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Recap: Toronto Marlies lose to Hartford Wolf Pack, 2-3

The loss is only the second of the past nine games.

Sam Carrick's 16th goal of the season.
Sam Carrick's 16th goal of the season.
Christian Bonin

It was an early 11:00AM start on Wednesday, with over 7,500 students from the Toronto Catholic District School Board swarming Ricoh Coliseum to watch the Toronto Marlies play the Hartford Wolf Pack. It was a full house and they were crazy!

It took only 35 seconds for the Marlies to bring the screaming crowd of kids to their feet. Sam Carrick scored his 16th goal of the season, assisted by none other than Connor Carrick. Connor flew all the way up the ice from behind the Marlies blue line, catching the Wolf Pack by surprise while on a line change. As they raced and finally caught up to him, Connor got the puck over to Sam who, also coming off the bench, had sneaked up to the goal without the panicked Wolf Pack team seeing he was there. Sam got it in past their goalie, Magnus Hellberg.

The Wolf Pack scored their first goal at 15:31 in the first. Mark Arcobello attempted to clear the puck out from the corner behind the Marlies net, but ended up passing it to the Wolf Pack's Nicklas Jensen right by the faceoff dot. He had a clear shot on net and Bibeau couldn't stop it.

Other notable scoring chances in the first period included Zach Hyman on a breakaway which lead to a rebound back out of the crease, but without anyone there to put it in the net. Also, as we have seen in several recent games, Rich Clune once again had a great setup pass, this time for Gauthier while he was in front of the net, but those two have the worst luck, and couldn't get it past Hellberg.

Bibeau also made a fantastic stop with two minutes left on a play by Chad Nehring, the Wolf Pack's top scorer this season.

The period ended with a scrum and some pushing and shoving, much to the delight of the crowd of school kids who whipped up a frenzy chanting "FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!"

The second period wound up having all the rest of the goals in the game. The Wolf Pack scored two goals, one at 5 minutes, and one at 10 minutes. William Nylander had a nice breakaway just before the half way point of the period but Hellberg stopped it. However, with four minutes left the Marlies went on the power play. Connor Carrick, almost back at the blue line, shot it past Hellberg.

Shots on goal at the end of the second were a somewhat lopsided 15 - 24 for the Wolf Pack.

The third period had no goals, though lots of scoring chances. Early on, the Marlies managed a bunch of shots that went right through the Wolf Pack's crease, but not into the net.

With about 8:30 left to go, Nylander had a short charge into the attacking zone, but was swarmed by the Wolf Pack defenders. As that happened he made an almost blind backward pass to Tobias Lindberg, who stumbled with the puck and turned it over. My eye test told me I have seen him make this play before, so I consulted with our resident Nylander expert, Katya.

"He loves that pass!" she said, confirming she also recalled him trying it in an NHL game recently, and it not working there either. Katya thinks he picked it up in the SHL, where it probably was a much more effective play.

"In European hockey there is a much greater tendency to concede the zone on opposing entries. The defenders fall back out of the neutral zone much more easily. Cute tricks like that just inside the blue line work because the defenders are back closer to the net, and less likely to actively pressure for a takeaway that leads to a rush."

Hopefully for the AHL playoffs he either gets lucky with this play, or works with the coaching staff to come up with a better option, as it seems this play no longer catches defenders by surprise.

As previously mentioned, there were no further goals, so the game ended with a 2-3 Marlies defeat.

Marlies' coach Sheldon Keefe thinks the team didn't stick to their plan and may have taken the game too lightly.

"The concern going into the game is that the guys might think it will be easy. Scoring on the first shift doesn't help that. I thought we got away from the plan," he said. "We didn't take care of the puck at all, and then we were on our heels against a desperate team."

Keefe is clearly putting an emphasis on treating these final games of the regular season as though they are playoff games, expecting maximum effort from his team. "I think the execution was extremely poor, and it got away from how it is we want to play, how we practiced yesterday, and how we planned before the game."

"It's a little reminder for us that there's other teams in the league too, and it's not as easy as some might think."

With Nylander and Gauthier back with the team after the official end of the NHL regular season, the lineup looked a lot more like what we can expect for the AHL playoffs, There are still some changes to come. Garret Sparks, Andrew Campbell, and Kasperi Kapanen were scratched for rest. Viktor Loov is still recovering from an injury, though he's close to returning.

The Marlies final two games will both be at Ricoh this Saturday and Sunday. It will be a great chance to see this team at its best heading into the AHL playoffs. Like the NHL, the final playoff slots in the AHL Eastern Conference will be determined by the very final regular season games. However, with most match-ups already determined, the playoff schedule is still expected to be out very quickly after they wrap up this weekend, perhaps even on Monday.

See below for the goal highlights of the game.