The Norfolk Admirals entered Friday night’s Game 4 in Manchester with the chance to become the first AHL team solely affiliated with the Lightning to ever advance in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Admirals used an Alex Killorn goal 13:27 into overtime to seize their chance, getting a 4-3 win over the Monarchs to win the best-of-five series, 3-1.
“This is the biggest goal I ever scored in my life,” said Killorn. “Picard just drove the net like he always does and drew their whole team with him, including their goalie. It seemed like the puck just popped out to me and I had the whole net to put it in.”
Killorn’s goal was a part of a two-point night and six-point series for the rookie forward, coming in an arena in New Hampshire that’s less than an hour’s drive from Harvard University, where he finished his four-year collegiate career last month by leading the Crimson with 46 points this season.
Before Killorn’s dramatic overtime-winner, the Admirals spotted the Monarchs a 3-1 lead in the second period, which was erased when Mark Barberio and Trevor Smith scored 16 seconds apart to tie the game at 3-3, after Evan Oberg scored to bring Norfolk back from a 1-0 deficit earlier in the period.
“When we were down 3-1, Manchester had us up against the wall,” said Admirals head coach Jon Cooper. “That 16-second span when we tied it was obviously the momentum swing. After that, I was pretty confident we were going to get it done.”
Confident as Cooper may have been, the Admirals were bailed out by a clutch save in overtime by Dustin Tokarski, who denied Robert Czarnik at point-blank range during a Manchester 2-on-1.
Tokarski finished with 22 saves on the night, getting his second straight win in the series and 15th consecutive win overall, dating back to the regular season.
“You have to give our goaltender credit,” added Cooper. “We gave up the big 2-on-1 in and Ticker (Tokarski) came up with the save we needed.”
Alex Killorn scored 13:27 into overtime to give the Admirals a 4-3 win in Game 4 and a 3-1 series win over the Manchester Monarchs on Friday night (Photo by John Wright)
Although Tokarski found a way to guide his team to victory, he had his four-game streak of allowing two goals or fewer snapped along the way by getting beaten by Justin Azevedo, Patrick Mullen and Andy Andreoff.
“Manchester was a tough matchup for us,” said Cooper. “They have a physical team and we had to throw everything we had to knock them out. This whole series was between two teams filled with a bunch of warriors.”
As a result of winning three of four games against the Monarchs, the Admirals have now won 31 of their last 32 games dating back to the regular season and will take a 15-game road winning streak into the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
“The team we have has been striving for more wins all year,” said center Trevor Smith, who had six points in the series. “Even the big streak we went on is something that makes our team that much more dynamic. Now, we just have to rest up for the second round.”
In the second round, the Admirals’ opponent will be the New York Rangers’ top affiliate, the sixth-seeded Connecticut Whale, who used a three-game sweep of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to advance in the playoffs.
The schedule for the Admirals’ series against the Whale has yet to be released.