For the second year in a row, a Game 7 will decide whether or not the Toronto Marlies head to the AHL’s Eastern Conference Finals. In a spirited chain of periods, the home squad pulled out a close but confident 2-1 victory, tying the series at three games apiece.
Toronto came out of the gates flying, creating opportunities for themselves to break the nice but without much success. That honour would go to Syracuse, but it wouldn’t for quite some time; two minutes into the second period, with Toronto on the powerplay, the Crunch picked up a shorthanded goal that added to their running total in this series. Byron Froese found Michael Bournival, who jumped up and convinced Kasimir Kaskisuo that he was going backhand before opting for a snapshot instead.
While that was jut about the last thing that the Marlies needed in a must-win game, they made sure that their next crack at the powerplay was a little bit more effective. Five and a half minutes later, with Slater Koekkoek in the box, Carl Grundstrom finished off a flurry in front of Mike McKenna, wrapping the puck around the corner of the net and burying his third goal of the playoffs to equalize.
While it looked for the longest time that neither of these teams was going to score again, a slashing penalty to Syracuse’s Daniel Walcott gave Toronto the last powerplay of the game with nine minutes to go. As if to fully reverse the Bournival incident, the extra-man unit was successful again. This time, Andrew Nielsen blasted a point shot through traffic to give the home team the lead. With a minute to go, the Crunch pulled their goaltender, and while the attempts Sergei Kalinin and Kasperi Kapanen to fill the empty net were unsuccessful in adding insurance, they killed enough time to sound the final buzzer.
A few Marlies, in particular, had standout nights. Carl Grundstrom was superb on both ends of the ice as he has been most of the series, constantly finding himself in the right positions and causing a commotion when needed. His presence near the net was crucial on both goals for; both as the scorer on the first and the screen on the second. Travis Dermott also stood out for the extra bit of edge he had to his game tonight, causing trouble with nearly every Syracuse player on the ice, and Brendan Leipsic seemed to have just about every deke and dodge he attempted throughout go his way.
Tonight’s standout was an obvious one, though; Kasimir Kaskisuo had yet another stellar night in goal. While he misguessed on the Bournival goal, he had several impressive sprawling saves and shut down a couple of breakaways. His night ended with a 27-for-28 total; you can’t ask for a heck of a lot more on a nightly basis.
With the win, the Marlies will head back to Syracuse for a Game 7 on Wednesday night. Toronto has struggled on the road thus far (all three of their losses have come there), but are coming off a night where they controlled the physical tone as much as they kept the scoresheet at bay. That might be enough for them use as momentum to get them over the edge in a do or die game. Will it work, though?
I guess we’re going to find out.