Tuesday, May 29, 2012

20 years ago today, last time a Leaf farm team in the final

On May 29, 1992 the St. John's Maple Leafs lost Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals to the Adirondack Red Wings. After defeating the Wings 5-2 in Game 6 in Adirondack, the tables were turned with a 5-2 home loss for the Cup. The amazing thing about the seven game series was each and every game was won by the road team.

The series was a battle between once and future Toronto Maple Leaf goaltenders. Allan Bester led Adirondack to the Cup and was named MVP of the playoffs finishing with 14-5 record and 2.56 GAA. The Baby Leafs were backstopped by Damian Rhodes and Felix Potvin. The respective coaches were Marc Crawford for St. John's and Barry Melrose for Adirondack.

Potvin single-handedly pushed the series to a seventh game by absolutely stealing game six in upstate New York. The Cat turned aside 50 Red Wings shots including all 18 in the third period, while Bester allowed the only two Leaf shots in the first period to beat him and stopped a mere 13 of 17 shots for the game. Two nights later back on The Rock, Bester was back on his game as the ex-Toronto goaltender stopped 45 of 47 St.John's shots.

Game seven was opened by a goal from Adirondack's Mike Sillinger who would add two assists later in the game. Mike Eastwood tied it with 12 seconds left in the opening period and Yanick Perreault gave St.John's a lead halfway through the second which held up into the third period. That's when the wheels fell off for the Leafs. Adirondack tied it on a goal by Chris Tancill five minutes into the final stanza then took a two goal lead on markers by Sheldon Kennedy and Gary Shuchuk. Micah Avizoff potted the 5-2 empty-netter with 8 seconds left. Sillinger led the AHL in post season scoring with 29 points over 15 games.

This would of course be the last time a Maple Leaf affiliated team made it to a championship round. The following season, Barry Melrose would coach the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals, defeating in the Semi-Finals Felix Potvin and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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