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Stars, Marlies to play Game 7 of Calder Cup Finals

Will decide AHL championship in Toronto

by Mike Battaglino / Staff Writer

The Texas Stars and Toronto Marlies will decide the American Hockey League championship in Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN2).

It is the first Game 7 in the Finals since 2003, and the second since 1996.

"We have an opportunity now again to play in a one-game shot on home ice for a championship," Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said after losing Game 6 5-2 on Tuesday. "So we have to turn the page, recognize what didn't go well for us and why it didn't go well for us tonight. We will talk more about that tomorrow, but most importantly we just wanted to get our team's mindset right to recognize that we have got a great opportunity that we should be excited for."

Toronto, the affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, won Games 1, 3 and 5. Texas, the affiliate of the Dallas Stars, won Games 2, 4 and 6.

Game 7 is at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. No team has won the Calder Cup by winning the last two games on the road.

"We came here for two wins and we've done half of that now," Texas forward Curtis McKenzie told The Canadian Press. "So it's going to be a big test on Thursday."

Toronto had a 10-game playoff winning streak after going 54-18-2-2 to win the North Division. It needed five games to eliminate Utica before sweeping Syracuse and Lehigh Valley to win the Eastern Conference.

Texas finished second to Tucson in the Pacific Division (38-24-8-6) before eliminating Ontario, Tucson and Rockford to win the Western Conference.

"The reason why we are going to Game 7 is that neither team has been able to win two games in a row," Keefe said. "That's why we are here. We have had to respond at different times in this series and we have been able to do that. ... That's a very good team, a very proud team."

Marlies forward Andreas Johnsson leads the playoffs with 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists), one more than McKenzie (11 goals, nine assists).

Toronto goalie Garret Sparks and Dallas goalie Mike McKenna each has a 2.29 goals-against average this postseason. Sparks' save percentage is .912, McKenna's is .929.

Toronto is 1-for-16 on the power play in the series.

Texas won the Calder Cup in 2013-14 with a five-game series win against St. John's. No Toronto affiliate has won the Calder Cup since New Brunswick in 1981-82, according to the CP. The Marlies lost the Finals to Norfolk in 2011-12.

This will be the 11th Game 7 in Calder Cup Finals history. Houston defeated Hamilton 3-0 in the most recent (2003). Rochester defeated Portland 2-1 to win the 1996 championship.

"It takes a lot of hard work to get to this point, to earn home ice," Toronto forward Ben Smith said. "We just have to come prepared, 60 minutes for a championship. It's going to be a tough competitive game."

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