Hockey

Checkers let Marlies take home-ice edge in AHL Eastern Conference finals opener

Checkers Haydn Fleury details what team must do against Marlies

Charlotte Checkers Haydn Fleury discusses what the team needs improve on following their Game 1 loss to the Toronto Marlies in the Eastern Conference Finals at Bojangles' Coliseum in Charlotte, NC on Friday, May 17, 2019.
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Charlotte Checkers Haydn Fleury discusses what the team needs improve on following their Game 1 loss to the Toronto Marlies in the Eastern Conference Finals at Bojangles' Coliseum in Charlotte, NC on Friday, May 17, 2019.

The Toronto Marlies stole home-ice advantage from the Charlotte Checkers on Friday night, taking a third-period lead and holding on for a 2-1 American Hockey League playoff victory.

Game 2 in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference finals will be at 6 p.m. Saturday at Bojangles Coliseum. The series then moves to Toronto for Games 3, 4 and 5.

Mason Marchment scored on a deflection just 57 seconds into the final period, and the defending Calder Cup champion Marlies held off a desperate Charlotte attack in the closing minutes.

“They got an early power play goal, and we were chasing them,” said Checkers defenseman Haydn Fleury, who scored Charlotte’s goal. “Then after we tied it up, they got that second goal, and we were chasing them again. It seemed like we were doing that a lot.”

Toronto has used a strong power-play attack and sound defense to go 8-0 in the playoffs, and that was the Marlies’ formula Friday night.

With two Charlotte players in the penalty box early in the second period, the Marlies broke a scoreless tie when Dmytro Timoshov scored from the left side of the Checkers’ goal.

The Checkers tied the score at the 12:07 mark, when Fleury – one of three players returned to Charlotte from the Carolina Hurricanes after the Canes’ NHL season ended Thursday – scored on a wicked slap shot that soared past Marlies’ goalkeeper Kasimir Kaskisuo.

Marchment then got the go-ahead goal early in the third period.

The Checkers outshot Toronto 13-7 in the first period and had several excellent opportunities but didn’t score.

“I think we were a bit tight,” Checkers coach Mike Vellucci said. “We had two 3-on-1 chances and never got a shot off.”

3 who mattered

Kasimir Kaskisuo, Toronto: The Marlies goalkeeper made 26 saves, including several in the final three minutes, when Charlotte swarmed the Toronto zone.

Haydn Fleury, Charlotte: Fleury marked his return with a second-period goal and another near-goal in the first period.

Jeremy Bracco, Toronto: Bracco leads the AHL playoffs in assists, and he had another – his 10th – on the Marlies’ power play goal.

Charlotte Checkers head coach Mike Vellucci details what the team needs to do following their Game 1 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Toronto Marlies on Friday, May 17, 2019 at Bojangles' Coliseum in Charlotte, NC.

Worth mentioning

The game attracted Charlotte’s biggest crowd so far in the playoffs: 7,026.

The Checkers certainly weren’t short-handed Friday night. Center Patrick Brown and defensemen Fleury and Jake Bean returned from the Carolina Hurricanes, who now out of the NHL playoffs. Andrew Poturalski, Roland McKeown and Clark Bishop also returned from injuries.

Providence used three goaltenders against the Checkers in the first round, and Hershey alternated goalies in the second round. That probably won’t be the case against Toronto, as the Marlies have used Kaskisuo in all eight of their playoff games so far.

Ahh, the fun of playing ice hockey in the South in mid-May. A common theme of conversation in the coliseum parking lot Friday night was how strange it seemed for fans to be carrying jackets and sweaters on a night when the temperature was in the upper 80s.

They said it

“We need to pressure them into a few turnovers. That will get our offense going.” – Fleury, on what the team needs to do in Game 2.

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