Marlies burnt in snowy Adirondack

November 27, 2014

When you’re in a slump, it can be incredibly hard to break out of and you need something to go your way.

Trailing 3-2 with seconds to play and an extra attacker on the ice, Toronto managed to engineer one last gasp chance. Carrick all alone in front had almost an empty cage to fire into but as he took his shot to tie the game his stick shattered.

Nine times out of ten, 99 times out of a 100 perhaps, that’s a goal and we head into overtime. Perhaps the Marlies would then have broken this winless streak in extra hockey and turned things around.

Those are the small margins in hockey and a part of what makes the sport what it is.

Toronto will be kicking themselves after leading for almost 35 minutes of this game as they went toe-to-toe with the hottest team in the AHL right now (no pun intended).

A fast paced a physical opening ten minutes favoured the Marlies who were doing a good job of stifling Adirondack’s offense. Toronto would open the scoring on a basic play they haven’t done enough of this season. Abbott from the left wing, sent a low shot towards the net which brought a rebound off the pads of Joni Ortio and into the wheelhouse of Mikelsson to notch his first of the season.

The line of Abbott-Carrick-Frattin was looking a real threat with Carrick especially a man on a mission. He was unlucky not to open the scoring while the Marlies were down a man. He dangled the pants off the last Flames defenseman but Ortio pulled off a wonderful glove save to deny him a marker that would have been a contender for goal of the season.

Leading going into the second, Toronto were determined not to let their guard down in a period that has given them so much cause for concern. Carrick sped down the right wing in the early going but his effort and Abbott’s and the resulting rebound were again brilliantly turned aside by Ortio. Their only power play of the game came during the middle frame but would bring little joy as usual. However back at even strength and they created more chances. The best perhaps falling to Devane but he fired wide. As Adirondack grew more into the game Gibson had to be at his very best to keep the lead intact through forty minutes.

The lead wouldn’t last a minute into the third period as Adirondack tied up the game on a neat play from behind the net that was far too easy from the Marlies point of view. Hanowski was left with the task of tapping home the puck for his eight of the season. Toronto had to kill a penalty following the goal as the ice tilted in favour of the home team for five minutes. To the Marlies credit, they stuck to their task well and retook the lead at the seven minute mark. A beautiful goal which saw Brown and Leivo combine to set up McKegg, whose backhand finish was a joy to watch.

As the Flames pushed back, Gibson had to make a dandy pad stop to deny Emile Poirier, who was all alone at the has marks of being the recipient of a tape-to-tape feed. The Marlies lead on this occasion failed to last five minutes as the home team capitalised on the power play. Vause with speed down the right wing opened the Marlies up and his cross crease pass was tipped home by that man Hanowski again. Despite being out-shot in the final frame the Marlies did create chances and none better than Bodie who slid a pass to Loov waiting backdoor, but the Swedish defenseman failed to find the net when it looked easier to score.

Toronto’s luck or lack thereof wasn’t helped by an iffy call against them, as after a scrum in front, Carrick was called for goaltender interference. You just had the feeling Adirondack would make it pay and a wraparound attempt by Wolf, produced a rebound that Arnold couldn’t fail to score from.

Then followed the heartbreak that saw the Marlies record a franchise record they won’t want to remember. Eight straight losses for the baby buds.

Post Game Notes:

Special teams proved the difference tonight in another encounter with not enough shots fired. Adirondack were 2/5 while Toronto were held on a single man advantage.

Just 23 shots for the Marlies. You don’t need me to tell you that’s nowhere near good enough right now.

Sam Carrick had his best game for a long while. He must wonder how he didn’t get his name on the score sheet in this one.

Christopher Gibson has another fantastic game. He showed signs of frustration though, coming out of his crease to swing punches at Adirondack’s Wolf and a take a huge slash at another forward late in the game. He must wonder what he needs to do to record a victory.

Greg McKegg continues to be the flag bearer offensively. Points in seven of his last eight games and leads the team with seven goals.

 


Marlies mauled by Bulldogs

November 24, 2014

A return to familiar surroundings could not bring an end to the slump the Marlies are in right now as they were comprehensively thumped by their QEW rivals in a Sunday matinee encounter.

Seven straight losses now for the baby buds and after having endured some tight one goal losses, their offensive woes were made worse by defensive errors, as the Bulldogs tallied five times.

Toronto almost took an early lead as Devane was denied by a fine reflex save from Mike Condon on a set-up from Watling, which looked like a goal in real time. The play quickly switched down the other end of the ice and Andrighetto in on a breakaway was equally brilliantly denied by Antoine Bibeau. A video review was called for on Devane’s effort but with the evidence inconclusive, the no goal call stood.

A Hamilton power play followed and Toronto were chasing shadows, not touching the puck until the man advantage had almost ended. Unusually a very non aggressive penalty kill from the home team who relied on Bibeau to bail them out with another fine stop. Hamilton would open the scoring but not before a great shift by Carrick, who was causing havoc behind the net and teed one up for Booth whose effort could only find the iron. It was a poor team goal from the Marlies standpoint as Hamilton somehow engineered a 2 on 1 break with four white jerseys in the vicinity, with Macenauer ignoring his partner Sorkin, beating Bibeau slightly too easily, with the Toronto net minder going down a little too early on the play. It almost became a lot worse on a resulting Marlies power play as Dumont stormed away on a short-handed break and wheeled away in celebration thinking he had Bibeau beaten. The officials waived it off on the ice and then on video review at the next whistle.

Out-shot 15-7, Toronto were desperate for a good start to the middle frame and from the off Carrick once more set-up Booth who this time found the crossbar and then the meshing behind the goal. It wouldn’t get any better than that, as the second period once more reared their ugly head. A turnover induced by a slightly unlucky bounce set Hamilton away on another odd man rush and rookie Hudon made no mistake on a feed from de la Rose. Before the halfway marker of the game it would be 3-0 and perhaps the worst goal of the net from the Marlies standpoint. Sven Andrighetto cruising his way through the centre of the ice, past three Marlies before easily slotting home. The game was as good as gone at that point with Hamilton controlling the ebb and flow.

By the time the third period came around it was a matter of pride for the Marlies and their fans.

I imagine there must have been some harsh words said in the dressing room as Toronto came out flying , finally able to sustain some pressure in Hamilton’s end. It would take just 1:06 of play in the final frame to get on the board and it was back to simple hockey. Abbott shooting low from the right side and the rebound from Condon’s pad stop went horizontally across his crease and despite the acute angle, Matt Frattin put the puck home with a nifty backhand finish. The spring in the step induced by a goal was flattened soon after as Matt Frattin nullified the power play his team was on. Just as Frattin’s penalty had ended Hamilton made sure of victory with a laser like shot from Bennett just inside the blue line, found it’s way through a ton of traffic in front of Bibeau. To Toronto’s credit they kept trying to push forward and were unfortunate not to halve the deficit.

Carrick and Booth combining once more but Condon was excellent on both efforts and he then somehow denied Brown after Watling’s cross crease pass. The push forward also left gaps as the back and T.J Hensick, sent away by de la Rose, was only denied making it five by another fantastic save by Bibeau who turned it away with his pads The fifth would come with under two to play. Sorkin’s power play marker, his second goal of the season sealed the deal on Hamilton’s fourth win in five games and second straight over the Marlies this weekend.

Post Game Notes:

David Booth looked great through his two starts with the Marlies and was I’m not exaggerating when I say he could have had 4-5 goals instead of one. Conditioning stint worked well for him and should be ready to go for Leafs now.

Matt Frattin hasn’t played much hockey of late. A slightly better game for him today and a nice finish. Has proven himself a goal scorer in previous seasons so hope this is a start of things to come.

Not playing were Greg McKegg who is “banged up”, Stuart Percy or Petter Granberg, who both according to Dineen are longer term absentees.

With Holzer called up with Booth, I would not be surprised to see call-ups for Knodel and/or Kessel from Orlando. Ryan Rupert is also next on the ladder regarding forward call-ups.

Marlies have now lost seven straight (0-5-2) and only managed to score more than twice in one of those defeats.

Next up for Toronto is a road game in Adirondack. The Flames have won eight straight and scored 27 goals in that span, as well as having won their last six home games.

 


Marlies slip to sixth straight loss

November 22, 2014

The battle of the QEW was more like the battle of two struggling teams in Hamilton Friday night.

Both the Marlies and the Bulldogs have found consistency hard to come by this season and the opening twenty minutes as a result were a pretty dull affair. A powerplay for each team would provide no clear cut chances, in fact we’d have to wait until the 14th minute for any meaningful action to take place. Rookie Charles Hudon orchestrated his own partial breakaway but Gibson was equal to the task. A Broll-Nevins fight broke up the action for a while with the Hamilton man throwing punches like they were going out of fashion. The game became a little feistier and Hudon took exception to Greg McKegg in the blue paint but the rookie was promptly flattened by his more experienced opponent in what was more of a hug than a fight.

With just 16 shorts shared equally through the opening frame, the game needed a spark early in the second. It started with a bang as the pace quickened without a stoppage in play until the seventh minute. Abbott showing great speed through the neutral zone, looked for support crossing the blue line and his feed to Booth allowed the man making his Marlies debut to fire of a great one time shot that deserved better than only hearing the sound of iron, as it crashed off the post. Toronto looked the side more likely to open the scoring and a shot from Loov missed the goal but McKegg standing to the side of the net almost banked in the rebound off the backboards, off Condon in net, but there wasn’t quite enough pace on his effort.

A fantastic hard working shift from the Broll – McMillan – Brown would draw the Marlies a power play and allow them to open the scoring. It could not have been a simpler go-ahead goal. A face-off win from McKegg, a blast from Holzer with traffic in front and David Booth was on hand to stuff home the rebound. Out-working Hamilton was paying dividends as they drew another penalty soon after but could not capitalise on this occasion. A nasty hit from Dowell on Viktor Loov sent the game back on the penalty front, with Carrick in to protect his team mate. Toronto were back on the man advantage but it was Hamilton who had the best chance short-handed but Gibson was on hand to make a smart save to deny the 2 on 1 break

A sixty minute effort. How many times do you hear this cliché wheeled out by coaches, players and pundit in a season? It’s one that holds true however and a letdown from the Marlies in the third would see them pay dearly. They would fire just four shots at the Hamilton net, and you couldn’t even call it score effects as the home side tied the game up inside the first five minutes. A power play marker, which came via a bullet shot from Hudson in the left circle.

It was one way traffic from thereon in as the Marlies began to run around and were thankful to Gibson was seeing an awful lot of rubber. Hamilton would find the net on another power play but the goal was rightly waived off for goaltender interference and put the teams at 4 on 4 play. Regulation play would see neither team break the deadlock and it was off to overtime. Extra hockey would be an end to end affair and despite some openings neither team could fashion a gilt edge chance until the game winner. Greg Pateryn belatedly joining the rush, but he was the right man at the right time to slam home the winner from just above the hash marks.

Post Game Notes:

David Booth looked sharp in the early going and probably just tired late on. Unlucky not to score at least once more and found a little chemistry with Abbott.

Gibson has taken the mantle as the Marlies number one and doesn’t look like relinquishing it soon.

Another stellar performance from him that enable the team to gain at least the point they eventually earned.

Matt Frattin also returned to action and showed the odd spark. The Marlies could do with him finding his old game as much as he needs to himself.

You don’t need me to point out that offense continues to be a problem for the baby buds. It’s the recurring problem of this season. One that see’s the team sit 13th in the West with a 5-9-2 record.

 


Texas once more aiming for the Stars

November 20, 2014

The Texas Stars look to achieve something only the Hershey Bears have done in the past 25 years.

Hershey retained their Calder Cup championship in 2010, the first team to win consecutive championships since the Springfield Indians at the turn of the 1990’s

It’s been a rocky start for Texas as they strive to repeat last year’s impressive season, where they pretty much swept past everyone during the regular and post season, with only the Toronto Marlies giving them cause for concern in the Conference Final.

Not really surprising when you consider four of their top five scorers are no longer with the team. Mike Hedden left to play overseas while Chris Mueller signed for the New York Rangers and has featured in the NHL. Colton Sceviour and Curtis McKenzie are currently with the Dallas Stars That leaves just Travis Morin who led the with 32 goals and 88 points in 13/14, and is currently doing the same this year with 20 points through fourteen games. Brendan Ranford and two centremen in Justin Dowling and Scott Glennie are looking to fill the gap, with all contributing ten points at the time of writing.

Rookie defenseman John Klingberg was making a huge contributing from the backend with four goals for twelve points through just ten games. He like many others though are with Dallas right now. Derek Meech is also taking up the slack as he retains a point per game pace through eleven outings Two solid defensive rocks from last season have made the step up to the NHL, in the shape of Jyrki Jokipakka (who started the year with Texas) and Jamie Oleksiak.

Texas Stars

Texas main problem lies in keeping the puck out of their own net at this current point in time

Despite having eight registered goaltenders on the books last season, it was Christopher Nilstorp who backstopped the team for the majority of the season and then all the way to the championship. Jack Campbell had outstanding numbers through his sixteen regular season games and was expected to take up the number one role with Nilstorp back in his native Sweden. Campbell has struggled with a 2-3-2 record, a save percentage only just over .900 and averaging three goals against every start. Jussi Rynnas surprisingly signed for Dallas during the summer, after one season back home in Finland, having left the Toronto organisation. As I know from personal experience, Rynnas is a streaky goaltender but when he’s hot, he’s very good. He has a 4-1-2 record, .914sv% and allows half a goal per game less than Campbell at this juncture.

Not incredible numbers but it gives you a feel as to where the problems are. Texas may be scoring plenty again but in allowing 42 goals against, are also letting way too many past them of late.

Travelling has been an issue this year with a record of 2-6-1, and they’ve lost four straight. Compare that to last year when they recorded just ten reverses in regulation all season on the road. At home it’s been the same old Stars as they sit 4-0-1. It’s that form at Cedar Park that has kept them just about sitting in a playoff spot, 8th place in the Western Conference as I write.

The moving parts of the American Hockey League make retaining success, let alone duplicating a championship win incredibly tough. History is nothing else has taught us that. It would be amiss of me not to mention the fact that they have also lost their impressive head coach in Willie Desjardins, who made the jump up to the NHL with Vancouver this past summer.

I would never dismiss a team as offensively potent as Texas, and with some bodies coming back at some point during the season, they could well be a match once more for any team in the post-season.

 


Double trouble for Marlies on the rock

November 20, 2014

A fifth straight defeat for the Toronto Marlies but the margins are slim, oh so slim.

After essentially a one goal loss last evening in St. Johns, tonight’s was also decided by a single goal, which doubtless those in blue were not happy about. The road team survived an early scare as Bibeau could only parry a shot behind him and in the scramble to get back we had to wait for a video review to confirm that the puck had not crossed the goal line.

St. Johns would open the scoring just before the midway marker and double their advantage soon after, as Toronto suffered yet another brain art that cost them dear. O’Dell and MacKinnon scored the goals that were only separated by 1:14. Toronto were throwing pucks at the net, out-shooting the IceCaps but too many efforts were easy glove hand saves for Connor Hellebuyck.

Toronto survived an early penalty kill in the second period and began to grow into the game, playing a more physical game allied with some speed through the neutral zone. It paid dividends midway through as they eventually found a way to beat Hellebuyck. Findlay driving to the net with Watling for support, ignored his steam mate and although his shot didn’t seem to have much on it, the young IceCaps net minder couldn’t keep it out. The goal generated a good 2-3 minutes of pressure from the Marlies but they couldn’t find a second and it was the home team who dominated the final minutes of the period and Bibeau had to make a remarkable sliding save to deny Lipon With 59 second left in the middle frame an absolutely snipe from Klingberg just above the hash marks gave Bibeau no chance and restored the home team’s two goal advantage. It’s a marker that should not have stood as a penalty should have been called on the play, deep in St. John’s zone. Brad Ross was hooked and then effectively mugged in the blue paint afterwards and even though referee Koharski was looking directly at the action he called nothing.

With goals hard to come by of late Toronto could really have used an early spark in the third and they almost received it. A beautiful pass from Percy sent MacMillan away, but he was stonewalled by Hellebuyck, in a save matching the brilliance of Bibeau late in the second. A power play followed, Toronto’s first of the game and 20 seconds in it should have been a two man advantage as Percy was pulled down but once more an awful non call denied them the chance. St. Johns to their credit were playing the perfect game with the lead, holding plenty of puck possession in Toronto’s zone and hemming their opponents in. Only in the last five minutes did the Marlies really put the pressure back on. A nice set up from Abbott behind the goal gave Ross a glorious chance but he contrived to fire wide and despite a minute of sustained attack, shots not finding the target or the bounce of puck eluded Toronto. A power play with 3:25 to play gave them one last hope and Dineen went for broke, pulling Bibeau for the extra attacker and for once that brave move work. McKegg dancing in from the top of the right circle sniped one home, a move we’ve certainly seen before this season. The Marlies net remained empty for the rest of the game but they weren’t able to force home a tying goal and leave the rock empty handed after back to back encounters.

Post Game Notes:

A spate of injuries and call-ups have left the Marlies down to the bare bones. They were only able to dress five defenseman today with Finn ill and Granberg hurt during yesterday’s game.

Kontiola was a healthy scratch but I’ll touch on his struggles at a later date.

Marlies managed 30 shots for only the second time this season.

Discounting empty net goals, four of the five Marlies defeats have been by a single goal but eight goals over those games tell’s the bigger story.

McKegg’s goal was his sixth of the season and he has four markers in the last five games. Seven points in eight games during November.

Viktor Loov picked up a pair of assists while Abbott registered his first point since returning from injury.

Toronto end the road trip in Hamilton this road before retuning home on Sunday to play the Bulldogs once more.

 


Marlies shutdown in St.Johns

November 19, 2014

Losses don’t come much tougher than this for the Marlies as they more than matched their hosts inside the Mile One Centre but struggled to find any offense.

The game winner would be a cruel goal to concede and one that Stuart Percy would like to forget. On a Marlies power play, Percy tried a backhand pass across the ice with a bobbling puck. It skipped over his stick and Cormier tipped it away from him setting them both on a foot race towards Gibson’s net. It was the IceCaps man who got there first and finished with aplomb to give his team the lead.

That goal was a marker late in a second period, a twenty minutes that the Marlies outplayed their opponents for the most part. The Devane-Watling-Bodie line creating chances, earning power play time on two occasions as Toronto out-shot St. Johns 8-6 with many more efforts blocked.

Chasing the game in the third period, Toronto took an early penalty but the PK held firm as it did all game long. A Toronto power play would fail to produce shortly afterwards but brought some of the best pressure they would have to tie the game but simply not enough shots were being fired on net. Gibson was doing all he could to keep his team in the game as it was Loov’s turn to make a horrible error. Turning the puck over to rookie Chase Balisy in front of the Marlies net, Gibson somehow stopped the IceCaps leading points scorer from doubling their advantage. As the game wound down the Marlies looked less likely to score with frustration setting in and Gibson had to pull out more big saves, from Albert and Brassard especially. The game would be settled with O’Dell’s empty netter inside the last minute Connor Hellebuyck stood firm for his first professional shutout

Post Game Notes:

The final shot clock favoured Toronto 23-22 and this must really frustrate the coaching staff who have been trying to hammer home the message to “shoot more.”

The Marlies offense is league worst and has managed just three goals in as many games.

A bright spot tonight was the penalty kill, which was back to somewhere near it’s best. Sticks in the lane and clearing the puck at the first opportunity gave St. Johns plenty to think about.

Carson McMillan made a good debut despite playing in an unfavoured position of LW. He played on both special teams and was solid at even strength.

Spencer Abbott came back into the line-up. Had a very good second period and started to make things happen offensively but faded in the third, likely due to being his first game back.

Christopher Gibson once more was outstanding. Did everything in his power to get the win tonight.

If Toronto could only find a little offense, they would win games with the way he’s performing right now.

The power play continues to be a concern. Finn really took the bull by the horns when given his chance on the man advantage but shot wide too often. He has a great shot and release that the team could benefit from greatly.

Mickelsson, McLaren, Orr and Ross are currently all injured.

Marlies and IceCaps go back at it Wednesday evening with a 6pm Eastern puck drop.

 


Rattie has NHL in range

November 17, 2014

The lamp is being lighted in Chicago by the St. Louis Blues 2011 second round pick.

Otherwise know as Ty Rattie, the young man from Alberta currently leads the AHL in goal scoring with ten to his name through 15 games as I write. After a very 2013/14 as a rookie, there has been no sophomore starts to this season.

Can play both wings but proximately on the right side with Dmitrij Jaskin and Pat Cannone as linemates, his hat-trick in the last outing against Rochester sent him to the top of the scoring chart.

He’s always been a shoot first guy, even through junior, and his 31 goals last season were the best total by a rookie. To use a predominately football term, the kid possesses a nose for the net. When you consider that 25 of those markers were at even strength and that 34 of his 48 points were also at 5v5, he’s a player to be feared every time he hit’s the ice.

RATTIE_041814_AHL

Not especially quick but is adept at keeping hold of the puck under pressure and finds the space on the ice that enables him to score goals with regularity. The hockey world is his oyster if he can strengthen up and improve his skating ability, two things you can most definitely work on as a young professional. If he works as hard off the ice as he does on, then there’s no doubting he will improve.

In the small amount of times I’ve had the pleasure watching him play, I can make a case for him being NHL ready but there simply isn’t a spot open for him with the Blues right now. The Chicago Wolves must be delighted however as they sit fourth in the Western Conference, just two points back of the overall lead and striving for their first championship since 2008.

Being a “shoot first” guy, Rattie only has two assists to his name, but his overall game should not be overlooked as he does possess some playmaking abilities as well as a defensive side to his game.

I’m a huge fan of this kid and the way he plays. The sooner we see him in the NHL, the better.

Until then, the AHL had better watch out.

 


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