Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
The kids against the vets who have been gradually replaced by kids. Goliath versus a slightly smaller goliath. Lou Lamoriello’s present farm club against his last one. Two teams with a pretty even regular season series but no real bad blood. The narratives in this series feel close to significant, but not quite, but the significance is in the talent; the Toronto Marlies and Albany Devils are poised to give hockey fans what might be the best series of these Calder Cup Playoffs. The two sides kicked things off tonight at Ricoh Coliseum, and the Toronto Marlies came out of the evening down 1-0 in the series thanks to a 2-1 loss.
Toronto appeared to get off to a good start when they took control of the shot count in the opening minutes, but the momentum was short-lived. After Rich Clune was sent to the box for interference, Albany set off a wave of goals with a tally by Brian O’Neil, which gave the Devils a 1-0 lead for all of 69 seconds. A nice point shot by Connor Carrick turned the tides again, though, as Colin Smith showed up and banged home the tying rebound. That equal score sheet lasted for even less time, however, as a shot by Matt Lorito tricked past Garret Sparks to put the Devils up once again. The score stayed that way until the last whistle of the frame.
Neither team was able to muster up much momentum in the second period, thanks in no small part to the chippy, physical back-and-forth between the two teams. Carrick and Thomson were sent off for roughing early the period in an attempt to calm down the mess, which worked to an extent but left plenty of room for more one-sided moments. The two teams traded powerplays to no avail, and with neither team able to take control for a significant stretch, the two set themselves up for a the wire third period. While Toronto would control parts of that final frame, they were ultimately unable to get any more of their efforts past Scott Wedgewood and ended the game with the unwanted result.
This was a rough game for Toronto, in the sense that the team controlled play at times but failed on simple carry-ins, board battles, and even passes that are typically business as usual for them. Interestingly, the Marlies took more shots on the Devils than they have in any of their prior five games gainst them and outshot them for the first time since October. However, the Marlies simply couldn’t string together a run of offence for long enough to make be truly overwhelming to their opponents.
There were some positives to be carried into next game, though. Kasperi Kapanen and Brendan Leipsic were standouts in particular; Leipsic had trouble with getting his shots to hit the net but he would frequently go one against the world and, if nothing else, create something resembling an opportunity.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Toronto reacts to being down in a series; there hasn’t been much adversity for this team to face throughout the year until now. The two teams will reconvene on Friday night at Ricoh Coliseum. Puck drop will once again be at 7:30.