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Marlies Playoff Hopes Take A Hit


March 30, 2011

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Imagine one of those ads where the driver snakes a sports car through a narrow mountain road.

Now imagine that same ad with a riding mower.

That’s just about how the Marlies went off the cliff, Wednesday at the Ricoh Coliseum as they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Syracuse Crunch before some 4,000 school kids hepped up for a 11 a.m. puck drop in their honour.

This season Nazem Kadri, Darryl Boyce, Matt Lashoff, Joey Crabb and Keith Aulie have taken a one-way ticket to Air Canada Centre. Toss in goalie James Reimer and you have half a dozen prime contributors who moved up this year.

That’s great news for the organization, great news for the players involved, great news for the Marlies who see a path to the big time.

It’s just not so good for the skill level of the AHL club that must make do without the players they developed.

“The players know we have to play a perfect game,” said coach Dallas Eakins. “We have lots of energy but we don’t have a lot of skill and we had guys early in this game who wanted to play a skill game.”

Left winger Ryan Hamilton scored to extend his torrid streak to five goals in three games.  Joe Colborne was awarded his 19th of the year when Jake Gardiner’s shot hit Colborne’s head and ricocheted into the net. Fabian Brunnstrom delivered the other Marlies goal.

The only thing the Crunch know of the playoffs they will learn in the papers, but despite a losing record, the visitors appeared to grind the Marlies down. They scored the game-opening goal, surrendered two Toronto goals and then scored three straight. Brunnstrom scored with 97 seconds left but with goalie Ben Scrivens pulled, the Marlies weren’t able to manufacture a good chance.

“How they played was exactly the way we wanted to play,” said Hamilton. “They didn’t surprise us, we knew they would play well but it was the kind of game where we would jump up after scoring a goal, we would down and they would score and be jumping up and down.”

As it turns out, just one more time.

The Crunch scored three of their goals within a seven minute span in the third.

“I feel bad about it,” said goalie Ben Scrivens. “Our guys have been a bit snakebit. They finally score a few goals and I feel like I couldn’t hold up my end.”

The loss left the Marlies at the remote end of the playoff picture. There are a dizzying number of cross over playoff implications but the Marlies sit 10th in the conference.

“I still think we hold our fate in our own hands,” said Scrivens. “We have four games in our division and one out of our division.”

In his sixth AHL game, highly-touted defenceman Jake Gardiner struggled a bit against bigger players near his own net but proved himself an excellent skater with evident and abundant confidence in his offensive game.

“The big thing is developing the ability to play down low with strength,” said Eakins. “It’s one thing to go against college guys or even AHL players but NHL guys are incredibly strong plus great skaters.”

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