This was a must win game, and for once, it had nothing to do with implications and everything to do with the quality of opponent. Quite honestly, the Iowa Wild are far from stellar; in fact, they’re the worst team in the AHL this year, currently twelve points back of 29th. They don’t even have a McDavid to tank for, either! This should have been an easy two points for the playoff-pushing Marlies.
Sixty minutes and two goals later, it appeared to be just that, as Toronto took home a commanding 5-2 win.
Oddly enough, it was Iowa who scored first in this one; a goal by Brady Brassart stunned the Marlies’ top line and gave the Wild a lead that they maintained throughout the first period and a large chunk of the second. However, Greg McKegg was not prepared to let them off the hook easily, and tied things up with his twentieth goal of the year. His teammates were quick to follow him, with both Byron Froese and Brendan Mikkelson picking up goals in the next six minutes, wrapping up yet another fantastic second period from a team that has taken advantage of the middle frame over the past few weeks.
Marc Hagel put his team back into the game midway through the third period by sneaking a goal past Christopher Gibson, but it was the last one Iowa would see. Gibson finished the night with thirty saves on thirty two shots against, while McKegg responded with a second goal and Matt Frattin soon joined with an empty netter.
Have to go with Greg McKegg on this one. Another huge night for a player who has been tearing it up down the stretch, scoring two very opportune goals on three shots. He was the one to respond to both Iowa goals, keeping their momentum at bay.
Summing It Up
Tonight’s win brings the Marlies to 83 points. As such, the Adirondack Flames and Milwaukee Admirals can’t steal the final spot away from them, leaving just two more competitors in the mix. One of the Hamilton Bulldogs and Lake Erie Monsters could get to 84 points, but not both. Hamilton’s two remaining games are against Lake Erie, while the Monsters also have one against Grand Rapids on Thursday.
The earliest that the Marlies could clinch a playoff spot is Friday, if they beat the Milwaukee Admirals. There’s also a bunch of ways they could clinch on Friday by losing in all sorts of varieties, but at this point, winning one more hockey game is probably easier than explaining it all.