Back-to-back losses puts pressure on Marlies, Penguins

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

After streaking to the Western Conference Final, the Toronto Marlies are hoping they’re not going to start sliding their way out.

With eight straight wins to start the Calder Cup Playoffs, it seemed like everything was clicking for the Baby Buds. While they were bombarded in game one, they pulled out a victory over the Texas Stars to take the series lead, but their porous defense came back to bite them in game two.

The hope was, especially with a team that had been on such an amazing run into the Conference Final, the Marlies would bounce back in game three at the friendly confines of Ricoh Coliseum. However, following a trend from the first two rounds, the team with the ever-important third goal pulled out the victory — that goal coming off the stick of the Texas Stars’ Travis Morin.

Morin, the regular season points leader and league MVP, struck with the game-winner just under a minute after the Marlies drew even on a TJ Brennan tally. It was just Morin’s fourth marker of the playoffs, but it couldn’t have come at a bigger time for the Stars, who’ve now taken the series lead back from the Marlies.

After a rough outing in game two, Marlies goaltender Drew MacIntyre withstood all eight of the Stars’ shots in the first period before allowing a second period marker to Radek Faksa. After allowing 50-plus shots in each of the first two games, the Marlies tightened up defensively, allowing 30 attempts on MacIntyre in game three.

Across the ice, Stars’ goaltender Christopher Nilstorp held off the Marlies’ extra-man attack and sealed the victory for his squad.

For the Marlies, it will be absolutely pivotal to knock off the Stars in game four if they’ve got any hopes of staying in the series. The problem, however, lies in stopping a balanced Stars attack, and trying to create zone time and shot attempts. Through the first three games, Nilstorp has only seen 69 shots. MacIntyre, on the other hand, has faced 131.

Game four goes tonight at Ricoh Coliseum, with puck drop slated for 7 p.m. ET.

After two tight games, with each St. John’s and Wilkes-Barre pulling out a victory, the IceCaps offense finally exploded, while their defense held, with Michael Hutchinson earning the 30-save shutout.

Only down by two goals heading into the second period, the Penguins defense couldn’t hold fast. St. John’s capitalized, scoring early and often in the second frame, with goals coming from Eric O’Dell and Kael Mouillierat in the first seven minutes. Mouillierat’s marker, a goal coming on a 5-on-3 powerplay, gave the IceCaps an insurmountable 4-0 lead heading into the final frame.

With just a second left in the second period, Zach Redmond buried a Will O’Neill pass past Pens’ goaltender Peter Mannino, which signalled the end of Mannino’s night.

The fourth game of the Eastern Conference Final starts tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET, with the Penguins trying to take advantage of home ice and even the series at two games apiece.

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Stars hand Marlies first loss of 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs

It may have taken until the Western Conference Final, but the Toronto Marlies have finally shown a crack in their armour.

The Marlies, who took game one from the Stars for their eighth straight victory, walked in to Cedar Park Centre on Monday looking to extend the streak and get one game closer to the Calder Cup Final. However, with their second 50-shot shot performance in two games, the Stars kept the Marlies at bay, doubling-up the visitors by a final score of 6-3.

It looked like it was going to be another tough night for the Stars after a goal by the Marlies’ Peter Holland goal tied the game at three, but a Chris Mueller marker less than a minute later put the Stars ahead for good.

In the third frame, Texas’ Scott Glennie buried a goal with under six minutes left in the period, before Travis Morin iced it for the Stars with an empty-netter.

After standing on his head in game one, Drew MacIntyre was absolutely bombarded again during the second game of the series. Asked again to stop 50-plus shots, MacIntyre allowed five goals, while turning away 46 attempts. The Stars, meanwhile, protected their net, allowing only 30 shots.

Stars’ goaltender Christopher Nilstorp, who had a rough outing in game one allowing three goals on 17 shots, bounced back with 27 saves.

Game three goes Wednesday at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, 7 p.m. ET.

Stars welcome Marlies, hope to hand them first loss

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

If everything really is bigger in Texas, a Marlies win tonight — which would be their eighth straight — would certainly prove huge for the Maple Leafs farm team’s chances of advancing to the Calder Cup Final for the second time in three seasons.

The problem for the Marlies, however, lies in the trouble they’ve had with their opponent, the Texas Stars. In their last game at the Cedar Park Center, the Marlies were shutout by the Stars, 6-0, in one of their worst losses of the season.

Christopher Nilstorp, who got the start and the shutout in that contest, will be backstopping the Stars again, and he has seemingly had the Marlies number all season. Posting a 1.31 GAA and .949SV% against the Marlies in the regular season, Nilstorp only allowed four goals to the Baby Buds, and helped his team take three of a possible six points from Toronto in the three games he started.

The Stars’ netminder is going to have to look to slow down a Marlies powerplay that is on a torrid pace, moving at a 25% clip these playoffs, and hope to put the brakes on the streaking Peter Holland and Jerry D’Amigo.

A mainstay on the Marlies roster over the last three seasons, D’Amigo’s play has been inspired during these Calder Cup playoffs. The 23-year-old Binghamton native has registered a point in each game this post-season, contributing four goals and eight assists, and powering the Marlies to their unbeaten streak.

Holland, who was brought into Toronto from the Anaheim Ducks’ early in 2013-14, was a huge part of the Marlies sweep of the Chicago Wolves in the second round. In the sweep, Holland registered at least a point in each contest, racking up four goals and two assists over that span.

The Stars, who battled their way out of the first round with two consecutive overtime wins over the Oklahoma City Barons, make their way to the Western Conference Final after an impressive 7-1 game six defeat of the defending Calder Cup Champion Grand Rapids Griffins.

Regular season scoring champion Travis Morin has been impressive for the Stars, and will be called upon to make an impact if the Stars are to move on to their second Calder Cup Final.

It appears that this series could simply come down to a battle of which team can pot three in a night. Over the course of the playoffs, Texas has allowed two goals in seven of their nine games, with Toronto allowing two-or-more in five of seven.

Tonight’s contest kicks off at 8:30 ET (7:30 CT) at the Cedar Park Center.

AHL Today: Toronto heads into Texas in Western Conference showdown, San Antonio trifecta ends in OT

AHL Today is a roundup of the night that was, the day ahead, and anything you may have missed. Your quick look at what’s going on around the league.

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To Watch:

  • NORFOLK at SYRACUSE: As you may or may not have heard, Syracuse ran into some trouble filling their crease for this afternoon’s affair with the visiting Admirals. After both their goaltenders were recalled by the Lightning, Riku Helenius’ suspension for breach of contract, and getting Allen York on loan from ECHL South Carolina, they had to go out and sign another goaltender to back up York, and signed Grant Rollheiser from the CHL’s Brampton Beast. Suffice to say that goaltending in Syracuse will be the thing to watch in this contest.
  • TORONTO at TEXAS: After their overtime defeat of the Rampage last night, the Marlies head into Texas to take on the West Division leading Texas Stars. Texas won the last meeting between the two teams, a convincing 5-2 victory back on Nov. 23, but dropped the first matchup this season 3-2 in shootout. In their two games this season, Stars’ Cameron Gaunce leads all players with three points — all assists.

Last Night:

  • MANCHESTER 5, BINGHAMTON 1:  The Sens were just three minutes away from being shutout by the Monarchs when they travelled to Manchester, but a David Dziurzynski goal with 2:51 left on the clock in the third period. Nathan Lawson got the hook halfway through the game after he allowed five goals on 21 shots. Jean-Francois Berube got the win for the Monarchs, stopping 27 of 28 shots, and Tanner Pearson had the game-winner with just over five-minutes left in the first.
  • TORONTO 4, SAN ANTONIO 3 (OT): San Antonio’s Western Whooping Tour came to an end last night as they failed to complete the clean sweep of the West’s top seeds. The Rampage were a minute away from the win, but with 55 seconds left on the clock, Marlies winger Jerry D’Amigo buried one to tie the game at 3. In the extra frame, Toronto got a powerplay, and newest Marlie Brandon Kozun buried the winner just 34-ticks into the extra frame. San Antonio successfully took a point from each of the top three seeds in the West, but fell just short of the trifecta.

Moves:

Syracuse Crunch
Kristers Gudlevskis (G) To: Tampa Bay Lightning
Cédrick Desjardins (G) To: Tampa Bay Lightning
Rochester Americans
Brandon MacLean (F) To: Florida Everblades
Albany Devils
Mike Sislo (F) To: New Jersey Devils
Éric Gélinas (D) From: New Jersey Devils
Hershey Bears
Ryan Stoa (F) From: Washington Capitals
Tyson Strachan (D) To: Washington Capitals
Lake Erie Monsters
Vincent Arseneau (F) To: Denver Cutthroats
Mikaël Tam (D) To: Denver Cutthroats
Charlotte Checkers
Sean Dolan (F) To: Florida Everblades

News & Notes:

  • MLive’s Brendan Savage on Patrick Eaves, who turned an early season demotion into a positive thing and is turning it into some success back with the Red Wings. [MLive]
  • AHL.com with a nice piece on Brodie Reid getting things back together this season with the Worcester Sharks. [AHL.com]
  • Fans in Utica last night set this season’s record for a 50/50, putting together a pot of $15,400.

 

(Cover image courtesy Wally Gobetz.)

AHL Today: Barons snap two-game skid, beat Marlies

AHL Today is a roundup of the night that was, the day ahead, and anything you may have missed. Your quick look at what’s going on around the league.

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To Watch:

  • BINGHAMTON at MANCHESTER: When the Senators head in to Manchester to play the Monarchs, they’re looking to pull themselves even closer to the top of the Eastern Conference. After a convincing 6-3 win over the Worcester Sharks their last time out, the Senators are hoping to continue their winning ways. The last time the two teams faced off this season, which came earlier this month, the Sens walked away with a 5-4 OT win, and Bingo’s Mike Hoffman lead all scorers with a goal and two assists.
  • TORONTO at SAN ANTONIO: In their past two games, the Rampage have knocked off the top two seeds in the West. Friday night, with a win over the visiting Toronto Marlies, the Rampage could complete the trifecta. The Marlies, leading the Western Conference’s North Division and sitting third in the conference, roll in to San Antonio following a travel day and ruminating on their 5-3 defeat to the Oklahoma City Barons. A late-November contest was the only match up between the two teams, and that game saw the Marlies double up the Rampage 4-2.

Last Night:

  • OKLAHOMA CITY 5, TORONTO 3: Brandon Kozun notched his first two points as a Marlie, both helpers, but they weren’t enough to bring the Marlies closer to the top seed in the West. After the Barons relinquished two two-goal leads — they lead 2-0, and 3-1 — Oklahoma City finally pulled away for good thanks to a Jack Combs tally with just over six minutes to go in the third. An Anton Lander empty-netter sealed the deal, as goaltender Richard Bachman and the Barons skated away with the ‘W’.

Moves:

Abbotsford Heat
Blair Jones (F) From: Calgary Flames
Trevor Gillies (F) From: Orlando Solar Bears
Adirondack Phantoms
Chris VandeVelde (F) From: Philadelphia Flyers
Charlotte Checkers
Cam Ward (G) From: Carolina Hurricanes
Aaron Palushaj (F) From: Carolina Hurricanes
Hamilton Bulldogs
Christian Thomas (F) To: Montréal Canadiens
Portland Pirates
Jesse Mychan (F) To: Colorado Eagles
Texas Stars
Pat Nagle (G) To: Idaho Steelheads
Russ Sinkewich (D) To: Toledo Walleye
Dustin Jeffrey (F) To: Dallas Stars
Syracuse Crunch
Riku Helenius (G) From: Florida Everblades
Maxime Parent (F) From: Florida Everblades
Utica Comets
Frank Corrado (D) To: Vancouver Canucks

News & Notes:

  • A nice story by Wayne Fish on longtime AHL official Scott Adams, who is calling it a career after 20 years calling games in the ‘A’. Adams, on his passion for hockey: “When I’m skating, I feel like a little kid. When I saw the little kids skating on the rink next to the Winter Classic (in Michigan), I was almost crying.’’ [The Intelligencer]
  • Sean Shapiro on Jamie Oleksiak, who could one day be a superpower on the Dallas Stars’ blueline, but for now, he’s working out of a tough time with the help from a Stanley Cup champion. [The Statesman]
  • The Hershey Bears and Adirondack Phantoms are going to be busy this weekend, playing a weekend pair that starts with a 7 p.m. EST game tonight in Glens Falls and ends with a game starting at 1 p.m. in Philadelphia on Saturday.

Leafs, Kings make AHL swap

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings agreed to deal yesterday afternoon that shuffled the deck for their AHL squads.

Forward Brandon Kozun, a sixth-round pick by the Kings in 2009, was sent to the Leafs in exchange for forward Andrew Crescenzi, an unrestricted free agent who signed with Toronto back in September 2010.

Kozun, the more notable of the two names in the deal, is a product of the famed Shattuck St. Mary’s, where he played a single season before moving on to the Alberta Junior Hockey League and then to the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen.

Born in Los Angeles, but with Canadian nationality, Kozun now finds himself back in his home country. In 277 career games with the Monarchs, the 5’8″ forward has tallied 81 goals and 106 assists. This season, in 43 games, Kozun has potted 10 goals to go along with 19 helpers.

Crescenzi, in his first season as a full-time AHLer, had been little more than a role player for the Marlies. In 32 games this season, the Thorhill, Ont. native posted a goal and two assists. He spent parts of last season with the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls, and suited up for 15 games with the Marlies.

Undrafted, Crescenzi made got to the AHL by way of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers.

Ranger signs deal with Leafs, back in NHL

After a mysterious exit from the game nearly four years ago, Paul Ranger resurfaced with the Toronto Marlies last season. Now, the 28-year-old Whitby, Ont. native has signed an NHL deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Though terms of the deal have not been disclosed, it’s believed the contract is a one-year deal worth $1 million a season. Likely, when the details surface, it will be a two-way deal that will allow Ranger to spend a bit of time in the AHL.

Last season, his first back in the professional ranks, Ranger had a stellar year for the Leafs top affiliate. In 60 games (51 regular season, 9 playoff), Ranger potted 10 goals and 19 assists, good for third in scoring by Marlies defencemen.

At only 28, Ranger still has a lot of career in front of him, and it seems the break from the game was what he needed. While the reason for his departure from the NHL — and hockey in general — has never surfaced, it’s nice to see whatever ailed the talented blue liner has subsided and he’s back in the game.

A sixth round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2002, Ranger has played in 281 NHL contests, racking up 20 goals and 79 assists. His AHL career has consisted of 130 games, where he tallied 43 points (14-29).

Christopher Gibson lands with Leafs

After failing to come to terms with the Los Angeles Kings, goaltender Christopher Gibson will suit up with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization next season.

Gibson, who has spent the last four seasons with Chicoutimi of the QMJHL, was originally drafted by the Kings in the second round of the 2011 draft, but was never signed to an NHL deal. As such, Gibson was free to explore his options, and the Maple Leafs have signed the Finnish netminder.

Only 20 years old, Gibson will suit up next season — and make his professional debut — with the Toronto Marlies. In his last season with Chicoutimi, Gibson posted a 3.08 GAA and .902 SV% in 41 regular season games, but got shelled in the playoffs, posting a 3.87 GAA and .898 SV% in six appearances.

Loose Pucks: AHL Headlines

After a busy beginning to the month, the frantic signings that were happening through the first two weeks of free agency have slowed down. You may want to check out some of these stories to see what you’ve missed in the past month:

  • Bob Hartley spoke to Tim Leone about his five most memorable Hershey Bears moments.  [PennLive]
  • John Buccigross wrote this outstanding piece about Blake Geoffrion and his retirement. [ESPN]
  • Some Notes From Paul Fenton, via Ryan at Admirals Roundtable [Ads Roundtable]
  • Lindsay Kramer over at Syracuse.com spoke with newly re-signed Crunch defenceman Mark Barberio [Syracuse.com]
  • Marlies.ca is giving an overview of the prospects. [Marlies]

Marlies part ways with Zigomanis, Rynnas

Two familiar faces in Toronto are going to be suiting up with new teams next season.

Goaltender Jussi Rynnas and forward Mike Zigomanis have signed contract with the Karpat and Rochester, respectively.

Rynnas, who has spent the last three seasons in the Leafs organization after leaving SM-Liiga for an opportunity in North America, heads back to his native Finland. Since the 2010-11 season, Rynnas has suited up in 73 contests with the Marlies, but spent very little time in the NHL. Struggling to take the starting role in the AHL, Rynnas will likely get the chance to be a regular started in his homeland.

In 2011-12, Rynnas set career highs in the AHL with a GAA of 2.55 and SV% of .910. That same season, however, Rynnas spent 14 games in the ECHL with the Reading Royals and struggled to the tune of a 3.21 GAA and .914 SV%.

A one-time AHL Player of the Week, Rynnas’ signing in Karpat signals the end of his North American tenure for the time being. His SM-Liiga contract will keep him in Finland for the next two seasons.

In Zigomanis, the Marlies are losing a leader on and off the ice. A veteran of over 500 AHL games, the Marlies former alternate captain will suit up with the Rochester Americans next season.

Playing at least 60 games in the AHL with the Marlies each of the last three seaons, Zigomanis is coming off of a down year in which he only managed seven goals and 28 assists, the lowest points per game total of his career. The season prior, Zigomanis set a career high with 19 goals and 42 assists, as well as adding another four goals and two helpers in 13 playoff games.

While he may be getting up there in age, the 32-year-old Zigomanis can still contribute at the AHL level, and will likely slot in deeper in the roster for the Amerks.