TORONTO, ONT. – Game one of the Calder Cup Final was full of drama and excitement. At times, the Texas Stars had the Toronto Marlies on the ropes. In the third period, the Marlies came out to play and they played to win.
Sunday’s game two would take on a defensive feel.
The game started almost as if they were both still playing the last game, with one difference. Both Mike McKenna and Garret Sparks were playing the way both teams had grown used to them playing. This game was the goalie duel that we all expected in game one.
When the Marlies scored late in the period, one could believe that the Marlies had this well in hand as the Stars had chances, but the Marlies seemed in control. When Ben Smith tried for a shot in front of the net, it was blocked, but he recovered the puck. Struggling to get it back to Travis Dermott, Smith finally made the pass. Dermott glided across the blue line to the center and shot right at McKenna, but it was tipped in by Smith. McKenna did not have a chance on this one and the Marlies were up 1-0.
The first period ended with a penalty to Remi Elie for interference as the referees finally decided to call something. The second period would start with the Marlies on about a minute of the power play left. The second period started with the Stars making a better use of the penalty than the Marlies. They sent a few shots at Sparks and had a strong forecheck.
A couple of minutes after that power play ended, the Marlies seemed to regain control of the game. However, Dillon Heatherington in the Stars’ end saw a very open Curtis McKenzie at the other end of the rink and made the deep pass. McKenzie made no mistake and beat Sparks on a hard-skating breakaway.
After the goal, the wheels were taken out from under the Marlies. Frederik Gauthier was given two minutes for holding to give the Stars their first power play. While on the penalty kill, Colin Greening was pushing hard and fought for the puck, winning it in the Stars’ zone. When the whistle was blown, both teams and the off-ice officials assumed it was to the Stars player who was hooking Greening. It was not. Greening was given two for holding as well. Suddenly, the Stars had almost a full two minute 5-on-3 to look forward to.
The Marlies did a good job of keeping it a 1-1 game, with Sparks stealing a few from the Stars. With 11 seconds left on the Greening penalty, McKenzie was given two for hooking in the Marlies’ end.
The second period completed with the two teams tied and the shots within one. The Marlies had lost their footing and were no longer the dominant team on the rink. The largest crowd in Ricoh history witnessed the Stars taking command and the Marlies losing the referee battle. The goalies were strong and doing their jobs well. When this game was decided, it was not going to be due to a failure of goaltending.
The third period was the fastest period of the night as there were very few whistles to slow things down. When Vincent LoVerde was sent to the penalty box for two minutes, the Stars pounced. Gavin Bayreuther shot a bullet off the pass to the blue line from Justin Dowling and put the Stars up, for good, 2-1.
With the loss, The Marlies saw their ten-game winning streak snapped and lost their first home playoff game in 14 tries. The series heads to Texas with the Stars now having home-ice advantage.
Game three is in Cedar Park, Texas on Tuesday night.
Score: Stars 2 – Marlies 1
Shots: Stars 24 – Marlies 22
Penalties: Stars 3 – Marlies 4
Stars goals were scored by Bayreuther and McKenzie. Assists from Dowling, Dillon Heatherington, Travis Morin and Brent Regner.
Marlies goal was scored by Smith and assisted Dermott.