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by Robin Brinkley / Tampa Bay Lightning
Ryan Craig’s two-game “conditioning” stint with the Norfolk Admirals turned into a whole lot more Wednesday night when the left winger on loan from Tampa Bay scored a goal and added an assist in a 5-3 win over Hershey at Scope.

Craig, playing his first game since herniating a disc in his back in a pre-season game against Dallas on Sept. 17, received a pass in the slot from Chris Lawrence and drilled it past Bears goalkeeper Frederic Cassivi to put Norfolk ahead, 4-3, at 11:23 of the third period. Craig then assisted on Marc Rooneem’s breakaway goal at 18:54 to finish off the Bears.

Craig nearly had a second goal when he squirted the puck through Cassivi’s pads in the second period, only to have a defenseman sweep it away before it could cross the goal line.

“Of course I’m down here to test my back,” Craig said, “but I’m also here to try to win a hockey game.”

The victory ended a three-game slide for the Admirals and lifted them three points ahead of the last-place Bears in the East Division. The two teams meet again Friday night at Scope.

Craig wasn’t sure how much ice team he’d receive, but on a team struggling for offense he got plenty. The Admirals scored only three goals – none by a forward – in their three-game losing streak.

“I probably used him more than he was ready for,” Admirals coach Steve Stirling said of Craig. “But he kept asking for ice time and I gave it to him. He’s a smart player, always in position, and he’ll battle. I’m pleased to have him around.”

Craig, who scored 14 goals to go with 27 assists for the Lightning last season, is scheduled to be recalled after Friday’s game.

“I’ll try to make it though practice [Thursday], play Friday and see how it goes,” he said.

Rooneem, a left wing, was leading Mississippi of the ECHL in scoring with three goals and two assists when he was recalled Nov. 6. He’d scored one goal in nine AHL games in three seasons before Wednesday night. He hopped out of the penalty box when Craig found him at center ice to set up the breakaway.

“This league is a little bit faster than the Coast,” he said. “They make better passes and you can’t make mistakes or they end up in your net.”

Stirling isn’t expecting a goal-a-game from Rooneem.

“It’s been my experience that almost all of the players you bring up from the ECHL – 75 percent or more – have to be two-way players at this level,” Stirling said. “Rooneem looks like he’s capable of that.

“He got a hard-working penalty, then came out of the box and redeemed himself.”

NOTES: Jonathan Boutin entered Wednesday’s game ranked first in the AHL in save percentage (.950) and second in goals against (1.76). He made 36 saves against the Bears. No. 1 goalie Karri Ramo continues to rehab from the high-ankle sprain he suffered Oct. 10. Stirling planned to keep him off the ice this week. “I want him to be pain free,” Stirling said. “We’ll probably pick up the pace next week” … Forward Justin Taylor was given his release last week so he could sign with a team in Russia. Taylor, signed to a professional tryout contract this year, was tied for the team lead in goals with three … Winger Norm Milley played in his 500th career AHL game Wednesday and scored a goal.

MISSISSIPPI: The Sea Wolves are another team struggling for offense. They are tied for last in the ECHL with 13 goals and tied for last in the South Division with three points. The Sea Wolves acquired forward Jason Tejchma this week from the Wheeling Nailers in exchange for future considerations.

Teichma played four years of college hockey at Massachusetts-Lowell, scoring 96 points (40g, 56a) in 148 games. He appeared in five games for Wheeling this season, scoring one goal.
The Sea Wolves visit the first-place Gwinnett Gladiators Friday night and return home Nov. 13 against the Elmira Jackals.
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