Mihalik, Vladimir

AHL Game Night: 3-19-10 Phantoms at Admirals

Heeeeeyyyyyy there goes a snowman!

ADK-4
NOR-8

Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 32 shots, but bathed in the clear, cool waters of rejuvenating goal support for the win.

First Period
ADK Holmstrom, (1) (Marshall, Pyorala), 3:46
NOR Craig, (21) (Hall, Fornataro), 8:45 (PP)
NOR Tyrell, (7) (Craig, Hall), 14:22

Second Period
ADK Ross, (10) (Pyorala, Bourdon), 0:14
NOR Hall, (14) (Lashoff, Craig), 5:36
NOR Keller, (14) (Mihalik, Tarkir), 8:57
ADK Nodl, (10) , 9:54
NOR Keller, (15) (Lawrence, Jones), 13:29

Third Period
NOR Ashton, (1) (Panik, Marks), 2:36
ADK Kalinski, (9) (Bellamy, Bodrov), 5:27
NOR Fadden, (6) (Fornataro), 6:39
NOR Tyrell, (8) (Jackson, Hall), 9:22

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

Norfolk got the benefit of facing two extremely inexperience netminders, Teslak (13 games of AHL experience coming into the night) and Mayotte (8 games of AHL experience entering the night), and absolutely punished them for daring them to step off the bus all game long. Norfolk gets Adirondack again tomorrow night, and I know it's hard to beat a team twice on back-to-back nights, but both of those young netminders have to be shell shocked.

Congratulations to Tyrell on the first multi-goal game of his professional career. Some folks may look at his numbers for the season and draw the conclusion he's had a pedestrian rookie season (8 goals and 31 points in 64 games). But, it should be pointed out that since 2-12-10 the speedy forward has posted 6 goals and 20 points in 17 games. We always expected Tyrell to get off to a slow start while he shook off the rust after knee surgery, and we always thought he'd have a strong second half. But, I don't think we ever believed he'd be this strong. In those 17 games he has 7 multi-point outings, all 2 point affairs, including tonight's game. He's got world class speed and acceleration and world class ethic, and has shown that he has underrated hockey sense in the offensive zone. He's one to watch, for sure.

Congratulations to Carter Ashton on his first professional goal, set up by Richard Panik for his first professional assist. That's a scoresheet combo I'm sure the Lightning would love to see often over the next 5-10 years.

Vladimir Mihalik tied his career high in points (16) with his assist on Justin Keller's first goal.

With the win, Norfolk reaches 76 points, which surpasses their point total of 75 from a season ago. They still sit in 3rd in the East Division and moved to within 8 points of 2nd place Albany with the Admirals holding a game in hand. 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton stayed just 1 point behind the Admirals with the Pens holding a game in hand by overcoming a 3 goal deficit against Springfield tonight. 5th, 6th, and 7th place Syracuse, Adirondack, and Binghamton are all 10 points back of Norfolk with all three holding 1 game in hand on the Admirals. So, coming down the stretch, this is shaping up into a 3-5 team dogfight between the Admirals, Penguins, and a logjam of about three teams (Manchester, Lowell, and Bridgeport) in the Atlantic that could wind up in 5th place in that division but still make the playoffs because of the crossover rule.

In the crossover, 3rd, 4th, and 5th place in the Atlantic Division are beginning to bunch up. Lowell lost tonight and Manchester lost in a shootout, so they're tied 77 points, 1 point ahead of the Admirals and 2 points ahead of 5th place Bridgeport, which beat Syracuse. So the Ads hold a slim 1 point lead on Bridgeport with the Sound Tigers hanging onto a game in hand, but if you look at the past 10 games as the trend, Bridgeport may climb up to third in the Atlantic and it may be Manchester or Lowell that slips all the way to 5th. 6th place Providence remains alive, 6 points back of the Admirals and 5 back of the Tigers.

So, now, it's a 10 game sprint to the finish line for the Admirals and we'll see if this snowman they just hung on Adirondack gives them a little extra kick in the final 100 meters. Norfolk has 7 games remaining at home and 3 on the road. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has 5 at home and 6 on the road. Ultimately, though, this is coming down to the three head-to-head matchups the Admirals have with the Penguins in the remaining few weeks of the season. Win and they're in. Lose and they'll be scoreboard watching what the Atlantic Division teams do, which is not the position you want to be in.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-17-10 Admirals at Penguins

And now things get really tight in the playoff race.

NOR-1
WBS-2

Dustin Tokarski allowed just 2 goals on 25 shots, but his first period softie allowed to Jesse Boulerice ended up being the margin of defeat.

First Period
WBS Boulerice, (4) (Conner, Lee), 4:23
WBS Johnson, (13) (Haddad, Wagner), 13:19 (PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NOR Fornataro, (9) (Wishart, Fadden), 15:22

It was a beautiful stickhandling play by Matt Fornataro that helped pull the Admirals to within one goal late in the game. Defenseman Ty Wishart got his 31st point of the season on the play, but he should be chastized along with Vladimir Mihalik for some very soft play along the wall in the defensive zone, especially in the first period. The soft goal, the soft play along the wall, and a disgustingly bad 0-for-8 power play doomed the Admirals in this one. That, and Mitch Fritz losing his mind at the end of the second period, including the ever-classy crotch chop to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton crowd, drawing a double minor and game misconduct that killed off about a quarter of the third period for a Pens team that only held on by one goal.

On the bright side, the two pro debuts went pretty well tonight. Carter Ashton almost had a beautiful goal chipping the puck between two defenders and showing surprising burst to split them and get himself a breakaway. He got in too tight on the backhand, though, and couldn't lift the puck to notch the goal. He had another chance a few minutes later when he spun out in front from behind the net on his backhand. Had he been a little more patient, he could've taken another half stride and maybe stuck it in far post. Richard Panik had one good chance from the slot, but the defining play for him was a downright nasty check he threw coming back into the Admirals zone. Downright nasty. In case you didn't know, he's strong as a bull.

Norfolk's lead over the Pens is down to 1 point with the Pens holding 1 game in hand. Uh oh. Norfolk has 11 games left to play in the season: 3 on the road and 8 at home. Norfolk draws Adirondack at Scope on Friday.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-5-10 River Rats at Admirals

Five straight wins at home for the Admirals.

ALB-2
NOR-3 (SO)

Jaroslav Janus allowed 2 goals on 28 shots before stopping 2 out of 4 shooters in the penalty shot session for the shootout win. Janus moved his record to above .500 for the season at 7-6-0 with the win, and he's riding a personal 5 game winning streak.

First Period
ALB Terry, (14) (FitzGerald), 3:47

Second Period
NOR Hall, (12) (Tyrell, Craig), 9:59
NOR Keller, (13) (Mihalik, Tyrell), 16:07 (PP)

Third Period
ALB McBain, (6) , 0:26

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
ALB- Terry, McBain
NOR- Keller, Jones, Fornataro, Fadden

Adam Hall, Janus, and Justin Keller were the game's three stars.

In a stunning development, Juraj Simek, the Don of the Presov Mafia, was stopped for the first time all season in the shootout. He was the one and only Admiral to fail to convert on Justin Pogge. With a pair of assists, Dana Tyrell had his 5th multi-point game in his last 11 games, and he's on a 3-game point streak. Vladimir Mihalik notched his 6th point in his last 12 games and has matched his season total for point from a year ago and is 1 point shy of his career best AHL season. Paul Szczechura is about to be recalled to Tampa Bay and did not play tonight.

The win moves the Admirals to within 1 point of Albany for 2nd place in the East Division with the Rats holding 1 game in hand. The Admirals will give the Rats a rematch tomorrow night at The Scope, and a regulation win could move Norfolk into 2nd place all by themselves in the division. Fourth place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is losing 4-1 to Syracuse in the third period. If that holds up, Norfolk will move 7 points up on the Penguins with the Pens holding 3 games in hand. 5th place Adirondack lost to Rochester 5-2 and, if the Crunch's score holds up, they'll be tied with Syracuse at 12 points behind the Admirals with each team holding 3 games in hand on Norfolk. Bolt Prospects has declared the Binghamton Senators deceased.

In the crossover, Bridgeport beat Portland 5-4, Providence fell to Manchester 2-1, and the Hartford Wolf Pack were idle. So, the Admirals remain 5 points up on the 5th place team in the Atlantic (Bridgeport), move 7 points up on the 6th place team (Providence) with the Bruins holding 2 games in hand, and the Admirals move 11 points up on 7th place Hartford with the Pack holding 3 games in hand. If the Admirals were to fall to 4th in the East Division, they would have to finish ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic to make the postseason.

It's an epic clash tomorrow between the Admirals and the Rats with 2nd place in the division potentially up for grabs.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Day: 2-28-10 Admirals at Crunch

Don Simek makes sure the Crunch will sleep with the fishes.

NOR-3
SYR-2

Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the win.

First Period
NOR Simek, (17) (Lashoff, Tarkir), 4:21 (PP)
NOR Tyrell, (5) (Lashoff, Parrish), 19:40

Second Period
SYR Bell, (10) (MacKenzie), 2:26 (PP)
SYR LaVallee-Smotherman, (6) (Sestito, Frischmon), 19:32

Third Period
NOR Simek, (18) (Szczechura, Mihalik), 15:54

Juraj Simek and Matt Lashoff were the game's first and second stars. Simek, the Don of the Presov Mafia, is now 2 goals shy of the first 20 goal season of his AHL career and has had multi-point nights in each of the past two games.

Vladimir Mihalik, the Luca Brasi of the family, assisted on Simek's winner and finishes the month of February at +13 with 6 out of 11 games at +2 or better. He had only one minus game the entire month, and had 2 goals and 5 points, too. He's now 2 points shy of his AHL career high of 16 points set in his rookie season.

Norfolk moves back into a tie for 2nd in the East Division at 70 points with Albany. The Rats are losing 4-2 late in the third period to Portland as of this posting. If that score holds up, all will be square with Albany holding 1 game in hand. Norfolk picked up 1 point on 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which lost in a shootout to Hershey 2-1. They are now 7 points back of the Admirals with 3 games in hand. Norfolk also picks up 2 points on idle Adirondack, which is 10 points back with 3 games in hand. The Crunch are now 12 points back with 2 games in hand, but are on a 2 game losing streak and sub-.500 in their last 10 games. They're falling out of the mix quickly. Binghamton is being fitted for a toe tag. They're now 20 points behind the Admirals and not even 6 games in hand can save them.

In the crossover, the Atlantic's 5th and 6th place teams, Bridgeport and Providence, are idle, so Norfolk is now 7 points up on Bridgeport and 9 points up on Providence with the Sound Tigers holding 1 game in hand and the Bruins holding 3 games in hand. Hartford, which is tied in points with Providence, is down 3-1 to Lowell in the 2nd period as of this posting. They'll burn one of their 2 games in hand they hold over the Admirals, win, lose, or draw tonight. If the Admirals were to fall to 4th in the East Division, they would have to finish above the 5th place team in the Atlantic Division to make the postseason.

So, it was a critical weekend, and the Admirals got their minimum requisite 4 of 6 points and came 1 goal shy of really burying the Phantoms' playoff chances too. That leaves Norfolk in a very nice position schedule-wise for the rest of the season. The Admirals have just 5 games left on the road and 12 games left at the friendly confines of The Scope left on the schedule. That's a potentially huge advantage for the Admirals down the stretch. Compare that to Albany, which has just 7 home games left this season.

And, on a very nice note, the Admirals' win tonight places them at 19-13-3 this season on the road, so they've clinched a better than .500 road record. That's pretty impressive for a team that was 10 games under .500 away from Scope last year. Their 33 wins also ties their win total of all last year and they are just 5 points shy of their point total for all last season, too. The corner is being turned. It'll be interesting to see if the Admirals can finish off this run they're on and clinch home ice for the first round of the playoffs, and if they'll be able to utilize some of the Lightning's best prospects as ATO's once their junior seasons are over to help push the team over the top in the postseason.

Expect a couple of moves with the Lightning returning to work on Tuesday. Janus heading back down seems a certainty, and my money is on Parrish moving back up as well.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

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