The Toronto Marlies wrapped up their 2017-18 regular season campaign (54-18-4) by completing a three-in-three sweep over the weekend.

The 54th win of the season tied the franchise record set by the class of 2015-16, and the 112 points is two shy of the total set by the aforementioned group two years ago.

With the league title already in the bag, head coach Sheldon Keefe took the opportunity to rest key players and give opportunities to others — 20 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders were used over the three days, yet the Marlies found a way to win all three games.

“There are a lot of variables at play in this league,” Keefe said in his sit down with Todd Crocker. “You need to be able to maintain a good culture and a good environment around your team, and keep good attitudes toward everything that you’re doing so you can get out and attack it every day.”

A 4-1 victory in Laval was Toronto’s final road game of the season and their 30th win away from the confines of Ricoh Coliseum. Their final road record of 30-5-3 garnered 63 points, a full 14 more than the next best in the Eastern Conference.

A 6-4 home win against Laval on home ice finished the season series between the two teams, which Toronto dominated by winning 11 of the 12 games.

Before the final game of the season, AHL President and CEO Dave Andrews was on hand to present captain Ben Smith with the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy, the AHL’s equivalent of the President’s Trophy. Individual trophies handed out included Second Team All-Star honours for Ben Smith and Andreas Johnsson, and First Team All-Star and Baz Bastien Memorial awards for Garret Sparks.

In that final game, a late strike from Jeremy Bracco ensured Toronto finished the season on a high with a narrow 4-3 win over the Belleville Senators.

Toronto will now face Utica Comets in the first round of the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs, with Game 1 set for Saturday, April 21. Look out for a full series preview in this space in the days to come.

Players News

– A three-point haul for Chris Mueller on Friday night saw him surpass the 50-point mark.
Despite being given the weekend off to rest, the centerman finished the season as the team’s third-highest scorer (19-33-52).

Speaking on the new veteran additions this season in Mueller and Vincent LoVerde, in addition to the rest of the veteran core (Ben Smith, Rich Clune and Colin Greening), Keefe told Todd Crocker in his sit down last month, “Those guys set the table every day to just work and take care of themselves and bring that experience every day.”

Carl Grundstrom scored in his season debut, could have easily added to his goal total, and produced a further two assists over the weekend. He looks like an even better prospect than this time last year, has found instant chemistry alongside Trevor Moore and Miro Aaltonen, and is going to be a key cog in Toronto’s playoff campaign.

“Carl is a guy who just needs some time and experience,” said Keefe after Grundstrom’s two-point game on Saturday. “His skill set is there. He is a competitor. He is really strong on the puck. The fact that he’s a year older and he’s more comfortable around here and more comfortable in his own way gives him an extra dose of confidence.

“Watching the game today, he has that ability [to be an offensive leader]. He showed some of that ability last year. Obviously, being a year older, we think he can make more of an impact now. His arrival is nice at this time of year and he’s an important player in the organization.”

Ben Smith missed just three games all season and with a pair of assists took his final point tally to 59 (27-32). The captain was the Marlies leading scorer and led the entire AHL in Even Strength Primary Points (39).

Garret Sparks recorded a fifth straight victory to equal his longest winning streak of the season and now enters the post-season red hot. He finished his outstanding regular season campaign with a 31-9-2 record, a 1.79 GAA, and a .936 SV%.

Calvin Pickard finished the year 21-9-2 after the victory on Saturday. His 2.31 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and one shutout went a long way to helping the Marlies goaltending tandem claim the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award for the 2017-18 season. The award is presented to the goaltender(s) with at least 25 games played on the team that allows the fewest goals per game in the regular season. The Marlies allowed an average of 2.24 goals per game in 2017-18 and finished with the fewest goals against in the AHL for the second time in team history (2011-12).

Ian Scott posted 30 saves for victory in his professional debut against Belleville on Sunday. Considering the make-shift nature of the lineup in front of him, the young goaltender was impressively poised and made some big saves, especially late on in a tight game.

Trevor Moore heads into the post-season as one of the Marlies‘ most potent forwards offensively right now. A goal and a pair of assists over the weekend extended his point streak to five games (2-5-7) and matched last seasons point’s tally of 33 in the process.

Pierre Engvall recorded his first multi-point haul (1-1-2) on Sunday and has now accumulated eight points (4-4-8) in nine games since joining late in the season.

Miro Aaltonen reached the 20-goal mark with a pair against Laval on home ice and finished the season fourth in team scoring (20-23-43).

Andrew Nielsen kept up his late season offensive push with a goal and two assists over the weekend. The defenseman recorded ten points (3-7-10) in his last 12 games of the regular season.

Jeremy Bracco, also one of the hottest players offensively for the Marlies down the stretch, added an assist and a game-winning goal over the weekend. He’s only failed to put up a point in two of his last 11 games, racking up two goals and 12 assists during that time.

Erik Bradford last suited up for the Marlies in April of 2015, scoring once in three games. A recent PTO signing after finishing his year with Brampton, Bradford scored in his season debut.

– A goal and an assist for Adams Brooks in the last outing of the season gave him his third multi-point haul in nine games.

Kristian Pospisil made his long-awaited AHL debut and helped himself to a goal and an assist.

Brady Ferguson picked up three assists in two outings to give him four points (all helpers) in five games.

Orlando Solar Bears News

The Solar Bears took little notice of their underdog status for the first two games of their playoff series against the Stingrays. Orlando dug out hard-fought victories in South Carolina and now hold a 2-0 lead with three straight home games (if required) to come at the Amway Centre.

Cal Heeter backstopped the Solar Bears to success in Game 1 with a 36-save shutout.
He was supported by a shorthanded goal from Hunter Fejes and an insurance marker from J.J. Piccinich.

Game 2 saw Orlando burst into a two-goal lead through 40 minutes thanks to a Max Novak power play strike and a J.J. Piccinich goal at even strength. South Carolina halved the deficit in the third period, but they were limited to seven shots in the final frame as Cal Heeter posted 23 saves for the victory.

Special teams have played a key part so far, with Orlando one for six on the power play and a perfect on the penalty kill on nine occasions, along with a shorthanded goal.

Game 3 goes Saturday, April 21.

Toronto Marlies Player Stats – 2017-18 Regular Season

RWSmith, Ben732732592910321470.81
CMueller, Chris73193352-230701600.71
CAaltonen, Miro642023432924401290.67
LWTimashov, Dmytro67132134533501070.51
LWMoore, Trevor68122133122501280.49
RWBracco, Jeremy506263261020710.64
CGreening, Colin73161329935011300.4
DHoll, Justin60721282334011250.47
LWMarchment, Mason44111526123610800.59
DNielsen, Andrew6562026314320930.4
RWBaun, Kyle7151722132001010.31
DRosen, Calle6241822126201590.35
DLoVerde, Vincent6391221122231800.33
DMarincin, Martin5241620351810780.38
CBrooks, Adam57811197230690.33
CGauthier, Frederik577111821021520.32
DLiljegren, Timothy4411617122010710.39
DBorgman, Andreas25459-62300440.36
LWEngvall, Pierre9448-2230240.89
LWClune, Richard4731417500300.09
CFerguson, Brady5044220060.8
LWGrundstrom, Carl2123100081.5
FPlouffe, Derian100330400120.3
FPospisil, Kristian2112420041
FKestner, Josh3101-121030.33
RWPooley, Scott5101-1000200.2
DLindgren, Jesper4011-400040.25
GSparks, Garret43011060000.02
GScott, Ian1000000000
DKing, Jeff2000000010
CWinquist, Joshua2000-100020
GPickard, Calvin33000040010
LWJohnsson, Andreas542628541653801321
LWRychel, Kerby55102030-436401180.55
RWKapanen, Kasperi2812122481251680.86
DDermott, Travis2821618153400480.64
RWSoshnikov, Nikita1971017131201580.89
DValiev, Rinat4051015142601480.38
CDupuy, Jean173031800210.18
FBradford, Erik1101200021
DJardine, Sam1011120011
GKaskisuo, Kasimir1000000000
CNovak, Max1000000020
DGudbranson, Alex3000200030
RWDzierkals, Martins4000-420050
LWFejes, Hunter4000-100030
DPaliotta, Michael8000-6200100

Toronto Marlies Goalie Stats – 2017-18 Regular Season

Sparks, Garret431.79.936319216
Pickard, Calvin332.31.918219211
Scott, Ian13.90910000
Kaskisuo, Kasimir11.96310000