The Toronto Marlies had gone into overtime on just six occasions in 73 games before this past week.
That figure increased by 50% after each game of a three-in-three weekend required overtime or the shootout.
Another abnormality: In two of the three games, Toronto did not have to send their top-ranked penalty kill to work, the first (and second) time that’s occurred this season.
After trailing 0-2 at home to Utica on Thursday, Toronto struck three times without reply, scoring the winner in overtime.
Despite completely outplaying the Comets in Utica the following evening, an inspired performance from goaltender Thatcher Demko set the stage for a 3-2 shootout victory. Toronto finished the series against Utica with a 5-2-1 record.
A final trip to Rochester this year produced 11 goals as a makeshift Toronto lineup found defense a harder concept to master than offense. Both teams held the lead in a topsy-turvy encounter before the Amerks prevailed in overtime.
The season series with Rochester was a tight affair, with the Amerks outscoring Toronto 25-24 but the Marlies owning a 4-3-1 record.
The lone point garnered in the shootout loss to Utica ensured Toronto clinched the North Division title and the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy (AHL best regular season record) for the second occasion in three seasons.
With a single road game left on the docket, the Marlies will set the record for fewest regulation road losses in an AHL season (previously eight, held by the Binghamton Rangers of 1992-93). Toronto currently has five regulation losses on the road.
The defeat to Rochester was the Toronto’s first overtime loss on the road this season, but the single point earned means they’ve set a new AHL record for road points in a single season with 61 (29-5-1-1).
It’s that time of the year when the American Hockey League hands out its awards to coaches and players alike. Sheldon Keefe was again overlooked by the voters, who opted to select Pascal Vincent, head coach of the Manitoba Moose, as the recipient of Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award (AHL’s most outstanding coach).
The Marlies still don’t know who their first-round playoff opponent will be with three games remaining in the regular season. It’ll either be Rochester Americans or the Utica Comets, with the former holding a two-point advantage in the standings at this stage.
– The Marlies announced a huge addition to the roster this week in Carl Grundström, who was reassigned from Frölunda HC to the Toronto Marlies. His offensive firepower will go a long way toward making up for the losses of Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson in Toronto’s quest for their first Calder Cup championship. In 35 games for Frolunda this season, Grundström put up 17 goals and seven assists before adding a further two goals in six playoff games, as a 20-year-old in the SHL.
During the Marlies 2017 playoff run, the Swedish winger produced three goals and four goals in his six-game stint. Expect him to line up alongside Miro Aaltonen and Trevor Moore next weekend, if practice is any indication of Sheldon Keefe’s thinking.
– Goaltender Ian Scott has been signed to an ATO. Drafted 110th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2017 draft, Scott attended the Leafs development camp this past summer and took part in the rookie tournament. His season with Prince Albert Raiders (WHL) ended in heartbreak after taking #1 Moose Jaw Warriors to seven games in the opening round of the playoffs. I would not expect to the 19-year-old suit up for the Marlies this season, but I’m sure the organization wants to gauge where his development is at and get him further acquainted with their facilities and player development staff.
– Jeremy Bracco led the way with four points in three games. They were all assists, including three in the loss to Rochester, the second time he’s accomplished that feat in six games. He’s now reached 30 points for the season in 58 games, with 13 of those accrued in his last 11 outings.
– Vincent LoVerde has really come to the party offensively since March, adding another four points (2-2-4) this past weekend while riding a three-game point streak. Now up to nine goals for the season, seven of those have been scored in his last 15 games.
– Andrew Nielsen is also enjoying an offensive outburst to end the season. Three assists for the defenseman gives him a point in six of his last ten outings (2-5-7).
– Trevor Moore has certainly found his groove of late and has taken advantage of opportunities on the ‘top line.’ Three assists, including setting up the overtime winner against Utica, give Moore a three-game point streak and he’s now at 30 points (11-19-30) for the year.
– Chris Mueller missed playing time through illness but went on to record three points (2-1-3) against Rochester. That’s the second three-point haul for the centerman this season, who is now just one point shy of 50 for the year.
– Two games resulted in another two points for Pierre Engvall, who picked up his third goal and assist respectively. That’s six points in seven games for the Swedish winger since arriving in Toronto, with five of those being primary markers.
– Dmytro Timashov and Justin Holl both recorded their 20th assists of the season.
– Adam Brooks netted his third game-winning goal and has accumulated 10 points (4-6-10) in his last 11 outings.
– Kyle Baun’s two assists in Rochester broke a six-game pointless streak for the winger.
– Garret Sparks set a new franchise record for wins in a single season with his 30th victory (30-9-1), surpassing Drew MacIntyre’s total from 2013-14. After missing out on a selection for the All-Star festivities earlier in the year, the goaltender was rightly named as an AHL First Team All-Star.
Additionally, Sparks has been named as the winner of the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender for the 2017-18 season. The award is voted on by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.
– Andreas Johnsson and Ben Smith were named to the AHL All-Star Second Team.
– Jean Dupuy and Alex Gudbranson (both reassigned) plus Hunter Fejes (released from PTO) have all joined Orlando for their playoff campaign beginning this Thursday, April 12.
– It’s somewhat of a surprise that Joshua Winquist and Kristian Pospisil have been recalled to Toronto, with the assumption being they would both be with Orlando for the duration of the Solar Bears playoff campaign. Neither has featured for the Marlies this year but will add to their forward depth.
Orlando Solar Bears News
Orlando finished their regular season campaign with a pair of narrow losses. After falling 4-3 to Atlanta despite twice holding the lead, the Solar Bears were felled 2-1 by the Stingrays in South Carolina.
The latter was the warm-up for the main event as #3 Orlando and #2 South Carolina will now commence battle in the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Orlando enjoyed early success during the regular season series between the two teams, but after winning the first four encounters, they took just two points from the remaining seven games (0-5-2).
Orlando’s regular season record finished at 33-30-9 despite a minus-12 goal differential and special teams both ranked below average (18th of 27).
Toronto prospects led the way in team scoring through the regular season with Max Novak (21-36-57), Joshua Winquist (18-35-53) and J.J. Piccinich (18-25-43) ranked second through fourth, respectively.
Rookie Kristian Pospisil registered 26 points (13-13-26) in 51 games and the ultra-reliable Jean Dupuy produced 24 points (9-15-24) in 33 games, having split the campaign between Orlando and Toronto.
Cal Heeter finished the season with a 19-15-6 record, a .915 sv%, a 2.74 GAA, and one shutout. Heeter will need to be at his very best for Orlando to go anywhere in the postseason.
Toronto Marlies Player Stats – April 12
Toronto Marlies Goalie Stats – April 12