After 10 regular season matchups it was obvious that there wasn’t much separating North Division rivals the Toronto Marlies and Rochester Americans with each game ending in a one-goal decision.
That trend continued on Thursday night as the Marlies opened up its quest for the Calder Cup on a winning note to take a wild game one 4-3 over the Americans in the AHL playoff action.
Toronto was led by winger Jerry D’Amigo who opened and closed his team’s scoring to bookend a solid effort for the home team in front of 6,244 fans at Ricoh Coliseum. Mike Zigomanis and Matt Frattin scored the other goals as the team leads the best-of-five Western Conference quarterfinal 1-0.
Rochester opened the scoring when Phil Varone potted a goal late in the first period and Marcus Foligno and T.J. Brennan added goals in the third. Leggio played a fantastic game in goal for Americans and finished with 33 saves on 37 shots.
Both of D’Amigo’s goals came with him driving to the net punctuated by the game winning goal with just 4:17 seconds left in the third period. Marlies defenceman Mark Fraser stole the puck in the neutral zone and D’Amigo, who was going to go off on a line change, instead drove to the net. He was rewarded with a perfect pass that he shoveled into the open side of the net past Leggio who could not slide over in time to make the save.
“It was a great play. I was kind of at the end of my shift and I was wondering if I should go or not, but I saw Fraser and he was going hard there so I figured I might as well,” said D'Amigo. “He made a great pass and he made it pretty easy for me to have an open net.”
Marlies winger Jerry D'Amigo finishes his hard drive to the net and puts the puck past Americans goalie David Leggio on the game winning goal. Defenceman Mark Fraser who started the play and made the perfect pass was knocked down in the process
Marlies Head Coach Dallas Eakins praised the winger’s efforts in the game and admitted that D’Amigo has come a long way since struggling with the team last season.
“Those are the kinds of goals now in the NHL that you’ve got to score especially when you get down to the last 20 games and into the playoffs,” said Eakins. “Those are the goals that make a difference and that’s how Jerry has done it this year and we’re excited at the progress that he has made.”
Toronto dominated possession and outshot Rochester by a wide margin in the first two periods but was only able to get one shot past Leggio. The Marlies outshot the Amerks 12-6 after the first and 18-7 in the second period, but the score was deadlocked at 1-1 heading into the final period. D’Amigo finally solved Leggio with less than five minutes remaining in the middle frame.
Toronto continued its momentum into the third period and scored two goals in the first five minutes. Suddenly the team held a rare two goal lead over Rochester, but that did not last very long. The Amerks battled back with two goals of its own in a five-minute stretch to tie the game at 3-3.
Marlies goaltender Ben Scrivens made 20 saves to pick up the win, but was not particularly busy until the third period when the Americans fired seven shots on goal.
“They capitalized on their opportunities,” said Scrivens. “It's such a weird feeling having a bit of a spread against these guys. They're such a good team defensively and you saw tonight, when they get opportunities to score they don't need many to do it.”
Game two goes Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Ricoh Coliseum as the Marlies look to take a commanding series lead before heading to Rochester on Monday for game three.
D'Amigo celebrates his first goal of the game late in the second period. After outshooting the Americans by a wide margin in the first two periods the Marlies had trouble getting the puck past Leggio until this goal finally solved the netminder
Aman Dhanoa is a Toronto sports beat reporter covering games live and bringing Digital Journal insights from within the locker room.This article was originally published on Oye! Times