After quickly dispatching the St. John's Ice Caps in the AHL's Eastern Conference final the Norfolk Admirals moved on to the franchise's first Calder Cup Finals. With the build up of the series, and a questionable article from Toronto, a lot of the fans and Admirals organization was ready to rock.
Toronto Marlies strategy early on seemed to match their effort in the Oklahoma City series where they came out physical and willing to fight anyone. This strategy worked, sort of, and led to some early power play moments, but the Admirals penalty kill continued stonewalling, as it had all challengers during the 2012 AHL playoffs. Just over half way through the first period Cory Conacher, the Honey Badger, awakens from his slumber and scored the opening goal with assists going to Tyler Johnson, another rookie who has had a quiet playoffs, and Evan Oberg. The Ads would end up outshooting the Marlies 16-9 in the first.
The second period could easily be called "The Referees Trying to Gain Control" period, with 10 non-obstruction penalties being called and most of them were not warranted against either team. At the 10:10 mark of the period, Tyler Johnson scored on an Admirals power play and put the team up 2-0. Conacher and Mark Barberio had assists and the goal was largely created by constant pressure on the Ads power play chance. At this point it became clear that the Marlies were not happy with how badly they were getting outplayed. With under thirty seconds left, Phil Dupuis of the Marlies decided to make contact with Ads goaltender Dustin Tokarski, it was avoidable and he got a penalty, and both teams got roughing penalties out of it. Another dominating period of Norfolk hockey, shots were 13-9.
In the third, Marlies enforcers Jay Rosehill and Colton Orr were finally glued to the bench, since there attempts to goad someone to fight were unsuccessful. At one point Ads defenseman Jeff Dimmen took out Rosehill, who got upset and got in Dimmen's face, who ignored it and didn't even miss a stride.
Just before four minute mark of the third, former Admiral Carter Ashton scored on what should of been a routine save for Tokarski, getting the shot past the netminder by going under his leg. Later on, Pierre-Cedric Labrie recieved a questionable boarding call (I will with hold off on making my boarding rant here), which led to a fight where no one really won. The entire period was still in control of the Admirals even with the Marlies early goal. The defense was on an entirely different level and Marlies had no answer.
Ads get a late empty net, short-handed goal on an awesome hustle play by Brandon Segal to put the game away. Up 3-1 with no time left of course means that Rosehill and Orr were once again on the ice, trying out there best garage league moves. Rosehill picked up an elbowing penalty and a roughing trying to start stuff. The AHL really needs an under 5 minutes instigator rule as these bush league antics seem to happen in the final minutes of every game.
Going into game two tonight, I can honestly say the Marlies should be scared. They cannot beat this team in the dirty areas and they definitely cannot touch the Admirals speed. Also, the Marlies went 0-for-10 on the power play. While Norfolk cannot continue giving up that many penalties, the fact they stopped that many opportunities is an outstanding performance.
Lay on the questions and comments folks and if you want tweet at me @ShawnDulin