TORONTO - Sam Carrick scored twice and the Toronto Marlies clinched their third straight North Division title with a 3-2 win over the Utica Comets on Sunday afternoon in American Hockey League action.
Kenny Ryan had the other goal for the Marlies (42-22-6). Rookie defenceman Eric Knodel picked up his first two AHL points as Toronto avoided losing three in a row for just the second time this season.
Garret Sparks made 23 saves for his 10th win of the season and the Marlies will finish no lower than the third seed in the Western Conference.
With goaltender Joe Cannata pulled for an extra attacker, Cal O'Reilly got Utica to within one with 43.5 seconds remaining.
Pascall Pelletier had the other goal for Utica (31-30-9) while Cannata made 33 saves in the loss.
On Saturday, Toronto allowed two goals in a 15 second span during the final minute of play to fall to the Rochester Americans 4-3. However, on Sunday, the Comets were unable to find the equalizer in the final minute.
The win helped Toronto avoid losing its third straight for just the second time this season. The Marlies improve to 3-2-0 in the season series with one game remaining between the two clubs.
With Comets forward Alexandre Grenier in the box serving a double minor for high sticking, Carrick put home the rebound off a Knodel point shot for his 10th of the season giving Toronto a 3-1 lead at 7:40 of the third.
The Marlies scored twice on their first three shots of the game.
Carrick opened the scoring at 3:06 getting a couple of chances at his own rebound before beating Cannata for his ninth of the season. With his assist on the goal, Knodel picked up his first career AHL point.
Ryan made it 2-0 backhanding a shot over the shoulder of Cannata at 4:49.
With Alex Biega in the box for hooking at 8:20 of the first period, the Marlies had two excellent scoring chances to make it 3-0.
Trevor Smith re-directed a pass in the slot, which Cannata got a pad on. Then Leivo knocked a puck out of mid-air which Cannata got his glove on.
The Comets pulled to within one at 16:59 of the second period, on a power play, as Pelletier put a Brandon DeFazio feed past a sprawling Sparks for his 18th of the season.
Utica entered play Sunday four points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference trailing Oklahoma City, Rochester and Charlotte, who were all tied with 75 points.
Toronto sets out on their final road trip of the season, a five-game, eight-day trip beginning Friday in Rochester, N.Y.
The Marlies and Comets play for a sixth and final time this season on April 18 in Utica, N.Y.
Notes: Goaltender Drew MacIntyre, who was with the Maple Leafs on emergency recall, was reassigned to the Marlies Sunday morning. MacInytre was a healthy scratch as Christopher Gibson backed-up Sparks. Marlies forward Fabrice Herzog made his professional debut on a line with Carter Ashton and Greg McKegg while defenceman Zach Yuen made his AHL debut paired with T.J. Brennan.