Marlies complete comeback, move to conference finals

Brent Aubin tallied a pair of goals and John Mitchell netted the eventual game-winner as Toronto edged Syracuse on Monday at Ricoh Coliseum in Game 7 of the North Division finals.

The Marlies became just the 14th team in AHL history to win a best-of-7 series after trailing 3-1, and they now advance to the Western Conference finals against either Chicago or Rockford.

The teams combined for three goals before the game was 10 minutes old, and the Marlies emerged with a 2-1 advantage.

Aubin, who entered the tilt with two goals in his first 11 postseason games, gave Toronto a 1-0 lead at 2:47 of the opening period and a 2-1 edge at 9:18, with Alex Foster picking up an assist on both markers. In between, Syracuse’s Derek MacKenzie lit the lamp at 3:28, just 41 seconds after Aubin’s first goal.

The score remained 2-1 through the rest of the first period, all of the second, and into the early stages of the third. Toronto’s John Mitchell then scored his team-leading eighth goal of the playoffs 7:20 into the final stanza, extending his club’s lead to 3-1.

Gilbert Brule pulled the Crunch within a goal at 11:54, one-timing a pass from MacKenzie through traffic and past Marlies goaltender Scott Clemmensen.

The Crunch pressed for the equalizer over the final eight minutes but could not get another puck behind Clemmensen, who finished with 23 saves on 25 shots and improved to 8-6 this postseason.

Toronto posted three straight one-goal victories in rallying from its 3-1 series deficit, including an overtime decision in Game 5 and a third-period comeback on the road in Game 6. The Marlies upped their record to 4-0 this postseason when facing elimination.

It marked the second time in the last five years that the Crunch dropped a series after leading 3-1, as Rochester came back to win in the 2004 division semifinals.

The Marlies now await the winner of Tuesday’s Game 7 between Chicago and Rockford in the West Division finals. Toronto would open the conference finals on the road if the Wolves prevail but would hold home-ice advantage if the IceHogs are victorious.