On a cloudy Saturday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs prepared for their home opener at the Air Canada Centre. But a cab ride away, a similarly sized group of players who hope to take their place dropped the puck on their 2013/14 season. The Toronto Marlies opened things up against the defending Calder Cup Champions, the Grand Rapid Griffins. This was the very same team that eliminated them last year.
But what’s the definition of them? There’s a new coach in Steve Spott. There’s a new team captain in Trevor Smith. In fact, only four skaters, both goalies, and the assistant coaches were involved in both elimination night and today’s game. The Griffins were quite similar; a fresh start for both, if you will. So today’s game was relatively normal in comparison to the storyline.
The end result? The opposite of last year’s conclusion, a come from behind victory for the home team, as the Marlies won 4-3 in overtime.
The first period started off with dominance out of the Marlies, taking the first seven shots, and breaking up any play that got near the net. The reward for the effort was the opening goal – a smart pass back by Smith gave T.J. Brennan plenty of room to fire a wrister past Jared Coreau. The lead was short lived, however, as Tomas Jurco took in a cross-crease pass and tapped the puck past Drew Macintyre to tie the game. Just a minute and a half later, Riley Sheahan scooped up a rebound and half a net to work with to give the Griffins the lead, which was taken into the second period.
Coming back, things looked a little shaky to begin with; Greg McKegg and Korbinian Holzer taking early penalties. Cue the onslaught of calls against Grand Rapids, and the advantage tipped to Toronto’s side. Brennan scored his second of game off a well aimed point shot, and shortly after, completed the hat trick to give the Marlies the lead.
Grand Rapids tied the game early in the third period, and kept it into the third. They had a prime opportunity to win the game as Andrew MacWilliam got tossed for a check from behind on Teemu Pulkkinen with six minutes to go, but the Marlies killed off the penalty and went to overtime. In the bonus frame, Grand Rapids took two penalties, one after the other, in surprising form (delay of game, and closing hand on the puck). Brennan switched from sniper to playmaker, feeding Trevor Smith to win the game for the Marlies.
Photo by Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com