Editor's Note: Vince LoVerde had two assists and the Toronto Marlies claimed the Calder Cup with a 6-1 Game Seven victory.
It’s the last high-level, competitive hockey game in North America this season. Tonight, the Toronto Marlies host the Texas Stars during Game Seven of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Final series.
For the second time in four years, former Black Hawks defenseman Vince LoVerde has the chance to play a leading role for a team trying to win the trophy.
Skating for the Manchester Monarchs in 2015, LoVerde’s power play goal during the middle of the first period in Game Five put his team on top 2-0. When the Utica Comets broke Manchester’s shutout bid late in the third, it was LoVerde’s tally which stood up as the cup-clinching game-winner.
Back then, the Miami RedHawks alum was wrapping up his third professional season. The goal was his second of the playoffs. Perhaps more notable to Manchester’s championship effort, LoVerde ranked third among all AHL skaters during that postseason with a +13 plus/minus margin.
The championship was special for Manchester. The city’s time in the AHL ended with that victory; the L.A. Kings relocated their affiliate club to Ontario, California, as the AHL shuffled cities to become a truly transcontinental league.
The end of that year also marked the end of LoVerde’s first NHL contract. He had played with the Monarchs during each of his two earlier professional seasons, making an impression strong enough for the Kings to sign him ahead of 2014/15.
A new two year agreement brought him to the west coast with other former Monarchs, but not to the Kings. LoVerde’s two years with the relocated AHL franchise - the Ontario Reign - included four game-winning goals during the 2015/16 season. The club was the top team in the Western Conference during the regular schedule and reached the third round of the Calder Cup playoffs that year.
Yet a call up to Staples Center was never in the cards.
At the end of last season – the fifth during his professional career – LoVerde left the Kings’ system for the first time, signing a two-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Circumstances to play in a regular season NHL game still did not materialize in the other Ontario, but LoVerde continued to do his part after being assigned to the Marlies.
This season, he notched nine goals for the fourth consecutive year and was +12, giving him a positive AHL plus/minus mark during every season he has been a professional. In fact, LoVerde is now+100 during 364 AHL regular season games.
Next spring, LoVerde will turn 30. There are no assurances that he will join the Maple Leafs during the second year of his contract with the club. Then again, there are rarely assurances in most aspects of hockey. What is known is that LoVerde and his Toronto teammates have the chance to be the last team to celebrate in 2017/18 and the last team to raise a cup in the hockey world this spring.
It would be one more remarkable moment in a career which has been consistently – if quietly – successful for a defenseman who has always had a knack for putting himself in a position to make a difference.
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