The Toronto Marlies defeated the Albany Devils to advance to the AHL Eastern Conference finals after a thrilling game seven victory witnessed by an ecstatic sold-out Ricoh Coliseum.
It was a spectacle to behold as the rival clubs battled it out down to the dying seconds after unlikely hero Rich Clune put the home side up by a goal with under three minutes remaining in the third frame, to ultimately win it 4-3.
Marlies Defeat Devils, Advance to Conference Finals
While the series got rather chippy at times with plenty of post-whistle extracurriculars, the game’s first star showed his respect for the Albany Devils after the game: “Albany’s a great team…I’d put us and Albany up against any other team in the league…Albany was a great match. “I have a lot of respect for that organization and always have”.
Pleasantries notwithstanding, both clubs came ready to do battle throughout the series, however the high-flying Marlies offense proved to be more than the Devils could handle, outscoring them 25-19 across the seven-game series.
With a roster as deep and as skilled as the Marlies, it can be tough to point out any one key contributor to the club’s success, but defender Connor Carrick in particular, acquired along with Brooks Laich from the Washington Capitals, has been lights-out, and is currently leading the Calder Cup playoffs with 14 points (six goals, eight assists). Connor Brown leads all Marlies forwards with six goals and two assists, while veteran back-ender T.J. Brennan has five goals as well.
Goaltender Antoine Bibeau was a steadying force between the pipes, earning the praises of his coach, Sheldon Keefe: “He battled all series and he earned the net in this series…right ’til the final buzzer he was in there battling, fighting his way through traffic…really proud of how he’s handled himself through this playoffs…”
The Eastern Conference finals kicks off May 20th in Hershey against the Atlantic Division regular season leaders who finished the season with 43 wins and 98 points. Toronto concluded their campaign with 54 wins and 114 points.
In terms of how the two teams stack up thus far in post-season, Hershey and Toronto are tied with seven wins apiece, with Toronto showing an edge in goal differential (+15) with 38 goals-for and 23 against, as compared to Hershey’s 30 goals-for and 29 against (+1).