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From the Branches: The Ballad of David Ayres

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The unsung hero of last night's 4-0 Marlies shutout was the 38-year-old Zamboni driver.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Jonathan Bernier was perfect in net last night for the Marlies, a 4-0 decision played in Rochester against the Amerks. He had a lot of goal support (which many of you pointed out must've been an odd feeling for him), with two goals scored by William Nylander, and two by Nikita Soshnikov. The Amerks struggled to find Bernier's side of the ice, frankly, with shots tilted 38 - 21 toward the Marlies. But still, a shutout is a shutout, and Bernier had to actually work during the final minutes of the third, when the Amerks got a power play.

Bernier's solidness in net and excellent health was probably a relief to everyone in the Leafs organization, because there was a scramble for a Marlies emergency backup when Ryan Massa (Orlando's backup goaltender) got sent back a day too early, and Antoine Bibeau got sent up to the Leafs right before the game.

Enter a 38-year-old Zamboni driver, David Ayres. Welcome to the Leafs organization, Ayres!

With Bibeau gone, the Marlies were forced to sign David Ayres, the building operations manager at Mattamy Athletic Centre, to an amateur tryout contract to serve as Bernier's backup. Ayres, a 38-year-old who occasionally works for the ice crew and drives the Zamboni during Marlies games, made it to Rochester just over an hour before puck drop.

Ayres sat on the bench but only observed as Bernier played his first AHL game since May 22, 2010, when he was a 21-year-old Los Angeles Kings prospect playing for the Manchester Monarchs. (source)

Signing a random guy as Emergency Backup is a common occurrence in Orlando, because poop generally rolls downhill. Our Emergency Backup is Bobby Fowler, who got the call to back up Ryan Massa for tonight's game (which I will be attending), since Rob Madore is up with the Marlies.

All of this got me thinking, though:

Tonight's game is going to feature the exciting young goaltending duo of Garret Sparks and Bibeau in net for the Leafs. The Marlies, well. Rob Madore (Orlando's starting goaltender) is on a plane even as we speak, and he'll be backing up Bernier shortly.

Wait, what?

That's right.  An ECHL goaltender will be backing up an NHL goaltender in an AHL game. I hear this is not all that uncommon, even though it kinda sounds cool. Anyway I sincerely doubt Madore started his season thinking, "I bet I'll be backing up Bernier by December."

Oh. For people who like history, I was hopping around on r/hockey's thread about this, and someone posted video from 2012, when the Niagara IceDogs and Erie Otters played a game with a skater dressed as a goaltender.

Fun!

Leafs News

Home cooking: Toronto Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander eating up AHL, looking ahead to NHL | Eh Game

Maple Leafs jigsaw puzzle finally comes together | Toronto Sun
Not a metaphorical puzzle, an actual one.

Bernier shuts out Amerks in first game with Marlies | Jeffler

Other Hockey News

Lightning sign Cooper to multiyear contract extension | NHL

Buffalo Sabres to host '18 World Junior Championship | NHL

NHL must scrap this inane rule to get the fights it needs | New York Post
"The instigator penalty is a utter detriment to the league." I'll probably regret linking to this opinion piece.

Hickey on Hockey: NHL All-Star Game voting devolves into hacking contest | Montreal Gazette
If we break the system well enough, will they let us handle the US Presidential election?!

How an NHL team’s system affects a player’s performance | SI

New Monsters center Manny Malhotra has unique NHL story | Cleveland.com

Last Night's Games by Species

Presented without comment.

Maybe they were exchanging pasta casserole recipes?

Edmonton vs. Dallas , first goal from Taylor Hall. Dallas will still win, of course.

The Flames had a lovely tribute for Gail Miller, who passed away suddenly last week. Miller had been a concession worker, and then concessions manager at the Saddledome for over 30 years. They invited her son to attend the game and he was thrilled.

Then they went out and kicked some Bruins arse!>>>>> IT WAS 4-4!!!!!!!

Johnny Gaudreau got a hat trick.

Then he did an interview in a Fireman's hat. Also worth a listen as he talks about the incident with Marchand.

Guess which ex-Leaf got the game winning goal for the Ducks!

Do they not have a budget to feed the players in Anaheim?

Remember when we bought out this guy's contract?

Just when you finally think he's not going to actually shoot, he does. (SLMLD)

I love it when guys are dumped into the bench, but why is this a "Million Dollar Replay"?

Suspension hearing coming?

Canada's Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will not like this.

BC Alum Johnny Gaudreau Spoils the Bruins Trip to Calgary - Matchsticks and Gasoline
Gaudreau gets a hat trick giving the Flames an OT win against Boston

Points Stollen - The Copper & Blue
Anders Nilsson steals two points for the Oilers in a 2-1 OT win over Dallas

Kane's shorty breaks game open, Sabres win 5-2 - Die By The Blade
A complete team effort led by Evander Kane gave the Sabres a 5-2 win over Arizona.

Four wins! In a row! - Broad Street Hockey
The Flyers put forth a strong defensive effort, but needed their power play and 3-on-3 to get a win against their long-lasting thorn-in-the-side divisional rivals.

Panthers nip Blue Jackets 2-1 in shootout to sew up fifth straight win - Litter Box Cats
Huberdeau and Barkov score in the skills competition to keep the Cats rolling.

Ducks Shut Down Sharks 1-0 - Anaheim Calling
The Ducks and Sharks have now played three games against each other this season, and in each of those games a different goaltender has posted a shutout.