Marlies lose Game 1 of Eastern Conference Finals to Hershey


Tonight was certainly not how the Toronto Marlies wanted to start their series against the Hershey Bears. For the second time in these playoffs, the powerhouse favourites in blue and white dropped the first game of their series, this time by a 3-1 result at the GIANT Centre.

Toronto actually had solid control of this game in the first period, limiting Hershey to just two shots on goal in the first 18 minutes. Even better, they were able to break the ice with the game’s opening goal, which saw struggling young star forward William Nylander win a neutral-ice puck battle and set up a pretty give-and-go play with Kasperi Kapanen. From there, you’d think that the game was money in the bank, but that wasn’t the case.

Hershey did a spectacular job of limiting Toronto’s ability to set up in the zone. In the ensuing forty minutes, the Bears kept the Marlies to just 13 more shots on goal, leaving them with 20 on the night. More importantly, they got a few of their own. Carter Camper tied the game by ripping a loose puck near the point into an open lane, and in the final seconds of the period, it looked as if they gave themselves the lead. Fortunately for the Marlies, there wasn’t enough video evidence to make it count. They may have got lucky in that regard, too; the bears certainly felt that they did, and came out inspired in the third period.

Hershey channeled their frustrations into the next ten minutes of play, moving the puck closer and closer to the net with every attempt. Liam O’Brien put the Bears up at the three-minute mark, and while Viktor Loov’s penalty didn’t lead to an insurance tally, a tripping call against Josh Leivo not long after certainly did the trick. The Marlies pulled Bibeau for an extra attacker with four minutes left, but ultimately, neither side could do anything with the effort.

This was a rough night for a many involved. Toronto had trouble maintaining any sort of offensive momentum and many of their break-in efforts were neutralized with ease. The puck seemed to bounce on both sides, but Toronto seemed less prepared. The Marlies had a run of form that went with a second-period powerplay, but only drew a single infraction against them on the night. Antoine Bibeau wasn’t awful, but he certainly wasn’t great; this was his third consecutive game with a sub-0.900 save percentage. 

Toronto will also be keeping their eyes on Mark Arcobello tonight. The skilled forward went crashing into the boards after a diving poke check from Madison Bowey, and while he returned a few minutes after heading to the dressing room, it’s hard to predict how something like that will feel in the morning.

Certainly, that will be just one item on a list of things that they’ll have to think about, and they’ll have to be quick thinkers; Game 2 is tomorrow night at 7:00 PM.