Whisker to a dream for Marlies

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:44 AM ET

TORONTO - Any day now, Jerry D’Amigo’s playoff beard could be declared a national wildlife preserve.

The 21-year-old Marlies winger started growing it before the American Hockey League playoffs began, and nearly two months later, the ruddy whiskers have become symbolic of the team’s playoff run.

“Fear the beard,” is his favourite saying, after a Marlies fan created a personal poster and a Twitter campaign.

D’Amigo has been taking a lot of flak from teammates — “Something wrong is going on with that face”,” defenceman Korbinian Holzer opined — but D’Amigo has taken to jokes, such as wandering around with a swizzle stick protruding from deep inside his undergrowth. He’s certainly not going to shave it off as he battles for the AHL playoff scoring lead with 13 points in 13 games.

“I was a little surprised (to score) at the beginning, but I’ve worked hard for this,” D’Amigo said.

In a related beard story, Greg McKegg shaved his beard immediately after his London Knights were beaten in Sunday’s Memorial Cup final by Shawinigan, only to find out he was called up by the Marlies the next day. He is working on another as he hopes to get in the lineup for Game 1 on Friday.

AULIE IN THE FAMILY

As far as the Norfolk Admirals have come in the American Hockey League playoffs, Keith Aulie always kept an eye on Toronto.

“I kind of had that feeling we’d both be in the Calder Cup,” the former Leafs/Marlies defenceman said Thursday in a phone interview. “I knew how good we were playing and how good the Marlies were. I was hoping for this.”

But now that the two are set to open the best-of-seven final at Scope Arena in Norfolk, Aulie intends to burn a few bridges on the ice.

“It’s all business now,” he said. “I caught up with a couple of them (Wednesday night when the Marlies arrived), but we practised at different arenas today. You’ve heard people talk about there being no friendships on the ice. Now you do whatever it takes.”

Aulie spent 19 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning after the deadline deal that sent him south for forward Carter Ashton. That was two games more than Aulie was utilized by the Leafs after he didn’t make the team out of camp. It seemed Aulie was on his way after a strong finish in 2010-11, but the arrival of Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson and John-Michael Liles squeezed him out of his position.

Aulie is still a physical, first-pass defenceman whom general manager Brian Burke once said was the key to the Dion Phaneuf trade with Calgary. But Aulie will make his bid for a full-time NHL position with Steve Yzerman’s Lightning, which needs help on the line.

“I loved it in Toronto, played my first NHL games there and want to thank them for a great opportunity,” Aulie said. “But I’m moving on.”

Ashton has yet to hit stride with the Leafs and has battled a concussion the past few weeks, but could be close to returning.

ADMIRAL GOES TO IVY LEAGUE

Nova Scotian Alex Killorn had good reason to be glad the Admirals wrapped up their Eastern final in the minimum four games against the St. John’s IceCaps. Had a fifth game in that series been necessary, he was ready to fly from Newfoundland to Boston and back during two off-days in the series so he could attend his graduation ceremony at Harvard. The 22-year-old centre has his degree in government studies.

RAISE A STEIN

They’ve heard of the Stanley Cup in Germany, but the Calder Cup?

Holzer was pleasantly surprised that he and Marcel Mueller received some media requests from their home country the past few days.

“They actually do follow this,” Holzer said. “There are requests from German newspapers and the hockey websites. They’re into it, but not the whole country. If you buy into hockey there, you know what’s going on.”

It was pointed out to Holzer last week that he and Mueller wouldn’t be the first Germans to win a Calder Cup.

“Uwe Krupp won it with Rochester, Dennis Seidenberg with the Philly Phantoms and Olaf Kolzig (playoff MVP with Portland in 1993-94),” Holzer recited.

MARLIES MINUTIAE

How’s this for penalty killing? The Marlies and Admirals have killed a combined 131 of 139 power plays in the playoffs ... Leafs goaltending coach Francois Allaire continues to work with Ben Scrivens and Marlies back-ups Jussi Rynnas and Mark Owuya, amid speculation he will be leaving the organization when the AHL playoffs end. “Right now, he’s with Ben and we’ll talk about next year at a later date,” said Leafs executive vice-president Dave Nonis ... The Marlies did get something for winning the Western Conference, the Robert W. Clarke Trophy. That’s not named after the Philadelphia Flyers star, but a former AHL chairman of the board.


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