Brendan Leipsic has arguably been the Toronto Marlies most effective forward if you take William Nylander out of the equation. Leipsic has struggled to put up the numbers that his play has so often deserved.
That’s until this game however, where he proved to be more than the difference between these two bitter rivals.
Despite a poor record against the IceCaps overall this season, the Marlies have fared well in St. John’s, recording a win and a loss in a pair of games that both ended in overtime.
In an opening period that had echoes of the crazy 9-8 encounter back in November, it was the visitors who made the fast start. It took just 53 seconds to open the scoring and there was a little fortune involved.
A Matt Frattin shot on a feed from Leipsic fell kindly for Ryan Rupert to keep possession. He wasted no time in reversing a cross crease pass to Leipsic who had driven to the net uncontested and fired home the opener.
The IceCaps were almost immediately on the power play after falling behind but only Nikita Scherbak tested Bibeau and it was almost the Marlies who scored again. Frederick Gauthier sent Nikita Soshnikov away down the right wing instead of dumping the puck in. The Russian winger beat his opponent along the boards, drove to the net but saw his shot saved by Eddie Pasquale and was just unable to get a handle on the rebound.
Drawing a penalty themselves right after a terrific penalty kill, Toronto had some good looks but were unable to draw further ahead with the extra man.
The Marlies would double the lead with 7:25 to play in the first period. Zach Hyman winning the battle along the boards before sending a pass to Rupert waiting at the hash marks. From one knee, Rupert’s one timer snuck through Pasquale, one that the netminder would want back for sure.
The two goal lead would be short-lived as Toronto presented the home team a pair of markers in the space of 48 seconds. A giveaway from Soshnikov allowed Daniel Carr to tee up Bud Holloway backdoor and the IceCaps leading scorer doesn’t miss those. Jeremy Morin then coughed up the puck to Charles Hudon on the wing. Despite gaining possession in his own zone, Hudon raced away and would not be for catching before firing past a helpless Antoine Bibeau who had little chance on either goal.
Toronto would need their goaltender to flash the leather to deny Lucas Lessio and they repaid him by retaking the lead on the power play.
It was all about Kasperi Kapanen, as the young Finish forward first showed electric speed to beat a pair of opponents. He stumbled in the offensive zone but from one knee was able to dish the puck perfectly to Soshnikov in the slot to deliver the killer touch.
Another power play followed and so did another goal as Toronto responded with a double blow in 79 seconds. A long range effort from Casey Bailey produced a big rebound off the pads of Pasquale and the puck ended up on Leipsic’s stick. The Manitoba native didn’t seem to get all of his shot and it appeared to bank off Darren Dietz before looping into the net past a bemused looking Pasquale.
Four goals on six shots would see the IceCaps swap their goaltenders around with Zach Fucale taking his place between the pipes.
Up 4-2, Toronto began the second period on top and looking to extend the lead. Another shot from Bailey resulted in a rebound but Andrew Campbell couldn’t quite force home the loose puck despite Fucale being out of position. The IceCaps lack of discipline wasn’t helping their cause and Toronto ended up with almost a full two minutes of a 5 on 3 power play. The home team responded with a good penalty kill that saw them almost tally, with Bibeau forced into a fine poke-check on Gabriel Dumont.
Inevitably it was Leipsic who had his teams best chance but he somehow failed to capitalise.
The penalty kill sparked St. John’s and Mark MacMillan should have done better than firing wide on a breakaway after a giveaway from T.J Brennan.
Bibeau would be tested by a Dan Ellis one timer and then Carr attempting to sweep home on a rebound with wraparound effort
A Ryan Johnston shot would be tipped by Max Friberg but yet again Bibeau was up to the task.
A wicked shot from Leipsic found the target on this occasion but Fucale was equal to it while Ellis would have been disappointed to fire wide of the Toronto net after being found in space by a pass from Dumont.
Leipsic truly was a menace all game and as the left winger was about to score after picking up a rebound from a Frattin shot, he was upended. It mattered not however as he’d simply score on the power play that followed. Brennan doing a good job of keeping the puck inside the blue line before firing a long range wrist shot on net. There was Frattin once more, this time to try and tip in front and the rebound allowed a second effort for Leipsic to bury his hat-trick.
That would be the end of scoring through forty minutes and the visitors looked thoroughly in control with a three goal advantage.
As you would expect, St. John’s pushed back a little early in the final frame but after surviving one scramble in front of their own net, Toronto would exert some pressure themselves.
The teams exchanged rushes but it was the Marlies who scored the eighth goal of the game.
Jack Rodewald let a slapshot go from the right wing and despite Fucale making the initial save, the puck bounced in off some part of Brett Findlay, who was just happy to score his first of the season.
St. John’s drew back within three goals with 5:31 on the clock. A spell of controlled pressure in the offensive zone led to the Marlies becoming ragged and allowing Carr the freedom to tip home a long range attempt from Dietz.
There would be no heroic comeback from the home team as Toronto for the most part shut them down.
Bibeau’s best saves came in denying Michael McCarron after smart play from Dietz and robbing Lucas Lessio on a short-handed breakaway.
Mark Arcobello flicked the outside of the post on a shot from his own zone with the IceCaps net empty as the home team went for broke.
The game threatened to boil over late one as the IceCaps frustrations began to show. Hudon drawing Leipsic into an altercation that appeared fairly harmless but saw both players receive ten minute misconducts.
It’ll certainly add fire for Sunday’s matinee’s game but nobody can dispute that Toronto were more than good value for the 6-3 victory.
Post Game Notes:
Seven straight wins is a franchise record for the Toronto Marlies, surpassing the three occasions they’ve registered six successive victories.
Toronto passed 150 goals for the season.
Brendan Leipsic’s hat-trick was the first by any Marlies player this season.
The previous Marlies hat-trick was scored at Ricoh Coliseum against Adirondack on April 7, 2015.
Leipsic was responsible for that one as well.
Sheldon Keefe might just have found the key to Matt Frattin, playing him with Ryan Rupert and Brendan Leipsic. Two assists for Frattin, just the second time this season the winger has registered a multi-point game.
Three helpers for T.J Brennan, who now takes sole position of the Marlies scoring lead in William Nylander’s absence. Nine points in five games for Brennan who is three shy of recording 40 points for the second time in his career.
Despite provocation, Toronto’s discipline was excellent and they allowed the hosts just two power play opportunities. On the flipside they drew eight power plays themselves, converting twice and could easily have done so twice more.