TORONTO, ON – Heading into the first game of the North Division Finals, the lead up to this series has been short for the Toronto Marlies, having completed their first round on Sunday with a win over the Utica Comets. The Syracuse Crunch, meanwhile, finished off their opponent, the Rochester Americans, in three straight games, and have been off for over a week.
By the end of the night, it was apparent rest or rust didn’t matter.
The game got off to a slow start thanks to some very active whistles. With the Marlies pushing, Adam Brooks managed to tip in Martin Marincin’s shot from the point. On replay, you could see that Brooks’ tip actually was going wide, but ended up going in off of Dominik Masin’s leg as he was covering his man. There was no chance for the former Brampton Beast goaltender Eddie Pasquale to make the save. The Marlies were now up 1-0 with about nine minutes left in the period.
This very easily could have been the score at the end of the period. When Kevin Lynch got called for boarding Vincent LoVerde, this seemed to be the chance for the Marlies to go up by two. However, Mathieu Joseph had other plans. He stole the puck from Andreas Johnsson, and on his subsequent breakaway, Joseph scored short-handed on Garret Sparks to tie the game with a minute and a half left. That just lit the Marlies’ fuse and a little tic-tac-toe 42 seconds later saw Dmytro Timashov score his fourth goal of the playoffs. The period ended with the Marlies up 2-1 on that power play goal.
The second period started at a much faster pace than the first period did. Things got interesting again when Colin Greening was called for tripping at 9:07 of the period. As the power play was ending, Carter Verhaeghe scored his first goal of the playoffs on a shot Sparks should have saved.
Minutes later, as a roughing penalty to Mathieu Joseph was ending, Dermott got his first goal of the playoffs. Pasquale had no chance to see the shot as it came through traffic from the blue line. With both goals scored on the power play, the Marlies were still up by a single goal.
After 40 minutes, the Marlies were up 3-2, which was the same difference after 20 minutes. Of the five goals scored, only one came on a 5-on-5 play, as the special teams were doing their job. Of note was that the two teams only had 16 shots each, which highlighted just how good both teams are on the defensive.
Things picked up in the third period as each side scored as many goals in the final 20 minutes as they had in the first 40 minutes. Penalties were held to one for each, with both teams only getting a short power play on overlapping calls.
Goals of note came from Lynch who scored both of his first and second goals of the playoffs in the third period. Both goals brought the Crunch back within a single goal to keep the game tight. Pierre Engvall, making the most of his professional tryout, got the eventual game-winner off a beauty pass in front from Trevor Moore. Finally, with Pasquale pulled from the net, Ben Smith got his first of the post-season with a nice shot from the Marlies’ blueline.
While this game ended up 6-4, there could easily have been more scoring as Sparks showed some of the magic that made him the best netminder in the AHL during the regular season. Sparks finished the game with 28 saves on 32 shots. Pasquale did not have his best game as he only made 15 saves on 20 goals. Sometimes it is the low shooting games that mess up a goalie’s rhythm, as it has been said that most goalies would rather face more shots than less.
In the end, the game was close for the entire 60 minutes with the Marlies eventually holding onto the lead for good. If game one is any indication, this series promises to provide us with some amazing hockey.
Score: Crunch 4 – Marlies 6
Shots: Crunch 32 – Marlies 21
Penalties: Crunch 5 – Marlies 3
Crunch goals were scored by Joseph, Lynch (2) and Verhaeghe. Assists from Erik Condra, Joseph, Mitchell Stephens, Verhaeghe and Alexander Volkov.
Marlies goals were scored by Brooks, Dermott, Engvall, Mason Marchment, Smith, and Timashov. Assists from Brooks, Frederik Gauthier (2), Carl Grundstrom, Johnsson, Marchment, Marincin (2), Moore (2) and Chris Mueller.
The two teams will meet up again on Saturday at 4:00 pm in Toronto. Follow @SinBinBeast on Twitter for live game updates.