The biggest goal of Simon Gysbers’ career has put Toronto Marlies into the American Hockey League final.
Gysbers scored the game-winning goal to propel the Toronto Marlies into the Calder Cup championship series after defeating the Oklahoma City Barons 3-1 on Friday.
Gysbers scored 8:38 into the third period when he skated into a shot from the blue-line and blew it past Barons goaltender Yann Danis.
“It’s the biggest goal I’ve scored, for sure,” Gysbers said. “I could take you through it for years to come.
“(Nicolas Deschamps) made a great play. He made a nice move to cut back, I moved in, he put it on a tee for me and I just hit it.”
The Marlies dispatched the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed in five games, taking all three at Ricoh Coliseum after splitting the first two in Oklahoma City.
“Being able to play them in the playoffs, No. 1 versus No. 2, it was a matchup we embraced,” Gysbers said. “It feels really good to beat them.”
Gysbers, who plays on Toronto’s last defence pairing, had gone goalless in the playoffs until his third period blast in front of 7,515 fans.
“That’s his go-to shot,” said centre Joe Colborne. “It’s seems like every time he scores it’s from the point, post and in. It was a huge, huge goal. We needed that badly.”
Matt Frattin had the other goals for Toronto and Ben Scrivens stopped 26 shots in goal for his 11th win of the post-season.
Danis made 22 saves in defeat.
After Frattin opened the scoring in the first, the Marlies shut down the Barons until late in the second when Chris VandeVelde tied the game with 15 seconds left in the period.
“It’s obviously a tough goal, sort of a buzz kill,” Gysbers said. “But we have a lot of confidence in this room and we weren’t going to deviate from our plan. We knew if we stuck with what we were doing, we’d be OK.”
“But the last 10 minutes felt like the slowest 10 minutes ever.”
It was the first goal Scrivens allowed since the third period of Game 3, spanning 107:49 after he shutout the Barons in Game 4.
It will be the first trip to the Calder Cup final for the Marlies, who moved to Toronto at the start of the 2005-06 season. In fact, the franchise, which started in St. Catharines, Ont., in 1982, has only reached the final once. The St. John’s Maple Leafs lost the 1992 final in seven games to the Adirondack Red Wings.
“This is just such a great, great experience for these guys,” said Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins. “It’s so good for their development to go through rounds, be put into situations like they are, get into a full building, have all of (the media) here to talk to them — it’s good all the way around for these young men and their futures.
“Playoffs are always a marathon. It’s amazing what you have to go through. But that’s what the playoffs are about when the unsung guys step up and give you big games.”
After Gysbers gave Toronto the lead, Frattin scored an empty-netter with 42 seconds left to play to punch the Marlies’ ticket to the Calder Cup.
Frattin now has 10 goals in the playoffs to lead all AHL scorers.
Toronto will face the Norfolk Admirals, who swept the St. John’s IceCaps to win the Eastern Conference. This season, the Admirals had the league’s best record in the regular season and set the mark for the longest winning streak at 28 games.
“We won three and it’s no different than trying to close out a series,” Scrivens said. “The last one is going to be the toughest one. Norfolk is obviously a great team and set a ton of records with that win streak.”
Mike Zigomanis and Nazem Kadri missed their second straight game with injuries. Toronto hopes to get them back before the first two games of the final June 1 and 2 in Norfolk.
“We have a couple guys in there who are being held together with duck tape right now,” Eakins said. “I don’t even know how they’re playing. But these kids are tough as nails, they’re resilient and they expect to win."