Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
With neither team having anything to lose or gain, this weekend’s regular season finale series against the Rochester Americans was a bit of an interesting one for the Toronto Marlies. They couldn’t fall below the one seed; Rochester couldn’t rise into the playoffs. Despite that, both teams looked to end things off on a high note, and it was ultimately the superpower that saw success in both games.
Neither result came easy, however. While Matt Frattin opened up the scoring early in Saturday’s game by tapping home Connor Brown’s rebound, it was the precursor to a back forty minutes where the Amerks outshot Toronto 26-14. It even looked like Toronto would be in trouble after Brendan Guhle buried a cross-crease feed past Antoine Bibeau, but the Marlies made the best of the opportunities that they received. TJ put the Marlies back up with a snipe from the point on one of just two Toronto powerplays, and with five minutes remaining in the third period, Rinat Valiev followed it up with his fourth of the year, sneaking his way over to a spot just north of the right wing to snipe the insurance tally that won the game.
Much like the day before, the Marlies were outshot on Sunday. This time, though, it seemed like both teams lost all concept of defence as they combined for 89 shots on goal, with Rochester taking 47 of them. The first two to go in, however, came from the Marlies, as Eric Faille’s shot-happy ways led to him burying his sixth in 15 games, giving him 30 between the AHL and ECHL this year. Scoring came to a standstill despite from there, despite the outpouring of pucks headed in the direction of Garret Sparks and Linus Ullmark, but with three minutes remaining in the second period, Faille set up Jordan Hickmott for his first professional goal. Cole Schneider broke Garret Sparks’ 30+ save shutout in the dying seconds of the third, but that wasn’t discouraging to Toronto. Tony Cameranesi re-stretched the gap to two with his second of his tryout and while the Amerks brought it closer one last time, Faille closed the game off with an empty netter, ending the season on a high note.
- The two games capped off a historic run by the Toronto Marlies. They finished the season with a 54-16-5-1 record, 114 points, a 0.750 points percentage, and a +103 goal differential. As well, they picked up 17 of a possible 20 points in their final 10 games.
- That 0.750 points percentage was not only the highest in the league by a large margin (nobody else was in the 0.700 range), but it’s also the third highest in the history of the AHL.
- Toronto also finished the season with the fourth-fewest penalty minutes against, wrapping up while combining for just 936 minutes in the box.
- Garret Sparks’ 45-save performance set a season high for Marlies goalies for shots against, and was one of his best performances this season. Not that Antoine Bibeau’s work on Saturday should be ignored; Sheldon Keefe has some decisions to make ahead of Game 1.
- TJ Brennan’s goal on Saturday was his 25th of the season, tying a career high which he set with the Marlies in his last full year with the team.
- Chase Witala, Jordan Hickmott, and Tyler Wong all picked up their first professional points on Sunday.
- Eric Faille had one of his better games with the Marlies on Sunday, picking up three points. While the 26-year-old is a long shot to ever make it all the way up to the NHL, back-to-back point-per-game seasons in the ECHL and solid numbers during his Marlies stretch should be a strong argument for his agent to pass to AHL clubs int the summer. Not to mention, he loves to shoot the puck.
- Toronto’s first round opponent will be the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders. The league has asked, to minimize travel, that this best-of-five series be run under the 2-3 format rather than the 2-2-1, and the Marlies have opted to take the back three games as their home appearances.
- As such, Game 1 and 2 will be in Bridgeport on the upcoming Saturday and Sunday, and the Marlies will make their home playoff debut on April 28th at 7:30 PM.