Calder Cup Finals Game 6: Texas Forces Seventh Game on the Back of a Convincing 5-2 Victory

Texas (5) Toronto (2) Final

By: Gordon Brown

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Starving City

Desperate for a championship, the City of Toronto has patiently waited to see their hockey franchise’s rise to greatness in a saturated market—since the year 1967, to be exact.

For all the hype surrounding Tuesday night’s matchup, it proved to be less inspiring than originally anticipated as the Calder Cup Finals shifted back up North to another sold-out crowd inside of Ricoh Coliseum for a highly-anticipated Game 6 showdown.

With the Texas Stars trailing 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, it also happened to be the first meeting of the series with the Calder Cup present in the building. A championship was on the line for the Marlies and what better way is there to celebrate than in front of one's home crowd?

Truth be told, not many. Although since being witness to the Washington Capitals’ recent escapade, we can agree Las Vegas is an exception.

Key Cogs in the Machine

A pair of seventh-round draft picks have supported a majority of the load, zx Garret Sparks entered the night running a 2.15 GAA and a .918 SV% to pair with a 13-4 record, not exactly something you can overlook as an opponent looking to steer clear of elimination. Likewise, Andreas Johnsson was back in his element and despite being held pointless throughout Games 1 and 2, had amassed 5 points (2G, 3A) in the series up to this point. 

Additionally, Johnsson’s playoff point total (20) marks a franchise record for most points in a single playoff campaign, superseding that of Connor Carrick’s 18 points in 15 games during the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs.

How can you neglect the contributions of perceived role players in Trevor Moore (6G, 10A), Chris Mueller (4G, 11A), and captain Ben Smith (6G, 8A), among others, who especially picked up the slack when their top-guns weren’t firing.

Despite their roles on the depth chart, each of the individual players has opened up the eyes of many to what they’re truly capable of. 

Win or Stay Home 

Travis Dermott was hopeful to return from a lower-body injury that had kept him out of Game 5 but was deemed unfit to make his return to the lineup early on game-day, however, that was not the case come game-time and he was back on the ice alongside his usual partner, Timothy Liljegren.

As the action got underway, Toronto flew out of the gate as they were looking to avoid a seventh and deciding game at all costs.

Texas held their own in the opening minutes but finished the period with a mere 4 shots on goal, whereas the Marlies were able to pepper Mike McKenna with 16 shots in the first twenty minutes. After simply dominating the Stars, Toronto had absolutely nothing to show for it on the scoreboard… Texas had to have been relieved by their netminder's performance thus far.

Come time for the second, it was clear this would work in favour of Texas.

It took a whole 6:46 but Texas managed to find the game’s opening goal to break the ice—and Marlies fans were NOT happy about the play. Curtis McKenzie dumped Martin Marincin onto his backside in the corner before retreating to the slot area, where he received a feed from Justin Dowling, and proceeded to stick-handling around Sparks for the game’s ice-breaker. Curtis McKenzie loosened Andreas Johnsson’s grip on the playoff scoring lead, moving into a tie with 20-points apiece. 

The egregious non-penalty call prompted a “Refs, you suck!” chant from the Marlies faithful inside of Ricoh Coliseum, and rightfully so.

Matters of the second period only got worse from here on out, as Texas doubled their advantage at the 14:57 mark of the frame. Garret Sparks’ clearing attempt was intercepted inside of the Marlies zone by Travis Morin, who proceeded to walk in for a one-on-one break against the net-minder before beating him soundly.

Fast-forward 2:06, and the Stars were back on the prowl with a whole lot of momentum behind their cause.

Colin Greening failed to break out of the defensive zone and was instead muscled off the puck by Austin Fyten, who went on to record his 3rd and most important goal of the post-season past Garret Sparks. At this point in time, the home crowd was just about silent with their beloved team faltering under the immense pressure that comes with delivering a city to glory.

Later in the frame, Toronto found a spurt of life on the back of Calle Rosen’s seeing-eye shot from the point, which saw its way into the back of the net to cut Texas’ lead down to just two by a score of 3-1. Johnsson happened to record an assist on the play to reclaim the playoff scoring lead.

Closing Time

Toronto struggled to maintain the head of steam built up following Rosen’s goal and instead surrendered a shorthanded tally to restore the Stars’ three-goal advantage. Sheldon Dries caught the opposing defenders sleeping and was able to remain undetected behind enemy lines until receiving a breakaway feed from Jason Dickenson, to which he capitalized on. 

Calvin Pickard would enter the game as a result of Sparks allowing 4 goals after just 17 shots on target. 

At this point, Justin Holl broke through to trim Texas’ lead down to two and trailed 4-2 with just 4:48 remaining on the clock. It appeared the Marlies were poised for a resurgence but instead discovered much different in the closing minutes of the third…

The Stars continued to press and despite surrendering a total of 45 shots, managed to secure a victory and fend off elimination by adding an empty-net tally. A 5-2 victory should reaffirm the fact that this is also a very potent offence despite laying dormant for several games. 

Additionally, this would spell an uneasy feeling around the Marlies dressing room as the chance to secure a championship had slipped through their grasp and now remained in the balance of an extremely tense Game 7.

Toronto fans will have to simmer down and wait at least a couple of days to see their team take another shot at claiming the highly coveted Calder Cup. Thursday will be the night, and puck drop is slated for 7:00 p.m. EST with all the marbles up for grabs.

Feel free to drop me a comment or suggestion:

E-mail - gordon@BarnBurner.ca 

On Twitter - @GordBrown_  

Photo Credit: @TorontoMarlies