After struggling last season with the Toronto Marlies and being sent back down to junior, Jerry D’Amigo has since found his game in returning to the team this season.
He has not only played well but is now shining in the spotlight when the games matter most – the AHL playoffs.
D’Amigo was the hero in game one scoring two goals including the game winner with less than five minutes left in the third period. He followed the same script on Saturday afternoon, again scoring two goals and the game winner, but this time with just 1:50 left to play to cap another 4-3 win at a sold-out Ricoh Coliseum.
“He’s just a hard working kid, he’s passionate about the game and I think he’s extremely hard to play against right now because he’s a great checker and his offensive play is coming through just pure, hard determination,” said Marlies coach Dallas Eakins.
“This is a guy that we sent back to junior and I told him this, ‘one of these days you’re going to look back and appreciate that you did go back and get your confidence so you can put up some numbers.’ He’s had a great, great season for us so far and he’s off to a good start in the playoffs.”
D’Amigo may not have agreed with Eakins at the time but after careful reflection he is grateful for the experience and the lessons learned.
D'Amigo celebrates his game-winning goal in the background while Rochester players look dejected after giving up the go-ahead goal with just 1:50 left to play in the third period
“I looked back on it last year after the season was done and I gained the confidence that I couldn’t have gotten at the end of the year with the Marlies,” said D’Amigo.
“Right now I’m happy that I went through that situation and I’m better from it. It’s just obstacles that you go through in life and in your hockey season or career that make you a better person.”
The winger is playing some of the best hockey of his career and is brimming with confidence. He is driving to the net and finding open space at the right time to be rewarded with four goals after two games.
“I feel like I have confidence, I feel like I can make plays, work hard, I can chip in and score goals” added D’Amigo. “I struggled a little bit at the end of the season and now I’m just in my groove and I hope I can keep it. The big thing is for me to get the team going and that’s what we need from a lot of guys in there too and they’re going to produce as well.”Late Game Heroics
Marlies forward Carter Ashton looks behind him to see that a Mike Zigomanis shot from the point did get past Americans goalie David Leggio. The power play goal gave Toronto a 2-0 lead late in the first period
The Marlies didn’t take long to give its 7,816 fans something to cheer about when D’Amigo found the back of the net just a 1:44 into the game. Philippe Dupuis beat Americans goalie David Leggio to a dump-in and threw the puck behind him where D’Amigo rushed in and put the puck into the empty net.
Mike Zigomanis notched his second of the series on the power play before the end of the period when he one-timed Jake Gardiner’s blocked shot from the point past Leggio. The goalie was screened by teammate T.J. Brennan and Marlies’ Carter Ashton as it whizzed by him into the top corner.
Marlies thought they had a commanding 3-0 lead when Nazem Kadri charged the net but his shot hit one post, slid along the goal line and hit the other post before being cleared away. The goal judge waived it off and since there is no video review the call on the ice stood.
Rochester closed the gap to one midway through the second on a defensive miscue as Marcus Foligno put a shot over Ben Scrivens’ glove for his second of the series. Then Phil Varone tied the game four minutes later, also his second of the series, on a rebound on a scramble from in close by shoveling it past Scrivens and suddenly it was 2-2.
Nicolas Deschamps put Marlies back up with 1:38 left in the period after Matt Frattin laid a huge bodycheck to knock defenceman Nick Crawford off the puck. He then drove towards goal, but his shot was stopped and kicked out by Leggio. The rebound came right to Deschamps who charged in and deposited the disc into the open left side of the net.
Early in the third period the Americans bounced back after a bad clearance up the middle picked off at the point by Brennan. He skated in down the left side and beat Scrivens short side at an awkward angle to tie the game at 3-3.
With 12 minutes left on an odd man rush, Dupuis nearly scored when he cut inside to the middle and slid a shot underneath Leggio but it rung off the goal post.
Marlies goalie Ben Scrivens sprawls out along the ice to stop Americans forward Igor Gongalsky. Scrivens was much busier than game one and stopped 23 of 26 shots to pick up his second win of the first round series
Then came D’Amigo’s heroics on a play also started by Frattin. He worked the puck down low in the corner boards and then sent a backhand centering pass to D’Amigo who drilled a shot past Leggio. The fans roared in appreciation.
“Crazy all that’s all I can say. It’s amazing to hear them, it’s amazing to feel their energy and makes us play harder,” said D’Amigo on the home crowd. “It’s great to pack the house here, Toronto need this and we’re going to try and re-pay them with a round win here and keep on playing hard for them.”
Unbelievably the two teams once again played to a one-goal game and for the 12th time this season.
“It’s hard to think about that but both teams are just playing that one game at a time and that’s the way they’re turning out so definitely the next one is going to be a hard fought battle and probably going to be a one-goal game too.”
Game three will be played in Rochester on Monday night where the Americans will be fighting to stay alive in the series. Meanwhile the Marlies are looking to finish off its North Division rivals as quickly as possible and advance to the next round.
“They’re a really good team and they’re a team that never really gives up so it shows that they have got a lot of heart and a lot of belief in their dressing room,” said Frattin.
“Today was a hard battle and luckily we came out on top but next game they’re playing for their season and we’re also playing for our season to move on so that’s going to be a really hard game to win. That’s going to be a big one in Rochester back in their building.”
Ben Scrivens stares down Americans forward Paul Szczechura who streaks in on a breakaway, but the Marlies netminder would turn aside the backhanded attempt on goal
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