Calder Cup: Mar­lies and Stars set for de­ci­sive sev­enth game

The Welland Tribune - - Sports - GRE­GORY STRONG

TORONTO — The Toronto Mar­lies plan to stick with goal­tender Gar­ret Sparks for Thurs­day’s de­ci­sive Game 7 of the Amer­i­can Hockey League’s Calder Cup fi­nal against the Texas Stars.

Sparks had a rare off-game in a 5-2 loss in Game 6 on Tues­day and was pulled early in the third pe­riod.

Head coach Shel­don Keefe said the Mar­lies will lean on Sparks once again like they have through­out the reg­u­lar sea­son and play­offs. “Sparksy, most im­por­tantly, will just lean on the rou­tine that he’s es­tab­lished for him­self to get him­self right,” he said. “I’ve got no con­cerns there what­so­ever.”

The Mar­lies didn’t do their net­min­der many favours as turnovers and give­aways helped the Stars pull away in the sec­ond pe­riod.

Sparks was cer­tainly not his usual self in net but Toronto played a choppy game in front of him de­spite a dom­i­nant — yet score­less — first pe­riod.

Texas goalie Mike McKenna, mean­while, was in top form as his team earned the road win to force a win­ner-take-all show­down at Ri­coh Coli­seum.

“It’s a tight se­ries, we knew that com­ing into it,” said Mar­lies for­ward Ben Smith. “They’re com­pet­i­tive, they’re fast, they’re op­por­tunis­tic. One game for a cham­pi­onship and we’re go­ing to bring our best on Thurs­day night.”

Cur­tis McKen­zie (21 points) and Justin Dowl­ing (17 points) have led the Texas at­tack. The Stars were out­shot 45-24 in Game 6 and didn’t man­age much of­fence.

How­ever, when the Stars were given op­por­tu­ni­ties, they took ad­van­tage. Toronto backup goalie Calvin Pickard stopped all six shots he faced.

Texas iced the win with an empty-net­ter.

“We’re a re­silient team and I like our odds in Game 7,” Sparks said af­ter the loss.

Both Sparks and McKenna en­ter the fi­nal game with iden­ti­cal 2.29 goals-against av­er­ages in the play­offs with two shutouts apiece.

McKenna has been 14-7 in the post-sea­son with a .929 save per­cent­age.

“He’s been lights out,” Cur­tis McKen­zie said. “He went on a run last year and he’s brought that to these play­offs. He has the same men­tal­ity and he’s been our MVP for sure.”

Sparks has a 13-5 play­off mark and .912 save per­cent­age.

NATHAN DENETTE THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Texas Stars cen­tre Travis Morin, right, cel­e­brates scor­ing past Mar­lies goalie Gar­ret Sparks on Tues­day night.

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