The Toronto Marlies were on their heels after losing the first two games of their series in Syracuse vs. the Crunch. Veteran Rich Clune commented that the team was not in a good place. “The first two games in Syracuse didn’t go very well. I don’t think we felt too good about ourselves as a team.” However, after two wins in a row at home, the ship looks to have been righted.
The Marlies looked on Wednesday like the only team on the ice that wanted to win the game. They were playing better defensively, and getting more scoring chances from all of their lines than the Crunch could muster. The game was still close per the scoreboard, but the game was a convincing win for the Marlies.
Kasimir Kaskisuo was back in net, and so was Mike McKenna for the Crunch. In Syracuse last weekend, Kaskisuo was pulled in favour of Antoine Bibeau in a game where the Crunch eventually scored eight times. On Wednesday night, it was McKenna’s turn to be pulled from the net, after the Marlies had three quick goals in the second period.
However, it was the Crunch who scored first, again. Jonathan Racine had their first strong scoring chance stopped by Kaskisuo, but then seconds later, Adam Erne had an easy shot to get a puck behind Kaskisuo after an unfortunate giveaway by Seth Griffith sent the puck right to his stick. Erne was also the first to score in Tuesday’s game.
The Marlies then turned up the heat, and the Crunch defence started looking disorganized. Rich Clune was first to take advantage, putting the Marlies on the board with a shot from a rebound of a chance by Kerby Rychel.
This was Clune’s first goal of the playoffs. He was proud to have helped in this win, after being out of the line up for many of the playoff games to date. “I’ve just tried to be focused, and ready, and remain positive. I think, as I grow a little bit older, I really have discovered that persistence is [everything].”
The next goal was on a power play, scored by Kerby Rychel.
This was the first of four powerplay opportunities during the game for the Marlies. Immediately after scoring, Andrew Campbell took a penalty for Interference. It was one of only two calls against the Marlies in the game.
Clune noted that there was some good “The older guys on and the coaching staff have done a good job to keep the bench calm and collected.”
Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe echoed those comments. “It helps the cause, especially when we’re playing better at even strength, so the more we can play at even strength the better for us. We took some bad penalties out on the road, and we didn’t do that out here on home ice and obviously that’s going to be a key when we get back out [to Syracuse].”
The Marlies went back on the powerplay again, and Trevor Moore, who already had a great scoring chance, put it in the net, and the Marlies were up 3-1.
With three goals in the first period, the Crunch chose to pull McKenna on return to the second. He allowed 3 goals on the Marlies 15 shots-against in the game. Combined with Tuesday’s game that was a total of 8 goals on 49 shots-against.
McKenna was replaced by Kristers Gudlevskis, who played well, stopping all 14 shots-against him during the remainder of the game.
The Crunch looked better in the second period, and they scored the final goal in the game mid-way near the end of the second period, but that would be it.
They Marlies had some good attempts to add the extra insurance goal. Brett Findlay, who played his first AHL playoff game on Tuesday, set up Collin Greening for a nice scoring chance which was stopped.
The Marlies had one more huge scoring chance, but, as the puck was destined to cross the line, the Crunch’s Jonathan Racine physically slid into the net and moved it off its moorings. Despite his protests that it was an accident, the refs handed out a delay of game penalty.
In the third period it looked like everyone was a bit tired — it was after all the end of a back-to-back — and there were a lot of dump ins by the Marlies as they obstructed and intercepted attacks by the Crunch before reaching their blue line.
Trevor Moore had the most energy of the night, getting another two scoring chances right as the game was coming to a close. He shot the puck from one side of the net, picked off his own rebound, then went behind the net to make another shot from the other side.
It was a good game, attended by over 6,500, with a buzz clearly building in favour of the team. Clune commented that there was a lot of energy in the crowd from the fans to feed from.
On the other side of the conference, the Providence Bruins are facing the Hershey Bears. The Bears now lead that series 2-1. The winner will play the winner of the Marlies-Crunch series. You may recall last season it was the Bears who eliminated the Marlies in the conference final. There is the possibility of a rematch.
But, first thing is first. It’s now a best-of-three series with the Crunch.
The Marlies next game is at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena in Syracuse on Saturday at 7:00 PM. Following that they will return to Toronto for a game on Monday at 7:00 PM. If it’s necessary, game seven would be in Syracuse on Wednesday May 17.