TORONTO, ON – The Toronto Marlies got a second chance to move to round two Friday night, but Utica Comets netminder Thatcher Demko had other plans, and so their North Division semifinal will head back to the GTA for a winner-take-all game five.
The Marlies came out shooting, but Demko was equal to the task. The Comets got on the scoreboard soon after when Reid Boucher deposited pass from Cam Darcy behind Garrett Sparks and into the net. That goal came just 1:03 into the game.
Later in the period, with the Comets pushing another attack, Colin Greening made a less than optimal choice and got two minutes for interference. The Comets used the power play well, but the league-leading penalty kill was present in this period. They even got a couple of chances on Demko, but nothing that serious.
During the first period, the Marlies were looking more like their usual selves, even though they were down one. Their passes were much cleaner and were actually reaching their target, unlike on Wednesday’s game. However, not many of those shots actually tested Demko, but when they did he was equal to the task. At the other ends, Sparks allowed the first goal, but then returned to his usual form.
After a pretty good first period, they only had moments of good in the second period. Three minutes into the period, Tanner MacMaster made it 2-0 for the Comets. The crowd could feel Wednesday’s magic in the air and went nuts.
When the Marlies went to their second penalty kill around the five-minute mark, the crowd was buzzing. They settled down a little when 30 seconds later Dylan Blujus got two minutes for hooking. During the 4-on-4 and the Marlies power play after, the Marlies controlled most of the play, but could not really get a quality shot on the net.
With less than nine minutes left in the period, Michael Chaput got called for slashing. With a long-delayed penalty call, the Marlies brought out the sixth attacker, but they could not capitalize on the situation.
With just under one minute to play in the second, Utica got a second slashing penalty and the Marlies went on their second full power play. After going 3-for-21 on the power play in the first three games, they have not been able to score in this game, extra attacker or not.
Sparks did not play as well in the second as in the first. In the second he allowed two goals on six shots, almost as bad as game three. At the end of the period, the Marlies had doubled the Comets’ shots at 26 to 13, but only five or six of those shots were actually a test for Demko, with the rest being easy saves.
Toronto would finally get on the board when Dmytro Timashov scored 47 seconds into the period, to narrow the lead to 3-1. Unfortunately for the Marlie faithful, Michael Carcone and Tyler Motte scored for Utica later in the period to put the game out of reach.
The key to the Comets success in games three and four was that they played as a unit. The five skaters helped Demko with blocked shots and kept the front of the net clear. This also gave Demko lots of opportunity to see the puck and hence make the saves. At the other end, Sparks often had bodies in front of him and the Marlies did not seem like their usual dominant selves.
Thatcher Demko picks up the win, saving 40 of 42 Marlies’ shots, while Garrett Sparks takes the loss, making only 15 saves on 20 shots faced.
Home-ice held serve throughout this series, and now the regular-season champs will need a win in game five to keep their season going. Puck drop in Toronto for game five is Sunday at 4:00 pm. Follow @SinBinBeast on Twitter for live game updates.
Score: Marlies 2 – Comets 5
Shots: Marlies 42 – Comets 20
Penalties: Marlies 4 – Comets 4
Marlies goals were scored by Engvall and Dmytro Timashov. Assists from Frederik Gauthier, Marincin, Trevor Moore and Chris Mueller.
Comets goals were scored by Boucher (2), Carcone, MacMaster, and Tyler Motte. Assists from Cole Cassels, Chaput, Darcy (2), Nikolay Goldobin (2), MacMaster and Patrick Wiercioch (2).