Round 2: Marlies Secure 6-4 Victory over the Crunch in Game 1

Toronto (6) Syracuse (4) Final

By: Gordon Brown

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Gone golfing.

Spring came early for the Toronto Maple Leafs following a first-round playoff exit last week.

Internally, a tremendous amount of heavy lifting remains even after this year’s resurgence in the league’s overall standings. Toronto’s organizational focus has shifted to the upcoming NHL Draft and search for a new General Manager subsequent to Lou Lamoriello’s contract expiration—but not in a limited sense, by any means of the imagination. 

Maple Leafs’ Assistant GM and perceived leading candidate for Toronto’s head office vacancy, Kyle Dubas, has assembled a deadly Marlies roster in the General Manager’s role and appears poised to take over at the NHL-level. A plethora of youngsters have made the NHL jump during Dubas’ tenure at the helm of Marlies’ operations and should be a testament to his success in such a short period of time. 

If the Leafs decide to go in another direction, another organization will certainly gain a promising hockey mind to help oversee their team’s future. 

Time to crunch the Crunch?

Additionally, the Toronto Marlies were primed for Round 2 of the AHL’s 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs—against a familiar foe, at that. 

The Syracuse Crunch are looking to return to the Calder Cup Finals, where they were bested in six games last season at the hands of the Grand Rapids Griffins. They also ended Toronto’s Calder Cup bid along the way, meaning bad blood was to be reasonably expected. 

Contrary to 2016-17, the Crunch are structured more similarly to their NHL-counterpart Tampa Bay Lightning, with an emphasis on skill and scoring rather than a grit and grinding.

Absent from the matchup was Anthony Cirelli, Cory Conacher, Jake Dotchin, Adam Erne, Yanni Gourde, and Slater Koekkoek, all who have been called upon to aid Tampa Bay in their quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup. 

Although the bitter rivals hadn’t met since February 28th, a 4-3 overtime win for the Crunch, it wouldn’t take long for either team’s to exchange pleasantries. Several scrums ensued early on but amounted to very little in terms of full-out brawls.

In between the pipes for Toronto was Garret Sparks, sporting a 3-2 record with a .902 SV% and GAA to show for it. At the other end of the ice was Eddie Pasquale, who recently took over Syracuse’s starting role over Connor Ingram. He entered Thursday with an undefeated record of 2-0, .873 SV%, and 3.50 GAA in the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs.

Adam Brooks broke the ice and secured a 1-0 lead for the Marlies just 8:33 into the opening frame. The goal came as a result of a screen and redirection by Brooks, who managed to tip Martin Marincin’s initial shot past Eddie Pasquale. Mason Marchment also drew a secondary assist on the play.

With just over a minute remaining on the clock, Andreas Johnsson attempted to deke while also being the last line of defence—which typically, does not end very well. Syracuse went on to record an equalizer off the stick of Mathieu Joseph, who stripped Johnsson and was gifted a shorthanded one-on-one opportunity against Garret Sparks.

He made no mistake and evened the score at 1-apiece.

Luckily for Toronto, they still went to the dressing room with a one-goal advantage courtesy of Dmytro Timashov’s 4th goal of the playoffs just 0:42 seconds later. 

The power play marker came as a result of an elaborate passing play between Trevor Moore and the eventual goal-scorer, Timashov, who received the puck before unleashing a one-timer past Pasquale to effectively restore their lead. 

As the second period got underway, it was Syracuse pressing the attack while Toronto attempted to fend off each wave of pressure.

Eventually, either team traded tallies, with Carter Verhaeghe finding the scoresheet first to tie the game 2-2. Approximately five minutes later, Travis Dermott’s point shot found its way through traffic to restore Toronto’s one-goal advantage once more. 

The final twenty minutes of regulation time proved to work into the Marlies’ favour despite playing in their own end for a good portion of the frame. 

Toronto added an insurance goal thanks to a heads-up play by Frederik Gauthier, who saw a flurry of bodies surrounding Eddie Pasquale and decided to take advantage. Instead of a centring pass through the crease, Gauthier elected to throw a shot at hip-height in hopes of a redirection.  

To his credit, Gauthier’s shot deflected off of Mason Marchment to double their team’s lead at 4-2. 

On a delayed penalty call, Kevin Lynch erased one tally from the Crunch's deficit but it proved to be ineffective in the game’s grand scheme, considering the Marlies would add one more goal, courtesy of Pierre Engvall and Ben Smith, to close out a surprisingly narrow 6-4 victory in Game 1. 

Until the NHL Playoffs wrap-up and unrestricted free agency begin, you can expect an increasing amount of hype surrounding Toronto’s young, up-and-coming talent. Toronto’s front office was even in attendance, namely Brendan Shanahan, Mike Babcock, Mark Hunter, and Kyle Dubas.

The attendance was said to be 5896—but I expect to see a full bowl at Ricoh Coliseum on Saturday. Game 2 is set to go at 4:00 p.m. EST on Saturday afternoon, as Toronto looks to take an early stranglehold of the best-of-seven series.

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Photo Credit: @TorontoMarlies