TORONTO – Dallas Eakins and the Toronto Marlies have moved on.
That’s the message the Marlies coach delivered Friday, hours after the American Hockey League admitted its officials erred in allowing a fluke overtime goal to stand up in Game 3 of the Calder Cup final. The goal gave the Norfolk Admirals a bizarre 1-0 win Thursday night and a 3-0 series lead over the Marlies.
“Never forget that @theahl is a developmental league for the referees as well,” Eakins tweeted Friday morning. “Players and coaches have made mistakes.
“We all move on.”
Eakins made no attempt Thursday night to hide his bitter disppointment, saying “I would rather someone take a pair of steel toed boots and kick me in the nether regions than lose a game like that.”
But on Friday, he echoed the conciliatory sentiments of his tweet when meeting with reporters following the AHL’s admission.
“This league is a developmental league and I have made plenty of mistakes behind that bench in my three years here,” he said. “I have players on a night-to-night basis make mistakes and I think we all forget sometimes that these referees are developing as well. And when you have to look at your mistakes and face that adversity you’re better for it.
“I know those four guys who were refereeing that game last night, it wasn’t a malicious thing at all. They missed a call and I can guarantee you those four guys and any of the backup guys who were in attendance, that will never ever, ever, ever happen again in their careers. It just won’t. They’ll remember it, they’ll learn from this and they’ll be better for it. I believe that.”
The Admirals were handed the win after defenceman Mike Kostka’s dump-in hit a stanchion deep in the Marlies zone and caromed into an open net. Toronto goalie Ben Scrivens was behind the goal to play the incoming puck but could only watch in disbelief as the puck took the wild bounce.
“I had it timed pretty well that I was getting to the boards right as it was coming into the goal-line area,” Scrivens said. “I took my eye off the puck to get my positioning because you don’t want to go head-first into the end boards.
“I heard it hit the stanchion, I looked up looking for it and only picked it up as it was kind of crossing my area. My immediate thought when I saw it was, ‘Oh there it is, it’s going to across the front of the net, that will be close.’ As it was travelling I kind of saw the angle and was like, ‘Oh, no.’ What can you do?”
The problem is game officials didn’t notice Norfolk had at least one player offside when the puck was shot in. According to AHL rules, the goal should have been disallowed.
But AHL president Dave Andrews said in a statement despite the error, the result will stand. Norfolk can clinch the Calder Cup final by winning the fourth game of the series Saturday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum.
“We have spoken with Toronto Marlies management and confirmed that a rules interpretation error by the on-ice officials occurred on the Norfolk Admirals’ overtime goal during Game 3 of the Calder Cup finals,” Andrews said.
He went on to explain that a correct application of the AHL rulebook would have negated the goal.
“As AHL bylaws do not allow for any change to the final result of a game based on an incorrect rule interpretation, the result of the game stands,” he said.
Eakins said the Marlies should also shoulder blame for putting themselves in a position where a bizarre twist could determine their fate.
“In the end, I don’t want to be in overtime in a 0-0 game,” he said. “We had chances to close it out, we didn’t.
“We could’ve played better in that game. It’s on us. We have to score to win the game and we didn’t have any up on the board. We take responsibility for that. But I have the feeling, a confident one, that we can win the next game and so does our team. We will move on as such because even had we won that game, we want to win Game 4 so we will try to win Game 4.”
Scrivens said while Thursday’s outcome was gut-wrenching, the Marlies can’t afford to feel sorry for themselves.
“We have to move on because if we dwell on it we have no chance in Game 4,” he said. “We had to win Game 4 anyways so our plan hasn’t changed much.
“We’ve done a good job of leaning on each other . . . . we have a lot of character guys in that group. I don’t foresee us having too many people dwelling on it too much. We’re going to be ready for Game 4 and that’s going to be our focus.”
Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton agreed.
“Honestly, it’s not hard to prepare for the next game,” he said. “We’re not giving up, we know it’s going to be a long battle but you have to take it day by day, game by game and we’re excited we’re at home and want to get the win.
“We did some good things in the last game but we weren’t at our best . . . when we are I think we can really do some damage and that’s what we’re going to concentrate on.”