After sweeping the Rochester Americans in the first round of the AHL playoffs, the Toronto Marlies tasted its first defeat to open the second round.
Toronto once again had home ice advantage but the Abbotsford Heat capitalized on mistakes to take game one by the score 3-1 at Ricoh Coliseum.
The boxscore may suggest otherwise but the Marlies played well for most of the game, especially the third period where the team dominated after finally solving Heat goaltender Danny Taylor.
Taylor frustrated Marlies shooters all night while the Heat capitalized on Marlies mistakes to build up a 2-0 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
“These are two very evenly matched hockey teams,” said Marlies Head Coach Dallas Eakins. “The two goals they got were just basic mistakes. Not anything that they did extraordinary.”
“These guys are a resilient group. They’re not going to go away in any game. I knew we would come out with a response in the third.”
Not only did the team respond, the Marlies took over the game outshooting the Heat 15-5 and delivered several big hits. Toronto now needs to carry that play over into the next game or could find themselves in a big hole with games three to five scheduled in Abbotsford.
“Their goalie played well,” said Marlies defenceman Jake Gardiner. “They don’t give up many chances, it’s tough to get pucks to the net, they block shots. We’re just going to have to come out in game two and find a way to do it.”
Despite having a week off between games, the Marlies came out of the gate quickly and controlled the game early but were not able to get many pucks at the net. The Heat wrestled the game back in its favour and kept goaltender Ben Scrivens busy outshooting the home team 12-5 after 20 minutes.
Marlies' Jake Gardiner and Jerry D'Amigo watch as the Heat celebrate the game's opening goal at the Ricoh Colisuem on Tuesday night
Abbotsford quieted the 4,934 fans in attendance after getting one of those pucks past the Marlies netminder with less than five minutes left in the opening frame. Scrivens had stopped both Hugh Jessiman and Greg Nimisz from in close but was knocked off his feet when one of his defenceman pushed a Heat player into him. The puck sat in the crease as Max Reinhart raised it over the fallen goaltender to open the scoring.
In the second period the Marlies created several chances on an early power play but were unable to get the puck past Taylor.
The Heat increased its lead just before the halfway mark when Reinhart controlled the puck behind the net and set up Chris Been at the point. The defenceman’s shot was rifled through traffic and past Scrivens to make it 2-0.
The Marlies and Heat were even at 12 shots apiece in the second period but the Marlies still had nothing to show for its efforts.
But that all changed quickly as the Marlies got on the board just 1:27 into the third period. Joe Colborne floated the puck towards goal and Matt Frattin tipped the puck down between the legs of Taylor and it trickled in.
The goal gave the Marlies life and the team began playing with a physical edge by throwing the body around. Toronto nearly tied the game with about 11 minutes left when Jerry D’Amigo, who had the whole net to shoot at, sent a centering pass just wide and looked to graze the far post. The hero from the first round for the Marlies was unable to continue his three-game goal streak against the Heat.
The Marlies pulled Scrivens to attempt for an equalizer with just less than two minutes left but within the Heat added an empty net goal from Guillaume Desbiens to seal the win.
“It’s definitely nice not to get the goose egg,” said Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton. “We played a real good third period and that’s something we’re going to build off, we did a lot of good things out there.”
“We definitely gave ourselves an opportunity to tie the game up at the end. We got a lot of really good scoring chances, goalie played really well. In saying that, we got to play a full 60 there and that’s why we didn’t get the results we wanted.”
Both teams will battle again in game two on Thursday night with the puck dropping at 7 p.m. before heading out west for games three, four and five (if necessary) in Abbotsford.
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