“I didn't know if he could play and I don't think many other people did either,” May said of the third-year pro whose playing time had been severely limited by injuries since his final junior season. “I took him aside in July and told him how important this season was going to be for him.”
That was at the Lightning's rookie camp in Victoria, B.C., where Rogers was included because of his need for development. Only a month later, at the Lightning's NHL training camp in Florida, May saw a substantial difference.
“He was in better shape and he had a focus and a belief that I didn't see in July,” said May, who handles the Admirals defensemen during games. “He probably puts as much preparation into his game, with diet and stretching and weight room activity, as anyone else on the team.
“He's been phenomenal from the preseason on and there's no doubt he's a genuine NHL prospect.”
Rogers had an even rating, no points and eight penalty minutes through Norfolk's first four games. The Admirals were 1-2-0-1 in that stretch and play twice in Rockford, Ill., and once in Grand Rapids, Mich., this weekend.
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Another Admiral enjoying the team's fresh start this season is wing and enforcer Jay Rosehill. The gritty, honest player became a fan favorite in Norfolk last season and many patrons wondered why they didn't see more of No. 8 on the ice.
Rosehill said he asked the same question but didn't receive what he felt was a definitive answer or any more playing time. But with the promotion of Darren Rumble to head coach over the summer, Rosehill has seen his ice time increase.
“I don't think my role changes at all but I think my style of play is respected a little more now,” said the former University of Minnesota-Duluth player. “Both our coaches this season enjoy the physical side of the game. If I'm playing well and making things happen, there shouldn't be a reason I'm not out there more than last year.”
Rosehill led the 2007-08 Admirals with 194 penalty minutes in 66 games. The next closest teammate had only 110. Rosehill had one assist and five penalty minutes in Norfolk's first four games this season.
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It's often said that North American pro hockey is a small world and the Admirals have an example of that in new athletic trainer Brad Chavis. The 2003 University of West Florida graduate is in his first AHL season after working with the ECHL's Phoenix RoadRunners the past two years.
Chavis worked with the UHL's Muskegon (Mich.) Fury for his first hockey training job and then moved back to his native Pensacola, Fla., where he worked for the ECHL's Pensacola Ice Pilots, a franchise with which he had served as a stick boy while growing up.
It was while holding that volunteer position that Chavis accompanied the Ice Pilots to the 1998 ECHL finals. The team lost to none other than the Hampton Roads Admirals, the highly successful precursors to the AHL's Norfolk Admirals.
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Lightning prospect Riku Helenius
is off to a strong start with ECHL Augusta. Making his first pro start Tuesday, the Finnish goaltender stopped 44 shots and three more in a shootout as the visiting Lynx defeated the Gwinnett Gladiators, 3-2, at Duluth, Ga.
Matt Auffrey forced overtime with a goal 31 seconds before the end of the third period and Aaron Slattengren, Auffrey and Art Femenella scored in the shootout for Augusta.
The victory was an upbeat injection for the Lynx (1-2), who were scheduled to bus 800 miles overnight and practice in Elmira, N.Y., on Thursday in preparation for Friday and Saturday games against the Jackals. Sunday, the Lynx play in Reading, Pa., and they will have concluded a seven-game road trip by the time they next play at home Nov. 7 against the Charlotte Checkers.
“When you play game after game after game quickly, you get a chance to make some adjustments and see how they work right away, and then make some more adjustments,” Lynx coach John Marks told the Augusta Chronicle. “It'll be good for us.”