The Toronto Marlies took four from a possible six points this past week.
The road-trip continued with a visit to Utica and “The Aud.”
Despite not being in the greatest form going into this game, playing Utica in their own building is never an easy task, as Toronto duly found out. Utica were slightly the better team in the opening period but fell behind to a goal from Nikita Soshnikov. The home team responded to tie the game heading into the second period. The Marlies were a much improved outfit in the middle frame, and deservedly held a 2-1 lead after forty minutes with Ryan Rupert notching the solitary goal. Antoine Bibeau was back between the pipes and he came up big in the third period. Utica would fire 16 shots in his direction, only finally able to solve the goaltender with a powerplay goal seven minutes from the end of regulation.
Both teams would share a pair of good chances in overtime but both goaltenders were excellent and it was off to the shootout. Bibeau stopped all three Utica shooters while Soshnikov scored to secure the extra point.
Final Score: 3-2 Shootout victory
A pair of games in St. John’s would finish the January road-trip and it began well on Saturday evening.
A crazy first period saw six goals that had both coaches tearing their hair out no doubt.
Toronto scored inside the opening minute and doubled up at the eleven minute mark. They then proceeded to cough up that lead before restoring it with a pair of power play goals. Brendan Leipsic recorded three points in the opening period, scoring the first and fourth goals and an assist on the second.
The other scorers were Rupert and Soshnikov and there could easily have been more goals. In a much more disciplined middle frame, Toronto extended their lead to 5-2 as Leipsic recorded a hat-trick.
The game was pretty much killed off as the Marlies scored inside four minutes of the third period with the IceCaps only able to respond once.
Final Score: 6-3 Victory
Sunday’s matinee game would be notable for a performance lacking in discipline and strewn with errors.
A scoreless first period despite good opportunities for both teams at various stages, was followed by four goals in the middle frame. Toronto twice taking the lead but allowing St. John’s to tie on both occasions with power play markers. It went from bad to worse to the Marlies as they allowed a short-handed marker two minutes into the third period and shortly after were down 4-2 as Sparks was beaten from a long range effort from Morgan Ellis. Jeremy Morin gave the Marlies hope, his goal drawing them within one, but that flame was extinguished as quickly as it rose. A giveaway from Rinat Valiev gifted Lucas Lessio the easiest goal he’ll score this season. Sheldon Keefe pulled Sparks early and T.J Brennan scored with two minutes remaining. A tying goal for Toronto would not have been justified and to St. john’s credit they rode the storm and hit an empty netter to seal the win after a long losing streak for them.
Final Score: 4-6 Defeat
The road-trip may have ended on a sour note in defeat but Toronto were 5-1 during their travels.
They surpassed thirty victories and the 150 goal mark for the season.
The shootout victory in Utica means they stay unbeaten during the four times the skills competition has been required.
A franchise record was also set. Seven consecutive victories eclipsing the previous best of six, which had been achieved on three previous occasions.
Specials teams again weren’t at their best this week. The power play registering at just 11% from 18 opportunities. St. John’s seemingly have Toronto’s number in this department and that ended up being the difference in the second game. The IceCaps were 2-4 with the man advantage while blanking the Marlies five attempts with the man advantage. It was also the nature of some of the penalties that will concern Sheldon Keefe. A reckless slashing penalty (just one example) taken 180 feet from your own goal is not something this coaching staff will be best pleased about.
Garret Sparks made his return from injury but was far from his best. He made some fantastic saves on Sunday but would also want a couple of goals back. Rustiness is to be expected after a long layoff and I’m sure we’ll see better in upcoming games.
Antoine Bibeau was excellent during Wednesday’s victory in Utica. A 35 save performance that was as good as he’s played this season. He’s won seven of his last eight starts, putting up a 0.926 save percentage during that time.
Nikita Soshnikov potted three goals to put him tied in team goal scoring. The shootout winner was his second this season. A less disciplined effort from him on Sunday but one I don’t expect we’ll see again soon.
Brendan Leipsic’s hat-trick was his second for the Marlies. His last was in a crucial game against Adirondack last season, whom they were fighting with for a playoff berth.
Helping himself to two assists, Leipsic now has 28 points this season.
T.J Brennan just keeps being T.J Brennan when he’s playing for the Toronto Marlies.
Four points this week takes him above William Nylander as the team’s leading points scorer.
He’s also tied for first place in the AHL and is on pace to surpass offensive numbers he set when awarded the Eddie Shore Trophy.
Mark Arcobello had gone pointless for two games but responded with a pair of assists to take him to thirty points for the season.
Ryan Rupert proved himself to be a valuable player last season. Given less opportunities so far this time around but given the chance he’s really stepped up and produced three points this week.
Forming a good partnership with Leipsic and Frattin, the centreman has four points in his last five games.
Brett Findlay continues to give himself a shot at staying with the Marlies when bodies start returning to the roster. Another two points this weekend, including a goal, that keeps him at PPG through his last four outings.
Kasperi Kapanen showed some of the confidence he found while winning a Gold medal with Finland at the World Juniors. Two assists for him and both were fantastic pieces of play, showcasing his speed and precision of pass.
The Toronto Marlies continue to be hit by injuries and absentees.
Justin Holl and Stuart Percy were the latest to go down, on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
Scott Harrington and Sam Carrick did not feature, while Josh Leivo and Rich Clune are still with the Maple Leafs.
William Nylander was reactivated to the current roster which is positive news, but we should not be expecting an immediate return to action for him.
With the Marlies back on home ice, Connor Brown should make his return at some point this week.
Perhaps playing two of three beginning on Wednesday.
There were two PTO signings made on Monday, both players joining from Orlando Solar Bears.
The first is 27 year old defenseman Eric Baier.
The Solar Bears Captain has played for five different teams in the AHL, accumulating 44 games.
This season for Orlando, the Rhode Island native has 22 points in 37 games.
Was no surprise that Toronto also signed a centreman, with so many injuries in that position right now.
Rylan Schwartz has only been with Orlando since December 27 of last year but has already racked up seven goals and 14 points in eleven games. Curiously he hadn’t signed for a team before then this season but has spent time with the Worcester Sharks in previous years. In 123 AHL games, the 26 year old has 11 goals and 37 points.
Wed, Jan 20, 2016 Syracuse at Toronto 7:00 pm EST
Sat, Jan 23, 2016 Utica at Toronto 3:00 pm EST
Sun, Jan 24, 2016 Utica at Toronto 3:00 pm EST