Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
I don’t think anybody has wanted a reason to travel to Hershey, Pennsylvania more than the Toronto Marlies did this afternoon. Maybe somebody who really, really loves grocery store chocolate. But with the series once again on the line, the blue and white planned on doing anything in their power to get there.
It didn’t work out the way they thought it would, though, and the Marlies dropped the game 3-2 to end the series at 4-1, ending their season a little earlier than anticipated.
The Marlies had the game open up on a sour note, one that was quite the opposite of the last series. Rich Clune, seemingly frustrated with the physical tone that Hershey opened the game up with, had a go at goaltender Justin Peters. He was penalized for the infraction, and while Hershey didn’t capitalize on it, O’Brien did go on to score thanks to a lucky bounce and some hand-eye coordination a minute afterward.
That ended up being the period’s only goal, and to Toronto’s credit, they did put on a fair bit of pressure in the back half. But the second was where things fell apart a bit. Christian Djoos beat Antoine Bibeau for his second goal of the series just a minute and nine seconds into the frame, and 64 seconds later, Nathan Walker helped his team take a 3-0 lead. Needless to say, not what Toronto wanted in an elimination game.
A few minutes later, they began to reverse the tide. Connor Carrick, maybe fuelled by a hope to show up his former team, blasted a shot from the point that was redirected by William Nylander to give the Marlies some life. They couldn’t add another before the end of the period, but headed into the third on a slightly more positive note than they looked poised to in the moments prior.
Toronto needed to leave it all on the line in the third period, and they definitely did. Pucks were flooded to the net, and more than a few times, Peters lost grip of something, be it his stick or the puck. On the second occurrence of the latter, the Marlies took advantage, as Zach Hyman slid the recovered puck over to Nikita Soshnikov who potted his fifth of the playoffs. The team had fifteen minutes to get another goal and did they ever try, outshooting Hershey 9-2 at one point in the third period and ending the frame up 11-4 in that regard. Many were close, and they pressured right to the final seconds, but none of the last-ditched efforts managed to beat Peters.
With the loss, the Marlies have been eliminated from the Calder Cup Playoffs seven games short of their goal. The players and staff are no doubt disappointed, and this will no doubt be broken down in many ways by many people. We’ll have our share of dissection and recollection over the next few weeks as well, but as far as immediate takes go; at least the team went out swinging.