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Trevor Moore – from Thousand Oaks to Calder Cup champion

 

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The American Hockey League’s Calder Cup championship trophy is smaller than the NHL’s Stanley Cup but heavier than it looks to those who have had the opportunity to hoist it in victory.

The AHL’s top playoff prize stands 24 inches tall and weighs 28 pounds. It takes 15 playoff victories to win it.

The Stanley Cup measures 32.25 inches tall and weighs 34.5 pounds. It goes to the team that accumulates 16 playoff wins the fastest.

Players who dress for at least one game in the Calder Cup playoffs qualify to have their names inscribed on the 81-year-old championship trophy.

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Thousand Oaks native Trevor Moore will have his name etched in hockey history after helping lead the Toronto Marlies to their first Calder Cup championship on June 14 following a 6-1 victory over the Texas Stars that clinched the best-of-seven series 4-3 in favor of the Canadian team.

Moore picked up one assist in front of a sellout crowd of 8,818 inside the Ricoh Coliseum. He was understandably beaming when interviewed after the game on Marlies TV.

“It’s amazing,” said Moore, who appeared in all 20 of the Marlies’ 2018 Calder Cup playoff games. “We have such a special group of guys, such a resilient team. I couldn’t ask to be reunited with this group of guys.”

Marlies, the AHL’s 2018 Eastern Conference champions, are the top developmental affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs while the Stars, the AHL’s 2018 Western Conference champions, are the top developmental affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars.

Both NHL organizations expect to benefit from talent developed through their AHL affiliates.

Keep an eye on Moore in particular.

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Despite being just a second-year pro, Moore turned out to be one of the Marlies’ top contributors in the team’s Calder Cup championship run with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists). He ranked second on the team in playoff scoring after teammate Andres Johnsson, who topped the Calder Cup scoring chart with 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists).

On an impressive note, Moore finished tied for fourth overall in the league in playoff scoring.

Moore becomes the fourth California native to win a Calder Cup championship in the last three seasons, joining Whittier’s Mitch Callahan and West Hills’s Matthew Ford with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2017 and Torrance’s Kerby Rychel with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2016.

Moore will get a chance to spend time with the Calder Cup championship trophy sometime over the summer as it makes its way back to Southern California.

Moore has come a long way after signing with the Maple Leafs following the NHL team’s development camp in 2016 after playing three years at the University of Denver.

Undrafted, he appeared in 57 games with the Marlies in 2016-17, recording 13 goals and 33 points. He appeared in 11 playoff games to cap his rookie season, collecting a modest two goals and four points.

In 121 games with the University of Denver (2013-16) he collected 47 goals and 120 points.

“I just wanted to make an impression in camp (as a rookie),” Moore explained. “Never did I think it would wind up with a Calder Cup two years later. This is pretty special.”

Moore, of course, knew there would be an adjustment period, especially his rookie season.

“There was a lot of learning for me,” said explained. “(It helped) just to be able to sit back and watch some of the older guys and kind of see how things were going. I got in one exhibition game, the first one, which was good. It was good to get my feet wet, get a feel for everything.

“(The game at the pro level) is definitely faster, space closes quicker, you’ve got to make plays faster. It’s a learning curve. The guys are closing in on you faster. They’re hitting you a little harder, so you’ve got to make that play faster. You can’t really take a hit and make a play all the time, especially for the smaller guys, so you’ve got to be thinking faster.”

Maintaining a positive attitude and keeping true to reaching the end goal were instrumental in his ongoing development.

“There’s going to be a lot of obstacles in hockey and life,” Moore noted. “You’ve got to keep working hard and have a good support staff. When things have got hard this year, I’ve had someone to lean on. You’ve got to just keep powering through things.”

The Marlies’ Calder Cup championship is a big deal for the Maple Leafs organization. It is the first championship for a Toronto men’s pro team since the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup in 1967.

Moore played a big role in the Marlies’ making history. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals, recorded an assist on the game-winning goal in Game 3 (a 2-1 Toronto victory) and scored one goal in Game 5 (a 6-2 Marlies’ win).

He picked up the primary assist on what proved to be the game-winning goal scored by teammate Mason Marchment at 19:42 of the first period in Game 7.

Marchment and Johnsson each scored two goals to lead the Marlies in Game 7 while 2017-18 AHL Outstanding Goaltender award winner Garrett Sparks made 29 saves as Toronto outshot Texas 46-30.

Toronto iced the win with four goals in the third period.

Johnsson, a 2013 draft choice by the Maple Leafs, won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the Calder Cup playoffs

Marlies captain Ben Smith, who scored an empty net goal with 1:31 to play, was the first to kiss and raise the Calder Cup championship trophy after being presented it by AHL CEO Dave Andrews.

Moore said a contributing factor to the Marlies’ Calder Cup championship was the team’s close-knit bond. Moore said support from family members was a big motivating factor for him personally.

His grandfather hailed from Montreal and brought the family tradition of hockey to Southern California, passing it on from father to son to grandson. Moore’s maternal line is from Pennsylvania.

The eastern branch of the family traveled to support Moore during the Calder Cup playoffs.

“It gives you a little boost whenever you see grandma at the glass with your jersey on,” Moore said.

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The Marlies’ connection to California goes beyond Moore.

The Calder Cup championship is the second for both veterans Chris Mueller and Vincent LoVerde, both of whom joined the Marlies this season following stints with the San Diego Gulls and Tucson Roadrunners (Mueller) and Ontario Reign (LoVerde).

A recap of Game 7 can be viewed on YouTube.

Road to the title

The Marlies’ Calder Cup championship run included two series sweeps and a 10-game winning streak, though neither Toronto nor Texas managed to put together back-to-back wins in the final seven-game championship series.

The Marlies won 69 of 96 games they played in 2017-18, regular season and playoffs combined.

Toronto finished as the AHL’s top team in the regular season with a 54-18-2-2 record, 112 standings points and .737 winning percentage.

However, the Marlies came close to not advancing past the opening round of the playoffs after being taken to a fifth and deciding game by the Utica Comets, backstopped between the pipes by San Diego native Thatcher Demko.

The Marlies won the deciding Game 5 over the Comets and Demko 4-0, which turned out to be the first of 10 consecutive playoffs wins, including back-to-back four-game sweeps over the Syracuse Crunch and Lehigh Valley Phantoms and a 6-5 victory over the Stars in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals.

Demko, the 36th selection overall in the 2014 NHL Draft by the Vancouver Canucks, appeared in all five of Utica’s playoff games, notching a 2-3 record with a 2.69 GAA and .927 save percentage. The 22-year-old posted a 25-13-7 regular season record with a 2.44 GAA, one shutout and .922 save percentage in a team-high 46 appearances.

He won his NHL debut on March 31 by making 26 saves on 30 shots in a 5-4 overtime victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Hot on ice

Moore wasn’t the only California native on fire during the 2018 Calder Cup playoffs.

Rockford rookie goaltender Collin Delia, a 23-year-old Rancho Cucamonga native, was one of the major headline grabbers during the opening two rounds of the playoffs as the fourth-seeded IceHogs upset the top-seeded Chicago Wolves and the third-seeded Manitoba Moose in back-to-back shocking series sweeps.

Delia posted surreal numbers as Rockford swept Chicago, the Central Division regular season champions, in three games in the division semifinals and then ran over the Moose in four consecutive games.

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Delia entered the Western Conference Finals against the Stars with a 7-0 post-season record, 1.64 GAA and a .948 save percentage.

The Central Division Finals proved to be a showcase of California goaltenders with Newport Beach’s Eric Comrie manning the net for Manitoba.

The two had faced off in the first ever NHL matchup of Golden State goaltenders in a late season game, with Delia and the Chicago Blackhawks topping Comrie and the Winnipeg Jets 6-2 on March 29.

Delia got the upper hand on Comrie again in the Calder Cup Central Division Finals as the IceHogs out-scored the Moose 18-7 in the four-game sweep.

“The playoffs are a huge reward for a good hard season,” Delia told IceHogs TV. “The way the guys were playing, it made it easy. The way they cleared guys out, let me see the puck, made my job so much easier.”

Rockford stunned regular season division champion Chicago with its sizable complement of Californians (Gardena’s Beau Bennett, Los Angeles’s Brett Sterling and Placentia’s Scooter Vaughn) by scores of 2-1, 5-2 and 4-3 (in triple overtime), winning twice on foreign ice.

The IcHogs then swept the higher-seeded Moose by scores of 4-2, 4-1, 4-1 and 6-3.

“I had no expectations coming into this year at all,” Delia explained. “Coming right out of college it’s a completely different environment. To just be here right now it’s not surreal, but I’m grateful for the opportunity. I didn’t think I would have been myself in this role so soon. But I think the coaching staff has really helped me transition into this role. If I have any success, I credit it to them and the team and how well they play.”

Growing a playoff beard was a new experience for Delia, calling it “uncharted territory” during a news conference.

He said preparation, knowing one’s role on the team and taking responsibility for that helps breed success on the ice.

“When you do work before you get on the ice or before the game I think that allows you to be calm. You’ve earned that feeling or disposition that comes with the preparation and mindset into being a goaltender off the ice.

“It’s more like a flow, a rhythm. The game slows down when you’re seeing pucks and reading plays, it makes it that much easier.”

“When you get a few really high quality chances, you want to come up big as a goaltender. That’s your role — to make saves you have no business making. I know that is my responsibility and taking ownership of that has helped me be able to make an impact.”

Delia finished the regular season on a hot note with a 16-3-4 record, 2.59 GAA and .935 save percentage in his last 23 appearances. He earned the right to start the IceHogs’ first 10 post-season games.

“I think that’s one of the biggest assets for any goalie in any league is getting into a rhythm, knowing what to expect, reading the play,” he explained. “When you have that presence or that ability, when you’re trusted to play multiple games in a row, it really does help read the play.

“It’s something you gradually achieve throughout the year. I don’t think I had that presence at the beginning of the year. I think it’s something that has come with having the experience of having close to a full season, being here, being in Indy (ECHL Indy Fuel), being in Chicago.

“Having that recognition of the habits you have in Indy, the habits you have in Rockford and the habits you have in Chicago are all transferable everywhere. That’s what helps you build a rhythm.”

Delia said scouts from the parent Blackhawks organization were out in force during the team’s two rounds in the playoffs. The players enjoyed the opportunity to showcase themselves, he said.

The NHL is no longer some far-off dream.

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“I don’t think it’s a matter of how but a matter of when for a lot of us,” Delia said. “We know that if we keep doing good things that our development track will eventually find us there. We believe in this organization and they obviously have faith in us.”

Delia’s magical playoff run, however, ended with a 0-3 showing in the Western Conference Finals before being replaced by veteran Jeff Glass. Two of Delia’s three losses to Texas came in overtime decisions.

Delia finished the 2018 Calder Cup playoffs with a 7-3 record, 2.34 GAA and .924 save percentage.

During 28 regular season appearances with Rockford, Delia logged a 17-7-2 record, 2.72 GAA and .900 save percentage in unseating Glass and J.F. Berube for the No. 1 position. Delia finished 1-1 with a 3.96 GAA and .889 save percentage in two NHL games.

Comrie, who appeared in three games for the Jets in 2017-18 with 1-2 record, 3.99 GAA and .872 save percentage, finished 3-6 in nine Calder Cup playoff appearances with a 3.18 GAA and .908 save percentage.

Comrie appeared in 34 regular season AHL games, posting 18-13-3 record, 2.58 GAA, two shutouts and a .916 save percentage. He was sharp when it mattered most in helping the Moose unseat the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids in a first-round playoff series in which Manitoba won three of the five games.

The Moose made a major turnaround from being a division doormat to leading the Central Division standings for most of the season. A pair of Californians had a big say in the team’s climb up the standings in 2017-18.

Besides Comrie, La Mirada’s Chase De Leo also was a key contributor. De Leo led Manitoba in playoff scoring with eight points (two goals, six assists) in nine games after collecting 35 points (12 goals, 23 assists) in 69 regular-season games.

Toronto Marlies photos/Christian Bonin, Thomas Skrlj
Delia photos/Rockford Ice Hogs

– Phillip Brents

(June 20, 2018)