It was the second intermission at the Ricoh Coliseum. Goalie Justin Pogge was hotfooting down a cordoned-off area en route to the Toronto Marlies dressing room when a voice cut through the din.
“Pogge, our future,” bellowed a fan.
Maybe the present too.
Pogge, the Marlies 22-year old prized net minder took over for a shell-shocked Scott Clemmensen last night after the San Antonio Rampage pumped four goals past the veteran en route to a 6-3 win.
The victory tied the best-of-seven series 1-1 and set up a potentially series-ender in San Antonio where the two teams will play Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The Marlies won Game 1 by a count of 4-3.
Pogge looked fine, stopping 15 of 17 shots in 33 minutes of play. Clemmensen was beaten four times on 19 shots but to be fair, the Marlies defensive instincts were consistently suicidal throughout the contest.
Now, the question looms. Does coach Greg Gilbert leave the kid in goal? Clemmensen, a straight-up kind of guy said he was expecting a change, especially since, by his account “we’ve played six periods and only played Marlies hockey in one of them.”
“It might be time to give Justin a start and give us a different look,” he said. “Maybe it would kick-start our team. If the roles were reversed I would have expected to start Game 3 so I am expecting him to start.”
“I was told to be ready if there was a time to come in,” Pogge said. “I felt I did that tonight so we’ll see who gets the start but Scotty just had a couple of bad bounces tonight. It doesn’t matter who we go with, we’ll be flying.”
Gilbert didn’t seem to share Clemmensen’s view that a change was needed. He noted, unenthusiastically, Pogge’s eagerness to play the puck and sometimes operate from his back and all but handed the assignment back to the veteran.
“I haven’t made that decision yet but chances are Scott will go back in,” he said.
The Marlies didn’t skate, didn’t check, didn’t finish, didn’t initiate. Other that they were fine.
“Where do you start?” said Gilbert.
“They challenged us physically and we didn’t respond. They’re a fast team that plays physical. We turned pucks over. We played pretty much a soft game.”
Jay Harrison and Ben Ondrus and Bates Battaglia scored for the Marlies who never led in the contest.
Chris Kolarik notched a hat trick and Joey Tenute scored twice while Matt Murley added a single.
Trailing 5-1 entering the third, Harrison beat San Antonio goalie Josh Tordjman from long range before Battaglia lifted the crowd of 3,367 with a brilliant shorthanded rush and goal.
That was pretty well it. Kolarik’s tap-in goal, the latest in a long line of defensive misplays, sealed the deal with eight minutes left.
“Their forecheck was almost perfect,” said winger Brent Aubin. “Every time we had the puck they were on us.”
The Marlies best chance came early, a one-minute two-man advantage with the game scoreless in the first.
“I think the five on three we didn’t score, that was big,” Aubin said. “It’s a big battle for us. We’ve got to go down there and do some damage.”
Gilbert meanwhile, fingers a lack of playoff experience as the root of the problem. The Marlies, he said, have to grow up…fast.
“I think there’s a lot of guys who haven’t played a lot of playoffs. It’s a totally different beast and they’re getting their eyes opened. It’s dog-eat-dog, kill-or-be killed and if you’re not prepared to pay the price…
“We’ve got to go down to their building and respond. We’ve got to play a tougher, more physical game and a more disciplined game.”