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Marlies clinch AHL playoff berth with 3-1 win over Hamilton

TORONTO - Bates Battaglia, David Ling and Robbie Earl scored for the Marlies to clinch a playoff spot in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs with a 3-1 win Saturday night.

The victory was the Marlies fifth straight, improving their division leading record to 43-18-3-5.

Hamilton fell to 31-29-3-5 after losing both games of the home-and-home series, extending Hamilton's winless skid to nine (0-8-1).

"We have to continue to get better night in and night out. We need to be sharp and we need to get even sharper," said Marlies coach Greg Gilbert about maintaining their focus the rest of the way.

"When we get into the playoffs we need everyone firing on all cylinders."

Brock Trotter had the lone marker for the Bulldogs.

The Marlies league-leading penalty-killing blanked the Bulldogs on four opportunities with the man-advantage. Toronto converted 1-for-5 on the power play.

"Guys are working hard at it (penalty-killing)," Gilbert said. "They're executing what we're looking for and taking away the things Hamilton is looking for on their power play chances.

"Your goaltender is your best penalty killer, and our goalie has been making the saves."

Toronto netminder Scott Clemmensen started for the fourth time in five games, stopping 27 shots for the victory.

"The guys are playing well in front of him," said Gilbert. "The guys played well in front of Pogge last night. It's good to see Clemmensen respond to a good solid outing and it's time to get his confidence back."

When asked whether the starts are an indication of the goaltender who will man the crease in the playoffs, Gilbert said, "No, not really. He's been playing well, he came through a tough stretch and we had to get him back in there and get his confidence back."

At the other end, Cedrick Desjardins made 27 saves while still looking for his first win of the season in four opportunities.

Toronto took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission after Battaglia converted a one-timer into the short side on Bulldogs goaltender, Desjardins, on the power play.

Ling scored his 13th of the season in the middle frame giving the Marlies a 2-0 lead, with the teams 4-on-4, when he intercepted an errant Hamilton pass, broke in on the right side on a two-on-one, and deked the goaltender to put it in on the short side.

Hamilton cut the lead in half when defenceman Conrad Martin's shot from the right point was stopped in front of Clemmensen by Trotter, who put in the rebound for his second of the season.

Trotter almost tied it up with his second goal of the game, when a scramble just above the crease led to a quick shot that beat Clemmensen, but rang off the iron behind the Marlies netminder.

Hamilton took the game to the Marlies early in the third period, but was unable to solve Clemmensen who held on for the 3-1 win.

Robbie Earl scored an insurance marker when he took a Brent Aubin pass and broke in alone to snap a quick wrist shot over Desjardins left shoulder.

The Marlies are on the road for the next two games, in Syracuse on Wednesday and Lake Erie on Friday before returning to the Ricoh Coliseum for a two-game home stand against Manitoba and a return engagement with Lake Erie.



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