Unpredictability is what makes hockey one of the greatest sports on earth.
Just four days after a crazy 9-8 overtime victory in St. John’s Newfoundland, Toronto went into Rochester facing a team they had already beaten 8-2 this season and in the midst of a three game losing streak.
A goalless sixty minutes of regulation was the last thing expected, so of course that’s what occurred.
Toronto has earned themselves a power play with 25 seconds remaining of regulation time, resulting in a 4 on 3 advantage during the first part of overtime.
With seven seconds left with the extra man, the Marlies finally found a way past the impressive Andrey Makarov. Arcobello sliding the puck down to Nylander standing by the left side of the goal.
The young Swede showed more of his perfect passing skills to sneak a pass past the Rochester defenseman to find Leipsic waiting backdoor and the left-winger made no mistake to make sure Toronto left the Amerks building with two points.
In truth it was a deserved victory in what was a pretty unspectacular game, or maybe we’ve had our expectations raised after a crazy weekend in St. John’s.
Either way Toronto were by far the better team but unable to turn the dominance into goals, while Garret Sparks gave another solid performance to make sure the only goal would be the crucial one.
It was the home town Amerks who had the better opportunities in the opening twenty minutes. Returning to the Blue Cross Arena, where they have a 4-1 record, Rochester carved out two chances inside the opening two minutes but both Matt Prapavessis and Justin Bailey would be denied by Sparks.
Jerry D’Amigo was making his comeback after injury and his shot provided a rebound for Phil Varone who was unable to capitalise. The one power play in the period fell to Toronto but nothing of note occurred with composure sorely lacking. Soshnikov had the best effort for the Marlies with eight minutes remaining while with 1:20 left on the clock Varone would have been frustrated to see his effort drifted wide of the post from a great position and Sparks heading the opposite direction.
A penalty kill early in the second period motivated the road team and Brennan came close on two opportunities, firing just wide and bringing a fine shoulder save from Makarov.
The Marlies were pinning Rochester inside their zone for long stretches of play with Makarov keeping his team in the game, denying both Gauthier and Soshnikov as that line with Clune provided plenty of action and energy.
Loov then came close as he found himself deep on the right wing. Deep enough to actually be on the Amerks goal line and with little else on, the prudent play was to throw the puck on net.
The effort almost snuck past Makarov with Carrick banging away for any possible rebound, and despite it looking close on a subsequent replay the officials would not ask to go upstairs on this occasion for a closer inspection.
The one-way traffic drew a power play for Toronto at the mid-way marker but would witness yet another fine save from Makarov. Panik was brilliantly screening the young net minder who must have been using the force to glove a shot from Arcobello heading toward the top corner of his net. There was certainly no way he could have seen that but nonetheless a terrific stop.
Sparks would not be undone in the goaltending duo, pulling out a fine save himself with five to play in the middle frame. Varone with the oh so perfect feed to Jason Akeson in alone backdoor but Sparks pulled off a terrific save he made look very easy as he swiftly moved from left to right across his net.
Toronto’s penalty killed would stay secure shortly after, while at the other end of the ice the frustration for the Marlies continued as Makarov continued his outstanding play. A beautiful set-up from the top line ended with a great chance for Campbell jumping into the play but the Amerks goaltender continued to confound his opponents with his 23rd save of the game.
The third period continued in the same vain as the second but Rochester will kick themselves for missing one huge opportunity not to pounce on Toronto. The Marlies dominated the opening five minutes before D’Amigo drove in on net, forcing Sparks to be brave and strong to deny his former team-mate.
A fourth Marlies power play drew only another fine stop from Makarov, this time Nylander with the effort from one knee was turned aside.
The real drama occurred with 8:21 left on the clock as Carrick and then Campbell were called for penalties within 32 seconds of one another. Both were questionable calls to say the least but the best opportunity during the Amerks two man advantage actually fell to Toronto. Varone was guilty of a poor pass and Zach Hyman wasted little time in trying to make him pay. Grabbing control of the puck, he banked it off the left boards and past his man before skating to gain possession again and heading in on net. He tried an inside out move on Makarov that saw the goaltender perform a forward snow angel and stop the effort with his left toe.
Hyman in hindsight will wonder why he didn’t lift his shot, as it would have been a certain goal but it was a terrific play from the rookie up until that point.
With the penalty killed off and little to unsettle Sparks in the process, Toronto set about winning in regulation.
Campbell, who recorded four shots on goal, threw his last effort toward the crowded net and Hyman so nearly put home the rebound in the resulting melee.
Makarov left probably his best save of the night until 68 seconds remained in regulation play.
Panik walked in from the right boards and from the slot fired top shelf on Makarov that looked a certain goal until another flash of leather.
Toronto would ultimately not be denied the victory and will now finally return to Ricoh Coliseum on Friday, having not played on home ice this month.
Post Game Notes:
William Nylander’s assist was his 20th point of the season and by virtue of having played one less game than Joe Witney (Bridgeport Sound Tigers) the Marlies forward leads the league in scoring.
Mark Arcobello continues his record of scoring in every game he’s played for the Marlies thus far.
Eleven points in seven games for him now.
Brendan Leipsic’s game winner was just his second goal of the season. His numbers are far from indicative of his play, always a threat on a line with Arcobello and Bailey. Three points on this road-trip will disappoint him though.
Garret Sparks shutout was his second of the season and he’s looking so much more assured and confident than at the beginning of the year. A 7-2-1 record with a goals against of under two and a 0.935 save percentage puts him in the top seven of the league in both the latter categories.
Nikita Soshnikov lead the way with five shots, a season high for him.
Toronto’s penalty kill was perfect on four occasions and currently ranks fifth in the league.
Last but not least, this is my first ever Marlies post game for Maple Leaf Hotstove.
I’m delighted to join and be a part of such a well respected Leafs website and I thank those fine gentlemen for the opportunity.
I hope those of you reading enjoy my take on the Toronto Marlies.
My coverage will include post games, weekly round-ups and some more focussed articles as time goes along.