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Marlies Down But Not Out

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
You have to admit, it kind of fits.

A few weeks ago, the Marlies had to win two games in Winnipeg to keep playing.

Now they face that scenario once again..

The Manitoba Moose drubbed Marlies 5-2, Thursday to win two of three games in Ontario. That means the Moose only need one more victory to clinch to win their first round North Division series, either Saturday or if it comes to that, Tuesday. Both games will be in the Manitoba capital.

The Marlies, you may have deduced, need a sweep which they managed to climb into the playoffs against these same Moose.

So, in a weird twist, both teams can claim precedent as their friend.

“The guys just feed off the crowd,” said the Marlies Darryl Boyce. “You go there and there’s 10,000 kids screaming at you. We perform there and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Anton Stralman and Darryl Boyce scored for the Marlies.

Jason Krog and Jason Jaffray both scored twice for the Moose. Guillaume Desbiens added a late goal.

The Moose broke through six minutes into the first when Jaffray walked into the face-off dot and wristed a shot past Justin Pogge. The power play marker was his series-leading fourth goal.

The Marlies replied when Stralman wristed a low shot past Manitoba goalie Cory Schneider in the final minute of the first.

The Marlies came into the game determined to pressure the Moose and they did just that. They outshot the visitors 14-6 in the first.

Schneider was the main difference in the second. He stopped Boyce on a breakaway and robbed Ryan Hamilton who had a close-in chance.

“Schneider played a hell of a game,” said Pogge. “If he doesn’t play as well, we’re ahead in the game.”

The Marlies finally broke ahead on a play triggered by Viktor Stalberg, who was playing his first professional game. The former University of Vermont star outfought two Moose checkers to centre the puck from the corner. Schneider somehow stopped defenceman Jaime Sifers but the puck when to Boyce who tucked it behind the Winnipeg goalie.

Marlies coach Greg Gilbert liked what he saw of Stalberg.

“He played well. He’s a good skater, he goes to the tough areas, he has good vision and good skill. I think he’s going to be a good one.”

But with 1:17 left in the second, Krog was left alone. He stickhandled Pogge to the ice and nudged the puck into the net. That made it 2-2.

A terrible mistake by Jonas Frogren paved the way to the go ahead midway through the final period. Frogren, playing only his second game after a knee injury knocked him out for six weeks,  picked up a short pass from Pogge behind the goal line and was immediately checked. The puck squirted free to Jaffray who quickly wristed a shot past Pogge.

Then disaster. A centering pass from the corner went off someone’s skate, it was hard to see whose it was, and bounced past Pogge.

“A bad goal by me kind of breaks our back,” Pogge said. “It kind of put the game out of reach.”

Still, Pogge predicted the Marlies could still be all right.

“We can play there (Winnipeg). We have a lot of confidence there. It’s a fun place to play.”

“We’ve got to win two in a row,” said Marlies captain Ben Ondrus. “Last year we were down 3-1 going into Syracuse and we won that. There’s not much to say. We’ve got to win.”
The Marlies ended up outshooting the visitors 40-37. Toronto did not register a power play goal in three opportunities. The Moose enjoyed a whopping 18 more minutes of power play time and scored once in seven man advantages.
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