The Toronto Marlies were the class of the American Hockey League in 2015-16. With a record of 54-16-5-1, the team cruised to the top of the regular season standings, earning the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as league champions.
However, as proud as coach Sheldon Keefe is of the accomplishment, he remains steadfast in his resolve that only a Calder Cup championship will be the true pinnacle of the team’s success.
“Growing up for me, long before I was going to become a pro hockey player or anything like that, I always knew what the Calder Cup was,” Keefe said to reporters during the team’s final regular season series at Ricoh Coliseum versus Rochester.
“I’d be lying if I told you I knew what the Kilpatrick Trophy was, and what it meant. So it’s a good accomplishment, I’m happy for the group and I’m happy for the organization, certainly – but we’re moving on to bigger and better things.”
The Marlies’ first round opponent is the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the affiliate of the New York Islanders. The series begins Saturday in Connecticut for the first two games of the best-of-five series before returning to Toronto.
Defenceman TJ Brennan and forward Mark Arcobello finished third and tenth, respectively in AHL scoring. Brennan recorded 25 goals and 68 points in 69 games on the blue line, earning the Eddie Shore Award as the league’s outstanding defenceman.
Swedish sensation William Nylander, who turns 20 on May 1, registered 45 points in just 38 games; an astounding 1.18 points per game clip. Nylander of course was recalled to the Maple Leafs, where he stayed for the duration of the NHL season after February 29.
Keefe remains non-committal as to which of his goalies, Antoine Bibeau or Garret Sparks, will start.
Up front, the Marlies skated with 14 forwards and eight defencemen earlier this week. The surplus of talent from which to choose leaves Keefe with many personnel options.
“Unlike other teams, perhaps our depth exceeds the number of roster spots available for any particular game, and we’ve got to make decisions there,” Keefe said.
North Division SemiFinals schedule:
Game 1 – Sat., Apr. 23 – Toronto at Bridgeport, 7:00
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 24 – Toronto at Bridgeport, 5:00
Game 3 – Thu., Apr. 28 – Bridgeport at Toronto, 7:30
*Game 4 – Fri., Apr. 29 – Bridgeport at Toronto, 7:30
*Game 5 – Sun., May 1 – Bridgeport at Toronto, 3:00
All times Eastern