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Norfolk, Hershey announce signings

The Norfolk Admirals announced that they have signed forwards Jason Morgan, Eric Nickulas and Shawn Thornton and defensemen Jim Vandermeer and Marty Wilford to standard American Hockey League player contracts.

Morgan, 28, posted four assists in 19 NHL games with Calgary and Nashville last year, and 32 points (12g, 20a) in 39 AHL games with Norfolk and Lowell. Nickulas, a member of Providence’s 1999 Calder Cup championship team, scored eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points in 65 NHL matches with Chicago and St. Louis in 2003-04. Thornton, 27, scored one goal (one point) in eight games for Chicago, while registering 6+11=17 points in 64 contests with the Admirals last season. Vandermeer, 24, tallied 17 points (5g, 12a) in 46 NHL games with Chicago and Philadelphia, and had seven points (1g, 6a) in 26 AHL matches with the Philadelphia Phantoms last year. Wilford, 27, appeared in all 80 games for Norfolk in ’03-04, leading all Admirals defensemen with 40 points (5g, 35a).

“We’re thrilled to have this core of veterans on our roster,” said Admirals General Manager Al MacIsaac. “The addition of Nickulas and Vandermeer on top of returning players like Thornton, Morgan and Wilford will bring valuable leadership, experience and skill to our team.”

Also on Friday, the Hershey Bears announced that defenseman Brett Clark and left wing Chris Bala have both signed American Hockey League contracts for the upcoming 2004-05 season.

Clark returns for his third full season in Hershey. He split his season in 2003-04 between Hershey and Colorado, and scored a career-high 11 goals for the Bears. Clark also served as captain of the team during the second half of the season. He enters 2004-05 as the current three-time Bears defenseman of the year.

Bala was acquired at the NHL trade deadline on March 9 from the Houston Aeros in exchange for Jordan Krestanovich. He scored the game-winning goal in his Hershey debut on Mar. 11 against Norfolk, and scored two goals to lead the Bears to a 3-1 win over the Admirals on Apr. 10. Chris grew up in Phoenixville, Pa., and currently lives in nearby Pottstown during the off-season.

The Bears also announced today that 2004 training camp will officially open at Giant Center on Wed., Sept. 29 at 10 a.m.