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Clifford-Imama feud boils over into handshake line in AHL playoffs

Kyle Clifford Kyle Clifford - Getty Images

The Belleville Senators and Toronto Marlies had an ugly end to their first-round series on Sunday, with tensions boiling over into the handshake line.

The Senators advanced to the second round of the AHL playoffs with 4-3 overtime win in Game 3, with players needing to be separated after Garrett Pilon's series-winning goal. The feud carried over into the handshake line, with Marlies veteran Kyle Clifford going after Belleville winger Boko Imama as officials escorted both players to their dressing rooms. 

Marlies head coach Jon Gruden, who voiced his displeasure for the incident post-game, quickly moved to continue the handshakes.

"That shouldn't happen," Gruden said. "I'm just glad, at the end of the day, the cooler heads prevailed and were able to at least have some gamesmanship and show everyone that you still go through, if you lose, and shake hands because that's what the game is about."

Clifford and Imama both received three-game suspensions in January after engaging in a fight as their teams made their way off the ice for the second intermission. That incident was spurred by Imama spearing Marlies goaltender Denis Hildeby as he skated off. 

"Things happen, we didn't start anything, we were minding our business," Imama said after Sunday's win. "I guess they couldn't just live with that fact. They did what they wanted to do. We just brushed it off, we have work to do so we'll just let that go."

Clifford, who has 905 penalty minutes in 753 career NHL games, may have played his final game with Toronto on Sunday as he approaches unrestricted free agency this summer. The 33-year-old winger did not appear in a game for the Maple Leafs this season while playing out the last of a two-year, $1.53 million deal.