In the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs, the Toronto Marlies will face one of the AHL’s hottest teams when their best-of-seven series opens Tuesday night at Ricoh Coliseum.
The Abbotsford Heat have won 10 straight games, including a three-game sweep of the Milwaukee Admirals in round one. The Calgary Flames’ AHL affiliate beat the Marlies in the final two games of the regular season in British Columbia — 3-0, and 5-4 in overtime.
The Marlies, however, won 5-0 in October and 5-2 in February — both at Ricoh, where big, loud crowds are expected Tuesday night and again for Game 2 Thursday. Game 3 is Saturday in Abbotsford, with Game 4 in B.C. next Tuesday.
“In Toronto we haven’t (had much success),” Heat coach Troy Ward told The Canadian Press. “We’re a different team now.”
Both teams are riding hot goalies.
Ben Scrivens had his best game of the opening round in the series clincher last Monday — earning the shutout in a 3-0 win over the Rochester Americans to complete a three-game sweep.
Heat counterpart Danny Taylor — who capitalized on an opportunity to play when regular No. 1 Leland Irving was called up for backup duty with the Flames, and later missed time for the birth of his first child — has won his last eight starts, allowing just 12 goals with two shutouts. Scrivens and Taylor have identical 2.00 goals against averages in the post-season. Scrivens has stopped 72 pucks, Taylor 74.
While Ward didn’t announce his Game 1 starter, Taylor is expected to get the call.
Toronto coach Dallas Eakins expects the series to go six or seven games.
“They’re probably the best team we saw in the last 20 games,” Eakins said. “They have big, physical forwards and more offence than Rochester. . . . They have D-men who can play a shutdown game.
With five goals in three games, Marlies forward Jerry D’Amigo leads all playoff scorers.
Heat forward Krys Kolanos (four goals, four assists) is tied with four others for second in the points race.
With forward Carter Ashton still out (concussion), Marcel Mueller is expected to once again take his spot on the Marlies’ top line with Joe Colborne and Matt Frattin.
Defenceman Jesse Blacker, however, has been cleared to play. Rookie Stuart Percy took his spot against Rochester.
The Marlies have had the league’s best penalty killing all season. They’ll need another big effort against the Heat’s power play, which produced five goals on 18 chances against Milwaukee.
Toronto killed off all but one penalty against Rochester.
“Our penalty killing is about one word: aggression,” Eakins said. “In almost every power play that starts in our zone, we’re able to win the faceoff and then it’s down the ice.
“We start killing our penalty in their zone, mucking it up, tearing up their power-play breakouts. A lot of times, we’re not even killing two-minute penalties. We win the draw. The puck goes down the ice. We ramble around and disrupt their breakout and suddenly, there’s only 90 seconds left.”
Go MARLIES GO!! It feels GREAT to have a Toronto Hockey team in round 2 of the playoffs!!