Marlies in tough

Phillipe Dupuis of the Marlies jams away at it as Norfolk Admirals goalie Dustin Tokarski cover up...

Phillipe Dupuis of the Marlies jams away at it as Norfolk Admirals goalie Dustin Tokarski cover up during Game 2 last night. (Robert Twine/Photo)

Lance Hornby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:45 PM ET

NORFOLK, VA. - The Calder Cup could be won in Toronto this week, but not by the Marlies.

They’ll be trying to stay alive the next three games at Ricoh Coliseum to extend the American Hockey League final back here in 10 days. That’s becoming a difficult proposition for the Maple Leafs’ farm team, its hands full with an Admirals club that just doesn’t dial down the intensity. Saturday’s 4-2 win gives Norfolk a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven, a significant deficit no matter how much the Marlies go on about not looking big picture yet.

The past 48 hours makes it quite evident the Admirals are harder on the puck, better on special teams and have forwards who make up for height with plenty of tenacity. The skill players on Toronto who romped through the first three rounds, such as Jerry D’Amigo, Nicolas Deschamps and Jake Gardiner, are being out-worked in their zone. Only Ben Scrivens’ goaltending is protecting the team’s rear ends and he gave up the third period clincher to Brandon Segal from long range. A bad clear that began with Carter Ashton resulted in Alexandre Picard’s go-ahead goal on a tough second period rebound.

Scrivens has faced more than 70 shots so far and tried to help the cause by drawing a second period goalie interference penalty on Picard, right after his goal and a terrific hit on big Marlie Joe Colborne.

With Leaf brass Dave Poulin and Claude Loiselle looking on, coach Dallas Eakins gave a chance to new Leaf free agent Spencer Abbott in place of Marcel Mueller. More changes could come with a five-day break before Game 3 perhaps allowing injured Mike Zigomanis recovery time. Ex-Leaf Keith Aulie had a couple of assists.

Halfway through the first period Norfolk had registered its 50th shot of the series, knocked Scrivens’ net off three times. Tampa Bay’s farm team was generating that pressure honestly, getting deep to force blind passes and using quick transition to get odd-man rushes.

Richard Panik’s wheels were too much for defenceman Mark Fraser at the 14:38 mark of the first, as he went wide and tucked a five-hole backhand by Scrivens. But after the Marlies hd fumbled away 11 straight power plays in four periods, Colborne found a hole on Dustin Tokarski up top.

Eakins blamed bad ice for some of the Marlies’ Game 1 woes with the extra man, though conceded it’s tough to find great ice anywhere in the heat of June.

“You’re going to have bad ice so you’re going to have to make it very simple on the power play,” Eakins said, which is what Colborne, Gardiner and Matt Lashoff combined to do.

The price Norfolk has to pay for its aggression are frequent trips to the box, but if the Marlies can’t make better use of the calls, it’s no wonder they’re facing elimination at home.

“There are always penalties you don’t mind killing off, the ones in the defensive zone, sticking a guy to save a goal,” Admirals’ Cory Conacher said. “Then there are the ones you take 200 feet in the o-zone. Those are tough to take and we had too many. We have to get our sticks out of those areas. We’re a team that gets into it, but fortunately our penalty kill has been unreal all year and we have a solid goalie as well.”

There was a sellout of 8,661 at Scope Arena, a playoff first for the Admirals who took just 14 games to reach the Cup final, one more than Toronto.

“It’s going to be a long series, it’s going to be an interesting series,” Conacher said. “So it’s important to go into Toronto up 2-0.”


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