It all comes down to this. If the Toronto Marlies win, they head to the Calder Cup Finals for the second time in three years. Not just that, but do it with an entirely different core. Only six of these guys played in the 2011/12 run, and just Korbinian Holzer and Jerry D’Amigo played more than half the games. They’d go in with two sweeps, and and upset Game 7 victory against a team that appeared to be far and away the best in the league. Lose, and, well… they still greatly exceeded the pre-season expectations. Tonight, we saw the latter, as the Texas Stars scored four unanswered goals en route to a 6-2 victory, eliminating the blue and white.
In one of the least likely turns of events you’ll see this year, Frazer McLaren opened the scoring for the Marlies, ripping a shot past Cristopher Nilstorp immediately after a faceoff and two minutes into the game. Toronto got an opportunity to establish themselves further with a powerplay shortly afterward, but couldn’t set up. From there, it was all Texas, particularly when McLaren headed to the box for interference, but Drew MacIntyre kept the team afloat and ahead as the period came to a close.
Just thirty seconds into the second period, the Marlies pulled off another quick strike. This time, Peter Holland got to the front of the net in time to redirect a Spencer Abbott pass off of Scott Glennie and into the back of the net. It helped the momentum a little bit, but not entirely, and eventually, the wheels came off. Mike Hedden tipped a puck past MacIntyre with three minutes left in the period. Seconds later, Jerry D’Amigo was a bit over-eager to get the puck and ended up taking a hooking penalty. Fast forward the clock just a few seconds further, and before you could blink, Dustin Jeffrey had the game tying goal on his stick.
This lead to an all or nothing third period. The Marlies were the first to make a major mistake, as Andrew MacWilliam headed to the box for holding the stick. The Stars poured on the pressure, but couldn’t capitalize, even as Toronto struggled to escape their own zone afterwards. Eventually, the wheels came off. Brett Ritchie potted his forth of the playoffs to give Texas the lead, and Matej Stransky broke in, wrapped around the net, and beat MacIntyre before you could blink your eye. With six minutes to go, Justin Dowling found himself wide open in the slot and further stretched the Stars’ lead with a one timer. Toronto pulled their goalie, and Jeffrey intercepted a pass by Stuart Percy to pot an empty netter. That was it for the scoring; a couple of penalties and minor moments went down, but the series ended with that.
- If Drew MacIntyre played like this for the Maple Leafs, there would be serious discussions about a statue being built outside the ACC. More dominance out of him early in the game, eventually stopping 44 of 49 shots. Both of Texas’ second period goals were from close range and high percentage areas, so it’s hard to fault him for them. You could point a bit of a finger at him for the third period goals, but he didn’t get much defensive help on those either.
- Frazer McLaren hasn’t been dominant by any means, but he’s looked like a half decent hockey player during these playoffs. You forget that enforcers have some hockey skill in them when you tell them to play hockey, even if it’s not top-end.
- Peter Holland contributed a point in 10 of his 11 games in these playoffs. It’s a big statement for him, as he tries to prove he’s ready for the big club.
- Texas’ first two goals came 49 seconds apart, the third and forth had just seventeen seconds between them, and the fifth and sixth came 32 apart. The third pair is a bit meaningless Needless to say, Toronto didn’t react well to getting scored on tonight.
- Texas will take on the St. John’s IceCaps. At least one doesn’t have to deal with the already forced in the regular season “FORMER ST. JOHNS VS CURRENT ST JOHNS” story. It’s been tiring for years, though at least a finals matchup would have created a legit reason for these teams to face each other as often as they do.
- If Texas wins in the finals, it will be three straight years that Toronto loses to the Championship Winner.
Photo courtesy of @TexasStars