If the AHL regular season ended last night, the 3rd place in the Western Conference Toronto Marlies would be put against the 6th place Milwaukee Admirals in the first round of the playoffs. There’s still lots of time to go, but in the event that the standings remain the same, today’s game will be a good example of how it might play out. Barring that, it’s an opportunity to see Filip Forsberg, who I have an immense prospect crush on. Either way, the game lived up to the bill, though some goaltending mistakes by both Rookies and a stellar effort by Admirals netminder Scott Darling lead to a 5-1 loss.
Each team got to put their lines out for a first lap before a bit of four on four hockey, instigated by unsportsmanlike conduct calls to Kevin Marshall and Mathieu Tousignant. Before the two came out of the penalty box doors, the Marlies earned the first legitimate scoring chance of the game. Carter Ashton and Trevor Smith ended up on an odd man rush, and Ashton threw a backhand saucer pass over the Milwaukee defender’s stick, but missed his Captain and play continued. The two teams went back and forth, and eventually a rebound off of Christopher Gibson’s pad went full pinball and eventually behind him. Some rough stuff ensued seconds later, as Michael Liambas elbowed Ashton, leading to coincidental roughing minors being added to Liambas’ penalty.
Toronto did little with it, and a few minutes later, the Admirals were back it, taking a failed Marlies rush and put it into the back of the net via a tap in one timer by Austin Watson. Despite another Marlies powerplay opportunity, that was the end of the scoring in the first period.
The Marlies didn’t fare much better in the second period. Though they dominated the shot count, Scott Darling was equal to every task. Midway through, Scott Ford streaked in and fired a wrist shot into the top right, giving Milwaukee a 3-0 lead and ending the night of Gibson. Garret Sparks came in, and soon after took a penalty for freezing the puck from too far out. With two minutes left in the period, a bad play of the puck turned into an easy one timer that widened the gap even further.
Trevor Smith made an immediate impact to start the third period, finding a loose puck after the opening faceoff and skating off on a breakaway, going backhand shelf to give the Marlies a bit hope. it was short lived, however; a goal by Mark Van Guilder re-shifted the momentum back. The two teams went through the motions from there, until a last second fight, where TJ Brennan dropped the gloves with Tousignant, easily knocking him down. The final 15 seconds were just a case of two teams going through the motions until the final buzzer.
- Goaltending wasn’t their strong suit tonight. Neither Gibson or Sparks played at a high enough level to keep their team in the game, and made their share of errors. Gibson stopped 9 of 12, while Sparks had 13 of 15.
- Trevor Smith continues his tendency to score a point in pretty much every game he’s been down here. His goal was very opportunistic and a very smart reactionary play.
- Tyler Biggs has been a healthy scratch in three of the last four games.
- Peter Holland is heading down tomorrow, which pushes the Marlies from having no centres to five in just a couple of weeks. He’d be pretty lethal on a line with Abbott and Ashton if Spott decides to go in that direction.
- I noticed that after Brennan’s fight, the Marlies put out the fourth line after seeing Michael Liambas on the ice. Milwaukee’s coach pulled Liambas off almost immediately. Pretty effective safety measure.
- Just under 6500 in attendance today, impressive when you consider the Home Show and Toronto FC’s home opener next door, and the Leafs playing at home tonight.
- The Marlies’ next game is tomorrow at 2:30, as they take on the Abbotsford Heat.