“Fall down 8 times, get up 9.”
That’s what it reads on the back of Norfolk Admirals rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski’s helmet.
“I just saw it somewhere,” said Tokarski. “I put the ‘8’ and ‘9’ in there because I was born in 1989.
“It just means if you get knocked down, just get right back up and keep on going.”
It’s a fitting saying for the Admirals this year, because a word that has been thrown around a lot in the locker room lately is “relentless.” The Admirals are even having workout shorts and shirts printed with “Relentless” spelled backwards so as the players look in the mirror they can be reminded.
“It was [assistant] coach [Leigh] Mendelson’s idea, and I like it,” said Admirals head coach Darren Rumble
The Admirals’ relentlessness paid off on Oct. 10 when they got their first win of the season over the Manchester Monarchs. During the Friday-Saturday set of games against Manchester, the Admirals fired off 81 shots on goals to the Monarch’s 49.
“The goalie won them the game on Friday night,” said Rumble, referring to Monarchs goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who was forced by the Admirals to make 41 saves. “This team is on the upswing. No question, it’s rolling in the right direction.”
That is good news for Admirals fans, as the 2007-08 season was the first time in 18 years that the Admirals had not made the playoffs. They missed the Calder Cup Playoffs again last season.
“I think we’ve got a good team, definitely for a good playoff run,” said right wing Brandon Bochenski. “If we get to the playoffs we’ll be really good because we play a good defensive game.”
After mustering only three goals against the Monarchs last weekend, the Admirals will aim to fire more pucks into the net to rise in the high-flying AHL East Division standings. With players like Bochenski, Paul Szczechura and Martins Karsums in the lineup, Rumble is not concerned with the lack of scoring – especially since the Admirals have had no problem putting pucks on net.
“We’re getting better every game,” said Rumble. “I have no issues with our effort level the last three games.”
It’s that blue-collar effort that Admirals fans have come to appreciate. The idea of relentlessly playing hard and getting good shots for the entire 60 minutes is what the Admirals are all about.
“Coach Rumble threw [relentless] out last game because we’ve been having trouble scoring so far,” said alternate captain Mike Lundin. “If we stay relentless, the goals will come.”
The Admirals’ relentless spirit against Manchester and their commitment to the theme this season should have fans in Hampton Roads encouraged about the progress of their club.
“Last year’s team was 10 points better than the year before,” said Rumble, who expects to increase that number more with the 2009-10 season.
“This team is ready to turn the corner.”