The Toronto Marlies marked their second school day game of the season with their second victory, which left everyone at Ricoh Coliseum very happy bar the Charlotte Checkers.
Toronto only really played one very good period but it was enough to build a lead large enough for the victory.
Dominating the opening 90 seconds of play, the home team were for once able to make their dominance count shortly afterwards. Rupert and then Brown throwing the puck on net before Nylander showed a ton of determination in front to jab the puck home past a Charlotte defenseman and John Muse in net.
Leivo came within inches of making it 2-0 but his effort during an odd man rush produced a fantastic toe save from Muse who was going the wrong way.
A Toronto power play would be negated by Frattin but the home team owned the puck during four on four play and doubled their lead. Marshall throwing a floaty shot toward the net which Rupert deflected in.
Leivo yet again almost tallied but Muse had his number through the opening period. Despite various power plays, including a two man advantage, the Marlies couldn’t force home a third goal in an opening frame where they out-shot the visitors 13-4.
It was almost downhill the rest of the way for Toronto as Charlotte came out with fire in their belly and the home side were unable to match that intensity for the most part the rest of the way.
A wayward pass from Leipsic was intercepted by Woods and Gibson had to be sharp to turn aside the effort, just his sixth save of the game, two minutes into the middle frame.
The Checkers dominance continued as they owned zone time in Toronto’s end and were racking up the shots.
The turning point of the game for the visiting Checkers came with 6:41 to play in the second, as they had a perfectly good goal waived off as the official had already whistled the play down despite Gibson not having full control of the loose puck.
The shot clock at that point was tied at 14 and it must have been a dagger to Charlotte’s hearts when the Marlies extended their lead a minute later. McKegg sending Leivo away and he had Frattin for company and just one trailing defenseman to beat. Leivo showed confidence to ignore his team mate and rip a wrist shot past Muse in a flash.
Up 3-0 and twenty minutes to play this game was surely over right? Wrong. Charlotte came close to making a dent into their deficit eleven seconds, in as Trevor Carrick set-up Shugg who was denied by a combination of Gibson and the post.
Gibson then had to be equally brilliant to turn aside Charlotte on a power play that followed.
William Nylander almost closed the deal with a breakaway but he was hauled down while shooting and drew a penalty shot. The resulting effort was turned away by Muse who did well to stay with the forehand to backhand move that Nylander tried to pull off.
A double minor high sticking penalty by Marshall gave Charlotte one last chance with eleven minutes remaining but a combination of brave shot blocking and yet more solid play from Gibson kept them off the board.
It was then a real shame for the Toronto net minder that his shutout would be broken with just over four minutes left on the clock. With seconds left on another power play, Boychuck was the beneficiary of deflection in front to pot home from in close.
Any illusions of a comeback were extinguished by the hardworking Connor Brown who finally put this game to bed with an empty netter inside the last minute, after chasing down the loose puck.
Post Game Notes:
Two straight victories have kept the slim playoff hopes alive. Five points shy of eight place at the time of writing.
Rookie points scoring in this encounter came from Brown (3), Rupert (2) and Nylander (1).
Connor Brown has 44 points in 53 games, just one shy of the rookie lead held by Charles Hudon.
Ryan Rupert took his goals and assist tallies to ten, for 20 points in 35 games.
Christopher Gibson was once again a solid rock and stopped 30 shots. His 13th win on the season and was unlucky not to record his second shut-out on the year.