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Calder Cup sets sail for Norfolk

TORONTO … The Norfolk Admirals completed a storybook 2011-12 season by capturing the franchise’s first Calder Cup championship with a 6-1 win over the Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto on Saturday afternoon.

The Admirals, the top development team of the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning, finished off a four-game sweep of the Marlies in the Calder Cup Finals. After completing the regular season with a professional hockey record 28-game winning streak, Norfolk went 15-3 in the postseason to finish with 70 victories in 94 games overall, including 43 in their final 46 games of the year.

2012 AHL MVP and Rookie of the Year Cory Conacher recorded four assists in the Game 4 clincher, while fellow 2012 AHL All-Rookie forward Tyler Johnson notched two goals and two assists and defenseman Mike Kostka scored twice.

Richard Panik gave Norfolk the lead 6:17 into Game 4, driving to the net and banking a shot off the skate of Toronto defender Juraj Mikus and past Ben Scrivens.

Panik’s elbowing major and game misconduct late in the first period gave Toronto an opportunity to get back in the game, and after Jean-Philippe Cote and Mike Kostka also took minors, the Marlies converted on a lengthy five-on-three advantage when Mike Zigomanis buried a cross-crease pass from Joe Colborne with 16.1 seconds left in the frame, tying the score at 1-1.

Zigomanis’s goal was the first allowed by Norfolk on the road in more than a month, since Game 4 of the Admirals’ second-round series vs. Connecticut on May 7 – a span of 272:38.

Norfolk reclaimed the lead in the second period when Kostka’s shot from the blue line sailed through traffic and past Scrivens at 4:26. A goal by Johnson at 16:45, banking the puck in off Scrivens from below the goal line, gave Norfolk a 3-1 lead at the second intermission, and Kostka added his second of the night on a power play 44 seconds into the third period.

Johnson’s second goal of the night came into an empty net with 7:25 left after Toronto had pulled Scrivens for an extra attacker, and Pierre-Cedric Labrie snapped one home less than a minute later.

Dustin Tokarski stopped 18 of 19 Marlies shots in Game 4, finishing the postseason with his league-leading 12th victory. Scrivens made 26 saves in the loss.

Norfolk never trailed over its final two playoff series and finished the postseason with 10 consecutive wins, outscoring their opponents 34-7 during the streak. Under second-year head coach Jon Cooper, the Admirals eliminated the Manchester Monarchs (3-1), Connecticut Whale (4-2) and St. John’s IceCaps (4-0) before defeating Toronto in the Finals. The Admirals’ 2012 playoff roster featured seven players who appeared in the NHL with the parent Lightning this season.

Norfolk forward Alexandre Picard won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player of the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs, leading the Admirals with nine goals and 16 points while registering a plus-11 rating as well as a team-high 48 penalty minutes in 18 playoff games.

Norfolk’s victory brings the curtain down on the AHL’s 76th season. In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and this season marked the 11th consecutive year in which more than 6 million fans attended AHL games across North America.

2012 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
E1-Norfolk Admirals vs. W2-Toronto Marlies
Game 1 Fri., June 1 NORFOLK 3, Toronto 1 
Game 2 Sat., June 2 NORFOLK 4, Toronto 2 
Game 3 Thurs., June 7 Norfolk 1, TORONTO 0 (OT)
Game 4 Sat., June 9 Norfolk 6, TORONTO 1