Between call-ups, injuries, and injury call-ups, the Toronto Marlies are a decimated team. Many of their best players are elsewhere, and though they became the first team to mathematically clinch a playoff spot last night, they still have home ice and first place to worry about. For this reason no excuses were to be made, and they certainly didn’t make them today, as the Marlies put up a 4-1 victory over Lake Erie.
To give an idea of how shorthanded the Marlies are right now, they entered this game with eleven forwards and seven defencemen. Two of the forwards (Brett Findlay and Eric Faille) have spent the bulk of the year with the Solar Bears, David Kolomatis was signed to a late-season contract, Matt Frattin is technically Ottawa Senators property and three other skaters (Taylor Doherty, John Kurtz, and Tylor Spink) are on Professional Tryouts.
But the craziest thing? All of those guys are playing above expectation. Frattin, of course, is a gimmie, but Kolomatis has played steady when he’s been in the lineup, Kurtz has been a dependable bottom-six forward, Doherty has protected teammates he’s just barely met, and the Solar Bears pair have been energetic.
Spink, if anything is the biggest wildcard, but that’s more because he’s only played two games. The 23-year-old just wrapped up his season with Colgate University, where he finished second in team scoring to his twin brother Tyson. After two games with the ECHL Tolledo Walleye, he received the call to help out the Marlies during this forward shortage. He’s had his chances too, and nearly had his first point today.
In fact, the only thing that prevented him was a scoring change that ruled in favour of a deflection, which gave Andrew Campbell’s goal to the aforementioned Kurtz. This was Toronto’s second of the game, directly at the midpoint of the second period, and it came just five minutes after Faille scored his fourth of the season.
Rich Clune added to the burst of the new guys by scoring his seventh of the year in the final minutes of the period, and while Lake Erie’s Lukas Sedlak broke up what would have otherwise been a stellar 34-save-shoutout for Antoine Bibeau, the Marlies kept their opponents at bay until TJ Brennan was able to slip in an empty netter with two seconds left in the game.
With the win, the Marlies bounce back to a 0.735 points percentage, the result of a 46-15-5 record. Their goal differential improves to +87, and they now have 16 more goals than any other team in the league. With this game behind them, they’ll have the bulk of the week off, returning to the ice on Saturday to take on the St. John’s IceCaps at the Air Canada Centre at 1:30 PM.