Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said his team went through "championship moments" during its long run through the American Hockey League post-season.
Responding after giving up a goal. Pinching in at the right time. Managing to shift momentum when needed.
The Marlies delivered again when it mattered most Thursday night, giving them a championship moment they'll never forget.
Raising the Calder Cup.
Toronto defeated the Texas Stars 6-1 in the decisive seventh game of the AHL final to the delight of the towel-waving sellout crowd at Ricoh Coliseum.
"We seemed like we had all those answers," Keefe said. "That just showed how resilient we were as a team and how competitive we are.
"And just the fact that we weren't going to be denied."
Playoff MVP Andreas Johnsson scored two goals and added an assist to pad his league-leading post-season total to 24 points. Mason Marchment scored twice while Carl Grundstrom and Ben Smith added singles.
Austin Fyten scored the lone goal for the Stars, ending Garret Sparks' shutout bid midway through the third period. Toronto outshot Texas 46-30.
The victory capped a dream campaign for the top development team of the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Marlies led the AHL with 112 points in the regular season and continued their strong play in the post-season. After holding off Utica in five games, Toronto earned four-game sweeps of Syracuse and Lehigh Valley.
The Stars finished 22 points behind the Marlies in the overall standings but were not pushovers. Texas won Game 2 on the road and dropped two of three at home before a resounding Game 6 victory in Toronto on Tuesday.
Sparks was back in net for the Marlies after being pulled early in the third period on Tuesday and turned in the bounceback performance that was required.
"I felt a personal responsibility to step up and I thought I did that," Sparks said.
It's the first championship for the franchise since it moved to Toronto from St. John's for the 2005-06 season. The last Toronto AHL affiliate to win the Calder Cup was the New Brunswick Hawks in 1982.
Game 7 — the first in an AHL final since 2003 — offered a wide-open style as both teams used freewheeling attacks to generate chances.
Johnsson converted a goal-mouth pass from Grundstrom at 10:41 and Marchment made it 2-0 with 17.2 seconds left in the period.
Stars goalie Mike McKenna did well to limit the damage to just two goals in the opening stanza as Toronto outshot Texas 19-7 and had several quality chances.
"We got the first goal, we got the second goal too and we could play on that," Johnsson said. "It made it a little bit easier."
The Stars came close to halving the deficit midway through the second period.
Texas forward Matt Mangene chipped the puck inside the post as Sparks was sprawled in the crease. Toronto defenceman Calle Rosen slid across and used his leg to help prevent the puck from crossing the line.
On-ice officials checked the video replay to confirm the no-goal call.
Toronto came out charging in the third period and was rewarded at 3:35 as Grundstrom one-timed a pass from Johnsson past McKenna.
Marlies fans could taste the victory. Chants of "We Want the Cup" soon followed.
Fyten silenced the crowd of 8,818 — an all-time high for the Marlies in this arena — with his goal at 11:01.
Sparks lost his glove during a scramble but extended his pad to seemingly keep the puck out. The officials went to video review and ruled the puck crossed the line.
Three late goals from Toronto sealed the victory. Johnsson scored at 16:14 to restore Toronto's three-goal cushion and Smith added an empty-netter at 18:29.
With McKenna back in the net, Marchment scored with 56 seconds remaining and the party was on.
"This has been a championship group all season," Keefe said. "To get the final reward here is the icing on the cake. I've never been a part of a group that's been more deserving."
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