Life in the minors: Manchester Monarchs at Norfolk Admirals (26 March)

I attended the Norfolk Admirals game Saturday night (26 March), and here are some of my thoughts about that game. The Admirals beat the Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles Kings affiliate) in the third period. Norfolk scored two goals in 38 seconds to win the game 2-1.

  • In the press box that night was the Director of Player Personnel for the Philadelphia Flyers, Dave Brown. He's also a former player with the Flyers, as well as a former assistant coach. I'm not sure if he was there to scout the Monarchs or the Admirals. We chatted briefly before the game about the Phoenix Coyotes situation, but that was it. He seemed like a very nice guy.
  • The game had a lot more energy and speed than the previous games that I'd attended. I think it was because they're gearing up for a playoff run. The Ads are vying for one of the last spots in the Eastern Conference of the AHL. If they make it into playoffs, I've been told that this will be the very first playoff appearance for a Tampa Bay Lightning AHL affiliate - ever.
  • In net was Dustin Tokarski, and he looked very confident and played very well. Nothing fazed the guy. But I suppose that's how it should be considering that he's carried the load for the team this season since Cedrick Desjardins has been out for part of the season. Saturday's game was his 41st this season.
  • Manchester was playing a trap kind of game, so Norfolk was playing a lot of dump and chase hockey - particularly at first. It didn't work out very well for them. They did best in the offensive zone when they were able to carry the puck in themselves.
  • The Admirals looked very much like the Lightning have the last part of this season. Except them didn't look quite so tired at the end of the game as the Lightning have. And this particular game was the second of back-to-backs at home. Which, from what I was told, they played much better in the second game than they did the first one on Friday.
  • On this night, the defense wasn't terribly spectacular. In fact, they looked pretty much like the Lightning's defense has recently. They got a bit tighter as the game went along, but they weren't playing in position for a lot of the game - not in Guy Boucher's much talked about 1-3-1. Especially in their own zone, which is just what the Lightning themselves do.
  • Overall, it was just a sloppy game by Norfolk. The passes were there, but guys either weren't ready for them or weren't paying attention. Missed passes seemed to be the story of the night. Or, at least, were what I noticed went wrong the most.
  • The on-ice officiating didn't help the Ads' cause much, either. They gave up five power plays on the night - some justified, others not so much. It was actually worse than the NHL.
  • Speaking of officiating, there was one instance where there was a scrum near the benches but there was a wrestling match in the Manchester offensive zone. Three on-ice officials were concerned with what was going on at the benches, but one was watching this wrestling match between Stefano Giliati of Norfolk and Patrick Mullen of Manchester. Mullen wanted to fight, but Giliati clearly did not. Giliati immediately tied up Mullen's arms so he couldn't throw any punches, and that's how it went for most of their "dance". None of the refs tried breaking that up, even after they were both down on the ice. When all was said and done, however, they were the only ones to get penalties out of the whole situation. Well, them and another Manchester guy who tried to break it up - who could've technically been called for third-man in. One Manchester guy got interference, while the other Manchester player and Giliati got roughing...and on top of that, those three all got 10-minute misconducts. Go figure.
  • I've been to four or five Admirals games this season, and the guy that I always notice is Paul Szczechura. I don't go looking for him; I'm usually watching the defensemen. But in every game I've seen in Norfolk this season, he's consistently been the guy who's always trying to make things happen. And usually, James Wright is right there with him. Playing for the Lightning last season really has helped them out. It's really too bad that the Lightning are currently really deep at center.
  • The three stars of the game, all Norfolk Admirals, were 1. Chris Durno (scored the game-winning goal), 2. Dustin Tokarski (stopped 28 of 29 shots), and 3. Troy Milam (scored the game-tying goal).
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