Marlies Blank Comets and Book Ticket to Second Round
The Toronto Marlies blanked the Utica Comets and booked a ticket to the North Division Finals on Sunday, winning their best-of-five opening round series in a deciding Game 5.
Garret Sparks turned in a stellar shutout performance while Carl Grundstrom notched a pair of goals to proper the Marlies to 4-0 victory in front of over 6,400 fans at home.
Grundstrom opened the scoring on an early power play opportunity, connecting on a one-timer from the side of the net after a hard cross-ice pass from Pierre Engvall. Andreas Johnsson, playing in his first game since being loaned by the Maple Leafs, had the secondary assist.
That would prove to be the only goal of the opening frame in which the Marlies outshot Utica 12-9.
Grundstrom netted his second of the night midway through the middle period, as he drove hard to the net and redirected a pass from Johnsson. Miro Aaltonen collected the other helper on Grundstrom’s third of the postseason and the Marlies led by two heading into the third.
Back on the power play less than a minute into the final frame, Johnsson passed back-and-forth with Travis Dermott before burying a one-timer top shelf and extending the lead to 3-0.
Dmytro Timashov would add an empty net goal for the Marlies, capping off the 4-0 victory.
Sparks stopped all 37 shots he faced for his second career AHL playoff shutout.
For the Comets, Thatcher Demko made 34 saves on 37 shots.
With the win, the Marlies will now advance to the second round and face the Syracuse Crunch in a rematch of last year’s North Division Finals series. The Marlies were 5-2-1-0 in the regular season series and Johnsson led the team in scoring with 11 points (7G, 4A) against Syracuse this year.
Game 1 of that series is set for Thursday night at 7:00 PM at Ricoh Coliseum.
The Toronto Marlies are in a winner-take-all, do-or-die Game 5 on Sunday in their North Division Semifinals series against the Utica Comets.
After winning the first two games at home last weekend, the Marlies dropped a pair of 5-2 finals on the road throughout this week.
Entering the final game of the best-of-five series, the Marlies will look to beat AHL All-Star goaltender Thatcher Demko who has made 30+ saves in three of four matchups so far.
The Marlies have controlled play throughout the series, outshooting Utica in each game. As they look to advance to the second round, Toronto will look to improve on the power play and create more opportunities close to the net to beat Demko.
“We know we have another level to get to in this series. Through the four games, including the two at home, we can play better than we have,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe after Friday’s Game 4. “But we’ve got full confidence in our group from our leaders all the way down that in a game of this magnitude that’s upcoming that everyone will be at their best where we need them to be.”
Andreas Johnsson and Travis Dermott, who both spent time with the Marlies this season, were loaned from the Maple Leafs yesterday and are expected to play in Sunday’s matchup.
Dmytro Timashov has been leading the Marlies offensively this series with two goals and two assists. Trevor Moore also has four points (1G, 3A) as does Martin Marincin (0G, 4A).
Colin Greening and Pierre Engvall have each scored a pair of goals in the playoffs, tying Timashov for the goals lead.
Utica is led offensively by Nikolay Goldobin (0G, 6A) and Reid Boucher (3G, 0A) who were both sent down by the Canucks for the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Puck drop for today’s game is scheduled for 4:00 PM and limited tickets are still available.
Fans can tune in on Leafs Nation Network (TV) or online with AHL Live.
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Head to Head (2018 Playoffs)