It is no secret that once the playoffs begin, whether it is the Stanley Cup or Calder Cup on the line, the 16 teams remaining all begin with a brand-new record and an equal shot at the championship. But with the American Hockey League’s Norfolk Admirals riding into the Calder Cup Playoffs with a historic 28 game winning-streak, the main question would be, do the Admirals have 15 wins left in their tank to secure Calder.
After sweeping and securing the Eastern Conference Finals from the St. John’s IceCaps, the Admirals have won 11 more battles and are four victories away from their first Calder Cup. They are the most feared team in all of hockey mainly because the confidence level on and off the ice is off the charts compared to any typical hockey team. When winning 28 straight games, the common expectations between players, coaches and fans is to win every night. Anything short in their eyes is simply unacceptable.
When dissecting Norfolk’s roster, you can see the excellent combination between rookies, veterans and Tampa Bay prospects. The offensive center-piece of the Admirals is rookie sensation Cory Conacher, who is well on his way to the AHL Rookie of the Year award once the playoffs conclude in two weeks. Thee 22-year-old, 175-pound forward was acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning Organization this previous off-season after playing four seasons of college hockey in the AHA with Canisius College. In 2010-11 he completed his senior year, notching 42 points in 37 games played.
October 2011, fresh out of college, Conacher mastered the tough transition from NCAA Hockey to the American Hockey League. During the 2011-2012 regular season, Conacher dressed for 75 of Norfolk’s 76 games. He quickly shocked the Eastern Conference with 39 goals and 40 assists, averaging more than one point per game. He finished the season at second place in AHL scoring, following Hershey’s Chris Bourque. Cory’s speed on the ice not only makes himself a threat, but his entire offensive line as well. Entering the Calder Cup Finals, he has played 14 postseason games and tallied nine points. It is safe to say that regardless the outcome of the finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning are thrilled with the quick progress of Conacher, and will have their eyes set on him come training camp in September.
The Admirals’ high-voltage offense has also been powered by Trevor Smith, Tyler Johnson and Mark Barberio. Those three players have combined for 198 points during the 76 game regular season.
Back-stopping the Norfolk Admirals through their Calder Cup run has been 2008 NHL Draft Pick, Dustin Tokarski, who was selected 122 overall from the Spokane Chiefs. The young 22-year-old netminder already has seven games of NHL experience with the Lightning, and is looking to pencil himself into a permanent NHL goaltending gig next season. He started 43 games for Norfolk during the 2011-12 campaign and was the winning goalie in 32 of the 43 starts. He frustrated the opposition’s forwards by averaging only 2.23 goals against each game. Through three rounds of the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs, his stats have flourished even more. In 10 postseason games he is 8-2 with two shutouts and a goal against average at a superior 1.65.
The Norfolk Admirals with face either the Toronto Marlies or the Oklahoma City Barons in the 2012 Calder Cup Finals. Neither one of the three franchises has ever hoisted Calder before. Dates for games one and two of the 2012 Calder Cup Finals are yet to be released, however, the location will be in Norfolk Virginia, at the Norfolk Scope.
– The Norfolk Admirals are the ninth consecutive team from the AHL’s East Division to represent the Eastern Conference in the Calder Cup Finals (Wilkes-Barre 2004, Philadelphia 2005, Hershey 2006, Hershey 2007, Wilkes-Barre 2008, Hershey 2009, Hershey 2010, Binghamton 2011, Norfolk 2012)
– Since 2004, the Eastern Conference is 5-3 in the Finals against the Western Conference Champions
– Norfolk has won 6 consecutive playoff games
– The Admirals’ Alexandre Picard is currently the AHL Playoff Leading Scorer with 15 points in 14 games
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