Mihalik, Vladimir

AHL Game Night: 2-27-10 Admirals at Senators

Don Simek is so money in shootouts it's painful.

NOR- 3
BNG- 2 (SO)

Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 37 shots and stopped 3 of 4 shooters to secure the shootout victory.

First Period
BNG Smith, (11) , 2:05 (SH)
NOR Bochenski, (21) (Simek, Tarkir), 7:53
BNG O'Brien, (5) , 16:05

Second Period
NOR Jones, (7) (Simek, Lawrence), 2:05

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
NOR- Szczechura, Simek, Jones
BNG- Hamel

Tokarski and Brandon Bochenski were the game's first and third stars.

Juraj Simek, the Don of the Presov Mafia, remained perfect in shootout attempts this season to go along with his pair of regulation helpers. His enforcer, Vladimir Mihalik, was +2 in the game. That pushes Mihalik's +/- for the month of February to +11 with one more game left this month. He's been +2 or better in 5 of 10 games in that span. Mihalik's career best season was a +9 set in his rookie season, and he is now at +8 so far this year.

Blair Jones scored his first goal since being reassigned from Tampa Bay and scored the clinching goal in the shootout session to send the paying faithful in Binghamton to their automobiles.

Mark Parrish missed tonight's game after getting nicked in the game against Adirondack. He is questionable for tomorrow, as is whether Interim Head Coach Leigh Mendelson will ride Tokarski for a third straight game, insert PTO Matt Lundin, or if the Lightning will FedEx Jaroslav Janus to Syracuse in time for the key 4-point matchup.

It was a critical win for Norfolk because almost all of their competition in the East Division playoff race won tonight. 2nd place Albany beat Manchester 5-2 to stay 2 points up on Norfolk with 1 game in hand. 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton dismantled Providence 5-1 to stay 6 points back of Norfolk with 3 games in hand. 5th place Adirondack pulled out a 3-2 shootout win against Lowell to stay 8 points back of Norfolk with 2 games in hand. 6th place Syracuse was the only team that didn't keep pace. They fell 2-1 to Springfield and are now 10 points back of the Admirals with 3 games in hand. If Norfolk can beat the Crunch tomorrow afternoon, it may be the straw that breaks their back. Binghamton is done. They're 18 points back with 5 games in hand, but they're also 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. Which team needs a fork stuck in them? Bingo is their name-o.

In the crossover, Hershey beat 5th place Atlantic Division team Bridgeport like the Sound Tigers had stolen a large sum of money from Chocolate Town. The 9-2 spanking drops Bridgeport 5 points back of Norfolk. 6th place Providence falls 7 points back of Norfolk with 2 games in hand. They are now tied in points with Hartford, which lost 2-1 to Portland in overtime. Hartford has 1 game in hand on the Admirals. So, the Admirals did gain ground in the crossover. If Norfolk were to drop to 4th in the East Division, they must finish ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic to make the postseason.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 2-24-10 Admirals at Senators

Another successful hit for the Presov Mafia.

NOR-4
BNG-3

Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 37 shots for the win.

First Period
NOR Fadden, (4) (Jones, Szczechura), 7:51
NOR Bochenski, (20) (Parrish, Wishart), 19:11

Second Period
BNG Smith, (9) (Bass, Condra), 16:32

Third Period
NOR Craig, (19) (Tyrell, Hall), 7:28
BNG O'Brien, (4) (St. Pierre, Hennessy), 8:54 (PP)
BNG Smith, (10) (Condra), 9:46
NOR Mihalik, (2) (Hall, Tyrell), 17:28

Vladimir Mihalik and Ryan Craig were the game's first and third stars. Mihalik, the Luca Brasi of the Presov Mafia, has 2 goals in his last 6 games after going 51 games without a marker. More to the point, though, Mihalik is +9 so far in the month of February with 4 games with a +2 rating or better.

Dana Tyrell posted his 4th multi-point game in the past 6 outings. Ty Wishart continued to inch toward the 30 point plateau with his 27th point of the season. Brandon Bochenski became the first Admiral to hit 20 goals this season, with Craig 1 back at 19.

It's a tribute to the veteran leadership of the team that they got the young players prepared and ready to go tonight, and congratulations to Interim Head Coach Leigh Mendelson on his first AHL victory.

The win is critical, as Norfolk is now tied for 2nd place in the East Division at 66 points with Albany with the Rats holding 1 game in hand. They extended their lead to 6 points over 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with the Pens having 2 games in hand and 10 points over 5th/6th place Adirondack and Syracuse with each of those teams also holding 2 games in hand. The win also might've been the final nail in Binghamton's coffin, as they are now 17 points behind Norfolk, and not even 5 games in hand seem likely to save them.

In the crossover, Bridgeport fell to Abbotsford in regulation tonight, so Norfolk opened a 3 point lead on the 5th place team in the Atlantic, and a 7 point lead on 6th/7th place Providence and Hartford with the Bruins and Pack holding 2 and 1 game in hand, respectively. If Norfolk were to fall to 4th in the East Division, they would need to finish ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic to make the postseason.

Now things get interesting starting Friday with the Admirals having back-to-back-to-back games. They can really damage Adirondack's chances in a big 4-point contest to start the marathon, followed by another game in Binghamton on Saturday, and then concluding with a game against Syracuse that could further winnow the field of playoff contenders in the East Division. If Norfolk were to win at least those two big 4-point games, they might be able to narrow the playoff field in the division down to 4 teams effectively fighting for 3 spots: Albany, Norfolk, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and whoever ends up being the 5th place team in the Atlantic Division. Will Norfolk's coaching situation be sorted out in the next 45 or so hours? And, with Jaroslav Janus serving as practice netminder in Tampa, will PTO Matt Lundin have to make his AHL debut in one of the weekend's three contests?

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 2-13-10 Devils at Admirals

No Lashoff? No Parrish? No problem.

LOW-1
NOR-5

Jaroslav Janus allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the win. He's now 5-6-1 on the season with 1 shutout, a 2.01 GAA, and a rock solid .925 sv%. He's actually got better numbers than Tokarski.

First Period
LOW Palmieri, (18) (Vasyunov, Walter), 12:48
NOR Fornataro, (7) (Craig, Fadden), 17:33

Second Period
NOR Simek, (15) (Szczechura), 12:16
NOR Craig, (15) (Tyrell, Szczechura), 17:25
NOR Craig, (16) (Fadden, Wishart), 18:39 (PP)

Third Period
NOR Mihalik, (1) (Tyrell, Hall), 16:01

Ryan Craig, Paul Szczechura, and Vladimir Mihalik were the game's three stars. It was another banner night for the Presov Mafia between Janus' win, and both Juraj Simek, and Mihalik's goals. Mihalik's marker was his first of the season, and with a +3 night he jumped to +1 for the season.

Lowell got former Lightning d-man Cory Murphy back for this game, so they dressed 5 natural defensemen for this game rather than the 4 from last night, but it didn't matter. Even with Matt Lashoff out for a second straight game attending to family matters and Mark Parrish held out, presumably for a recall to the Lightning, the Admirals still dominated the Devils.

Oh, and Dana Tyrell had his second multi-point game of the season. Mitch Fadden had his third.

Norfolk remains in 3rd place in the East Division, 4 points behind 2nd place Albany, which dismantled Binghamton 7-0 tonight. Albany holds 1 game in hand. They widened their lead on 4th place Adirondack to 6 points after the Phantoms fell to Portland 5-4. Adirondack has 3 games in hand. They are now tied at 52 points with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after the Penguins upset Hershey 5-0 tonight. So the Pens are 6 points back of Norfolk with 2 games in hand. In 6th place is Syracuse, which lost 2-0 tonight to Manchester. They're 8 points behind Norfolk with 2 games in hand. All the way in 7th place in Bighamton, which is now 11 points back of Norfolk with 5 games in hand.

Norfolk's win moves them 1 point ahead of the 5th place team in the Atlantic Division, so the Admirals are starting to take the crossover off the table. Even if they finish 3rd in the East Division, finishing ahead of the crossover 5th place Atlantic team is critical for the Admirals if they want to avoid a date with Hershey in the first round of the playoffs. 5th in the Atlantic is now a 3-way logjam with Providence, Hartford, and Bridgeport all at 57 points. Providence knocked off Springfield 3-1 tonight and Bridgeport beat Hartford 6-4 to create the three team pile-up. Both Providence and Hartford have 1 game in hand on Norfolk.

Norfolk's next game is on Monday, which will be an epic clash in Albany against the River Rats. An Admirals win could pull the team to within 2 points of 2nd place in the East Division.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 2-12-10 Devils at Admirals

Absolute domination.

ALB-0
NOR-3

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.

First Period
NOR Parrish, (13) (Fornataro, Fadden), 11:58
NOR Simek, (14) (Keller, Mihalik), 17:40 (PP)

Second Period
NOR Tyrell, (3) (Tarkir), 17:37 (SH)

Third Period
NO SCORING

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.

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