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Minor Success Foreshadows Bright Future for Bolts

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals has finished off a sweep of the St. John’s Ice Caps in the Eastern Conference Finals, winning Game Four 4-0 and securing the Richard F. Canning Trophy as Eastern Conference Champions. They advance to the Calder Cup Finals where they will face off against the Toronto Marlies, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top affiliate.

(Photo by John Wright)

The Admirals, who finished the regular season with a league-best 55-18-1-2 record for 113 points, came into the playoffs as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. They took home the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as regular season points champions along with the Frank Mathers Trophy as the East Division champions. They are in the Calder Cup Finals for the first time in team history.

The Marlies, who came into the playoffs as the number two seed in the Western Conference after going 44-24-5-3 for 96 points in the regular season, secured the Sam Pollock Trophy as North Division champions. They finished off the Oklahoma City Barons in five games, winning the Western Conference Finals and the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as Western Conference Champions. Toronto is also making its first appearance in the Calder Cup Finals.

Norfolk, who won an American professional hockey record 28 straight games to close out the regular season, will host Games 1 and 2 at the Norfolk Scope Arena in Norfolk, Virginia. The series will then shift to Ricoh Coliseum (the home of the Marlies) in Toronto, Ontario, for Games 3-5 (if necessary). The best-of-seven series—if need be—will then come back to Norfolk for Games 6 and 7.

Game 1 will be Friday, June 1, at 7:30 PM. The Admirals come in having won 39 of their last 42 games overall, including an 11-3 record in the postseason. The Marlies have run through the playoffs with an 11-2 record.

The success of the Admirals comes on the heels of the Florida Everblades, the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) affiliate of both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes, taking home their first ECHL title on May 23. The Kelly Cup champions disposed of the independent Las Vegas Wranglers in 5 games to win it all.

The accomplishments of the Lightning’s “AA” and “AAA” teams so to speak, gives the Bolts a positive outlook heading into the future. With young guns getting a taste of success, their transition to the big club will only become easier.

Several players, including Admirals goaltender Dustin Tokarski, have already had a taste of the NHL, and are looking to play a larger role with the team next season. Tokarski can make an especially large impact for a team that allowed the most goals in the NHL last year (278) if he can take the next step following his third year in the AHL. He has a 1.65 GAA for the Admirals in this year’s playoffs.

So, while Steve Yzerman and his staff are hard at work this summer, hopefully the boys down in the minors can make an impact on their all-important decisions that help shape the team for the 2012-2013 season.

Taylor Gaines
Tampa Bay Lightning fan pursuing a career as a journalist at the University of Florida.
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