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2023 Calder Cup Playoffs

Marlies Use Extra Time to Punish Comets

Marlies Use Extra Time to Punish Comets

TORONTO – The playoffs have thinking time. Time to think about the game, the opponent, and how you’ll fare against them. 

Thinking about Toronto. 1,433 days since the Marlies’ last playoff game. Thinking about the 11 days since they last played a game. 

Thinking about Utica. Thinking about how the Comets made quick work against the Laval Rocket in round one, the series that ended just six days ago.

That time was needed in the 6-5 final.

But there’s no time to think; the Marlies came off the bench on full octane. This would not matter when the Marlies didn’t think when sending six players on the ice. This set up perfectly for Reilly Walsh, who took no time ripping a shot from the point to open the scoring.

Overthinking about your first AHL playoff goal Topi Niemelä gunned far too deep playing on a 3-on-1 on a 4-on-4. He took a shot that was missed by a country mile forcing the play back the other way for a two-on-one; Graeme Clarke raced down with Brian Halonen. Clarke had Keith Petruzzelli buying beans as the pass didn’t come across and went between Petruzzelli’s legs to go up 2-0.

Before the Marlies could even think about getting off to a good start, a juicy rebound had the Comets pull their eighth straight goal against Toronto. Mason Geertsen took the initial blast from the point, with the rebound coming on the left side with six feet of the net for Xavier Parent on the open side.

The Marlies would return the favor in a well-thought-out play moments later. Kyle Clifford took the initial low shot looking for the rebound, with Marc Johnstone following up for the shot. Instead of shooting, Johnstone took a second and passed the puck across the crease to Pontus Holmberg, who got the Marlies on the board.

77 seconds later, it was Niemelä who finally got a proper chance to score. Nick Abruzzese fed the pass across to Niemelä, who had time and space to take the shot to get the Marlies back within one, sitting 3-2.

The third and tying goal for the Marlies came thanks to a Logan Shaw blast. The pass from Mac Hollowell spent no time on Shaw’s stick for the power play marker.

To that point, the Marlies had excellent possession. The baby buds kept the puck moving on and off the power play. Toronto was first to the puck and quick to move it.

Whatever was said in the first intermission had to be carbon copied in the second, and it was. Toronto came with an even bigger step on Utica, who was capitalizing on their chances.

That said, the Comets took every chance they could get and used it to score, which I liked with their first three goals. The message for them was just that, shut down the Marlies and make the chances they had to score.

Three goals in the middle portion of a back-and-forth period outlined the third.

  • Walsh took a seemingly harmless shot from the line. With Petruzzelli shifting left, the puck shifted right on a funny hop and landed Utica the lead.
  • 45 seconds later, Joseph Blandisi found Shaw across the crease. Zack Hayes had the missed defensive assignment on a player that can be dangerous when he has the puck. Shaw has proven that this is a career year for the captain, and that momentum spark would carry into the next goal.
  • Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, in the slot, spun a 180 and slipped it through Nico Daws to take the lead. It was another key example of that zone possession that the Marlies dominated at points through the game.

Things didn’t look promising for the Comets at this point. An unstoppable force met an immovable object. Their fortune would change six-on-five.

Time is ticking, less than a minute. Clarke finds Alexander Holtz down low. The shot through traffic took a hop on Petruzzelli for the second straight game of Utica scoring in the final minute to tie the game.

In overtime, with the Marlies all over it, it would take 18:45 to find the winner. Blandisi came down the sideboards, making a beautiful toe drag for the snipe top shelf.

The goals on Daws weren’t entirely his fault, either. In fact, he was far better than the better goalie through 60 minutes. It wasn’t that far of a stretch for a netminder that shut out the team in their last meeting.

The defense in front of Daws was outplayed. Plain and simple. The Marlies turned on the jets when needed, especially in the second and third periods. 

As Madonna sang, time goes by so slowly for those who wait. The Marlies didn’t hesitate, first to the puck, first to dictate the pace of play, and first to win in the series.

Game two comes Saturday at 4:00 p.m.



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    Zack Power covers the Toronto Marlies for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHMarlies.

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