It’s time to play ketchup this time around at the Pre Game Meal….
Welcome aboard! The Toronto Marlies have lowered the ramp and a mass of talent has formed a crew of young guns trying to make their mark in the AHL. Following in the skate strides of Rielly, Sparks, Broll and Percy are other CHL grads Tyler Biggs (Oshawa-OHL) and Joshua Leivo (Sudbury/Kitchener-OHL) to go along with a captain last year in the NCAA – Andrew MacWilliam (North Dakota).
Tyler Biggs hit the OHL for the first time this season and hit it hard. The 6’3” forward collected 53 points in 60 games and the games he missed – he spent representing his country at the World Junior Hockey Championship, collecting a gold medal in the process. Biggs and his generals beat out Niagara in the 1st round of the playoffs, only to be beat out by the Barrie Colts in round 2. Biggs played his 1st AHL/Pro game in Abbotsford and #47 his home debut on Tuesday vs the Oklahoma City Barons.
Josh Leivo split his 3rd OHL season between Sudbury and Kitchener. Leivo racked up 44 points with the Wolves before making his way to the Rangers. The Innisfil native’s 29 points in 29 games with Kitchener left him on top of the team’s scoring at the end of the regular season. It would be the 2nd straight year he
finished with 73 points. Leivo’s crew would take out Sparks’ Guelph Storm in round 1, then falling to London in round 2. Leivo lead his Rangers in playoff points with 12 in 10 games. #48 made his AHL/Pro debut last season in Grand Rapids, picking up a point, but experienced his 1st home game vs the Barons on Tuesday.
Andrew MacWilliam has yet to parade a Marlies uniform onto the ice, but when he does it will be wearing #43. MacWilliam helped guide his Fighting Sioux to a shot at the frozen four. The North Dakota men would get past Niagara in the 1st round, but would fall to the eventual National Champion Yale Bulldogs squad, in round 2. MacWilliam had 1g, 1a over those 2 games and that is made even more impressive when you consider his stat line was 13 points 116 pim during the college season.
It’s award time in the AHL and off the top recognition is due for Mike Zigomanis. The veteran forward was the Marlies winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year, which recognized his outstanding contributions to the Toronto community. Mike is now one of 30 finalists from around the league up for a chance to take home the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award. The announcement of that honour will arrive on Thursday. While listing Mike’s humanitarian efforts in the GTA over the past year would be fitting and lengthy, the assistant captain humbly rattles off a few in this interview:
The Marlies have already been awarded a playoff spot and thanks to their win over OKC on Tuesday, they now have a chance to clinch the North Division title for a 2nd straight season.
A victory on Friday would be necessary to earn the gap in points needed to secure the division crown, with 2 games left on the year. Rochester is the next closest team to Toronto in the North and the only one that could knock off the Marlies for that opportunity. Rochester enters with 86 points and can only collect a maximum of 92, with the games they have remaining. Toronto can hit the 93 point mark with a win on Friday. The best part…fate is securely in the Marlies hands as they face the Americans for the final time in the regular season. What a big game on Friday evening in Rochester!
As you read correctly, the next opponent are the Rochester Americans. The club has changed a bit since the trade deadline and a deal with Minnesota. Jason Pominville ended up with the Wild, in exchange Buffalo’s AHL club benefited from the additions of Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett. Of course future draft pick’s were included, as well, but the focus in this blog is at the AHL level. Larsson was hurt near the beginning of the season in Houston, but still collected 37 points in 62 games for the Aeros. He has been on fire with the Amerks, notching 4 points in his first 6 games. Hackett has already played 13 NHL games and provides stability in goal, now sharing the net with David Leggio. Hackett won 14 games for Houston in the 2011 playoffs, helping them to reach the finals vs Binghamton that year. The London, Ontario native is 2-0 in Rochester.
The Final home weekend of the year will be played out vs the same team: the St. John’s IceCaps. Winnipeg’s farm affiliate will miss the playoffs this season, but like others in the league, players are auditioning for jobs. Toronto and Worcester are the only two teams to beat the IceCaps in their last 10 games, however each team rattled off a pair of victories in the process. In order for the IceCaps to avoid finishing last in the Eastern Conference, the club will have to improve on their vs Toronto. The Marlies are 5-1 vs St. John’s this season. Don’t think there isn’t pride on the line, however.
You can catch the final 3 games of the regular season broadcast in 3 different locations:
Friday @ Rochester 7pm on your AM radio dial at TSN 1050
Saturday vs St. John’s 3pm on Rogers TV
Sunday vs St. John’s 3pm on Leafs TV and AM radio TSN 1050
Next up…the playoff blog!
Thanks for reading during the regular season and thanks again to Christian at tsgphoto.com for the pics!