TORONTO, Ont. – Heading into game four of the North Division Final series, the Toronto Marlies were looking to do something they had done once previously, sweep a playoff series. By doing so, they could exact a little bit of revenge on Syracuse after being dispatched by the Crunch in last year’s playoffs.
Syracuse, meanwhile, was looking for something — anything — to get the momentum on their side. With the exception of game three, the Crunch have had solid goaltending efforts, but the offense has lacked.
As expected, Garret Sparks was in net for the Marlies, while the Crunch went with Connor Ingram for the third straight game. Sparks had to deal with his fair share of shots but there were only one or two chances that the Crunch got on him. He had tons of time to see the puck coming. Ingram, meanwhile, was bothered quite a bit by the Marlies and they solved him once during the opening 20 minutes.
The Marlies opened up the scoring 4:52 into the contest when Chris Mueller fired a shot from Ingram’s right, which Ben Smith tipped onto him. While Ingram made the save, he also gave up a rebound that Dmytro Timashov was in the perfect spot to put in the open net.
After the halfway mark, Alex Gallant decided to go hunting and found Mason Marchment with his elbow. Gallant smashed Marchment into the glass, possibly even jumping into the hit, and a scrum ensued. When the dust settled, Gallant got a five minute major and a game misconduct, the Marlies got the power play. This was Gallant’s first playoff game this season.
While Gallant’s time was being served, the Marlies wasted no time to set up their catch-and-release program in the Crunch zone. With roughly five minutes left in the period, the puck ended up on Andreas Johnsson’s stick, and instead of the pass, he uncorked a shot that Ingram off guard, going in clean over his shoulder. The major power play and period ended without any further scoring or penalties.
This was a fast-paced opening period with very few whistles. The shot count was an average 10-9 in favor of the Marlies.
The second period started with both teams at even strength. A few minutes in and both teams already had chances, but no goals. Of note was Mitchell Stephens’ one-timer that went cleanly off the crossbar. That was typical of the luck the Crunch were having.
Ingram definitely had a better period in the middle frame, stopping all nine shots on net. He had the leather flashing as several of those shots were valid scoring chances. At the other end, the Marlies did a good job of blocking shots as the Crunch only registered four shots on the net. Sparks had to be active and alert though, as those four shots were pretty good chances.
In the third, the Crunch came out much more aggressive right from the start. About halfway through the period, the puck got back to Reid McNeill at the line and he hammered it at the net. While Sparks made the initial save, the puck slipped under him and went in the net just before Sparks could save it again. With over nine minutes of hockey left, it was suddenly a one-goal game, but that’s all the closer Syracuse would get. In the end, the Crunch pulled Ingram and they pelted pucks towards the net, but most of the shots were blocked. The ones that did find the net were stopped by Sparks.
Ingram played more than two periods of shutout hockey. Unfortunately for the Crunch, this was not enough to get the win. While it seemed like Sparks might finally get the shutout he was previously denied, it was not in the cards for this game.
Round three might not start until as late as May 17th as the Marlies await their Eastern Conference Final opponent. The Atlantic division is currently up for grabs as Lehigh Valley Phantoms currently leads the Charlotte Checkers 2-1 in the series. Game seven of that series, if needed, will not be until May 15th. Regardless who is the Atlantic division champion, the Marlies will have home-ice advantage, thanks to them winning the league’s regular-season championship.
Score: Marlies 2 – Crunch 1
Shots: Marlies 23 – Crunch 22
Penalties: Marlies 4 – Crunch 6
Marlies goals were scored by Johnsson and Timashov. Assists from Pierre Engvall, Timothy Liljegren, Mueller and Smith.
Crunch goal was scored by McNeill and was assisted by Kevin Lynch and Carter Verhaeghe.
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