Sunday, 29 April 2018

Caught Barehanded!

There is never Toronto hockey chatter on this blog, but I felt that needed to change as it was reported today that the first tee times were booked! Ok, all joking aside, the AHL's Toronto Marlies had another outstanding year as they set a number of franchise records this season, and goaltender Garret Sparks was a big reason for that success. He was named as the AHL's top goaltender this season, and today we saw a reason why that accolade was bestowed upon him.

The Marlies finished the season with a record of 54-18-2-2 which put them first-overall in the AHL. Their league-best 54 wins was seven wins better than Lehigh Valley who was second overall, and they were the only team with a points percentage above .700, finishing with a .737 points percentage. In doing all this, the Marlies won the MacGregor Kilpatrick Trophy for being the league's best team in the regular season, and they entered the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs against the Utica Comets.

Utica, for what it's worth, finished in fourth-place in the North Division, some 24 points back of Toronto. To say they came in as major underdogs in this best-of-five series would be accurate as no one really gave them a shot at winning one game, let alone two games, against the league's best team.

Well, it was Game Five today in that best-of-five series with both teams looking to advance, and Garret Sparks decided to step his game up in a big way.
Garret Sparks just made that save with his bare hand! As you can see from the video, the Marlies have a slim 1-0 lead late in the first period when Cam Darcy found Reid Boucher on the two-on-one. Boucher's shot was stopped with a fantastic save by Sparks, but the rebound was found by Darcy who put it on net and the puck was stopped by Sparks' bare right hand! Is there any doubt that he might be the best netminder in the AHL with that kind of never-give-up?

That save not only preserved Toronto's 1-0 lead, but it helped them go into the intermission with the lead. It would be a lead they would never relinquish as Sparks had himself one heckuva night in a 4-0 shutout victory over the Comets to advance to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

While the puck was truly "caught" barehanded, that kind of robbery by Sparks off a rebound when he was already down is rarely seen. If Sparks keeps playing like that, Toronto may indeed have a championship to celebrate this spring!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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