The Toronto Marlies Calder Cup dream is over.
Needing victory to avoid elimination, the Toronto Marlies had dug themselves a hole heading into the final twenty minutes of regulation.
Trailing 3-1 and having only registered 12 shots on net, Toronto required a far better performance in a third period.
After surviving a couple of early scares, relying on Antoine Bibeau to bail them out, the Marlies began to look like the team we’ve enjoyed watching this season.
Two minutes in and Nikita Soshnikov appeared odds on to score, but with Justin Peters beaten, defenseman Aaron Ness dived in front of the shot to deny the Russian forward.
Connor Carrick was the next to try his luck, Peters making the initial stop but had no clue the puck had landed in his crease, fortunate to see a Hershey defenseman clear.
The Bears goaltender was looking increasingly shaky and was at fault as Toronto clawed within one.
Peters failed to hold onto Soshnikov’s shot or grab the rebound, allowing Hyman to pick up the puck, skate around the goaltender and throw an effort across the goal crease. Soshnikov responded better than any Hershey player and jammed in his fifth goal of the post-season.
With over 14 minutes remaining there was still plenty of time for a tying goal and the home team were well on top at this stage. Viktor Loov, Kasperi Kapanen and William Nylander had the best looks on net, while Peters was so nervous he dropped his stick on an innocuous looking play.
After surviving five solid minutes of pressure, Hershey regained some composure and began to try and shut down the game by clogging up the neutral zone and making sure seconds were ticked away by jamming the puck against the boards at every opportunity.
The Marlies were thankful for a timeout with a little over four to play and proceeded to throw everything they had upon the game restarting. Josh Leivo should have done better than firing wide of the net but Connor Carrick almost benefited on the rebound, throwing himself at the puck in an act of desperation to try and knock it past Peters.
All the action was in the crease of Peters, Nylander even trying to elbow the puck into the net as it flew up after another shot rebounded off a myriad of players in front of the net.
Antoine Bibeau left the net with a little under two minutes to play and still there was hope of a miracle comeback.
The six Marlies skaters led an onslaught of the Hershey goal but Peters was doing enough to stop each shot and defenseman were first to rebounds around him.
Toronto’s reluctance to fire one-timers wasn’t helping matters as Hershey could set themselves somewhat, though Peters was required to make one more save from Mark Arcobello with eight seconds on the clock.
It’d be the last save of the entire series as Hershey clinched a 3-1 win and sealed a date with the Lake Erie Monsters.
Victory in game five was nothing less than Washington’s affiliate deserved in truth, as they were by far the better team throughout the majority of the game.
In what was a physical first period, Hershey could easily have been up by as many as three goals.
There was little in the way of scoring opportunities until Rich Clune took an extremely undisciplined penalty.
Hershey crashed the net immediate with the extra man and appeared to have scored despite Andrew Campbell smothering the puck with his glove.
Video review showed no goal but it would be a penalty shot for the visitors.
Up stepped Jakub Vrana with the slowest approach to a penalty shot I’ve ever seen and Antoine Bibeau made as comfortable a right pad save as you’ll likely to see.
The power play continued for Hershey though the officials were again not at their best, missing a clear slashing on Ben Smith, that sent his stick spiralling into the air.
The Marlies survived their opening penalty kill and recorded a first shot on net with 8:30 played.
It was a decent attempt by Viktor Loov, firing low and using a Hershey opponent of a screen but despite the huge rebound, nobody in blue and white was close enough to take advantage.
What followed was a series of chances for both teams that led to Hershey opening the scoring.
Chandler Stephenson initially teeing up Liam O’Brien but Bibeau was alert and moved swiftly to make the save.
Toronto switched the play quickly, T.J Brennan taking aim and the rebound fell to Leivo. If he was a left-handed shot, it was a sure goal but Leivo conspired to miss on his backhand.
A 2-on-1 break followed for the Bears, Dustin Gazley dishing off to O’Brien but Bibeau got a glove on his first shot. The puck didn’t stick such was the quick reaction of the save and floated up in the air whereupon O’Brien batted in his own rebound.
Toronto tried to respond with Arcobello finding the glove of Peters after some pitch and catch with Rinat Valiev.
Vrana was looking to atone for his earlier penalty shot miss and after picking up the puck just inside his own blue line, set off on a barn storming run. Going through all three zones and past every Marlies skater, only Bibeau denied the rookie from scoring with a blocker save.
Toronto finished the period with a power play but only created themselves one chance.
It was a good opening however, Hyman bringing a fine stop from Peters after good work from Nylander and Ben Smith.
The middle frame was where Toronto lost this game and with it their chances of winning the Calder Cup.
Two goals in 65 seconds did the damage, though both were totally avoidable. .
Christian Djoos was allowed to streak into the slot uncontested, Nylander guilty of a weak back check on the play, and Bibeau was beaten clean as a whistle by a fine shot.
The next was a 3-on-2 break where Nathan Walker had the freedom of Ricoh Coliseum on the right side of the ice. Riley Barber sending a perfect pass for the Australian forward to smash home a one-timer that Bibeau could simply not get across to in time.
A little over two minutes had only passed and it could have become a whole lot worse than trailing 3-0.
Carter Camper was afforded far too much room in the slot and he was frustrated not to beat Bibeau from such a great position.
Chris Bourque was the next to test Toronto‘s goaltender with a backhand effort after a poor piece of play from Justin Holl allowed another opportunity.
It was almost from nothing that the home team got themselves a foothold in the game. A delayed penalty after a solid offensive zone shift paid dividends with Nylander tipping a shot from Connor Carrick past Peters.
Opening their account certainly gave the Marlies some legs but it failed to materialise into shots or chances. In fact Toronto would only register four attempts on net during the second period and would be fortunate to only be trailing by two goals after as many periods of play.
It proved a bridge too far on this occasion and many congratulations to the Hershey Bears on progressing to the Calder Cup Finals.
It’s been a fun ride with the Toronto Marlies this year but ultimately they weren’t quite consistent enough during the post-season to continue the journey on.
Post Game Notes:
For the second time in three years, Toronto fall at the Conference Final round of the playoffs.
William Nylander scored his seventh goal of the post season.
Connor Carrick recorded his 11th assist of the playoffs. The defenseman totalled a playoff leading 18 points in 15 games.
Colin Smith assisted on the Nylander tally concluding the playoffs with a three game point streak.
Nikita Soshnikov recorded his fifth goal of the playoffs.