Four former players and coaches that are alumni of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), celebrated an American Hockey League (AHL) Calder Cup Championship over the weekend as the Norfolk Admirals swept the Toronto Marlies, 4 games to 0, in the Calder Cup Finals with a 6-1 win in Game 4 on Saturday.
The Admirals are led by head coach Jon Cooper, who is a former NAHL Coach of the Year with the St. Louis/Texarkana Bandits of the NAHL. Earlier in the season, Cooper was awarded the winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach for the 2011-12 season.
Cooper joined the Tampa Bay Lightning organization in August 2010 as head coach of their top development affiliate in Norfolk following a prolific career in the U.S. junior ranks. Cooper was a head coach in the CSHL (now the 3HL) for the Metro Jets prior to working in the NAHL from 2003-08 for the Texarkana/St. Louis Bandits franchise. While in St. Louis, Cooper led the Bandits to back-to-back Robertson Cup championships in 2007 and 2008. Cooper was named NAHL Coach of the Year during the 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons while compiling a 223-93-17 regular and postseason record in five seasons with the Bandits organization.
Behind the bench with Cooper for the Admirals title run was assistant coach Mike Flanagan, who also coached in the NAHL. Like Cooper, Flanagan began his coaching career in the CSHL (now 3HL) with the then Grand Rapids Owls. He later moved on to coach in the NAHL, first as Cooper’s assistant in St. Louis and later had head coaching stints with both the Kenai River Brown Bears and Wichita Falls Wildcats before moving on to coach in the AHL.
Also on the Admirals roster were two former NAHL players with defenseman Jeff Dimmen and goaltender Pat Nagle. Dimmen, 25, played three seasons in the NAHL, appearing in 133 career regular season games. The Colorado Springs, Colorado native played for the Springfield Spirit, Wasilla Spirit, Alaska Avalanche and St. Louis Bandits during his NAHL career and he recorded 76 career points while playing in the NAHL. In 2010-11, he completed his four-year NCAA career at the University of Maine before joining the Admirals as a free agent. In 70 regular season and playoff games this season, Dimmen recorded 18 points.
Nagle served as the Admirals third goalie throughout the playoffs after playing the entire season with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL, where he helped lead the team to a Kelly Cup Championship. Nagle and Dimmen were teammates on the 2006-07 St. Louis Bandits team that won the Robertson Cup that was coached by Cooper and Flanagan.