Back on November 28, the St. John’s IceCaps handed the Toronto Marlies a 6-2 beating at the ACC.
That defeat remains the heaviest of the season so far and Toronto had yet to win against St. John’s in regulation this season.
The Boxing Day Classic at the ACC always brings in a good crowd and the majority of the 13155 in attendance were hoping that Toronto could reverse that latter statistic.
The opening period was typical of two teams playing after a long break.
It started well with a very good first shift from the Marlies, with the opening line-up of Clune-Carrick-Soshnikov, combined with Campbell and Valiev, pinned back the IceCaps.
That was an the exception rather than the rule moving forward as Toronto failed to generate too much offensively despite nine shots on net. A collision between Sam Carrick and Tim Bozon at centre ice angered Stefan Fournier, who saw fit to drop the gloves with the Toronto forward.
That would see a Toronto power play as Fournier was rightly given an instigator penalty but aside from a couple of efforts by Mark Arcobello and T.J Brennan, the visitors held firm.
The IceCaps would also be held scoreless on their only power play of the period, with the Marlies coming close to scoring short-handed but Fucale would deny Valiev after a feed from Findlay.
St. John’s best chances of the opening frame came from sloppy play from the home team, with far too many turnovers the order of the day.
The middle frame began with a huge hit from Rinat Valiev on Mark MacMillan down by the right boards, just inside the IceCaps zone as Toronto set about getting some energy into their game after a lethargic beginning.
That momentum looked to be halted by Sam Carrick taking a penalty but once again Toronto’s aggressive PK almost tallied. Brennan with the long outlet pass to Hyman but the rookie fired high and wide. Antoine Bibeau would be called on to make a smart right pad stop on Hudon as the penalty expired, showing excellent movement across the crease.
With not much between these two teams, it looked like special teams might prove the difference.
Just as Toronto’s second power play of the game expired they would open the scoring, with the IceCaps player unable to get across the blue line, yet alone into the play. Frattin put the puck on the tape of Leipsic’s stick as the left winger surged down the ice with speed. He took his shot early from the top of the left circle, and sniped it top shelf by Fucale, possibly using Josiah Didier as a screen.
The opening goal had taken until just before the midway mark of the game to arrive but it took the Marlies just five minutes to double their lead.
Fucale had robbed Findlay on a great chance immediately following the first goal but was left helpless on this occasion. Valiev waiting for the perfect moment to find Andrew Campbell in the left circle, and he in turn wasted no time in finding Richard Panik to apply the finishing touch.
You discount the IceCaps at your peril and the visitors punished the home team early in the third period.
The misgivings of the opening frame came back to haunt Toronto as they were finally made to pay for a cheap giveaway. Bud Holloway was the beneficiary and he set-up Lucas Lessio to score his first goal wearing IceCaps colours, in just his second game.
The two teams would exchange a pair of gilt edge chances before sharing a goal each in the space of 18 seconds.
Firstly Scott Harrington’s shot from the left side, way back on the blue line, found it’s way through a ton of traffic in front of Fucale. Toronto eased up in their own zone following the re-start, allowing St. John’s possession they should never have had and Darren Dietz sniped past Bibeau, who may well want that one back.
The IceCaps had scored twice on five shots and the game was now well in the balance with the Marlies now holding a precarious 3-2 lead with eleven minutes to play.
Determined to finally put one over their rivals, the Marlies would only allow another three shots against the rest of the way.
Sam Carrick’s goal with just under six minutes to play would ease the stress levels of all involved with Toronto, although those with Montreal roots would not be happy. The IceCaps failing to deal with a dump-in from Viktor Loov and Carrick was allowed to pick up the loose puck, drive to the net, before shifting the puck to his backhand and beating Fucale with a low shot.
A power play inside the last five minutes was St. John’s last real opportunity for a comeback but they failed to threaten. After pulling Fucale for an extra attacker, it looked a matter of time before Toronto sealed the win with an empty net effort. That was proved the case as Rich Clune broke down the left and showed how unselfish he was by playing the puck across to Nikita Soshnikov who had the simpler task of sending the biscuit into the yawning cage for a 5-2 victory.
Post Game Notes:
Marlies December record is now 9-0-1.
As I alluded to earlier, this is the Toronto Marlies first win in regulation against the IceCaps this season.
Toronto become the first team in the AHL to hit the 50 point mark.
Richard Panik broke a five game streak without a goal. His eighth of the season.
Brendan Leipsic tallied his seventh goal of the season and for the first time this year has scored in consecutive games.
Scott Harrington’s goal was his first as a member of the Toronto Marlies.
Back down from the Leafs, Rich Clune registered two assists and is now riding a four game point streak.
Antoine Bibeau’s statistics this season don’t make great reading.
Condense December’s stats however and you can argue that the rookie goaltender who impressed last year might just be finding his game once more.
Four victories, 2.43GAA and a save percentage of 0.920 for Bibeau, who strikes me as a guy who needs to play regularly and the toing and froing to the Leafs does him no favours.