Marlies eliminated from Calder Cup Playoffs as Hershey advance to Finals

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Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com

I don’t think anybody has wanted a reason to travel to Hershey, Pennsylvania more than the Toronto Marlies did this afternoon. Maybe somebody who really, really loves grocery store chocolate. But with the series once again on the line, the blue and white planned on doing anything in their power to get there.

It didn’t work out the way they thought it would, though, and the Marlies dropped the game 3-2 to end the series at 4-1, ending their season a little earlier than anticipated.

The Marlies had the game open up on a sour note, one that was quite the opposite of the last series. Rich Clune, seemingly frustrated with the physical tone that Hershey opened the game up with, had a go at goaltender Justin Peters. He was penalized for the infraction, and while Hershey didn’t capitalize on it, O’Brien did go on to score thanks to a lucky bounce and some hand-eye coordination a minute afterward. 

That ended up being the period’s only goal, and to Toronto’s credit, they did put on a fair bit of pressure in the back half. But the second was where things fell apart a bit. Christian Djoos beat Antoine Bibeau for his second goal of the series just a minute and nine seconds into the frame, and 64 seconds later, Nathan Walker helped his team take a 3-0 lead. Needless to say, not what Toronto wanted in an elimination game.

A few minutes later, they began to reverse the tide. Connor Carrick, maybe fuelled by a hope to show up his former team, blasted a shot from the point that was redirected by William Nylander to give the Marlies some life. They couldn’t add another before the end of the period, but headed into the third on a slightly more positive note than they looked poised to in the moments prior.

Toronto needed to leave it all on the line in the third period, and they definitely did. Pucks were flooded to the net, and more than a few times, Peters lost grip of something, be it his stick or the puck. On the second occurrence of the latter, the Marlies took advantage, as Zach Hyman slid the recovered puck over to Nikita Soshnikov who potted his fifth of the playoffs. The team had fifteen minutes to get another goal and did they ever try, outshooting Hershey 9-2 at one point in the third period and ending the frame up 11-4 in that regard. Many were close, and they pressured right to the final seconds, but none of the last-ditched efforts managed to beat Peters.

With the loss, the Marlies have been eliminated from the Calder Cup Playoffs seven games short of their goal. The players and staff are no doubt disappointed, and this will no doubt be broken down in many ways by many people. We’ll have our share of dissection and recollection over the next few weeks as well, but as far as immediate takes go; at least the team went out swinging. 

  • silentbob

    The marlies were unlucky in this playoff series as they should have beaten Hershey who basically won because of their hot goalie. Despite the loss, I still say the marlies are the best team in the AHL and effectively the true Calder Cup Champions. The marlies never gave up and were in practically every game but a hot goalie was their undoing. Next year the marlies will be set up to win the calder cup and as of today are already odds on favourites.

    Overall, this was a great season and playoffs for the marlies who well exceeded expectations and to be honest should have barely qualified for the playoffs and finished much lower in the standings. And it was impressive how much Dubas and Keefe both developed their players and also managed to extract from this roster especially with their poor goaltending and lack of depth down the middle. Great season here by the marlies, management and for us fans.

  • Brent Wisken

    Although they lost, the Marlies finished in the final four with one of the youngest teams in the AHL. Something to be proud about. For example, Nylander and Kapinen played in the league as 19 year olds when most 19 year olds aren’t eligible to play in the AHL.

  • CMpuck

    goaltending was shaky this entire playoffs and bibeau has been way too inconsistent in his ahl career. sparks wasn’t consistent in the playoffs. maybe low confidence after an awful NHL stint. goaltending is a major need this offseason. defence was shaky this playoff run especially in the series. offence wasn’t strong enough to bail them out. our goalies are young but I don’t see them being #1 NHL goalies in the future. maybe one is a back up at best. we need to acquire a #1 goalie who’s young enough to fit the core from a trade or the draft. we’re in a rebuild and that will take a while. goaltending is the leafs weakest link. something needs to be done.

  • CMpuck

    Even with tinternet it is quite hard to closely follow the AHL from UK. One question – whilst I understand the need to limit travel costs etc, did the AHL schedule exaggerate the Marlies lead? Why play St Johns 12 times but the Bears only twice and no(?) games against the California teams. Is it a Canada thing but they played the Moose an artificially high number of times.