Four games this week as we entered a new year and Toronto are fast approaching the mid-way point of their 76 game season.
A visit to Lake Erie on Tuesday proved a fruitless trip across the border.
The affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets, proved far too strong for the Marlies to handle and were by far the better team. Antoine Bibeau kept his team in the game but could do nothing to stop the Monsters opening the scoring in the second period. A power play marker early in the third period extended the home team’s lead. Despite registering just five shots on net in the final frame, Toronto pulled within one with a little over four minutes to play thanks to Nikita Soshnikov. The special teams would ultimately prove the difference with Lake Erie tallying once from four power plays while Toronto were held of the score sheet on the same amount of opportunities.
Retribution would prove sweet two days later at Ricoh Coliseum, as Toronto beat Lake Erie by a solitary goal. The victory would be the first at home on New Years Eve in franchise history.
The Marlies twice held the advantage in the opening period but both times allowed the road team to respond. Josh Leivo and T.J Brennan tallied in the first period and despite Toronto’s dominance in the middle frame, they would add just one more. All Matt Frattin’s hard work, as he blocked a shot and made use of the fortuitous bounce to race on the breakaway before putting home his own rebound. Unable to score an insurance marker in the third period, Lake Erie pushed back and Toronto were thankful for an outstanding performance from Rob Madore, who pulled off some crucial saves on a late penalty kill.
Saturday’s home encounter with Syracuse proved more notable for incidents either side of the game.
The two teams came together twice at the redline during the warm-up and the atmosphere was far from cordial. With the puck finally dropped it was Syracuse who held an undeserved 1-0 lead after twenty minutes, scoring once on four shots. Sam Carrick tied the game up 13 seconds into what would prove a much more even second period. The Crunch made Toronto pay for a defensive error and re-took the lead with just over 6 minutes remaining but the home team responded in two minutes thanks to a blast from Justin Holl.
Captain Andre Campbell has proved a goal scoring revolution this season and his eighth on the year, a howitzer from the left circle, proved the game winner three minutes into the third period. Rob Madore was once again excellent late in the piece when required, especially to deny Tanner Richard in a save which showcased his excellent athleticism across the crease.
Upon the final buzzer, Syracuse failed to clear the Toronto zone as the Marlies went to congratulate their goaltender. A cheap shot from behind on Rich Clune began the carnage and both benches cleared as a result. Clune would end up with two game misconducts and a one game suspension.
Richard Panik would prove to be the story of Sunday’s re-match with the Syracuse Crunch.
Within hours of tallying the game winner at Ricoh Coliseum, Panik would find himself traded to Chicago. Toronto opened the scoring early and were good value for the lead until a lack of discipline cost them. Syracuse scored on the second of consecutive power plays to ensure they were tied after twenty minutes. The middle frame saw the visiting Crunch fail to register a single shot on net and despite Toronto firing nine attempts, they were to take advantage of the control they had exerted.
A power play earned late in the second period by Zach Hyman would pay dividends in the third, with a trademark booming shot from Brennan giving Toronto the lead. Unable to get the insurance marker despite more power play opportunities, Syracuse would tie the game up late and come close to winning the game in regulation.
It’s be overtime for the eleventh time this season and Toronto were indebted to Antoine Bibeau for three big saves. On the one time Syracuse had him beat, it was Brennan to the rescue. Not only did the defenseman deny the wraparound attempt, he distributed the puck early, setting a 3-on-1 break in motion. Josh Leivo capped off an impressive showing by dishing the puck onto the tape of Panik’s stick and the Slovakian forward’s last action in Toronto was to score the game winner.
Six points from a possible eight, with three straight victories at home, all by a 3-2 scoreline.
They may have played more games than twelve of their Eastern Conference opponents but the Marlies are streets ahead of everyone in the standings, with only WBS Pens close to their impressive 0.778 points percentage.
The power play remains a concern, running at just 10.5% this week, but the penalty kill has improved to be joint best in the league and has tallied the second most amount of short-handed goals.
Toronto’s most productive period for goals is the third, with the fifty of their 138 goals being scored doing that twenty minutes of play.
Sheldon Keefe was named as an AHL All-Star Coach because of Toronto’s success so far and will take charge of the North Division team.
T.J Brennan put up four points this week with a pair of goals and assists. He proved a key cog offensively in Sunday’s victory.
Josh Leivo and Zach Hyman chipped in with three points each, both having huge impacts in all three victories.
Jack Rodewald was reassigned to Orlando.
Christopher Clapperton has left the Toronto Marlies organisation and chosen to go back to school.
After recording two victories, Rob Madore was reassigned to Orlando.
Frederick Gauthier and Justin Johnson both made long awaited comebacks from injury while Stuart Percy and Ray Emery returned after suffering with the flu.
Brendan Leipsic (possibly injured), Sam Carrick (hand injury) and Richard Clune (suspended) all missed Sunday’s game.
Richard Panik was traded to Chicago with Jeremy Morin coming back the other way.
In 236 career AHL games (all for Rockford IceHogs), Morin has posted 180 points (90 goals, 90 assists).
After a slow start this season, Morin had a much improved record in December, registering four goals and seven assists in eleven games.
Fri, Jan 8, 2016 Toronto at Manitoba 7:00 pm CST
Sat, Jan 9, 2016 Toronto at Manitoba 7:00 pm CST