Chances are you were too busy watching last night’s barn burner between the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets to catch Game 5 of the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs opening round series between the Toronto Marlies and the Utica Comets. And hey… we don’t blame you. In fact, we got your back.
Without giving an entire rundown of the game, just know that the Marlies, AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, earned a 3-2 series victory over the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, on the strength of a remarkable 37 save shutout performance from goaltender Garret Sparks.
While he made several incredible saves on the evening, one in particular stood out as especially remarkable. The reason why? He made it with his bare hand.
Late in the first period with the Marlies already up a goal, the Comets broke into the offensive zone with a two on one advantage. Comets forward Nikolay Goldobin fed linemate Reid Boucher with a sweet cross ice feed, but Sparks came lunging across to make a miraculous save. But it was on the rebound attempt where Sparks truly shone.
Check it out:
Watch the replay closely, Sparks loses his blocker but look what he does… incredible. No one… NO ONE would have blamed the kid if he attempted to flag the play down or if he flinched away from the rebound attempt. Instead he not only carries on with the play, but he actually uses his bare hand to get in front of the puck ON PUROSE. Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.
Here's a closer look:
The Marlies will now move on to the next round of the Calder Cup Playoffs and are considered a playoff favourite after their league leading regular season. And the 24 year old Sparks is a big part of the reason why the Marlies have been so good this year. The native of Elmhurst, Illinois had an incredible 1.79 goals against average and .936 save percentage in 43 games with the Marlies this season. Between both Sparks and Marlies teammate Calvin Pickard, who had a 2.31 goals against average and .9189 save percentage, the Leafs' goaltending depth looks to be in good shape.