A first visit to Manitoba this season turned out to be profitable trip, as Toronto won both games against the Moose this past weekend.
On Friday night, it was the home team who got off to a flying start, thought they were unable to make it count on the scoreboard. Manitoba fired 13 shots in the opening period and brought the best out of Rob Madore in net. From the second frame onwards it was Toronto who held the upper hand but it would take until the 16th minute of the second period for the deadlock to be broken. Josh Leivo slamming home a one-timer from the left side on a power play. T.J Brennan and Jeremy Morin with the helpers as the latter recorded his first point for Toronto.
Unable to score an insurance marker due to the brilliance of goaltender Eric Comrie and missed opportunities, Toronto looked susceptible to a tying goal. They would be thankful to Rob Madore who pulled out some fine stops, including one incredible athletic effort, on his way to recording a shutout. The second goal would eventually come through Stuart Percy and Ryan Rupert made sure of the victory with an empty net effort tally. Final score 3-0
There was no slow beginning from the Marlies on Saturday. Quick out of the blocks they were only denied from being up by at least two or three goals by the brilliance yet again of Eric Comrie.
Scoreless after twenty minutes, it took just 61 seconds to break the shackles in the middle frame.
Brennan the beneficiary from the high slot after Morin’s shot had been blocked by a defenseman.
Manitoba’s young goaltender would turn aside the other 16 efforts Toronto threw at him during the second period. Comrie was rewarded by his team tying the game up on the power play resulting in a 1-1 tie after forty minutes
After killing a Manitoba power play early in the third frame, Toronto earned they own and took full advantage. A rocket from Leivo put the Marlies ahead and the next tally, once again with the man advantage, wasn’t long in arriving. A beautifully worked goal involving Leivo, Nikita Soshnikov and Brett Findlay, was sniped home by Morin. A perfectly placed shot by Soshnikov from the left circle made it three goals in a span of 4:46 for Toronto. Ray Emery would be called upon to make one outstanding save from Nic Petan, but the 4-1 victory was never really in any doubt.
With a pair of wins, Toronto reached sixty points for the season, something that took them until March 6 in the last campaign.
Both special teams were good this weekend. The power play running at 33%, while the penalty kill allowed one goal on seven opportunities for Manitoba.
The 45 shots on net during Saturday’s game was a season high. The previous best this year was also against the Moose.
William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Connor Brown, Scott Harrington and Rinat Valiev did not feature in either game this weekend.
On Friday, Justin Johnson sustained a hamstring injury to his left leg, while Sam Carrick was also hurt.
Carrick’s injury is reported to be a foot problem. Both flew back to Toronto early.
Jack Rodewald was called up to cover the injuries and looks likely to stay on the roster for the foreseeable future.
Rob Madore recorded his first ever shutout for the Marlies, turning aside 26 shots.
He’s the third goaltender to post a clean sheet this season. Four victories from four starts and yet to give up more than two goals in a game.
Ray Emery had a relatively calmer time between the pipes on Saturday but produced a handful of timely saves when called up. Looked sharper for a week of practise and has only played three of the 25 games allowed by the PTO contact.
William Nylander, T.J Brennan and Josh Leivo were all named to the AHL-All Star roster, with the latter two enjoying their weekend in Manitoba despite the freezing cold weather.
Leivo was a dominant force and scored two goals, taking his tally to eleven on the season. Thirty points now for Josh and he’s riding a five game point streak. Now called upto the Leafs, Leivo has a chance to make his mark in the NHL once again.
Brennan scored once and put up two assists, taking him to twenty helpers for the season. He’s on fire with six points in his last three outings and is tied for the Marlies lead in scoring
Jeremy Morin made his Marlies debut and did not disappoint. An assist on Friday was followed by a goal and an assist on Saturday. His shooting ability is undoubted and he made his presence felt on the power play.
Another to register three points (1G/2A) was Nikita Soshnikov. With so many absentee’s , Soshnikov finally got a proper look on the power play and once again did not let the team down when asked to do a job.
Brett Findlay is not a name familiar to many Toronto fans. He’s been essentially a point per game producer in the ECHL but when called up to the Marlies last season, he spent the majority of his ice time on the fourth line. Another to benefit from so many players out, Findlay was pushed onto the top line with Leivo and Morin this weekend. Defensively responsible, he made sure his more talented line mates got the puck, but was no passenger himself. A pair of power play assists on Saturday, including some good judgement in setting up Morin for his first goal.
Wed, Jan 13, 2016 Toronto at Utica 7:00 pm EST
Sat, Jan 16, 2016 Toronto at St. John’s 7:30 pm NST
Sun, Jan 17, 2016 Toronto at St. John’s 4:00 pm NST