Norfolk Admirals in the AHL East Division Quarterfinals

By Ailyn Diaz

Along the town of Norfolk, Virginia lies Naval Station Norfolk, the largest installation in the world providing a safeguard of military defensive strategy. There commanding officers knowingly create strategic plans and position more than 3,100 battleships in lines and fleets. Similarly, on the ice of the Norfolk Scope, this formidable task is left to Coach Trent Yawney. Despite being the only AHL coach without an assistant, Yawney’s Norfolk Admirals battled the Binghamton Senators to victory during the quarterfinals of the East Division in a different waterfront, the Susquehanna River, along Broome County Arena. His strategic plan consisted in creating lines of Blackhawk prospects with distinct depth.

Matt Ellison (Left Wing) – Mikhail Yakubov (Center) – Yorick Treille (Right Wing)

Well positioned on the ice, this line sailed in offensive rushes. Matt Ellison, at 20 years of age, cannoned the opposition by checking hard and assisting on a goal during Game 2 of the series. Coach Yawney put him with veteran Jason Morgan during Game 1 to pirate down the penalty kill. During Game 2, Coach Yawney decided to steer differently by centering him with Mikhail Yakubov, 22-year-old Russian prospect. Yakubov started his career in Russia with the Lada Togliatti, however his lack of ice time was intolerable for the Blackhawks who decided to bring him to the United States. This first round pick in the 2000 NHL Draft seasoned his engaging passing skills by assisting 24-year-old French player Yorick Treille, product of University of Massachusetts in a goal. Treille who is impressive in his puckhandling sunk two goals by feisty 21-year-old Binghamton and future Ottawa Senator goaltender Ray Emery. Emery who wrecked the Bridgeport Sound Tigers during the conference semifinals last season, was blinded by torpedoes firing from the Norfolk Admiral power play.

Quintin Laing (Left Wing) – Ajay Baines (Center) – Igor Radulov (Right Wing)

Coach Yawney with quiet and firm demeanor operated a line with two veteran mates, Laing and Baines, anchoring 21-year-old Igor Radulov. Radulov relies on his versatility as forward to clash full speed ahead on net. This third round pick of the 2000 draft had no special mission, just to create winning chances to score.

Shawn Thornton (Right Wing) – Brandin Cote (Center) – Carsen Germyn (Left Wing)

To torpedo the opposition Yawney included in his squadron a line of experienced players able to outskate the Senators. During second period combat of Game 1 of the series, Cote fired a goal leading the Norfolk Admirals to a 2-0 advantage.

Trent Yawney’s plan of offensive clashes with marked shots on goal during the first period and defensive tactics through the rest lead him to use his secret weapon of mass destruction, the defensemen pairing throughout his games.

Marty Wilford – Burke Henry

Twenty-five-year-old Burke Henry, at 6’3” and 200 lbs, provided a barrack against shots from point per game playmaker Josh Langfeld sent down from Ottawa.

Jonathan Aitken – Anton Babchuk

“I’ll keep my lips sealed,” remarked General Manager Al MacIssac about 19-year-old Anton Babchuk, one of the Blackhawks’ top prospects. Rightly so, with an imposing 6’6” frame, he is a secret weapon to defy the offense as he plays with amazing consistency. During the series, Babchuk built on clean forechecks. He maintained a stance in his position with dexterity against impending Binghamton Senator shot drills.

Duncan Keith- Lasse Kukkonen

At 20 years of age, Duncan Keith relies on fancy skating maneuvers through the boards and especially towards the net. Although carrying a 6’0” frame, he was the lightest player at the Chicago Blackhawks training camp earlier this year at less than 185 lbs. Keith emulates quick winger Paul Kariya. During Game 1 of the series, a penalty for holding a stick along with another served by Wilford almost sunk the Admirals. However, the kill prevailed with a defensive shield in consistent and agile 23-year-old goalie, Michael Leighton.

Leighton is ambidextrous in making amazing stops of the puck. His command of the net relies on more than just the butterfly position. With plays reminiscent of recent NHL playoff goalie legend, J-S Giguère, Leighton made 31 saves during Game 1 and 18 saves during Game 2. With spectacular blocks, he held down the ship as he shut out the Binghamton Senators twice in a row during the playoff series proving Yawney’s strategy a success.