Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
The Toronto Marlies had an opportunity to close the gap in the AHL’s Eastern Conference Finals but ended up getting a near-opposite result. Despite a very competitive initial forty minutes, Toronto lost control in the third and gave up five goals, leading to an 8-2 final score.
To Toronto’s credit, they ignored the initial warning sign that came when Dustin Gazley put the Bears up three minutes into the first period. Rather than hitting the panic button, they began to flood Justin Peters with every opportunity they could. It worked for a little while; Mark Arcobello set up Josh Leivo for an equalizer three minutes later, and not long after that, Ben Smith set up unrelated namesake Colin Smith for a clear-cut breakaway, which he proceeded to go bar-down with.
All looked good from that point; the Marlies kept putting pucks on net, a few of them hit the post, but confidence was high and the crowd was pumping. However, Chris Bourque fired a slapshot on Antoine Bibeau midway through the second period that tied the game back up. It was one Bibeau probably should’ve had, but the team wasn’t ready to stress themselves. But then former Leafs enforcer Zach Sill scored his second of the series with 53 seconds left in the frame, and the nervous energy began.
It wasn’t unmerited either. Toronto started the third with a two-minute powerplay, and it took Sill just 18 seconds to turn that into a shorthanded goal. Looking to stop the bleeding, Bibeau was pulled and Garret Sparks was put in. A minute and a half later, a mistake in the offensive zone gave Chris Bourque a shorthanded breakaway, leading to a second goal on the same kill. From this point on, Toronto looked lifeless, and the scoresheet reflected that; Jakub Vrana and Christian Djoos scored to finish a seven and a half minute, five-goal run. Vrana added one more with three and a half remaining in the period, and the two teams got involved in some rough stuff afterwards, but the damage was already done.
The Marlies are now down 3-0 in this series, all but guaranteeing elimination barring a miraculous comeback. It’s certainly not what they were hoping for, but if they have any chance of winning, there can be zero sulking moving ahead. Game four will take place at 7:30 on Friday night at Ricoh Coliseum.