In the crossover, Worcester won and Springfield lost, so the Sharks climbed to 3rd in the Atlantic Division and Springfield remains tied with Connecticut at 64 points. Norfolk holds a 7 point lead on both teams with 1 game in hand on the Whale and 2 games in hand on the Falcons. So, Norfolk appears to have arrested their slow recession with today's win and they're now 5-3-0-2 in their last 10 games.
There are 21 games remaining in the regular season and Norfolk moves on to play Hershey at home on Wednesday night. They'll be back in Albany on Friday, then in Hershey on Saturday, before a critical game in Binghamton on Sunday. It's a big week coming up for the Admirals. If they ran the table, they could cut the Bears' lead for 2nd in the division to not more than 5 points, although that's a big if. Norfolk should get goaltender Curtis McElhinney into the fold for the week, barring an unexpected waiver claim by another team. McElhinney hasn't seen AHL action since 2007-2008 with Quad City when he was 20-18-2 with 3 shutouts, a 2.28 GAA, and a .911 save percentage. He was outstanding in the AHL in 2006-2007 with the Omaha Knights where he had a phenomenal 35-17-1 record with 7 shutouts, a 2.13 GAA, and a .917 save percentage. So, he's been an excellent player in the AHL and he should bring a lot to the table for Norfolk down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
The Lightning greet their friends from the desert with a snowman.
Dwayne Roloson allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the victory.
01:59 TB Purcell (13), unassisted
03:01Â TB St Louis (21), Harju (2), Thompson (11)
07:54Â TB St Louis (22), Lecavalier (18), Bergeron (4)(PP)
14:55Â TB Stamkos (41), Clark (15), Lecavalier (19)(PP)
17:54Â TB Lecavalier (14), St Louis (50), Stamkos (36)(PP)
02:43 TB Purcell (14), Lecavalier (20), Jones (12)
08:17 TB Purcell (15), Lecavalier (21), Gagne (11)
12:28 PHO Hanzal (14), Boedker (4), Vrbata (21)
04:52 TB Hall (7), Bergenheim (13), Moore (11)
09:16 PHO Turris (10), Doan (28), Schlemko (6)
10:44 PHO Schlemko (1), Korpikoski (17)
Teddy Purcell, Vincent Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis were the game's three stars. That sound you heard was the rest of the league opening up a window to jump out of after Vincent Lecavalier managed a 5 point night. Teddy Purcell continues his breakout season with a hat trick to put him 5 shy of the 20 goal mark.
It was a good game for the Lightning to exorcise some recent demons by getting their power play back on track and getting Marty and Stammer back on track from a goal scoring standpoint. With their marathon homestand coming to a close soon, the Lightning opened their division lead back up to 3 points with 1 game in hand on Washington.
In just his second game with the club, Eric Brewer played 19:42 and was +2 with 3 hits. You can't beat that with a stick. He actually led all Lightning defensemen in ice time tonight. He's going to be a big help to this club in the playoffs.
Johan Harju had an assist and 4 shots on goal in 12:19. You know Coach Boucher had to like having the luxury of giving the rookie a little more ice time tonight.
Dwayne Roloson allowed 3 goals on 29 shots before allowing 2 of 7 shooters to convert in the shootout loss.
12:42 PHI van Riemsdyk (13), Giroux (33), Carter (24)
00:59 TB Moore (10), Hall (6)
07:33 PHI Hartnell (18), van Riemsdyk (13), Meszaros (16)(PP)
08:48 PHI Powe (5), unassisted (PS)(SH)
09:55 TB Lecavalier (13), Bergeron (3), St Louis (47)(PP)
10:48 TB Purcell (12), Kubina (17), Vernace (1)
PHI- Richards, Timonen
I give a lot of credit for how the Lightning responded to falling behind by a pair of goals. They responded to adversity the exact opposite to how they did in the last Buffalo game, and that's a welcome sight to see.
Good news/bad news: the Lightning fall 5 points back of the Flyers for 1st place in the conference, but they did move to 6 points ahead of Washington in the Southeast Division with 25 games left in the regular season.
Johan Harju was +1 in 8:24.
Michael Vernace had his first NHL assist and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:44.