The Toronto Marlies played their last pair of games of the regular season this weekend, travelling to Newfoundland for what might be the last time to take on the St. John’s IceCaps. Toronto was looking for a division title, St. John’s was looking just to make the playoffs, and the latter team was the one that ultimately got more of what they wanted in a split pair of decisions.
Friday vs St. John’s
The Marlies made a quick first impression on this game, grabbing a multi-goal lead before the everyone was fully in their seats. Steven Oleksy opened the scoring with a seeing-eye point shot just three minutes in, and with Charles Hudon in the box, Brendan Leipsic finished off a flurry of passes and shots with his 18th goal of the season four minutes later.
Hudon got his revenge not long after, though, anchoring his IceCaps into the offensive zone and picking up Joel Hanley’s rebound to close the gap up. Scoring fell to as standstill until the start of the second period, where Frederik Gauthier wasted no time in crashing the net and giving Trevor Moore an opportune rebound to fire past Charlie Lindgren just 23 seconds in.
It’s a good thing he did so, because the game started to escape Toronto for a decent stretch of time. A fantastic interception and deke by Hudon brought St. John’s within reach again six minutes later, and before the period could close, Jacob de la Rose added a shorthanded tally to tie the game.
That deadlock lasted just 30 seconds, as Seth Griffith scored his 10th of the season off a fantastic fake shot from Travis Dermott. With twenty seconds to go, Rinat Valiev added an empty-netter to close the game off.
Saturday vs St. John’s
The IceCaps proved to be much more difficult opponents on Saturday; unsurprising, given that their playoff hopes (and, on that note, their time in St. John’s altogether) was in the balance of the result. Chris Terry put the Montreal Canadiens affiliate up just five minutes in, taking advantage of a puck misplay by Rinat Valiev and tucking the puck past Garret Sparks as the highlight of a quiet first period.
Toronto fell further behind in the second period, thanks to quick goals by Anthony Camara and a second tally by Terry. While coach Sheldon Keefe didn’t immediately swap out Sparks, a collision that sent multiple players into his crease was enough to decide that it made sense to put Kasimir Kaskisuo in for the rest of the night and not risk an injury to his starter.
Andrew Nielsen managed to break Lindgren’s shutout midway through the second, but that was as close as Toronto would get to rallying back; the IceCaps added one more in the third and put the game permanently out of reach.
The Near Miss
Unfortunately for the Marlies, the loss on Saturday and a win for the Syracuse Crunch means that they’ll miss out on their push from the basement to the top of the North Division by a single point. They do, however, finish the year as the Division Leader in wins (42) and Goal Differential (+38).
That last-second shift of the standings means that the Marlies will face a very familiar opponent in the playoffs. They’ll be taking on the Albany Devils in the Best-of-5 first round. Last year, the two teams played a bloodbath of a series that one would hope takes a different tone this time around. The postseason will kick off for Toronto on Thursday; we’ll have a preview of the series later this week.