The Toronto Marlies began their week on Friday night in Utica, NY for the first of three games in as many nights. After their game against the Comets they traveled back to Ricoh for an afternoon game with another New York-based opponent in the Rochester Americans. In the final game of the stretch they saw Utica again, this time playing host instead of visitor.
Peter Holland scored his 10th of the year against Utica to make it 1-0 Marlies early in the first period. The Marlies kept the Comets in check for most of the period, holding them to just three shots. Momentum shifted in Utica’s favour after the intermission, however, as they shredded the Marlies’ defense for five goals in the frame and carried a commanding lead into the third period. The Marlies regained their defensive strength in the final 20 minutes, allowing Utica only three shots. They could not put a dent in the Comets’ lead though, and the game finished 5-1.
The Baby Buds returned home to meet the Amerks for a 3 p.m. puck drop. Brad Ross got them off to another fast start, scoring 42 seconds into the game. Josh Leivo doubled their lead on the power play minutes later. Rochester had more chances in the second period, outshooting their hosts 15-6. In spite of that disparity, the Americans were held off the board in the period and the Marlies added to their lead as Josh Leivo scored his 2oth goal of the season in the dying seconds to make it 3-0.
Rather than being discouraged by the late goal, the Americans came out of the break even stronger. Tim Schaller ended Christopher Gibson’s shutout bid 4:03 into the final period. Rochester applied pressure on the Marlies for the remainder of the game, but the visitors kept their cool and their lead going into the final five minutes. Unfortunately, Schaller scored his second goal of the game on a late power play, then quickly followed up with his third goal for a natural hat-trick and a tied game, the equalizer coming with just 58 seconds remaining. The Marlies could not hold on for even an overtime point, as Rochester kept on the attack and scored their go-ahead goal before time ran out.
For their Sunday rematch against Utica the Marlies had some roster shakeups. Stuart Percy and Andrew MacWilliam both missed the game, to go along with Brandon Kozun and Spencer Abbott who were both out of the lineup for the previous games as well. Fabrice Herzog made his professional debut as a result, playing on a line with Greg McKegg and Carter Ashton. Zach Yuen also debuted for the Marlies after spending most of his season in the ECHL.
The Marlies scored twice in the opening five minutes with Sam Carrick and Kenny Ryan getting credit. Eric Knodel got his first professional point with an assist on Carrick’s goal. After the early tallies, neither team found the net again until the end of the second period, where Pascal Pelletier’s power-play goal gave the Comets a 2-1 lead.
In the third period, the Marlies regained their two-goal lead when Carrick scored his 10th of the season and second of the night, tapping in a power-play goal from the side of the net. Knodel assisted on Carrick’s goal again, as Stuart Percy’s absence opened up a spot on the power play for the 23-year-old. Cal O’Reilly scored to bring Utica within one goal in the final minute, but the Marlies held on to their late lead this time and took home a win. The two points clinched a playoff spot and division title for the Marlies, ensuring there will be playoff hockey in Toronto after all.