If you’ve been to a school day game at Ricoh Coliseum before, you know exactly what to expect. Two hockey teams, hyped up on caffeine, adrenaline, the prospect of having a full day to work with after the buzzer, and the momentum given by eight thousand screaming children. This usually leads to fun, desperate hockey, and a bit of rough stuff to boot. Today’s rendition between the Toronto Marlies and St. John’s IceCaps was just that, culminating in a 5-2 win for the home team as they inch closer to clinching a playoff spot.
This game didn’t start off as well as the Marlies would have hoped. Max Friberg put St. John’s up by scorching past Rinat Valiev and beating Garret Sparks on a break in the closing minutes of the first period, and a minute into the second, Charles Hudon followed that up with his 25th goal of the season to put the IceCaps up 2-0.
But the Marlies found their way. First, they made the most out of a too many men penalty taken in the eight minute of the frame, turning it into Brendan Leipsic finding Frederik Gauthier for a shorthanded breakaway tally. Seven minutes later, Justin Holl scooped up a loose puck and wired home his seventh, to tie things up. That was all for the period (with a spirited fight between Colin Greening and Stefan Matteau sprinkled in), but that wasn’t it for the game.
Just 23 seconds into the third period, Brendan Leipsic finished off a pretty tic-tac-toe play started by himself to notch his 16th of the year and put the Marlies ahead. Not long after, Kerby Rychel added a rebound to snap a goal-less skid and add insurance, and then added an empty netter on top of that in the last minute to get his season total up to 19. On the other side of the ice, Sparks continued to hold the fort, stopping 20 of 22 en route to victory.
With the win, the Marlies stretch their North Division lead to a four point gap over Syracuse, and a 9 to 10 point gap over St. John’s. As we talked about in more detail this morning, this puts Toronto very close to completing their multi-month comeback and clinching a playoff spot; a point gained by Toronto, a loss of any kind by St. John’s, a regulation loss for Utica, or three points lost by Albany would get an X beside their name.
Toronto’s next game comes on Friday night, against the Utica Comets. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM.