TORONTO-Dallas Eakins and his Toronto Marlies hockey club expect a physical presence from their top defensive pairing of Korbinian Holzer and Mark Fraser.
With an average height and weight of 6’3″ and 218lbs, and the ability to play a checking game, rightfully so.
“Those are two nasty dudes and I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the ice against them,” said Eakins.
Through the first three games of a physical Western Conference semi-final match-up, the Holzer-Fraser combo has had success in halting an Abbotsford Heat offence that scored 14 goals in a three-game sweep of the Milwaukee Admirals in their opening round series.
Krys Kolanos, who led Abbotsford in round one scoring with four goals and eight points, has been limited to just a single assist in large part to Eakins’ ability to get his top combo out against the Heat’s biggest scoring threat.
Ben Scrivens has more than done his part in goal versus the Heat by allowing just four goals on 86 shots, en route to a 2-1 series lead, but he gives much of the credit to the men eating the most minutes of any of the Marlies skaters.
“Fraser and Holzer have been together for a while and they’re intimidating,” said Scrivens. “They’re tough, make smart plays and it’s easy to play behind of them. They wear down other team’s top lines and make it easier for everyone else out on the ice.”
In Game 2, Holzer added some offence by scoring a goal and an assist in a 4-1 victory while Fraser improved to plus-8, which leads all AHL defenceman in the playoffs. They have also been the top unit on a penalty kill that has killed off all 16 Abbotsford power plays.
“He’s an experienced guy and when you know you have a guy beside you like that it gives you confidence in your play if you make a mistake,” said Holzer about his blue line partner.
“It’s been great,” said Fraser when asked about the success he’s had in Toronto alongside Holzer. “We’re really similar to each other and it helps. We understand what the other one’s gonna do.”
While Holzer has spent the last two seasons developing with the Marlies, Fraser was picked up at the NHL trade deadline from the Anaheim Ducks affiliate the Syracuse Crunch, for right-winger Dale Mitchell, to fill a hole that was left void on the Toronto Marlies blue line after Keith Aulie was sent to Tampa Bay.
Eakins admitted he wasn’t sure what he was getting when Toronto acquired the 25-year-old defenceman but he learned quickly that Fraser was a top player at the AHL level.
“I didn’t know much about Mark, he was one our pro scouts recommended,” said Eakins. ‘(But) he’s been the greatest surprise for me and I wish we had something like him the three years I’ve been here.”
“He’s what I love about a defenceman, he plays how I want them to play. He’s physical, mean and will take it to the other team.”
Fraser was originally selected 84th overall in the 2005 draft by the New Jersey Devils and suited up in 98 NHL games with them before being sent to the Ducks organization in December 2011.
After being acquired by Toronto, he suited up with the Marlies for the final 20 games of this season and the club went 13-5-2 en route to clinching the North Division crown.
They are now 5-1 in the playoffs with Game 4 against the Heat on Tuesday in Abbotsford.