As the Marlies hit the ice at Ricoh Coliseum for practice Monday morning, head coach Sheldon Keefe stressed the need for puck possession.
“We feel like we need to slow their speed and their transition game down, we feel we’ve made it easy for them here to this point,” Keefe said after practice. “The more we can spend time in the offensive zone, it slows them up and it obviously sets us up offensively to put more pressure on their defence and their goaltender.”
The Marlies are coming home for Game 3 of the North Division Finals and that will be an important part of the game plan as they look to respond after dropping the first two games of the series in Syracuse this weekend.
“The less they have the puck, the more chances we’re going to have to play in their end and they’re going to have to defend,” said Seth Griffith, who scored his first of the playoffs in Game 2. “They have a lot of skill over there and I think their skill guys don’t want to play in their own zone, so if we have the puck more it’s going to frustrate them.”
“Through the first couple of games, they’ve burned us a lot on transition and maintaining the puck and making plays. The ice has been kind of tilted towards our end for the majority of the series,” added Marlies captain Andrew Campbell. “In order to slow them down, we need to hang on to it more and spend more time in their end, and make their good players spend time and energy in their own end.”
In addition to owning puck possession, the Marlies will look to apply increased pressure on Syracuse to force them into tough situations.
“I think we have to work as a unit of five,” said defenceman Steve Oleksy. “The more we can force them into bad plays and hard plays to make, the more we’re going to have the puck in transition.”
Taking advantage of the home crowd will also be part of the focus for the Marlies as they take the ice for Game 3 on Tuesday.
It’s been a good year for the Marlies when playing at Ricoh Coliseum, as they finished the regular season with the fourth-best home record in the Eastern Conference. They also won both home games in the first round of this year’s Calder Cup Playoffs.
“We have to take advantage of these two games at home and hopefully even up the series,” said Griffith.
“We’re excited, we’ve been a good team here all year,” Campbell added. “We really feed off the crowd and energy here. It’s a great building to play in and it’s a lot of fun for everyone.”
Game 3 is scheduled for 7:00 Tuesday night in Toronto live on Leafs TV and AHL Live.
Tickets are available online or by calling 416-597-PUCK (7825).