The schedule leading upto the Christmas break was a little easier than recent weeks, but the weary legs on this Marlies team still had to contest three road games in four days.
Wednesday saw a trip to Binghamton to face the bottom ranked Senators.
The Marlies dominated this game for 58 minutes, but played only as well as they needed to in securing the two points. Josh Leivo put home a feed from William Nylander late in the first period and the game was over as a contest in the second period after markers from Mark Arcobello and Zach Hyman. Two goal inside the last 72 seconds for the B-Sens meant the eventual 3-2 score-line flattered the home team but moreover was a shame for Antoine Bibeau, who appeared nailed on for a deserved shutout.
The match-up of the week that really wetted the appetite was a visit to Wilkes-Barre Scranton, to face the AHL leading Penguins.
The home team showed why they‘ve been a force to be reckoned with in the AHL this season, with an overpowering performance against a Marlies team that simply weren’t at the races.
Pittsburgh’s affiliate were up by two goals after the opening period and went on to dominate the middle frame, out-shooting Toronto 16-7. The fact they didn’t increase their advantage was simply down to Antoine Bibeau, who was superb in this game. Even he could do nothing to stop WBS Pens taking a 3-0 lead early in the third period and for all intensive purposes the game was over.
We then witnessed a quite incredible two minutes and 34 seconds of hockey. More remarkable for the fact that nobody saw it coming. A checking penalty called on Rich Clune started the comeback (honestly!) as Toronto scored two short-handed goals through Arcobello and Nikita Soshnikov. After Clune exited the box, Sam Carrick would take his place on the naughty step, but it wasn’t long until the former also scored short-handed to tie the game at three. Regulation would see no further scoring and despite controlling the overtime period, Toronto could not force the game winner during 3-on-3 play.
It would be off to the shootout where Antoine Bibeau turned aside all three Pens shooters, enabling Soshnikov to step up and claim the extra point with the Marlies third shot.
Riding the emotional high from the win in Wilkes-Barre, Toronto gave every ounce of energy they had left to complete the perfect week before the Christmas break.
Ray Emery was making his Marlies debut after being signed the day before to a PTO.
The experienced goaltender made an encouraging start but could do nothing to stop the Hershey Bears taking a 1-0 lead on home ice. The faltering power play came back to life at the right time for Toronto, with Arcobello showing patience before riffling home the tying goal late in the opening period.
Fast out of the traps in the second period, Hyman tallied 29 seconds in. Brendan Leipsic and Stuart Percy scored within 80 seconds of one another to extend the lead to 4-1 just before the midway mark of the game.
Hershey would not lay down and responded right away to close within two goals. Emery grew in stature as each minute passed and he was a big reason the Bears would not be able to tally further.
Another powerplay goal inside four minutes of the third period essentially secured the two points for the Marlies. A beauty from T.J Brennan who then followed up with his second of the game to put the icing on the cake of a 6-2 victory.
A perfect six point week for Toronto, which extends their point streak to nine games though December (8-0-1).
Heading into the Christmas break, the Marlies will lead the AHL, having won 23 of their 30 games, scoring 119 goals in the process.
Ray Emery became the sixth goaltender to be used during this regular season by the Marlies, which is a franchise record. He is also the sixth goalie to record a victory and the fourth to do so on Marlies debut this season.
The Marlies have won 15 of their 17 road games (15-1-1).
To put that into some kind of context, at the time of writing, 19 of the thirty teams in the AHL have not even achieved that many victories in their overall record.
Impressive with the lead this season and yet to lose a game when leading after two periods, the Marlies improved to 3-4-1-0 when trailing after forty minutes of play.
Three short-handed tallies puts the Marlies at seven goals for the season while down at least a man.
Special teams performances were obviously crucial in the comeback victory against WBS Pens, but then also on the power play in Hershey. The power play was successful twice in 12 attempts while the PK unit allowed one goal on eleven times shorthanded, tallying three times themselves.
Toronto’s record in the shootout improved to a perfect 3-0.
Overall they’ve scored four times in the skills show and are yet to allow a goal against.
Friday night saw William Nylander‘s point streak come to a halt before jetting off for the World Juniors. He still leads all scorers with 34 points.
Mark Arcobello led the way this week with five points (3G/2A). A goal on both special teams and one at even strength, Arcobello has 25 points from twenty games, good enough for ninth overall in the league.
T.J Brennan was having a quieter December until four points this week (2G/2A).
His goals tally hit the double figure mark and he leads all AHL defenseman in points.
Toronto have four players inside the top eleven top scorers, as Nylander, Brennan, Arcobello and Leivo all have 25+ points.
Josh Leivo’s goal in Binghamton was his 100th point as a member of the Toronto Marlies.
A milestone achieved in his 140th game – 42 of those points are goals.
Zach Hyman recorded a point in every game this past week, two goals and a pair of assists for the rookie. His best points production and visually some of his best performances.
Not been noted for their offensive prowess this season but both Sam Carrick and Richard Clune tallied three points a piece. Without a goal since late November, Carrick has at least been producing points at a higher rate of late, five helpers in his last seven games.
Antoine Bibeau is steadily getting his game back on track. After what should have been a shutout for him on Wednesday, he was superb in Wilkes-Barre making 39 saves and stopping all three Pens shooters for the win.
Ray Emery’s signing was certainly a shock but the organisation needed to sign someone to fill the gap in the system. A fine debut performance from him and will give the coaching staff confidence to use him with no reservations moving forward. Post Christmas he’ll be sharing duties with Rob Madore.
The Marlies will work off any indulgencies over Christmas with a pair of games against the IceCaps at the weekend. Promises to be a great double header with plenty of ill-feelings between these two rivals already this season.
Sat, Dec 26, 2015 St. John’s at Toronto 3:00 pm EST (ACC)
Sun, Dec 27, 2015 St. John’s at Toronto 3:00 pm EST