Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
Being second best isn’t something that this Toronto Marlies roster is used to. They’ve had the entire league in their rearview mirror since December, and they made the Bridgeport Sound Tigers look a couple of leagues below at times in their first-round sweep. But the Albany Devils reminded them that they’re not the league’s only juggernaut on Wednesday, and as such, the blue and white came into Ricoh Coliseum playing an unfamiliar game: Catch Up.
At times, it looked like that wasn’t going to happen, but after Albany took “setting the tone” a bit too far, the Marlies took off. A four-goal third period was enough to crack Scott Wedgewood’s rain of dominance and bring the Marlies back into the series with a 5-3 victory.
Like Wednesday’s game, this game’s initial pace was dictated by a flurry of goals midway through the first period. Toronto received their first powerplay of the game a little earlier than last time and converted swiftly, as Ben Smith knocked home Connor Carrick’s rebound to give Toronto an early lead. The advantage didn’t last long, however, as Dan Kelly tied the game with a screened point shot a minute later and Nick Lappin battled in a rebound not long after. By the end of twenty, Toronto had been outshot 15-9, and it seemed pretty certain that history was due to repeat itself.
The Marlies clawed back, though. Shortly after killing a 1:30 long 5-on-3 disadvantage, Rich Clune was speared by Joseph Blandisi, resulting in a Toronto powerplay. Once again, they converted, tying the game after Carrick set up TJ Brennan for a seeing eye snipe. The remainder of the frame remained physical, with tensions particularly flaring after a wandering Antione Bibeau was run by Matt Lorito.
The third period got off to a productive start, as the Marlies gained the lead for the second time on the night after Viktor Loov’s point shot was deflected in the slot by Zach Hyman just two minutes in. Much like their last effort, though, the lead didn’t last. Lorito went after Bibeau once again, but this time, he did so with a shot on goal, which slipped past his pad and into the net to bring the score to 3-3. Toronto took the lead back soon enough, however, as Brennan proved to have more left on his stick from the prior period, taking a shot from the point that pinballed its way past Wedgewood.
Toronto had a couple of opportunities to take the series’ first multi-goal lead after the fact. A tripping call against Marc-Andre Gragnani gave the team a powerplay that they didn’t convert on, and a few minutes later, Sam Carrick was sprung for a breakaway that ended with a wide shot. Nervous energy began to trickle into the crowd, and the shot count would lead you to believe that it was extending to the players as well. Enter Zach Hyman, who pushed his way towards the net, clawed through any Albany player who headed in his path and went for the sharp wraparound to bury an insurance tally.
There have been some criticisms of the refereeing in this series, with some Toronto fans feeling like the imbalance comes from an attempt to make the series closer. I don’t really buy into that (reffing conspiracies are the worst and Albany is good enough to not need the help). With that said, if there was a call that legitimately left me confused, it was the Blandisi/Clune altercation. Blandisi was given a double minor for spearing while Clune was given two for embellishment. Personally, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen an embellishment penalty given on a spear, much less one that was considered worthy of a double minor. It certainly fired Clune up; there was a definite jump in his step afterward, which is impressive when you consider how much energy he already plays with.
I’m also just about ready to give Josh Leivo the “worst luck of all time” award. He’s now up to 20 shots against the Devils this season without so much as a point for his efforts. If only there were somebody to sell his soul to…
The two teams will now head to Albany for Game 3, which will be played on Sunday evening at 5 PM. If the Marlies hope to gain any sort of momentum in this series, they’re going to need a big result to close the weekend off.