Panik ensures Marlies prevail

The life of a hockey player can often change in the space of one day.

Hours after netting the game winner for the Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum, Richard Panik was sent packing to Chicago after being traded by Toronto.

After Saturday afternoon’s highly charged affair it was of little surprise that the opening period was one of ill-discipline, altercations and one big fight.

The home team made the early going, with Frattin firing the first shot after just 36 seconds and would continue to hem Syracuse in their own zone for the opening minute and a half.
Zach Hyman, Ryan Rupert and Josh Leivo were to the fore in everything good the Marlies were doing but the charge would be halted by a fight at the two minute mark.
Former Marlie David Broll asked Justin Johnson to dance at a face-off in the neutral zone.
Johnson was more than a willing partner and edged the bout against his younger opponent.
When the two teams got back to using their sticks instead of fists, Soshnikov stepped out from behind the Syracuse net but the puck slipped off the tape of his stick from a promising position.
Toronto would take a deserved lead with 3:50 on the clock. Bailey’s attempted pass to Hyman was deflected but Toronto’s leading rookie scorer jumped on the loose puck first, taking it across the crease before scoring with a backhand shot.
With Panik in the box shortly after the goal, it was that man Hyman again who almost tallied a short-handed marker.
You couldn’t keep Hyman out of the game and as the penalty wound down, he yet again drove to the net but ended up in the cage on top of Kristers Gudlevskis. He would be called for goalie interference, but a moment of sheer stupidity meant it would be four on four play instead of a Syracuse power play. Crunch defenseman Jake Dotchin showed petulance by charging in and throwing the net over, a delay of game penalty despite the play having been whistled down.
Yanni Gourde would be the first to test Antoine Bibeau and Toronto’s goaltender “on loan” from the Leafs made a smart pad save and stood tall on a follow up effort.
The parade to the penalty box continued and the Marlies would pay the price after taking a pair of consecutive penalties. With ten seconds left on the second penalty, a blast from Jeff Tambellini was expertly tipped in front by Adam Erne, giving Bibeau no chance, and tying the game at one.
Gudlevskis would ensure it remained that way late in the period with a smart save from Panik and then denying Brett Findlay after a fine set-up from Leivo

The middle frame was remarkable for it’s lack of action.
The visiting Syracuse Crunch failed to register a shot on net during the entire twenty minutes.
An effort from Tambellini may have hit the outside of Bibeau’s right post, but that’s as close as they came to troubling those who register the statistics.
Despite shutting down the Crunch, Toronto were unable to take advantage of their dominance, though that was due in part to Gudlevskis.
A saucer pass from Frattin found Arcobello driving the net but his chipped effort was smothered by the Syracuse goaltender.
A power play proved fruitless despite Findlay trying to bang home the loose puck after a booming shot from Stuart Percy rebounded off the pads of Gudlevskis.

Marlies v Syracuse Randall
Image courtesy of @createdbyrcw

Scoring chances were noticeable by their absence but after forcing Syracuse to ice the puck late in the period, Toronto came close to taking advantage of tired legs.
Leivo was doing his best to orchestrate the offense and a fantastic diving effort from him, tipped the puck forward for Findlay to break across the blue line alone. Gudlevskis got the tiniest piece of his pads to deny Toronto’s left winger from tallying the go-ahead marker.
The period would end on a positive note as Hyman drew a penalty that would mean his team would head to the power play in the final frame.

It’d pay dividends just over a minute into the third period. Despite two big saves from Gudlevskis, he could do nothing to stop a one time blast from T.J Brennan at the point, and once again Toronto led.
Leivo missed a good opportunity trying to go far side, top shelf with space on the right while Justin Holl rang a shot off the post. Bibeau had to remain sharp after not making a save for 25 minutes and a swift toe save showed his level of concentration had not dropped.
Mike Blunden came with inches of tying the game up on a power play for the Crunch but his effort clipped the top of the cross bar.
Toronto’s inability to take advantage of two power play’s in the second half of the period would ultimately cost them.
Losing possession deep in their own zone, Toronto were chasing the puck as Blunden and Tanner Richard combined to find Matt Taormina who blasted home his seventh of the season from just above the right circle.
Syracuse came close to winning the game in regulation but as Erne drove to the net, he lost control of the puck just as he wanted to release a shot.

Tied at two, Toronto would have fancied their chances in overtime, having had a lot of success in extra hockey this season.
It was the visitors who controlled possession for the opening ninety seconds of overtime and Toronto would be thankful to Antoine Bibeau for making three terrific saves.
Firstly to deny Matthew Peca and being run over in the process.
Bibeau then frustrated Blunden on two different efforts, the second with the Syracuse forward driving hard to the net despite the presence of Andrew Campbell.
Syracuse had Bibeau beaten on a wraparound attempt but there was T.J Brennan to the rescue.
Not only did the league’s leading defenseman in scoring save a goal, he went about setting up the game winner. Sending the puck quickly to Leivo on the left wing, Brennan joined the rush meaning Toronto had a 3-on-1 break. Leivo decided to pick out Panik instead, caressing the puck onto the tape of his now former team-mate. The Slovakian forward planted his shot over the shoulder of Gudlevskis to ensure his last moment in Toronto would ultimately be a positive one.

Post Game Notes:

Richard Panik’s goal was his ninth for the Marlies and second game winner. A talented player but one who would often frustrate coaches with his decision making and level of performance. I wish him well with the Chicago organisation.

T.J Brennan was involved in each goal for Toronto and this was his second three point game this season.
He has surpassed the thirty point marker and is closing in on William Nylander’s total.

Josh Leivo was involved with the majority of Toronto’s good play and is now riding a three game point streak. Consistency of performance has always been my biggest issue with Josh but he’s been terrific with the absence of many key offensive players.

Zach Hyman hit the twenty point mark for the season and is now 13th in rookie scoring.
A story of steady improvement through the season, he’s grasped the extra opportunities and responsibility of late. Eight points in his last nine games.

Marlies now own a 9-2 record in games finishing in overtime or the shootout this season.

Three straight victories for Toronto, all by a 3-2 score line and they will now head on the road with the boat show coming into Ricoh Coliseum.

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