Experiencing a trip to the Western Conference finals in the American Hockey League and in historical fashion announcing the Marlies as champs set up the chance to cap an unbelievable year with a trip to the Calder Cup finals. Although finishing the 2011-2012 AHL campaign short of their goal (Calder Cup championship) the Toronto Marlies had a season like none witnessed before. Here is a look back to some memorable occasions experienced during an incredible run for Toronto hockey fans.
Way back before a puck had been dropped on the 2011-2012 season, the Marlies took a trip to Lake Placid and began camp in what is a mecca for hockey in the United States. While covering practice in Herb Brooks arena was very cool, equally so was the chance to see teammates start to form a bond ahead of intense competition. The week was not only about defining what names would stick on the plates to start the season, but also what people could come together for the name on the front of the jersey.
After a tough run through what is a crazy road trip (gone for 17 days-home for 2 days-gone for 2 more) the Marlies regained form while in New York state near the end of the trip and started to pick up steam. Six losses over seven games would give way to a victory in Albany and produce a run of six consecutive wins through November. They finished that streak with back to back wins in St.John’s vs what were the number one team in the East, at that time. No other team had successfully taken a weekend series from them until the Marlies came to town for the first time since Toronto’s NHL affiliation departed from Newfoundland back in 2005. This was a huge response for the standings, but also set the bar in terms of character possessed by the club. Their true stripes were shown and it was an early turning point in what was still a young season.
The Marlies had lost their last three games played vs Hamilton in the QEW season series prior to the main event on January 21st. Something changed that winter day and in the greatest form ever experienced at the AHL level in Canada. It was the very first AHL Outdoor Classic played in our country and Toronto would both make history and erase any bulldog demons. A 7-2 final favouring the Marlies meant they were the 1st Canadian team to win in that AHL event and they did it by the largest margin in league history over their provincial rivals and on Hamilton ice in front of over 20 thousand fans at Ivor Wynne. The Marlies would go on to win six of the next seven played vs the Bulldogs and those points would go a long way in staking claim to the division and keeping Hamilton out of the playoff picture.
Into the ides of March the Marlies were in good position to finish the regular season. A disappointing loss to the last place Texas Stars was a reminder they still had work to do before the year was complete. Toronto would again come up with a big response, winning six straight hockey games and finish the year collecting thirteen of a possible sixteen points over an eight game stretch. A strong push into the post season was exactly what the Marlies were looking for.
Round 1 vs Rochester would leave fans rooting for New York….that is New York native Jerry D’amigo from Binghamton. D’amigo helped inspire three straight wins in a first round sweep of the Americans with 5 goals and 6 points collected over those three games.
Round 2 brought up Abbotsford and after losing the first game of the series at home, Toronto knew a big road performance was necessary. The club earned a big boost from Greg Scott’s natural hat-trick to take game four. The Marlies would win three consecutive road games thanks to game 5 and series winning OT goal from Mike Zigomanis. The Marlies were now 4 and 0 away from home in the post season.
Round 3 started on the road vs conference nemesis Oklahoma City. Five different Marlies would score and Ben Scrivens made 31 saves for the 5-0 shutout victory. Scrivens would collect another shutout win in the series, only allowing 8 goals against through five games. The Marlies had won three straight and would enter round 4 as Western Conference champions.
The Marlies were the first Toronto hockey team to participate in a playoff game in the month of June. Spoiling the party were the Norfolk Admirals who would go on to hoist the Calder Cup on Ricoh ice, but at the end of the year Toronto gave themselves a chance to play for the league title. They banked many great moments for hockey fans, players (both in on ice development and off ice as people) and this broadcaster will have for life.
The best part….we are less than five months away from doing it all over again!
Thanks for logging on all year and thank-you most of all for being the great Marlies fans/hockey enthusiasts you are!
Development camp is coming up…look for more on this page from that week long event.
Happy Canada Day weekend, everyone!