Photo Credit: Puck Stopper Photography / PuckStopperPhotography.com / @PSPhoto1
The Toronto Marlies moved one step closer to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs on Sunday evening, shutting out the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the Webster Bank Arena, completely eliminating any semblance of early-series home ice advantage and allowing themselves three opportunities to close out things at home this week.
While the two sides played some even, back-and-forth hockey in the first period, it wasn’t until the second until the Marlies managed to get the score sheet moving. Interestingly, it was a penalty kill that ended up being their blessing, as a penalty to Connor Carrick led to Connor Brown poking away a Bridgeport pass to the point and springing himself on a breakaway. Brown made no mistake, slipping the puck between Stephon Williams’ legs and putting his team up midway through the game.
Toronto carried that lead into the third period and built on it once play got underway in the final frame. Three minutes in, team captain Andrew Campbell threw the puck behind the boards for Kasperi Kapanen, who drew into the lineup after being scratched in Game 1. The teenager handled the play well, feeding veteran Ben Smith for his first goal of the playoffs.
This gave the Marlies insurance in a game where the Sound Tigers were throwing a ton of pucks on net. Thankfully for Toronto, Garret Sparks was on his game and ended up fending off all 31 pucks that he faced on the night. But you can’t always rely on your goalie to be perfect, so Brown added an empty-netter with two minutes to go just to be on the safe side.
There are no guarantees in the playoffs, so it would be silly to say that this series is over and done with. Just ask the players who were on last year’s team; Toronto won Games 1 & 2 of the first round at Ricoh Coliseum last year, only to get reverse-swept by the Griffins in Grand Rapids. This series is still anybody’s ball game, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Blue and White can cap it off sooner than later. Their first opportunity to do so will come on Thursday night at 7:30 PM. That game will be on RogersTV and TSN 1050, though if you’re in town, I highly suggest making the trip down to Ricoh Coliseum and checking out the playoff experience.