On what was Superhero day at Ricoh Coliseum it was perhaps fitting that five of the six goals were scored on the power play.
The visiting Utica Comets will count themselves hard done by, but will also look back on missed opportunities.
The road team were quickly out of the blocks with Carter Bancks almost scoring in the first few seconds. Recently re-assigned forward Chris Higgins was making his Utica debut and playing his first game in the AHL since 2005. He came close to opening his Comets account, with a shot on the turn after a pass from Alex Friesen. On the resulting face-off Garret Sparks had to be on his toes to deny Jon Landry, the defenseman letting fly a one timer.
Totally against the run of play it was Toronto who scored first. Viktor Loov with a shot that weaved it’s way through traffic and although making the first save, Joe Cannata was unable to stop Rylan Schwartz putting home his first goal for the Marlies.
The home team were buoyed by tallying first and began to take a foothold in the game.
First it Soshnikov with a pair of chances, the second of which drew a fine save from Cannata.
Frederick Gauthier then almost found Frattin heading to the net unattended but the intended pass was just deflected out of the latter’s reach.
Both teams would exchange a pair of power plays with neither able to take advantage.
Andrew Campbell had to be at his defensive best to break up an odd man rush with a diving play as Utica continued to drive the majority of play at even strength.
The road team would find themselves trailing 1-0 after twenty minutes despite being ahead on the shot clock 15-6. Garret Sparks wasn’t called into making any spectacular saves but equally denied Utica many second opportunities.
The middle frame would signal the start of the power plays goals.
Kasperi Kapanen drawing a penalty with his speed inside the opening minute. Ten seconds into the man advantage, Mark Arcobello fired up and over the shoulder of Cannata with a perfectly placed shot.
Brendan Leipsic forced the Utica goaltender into a fine save from his backhand effort shortly afterwards at even strength.
Surviving not going down by three goals, Utica would draw within one on their third power play of the game. Leading scorer Hunter Shinkaruk firing into an empty cage after Brendan Gaunce’s shot produced a rebound from Sparks.
Two power plays goals in six minutes became three in eleven minutes, as Toronto extended their lead once more. T.J Brennan set it up with a measured wrist shot from the point, resulting in the puck bouncing off Cannata’s pads to Kapanen, who scored on the second attempt.
A late push from Utica, including three shots in the last thirty seconds, failed to reduce the deficit and Toronto led 3-1 after forty minutes.
For the most part, the final period of regulation was nothing to write home apart.
Higgins and Friesen combined a minute in but Sparks smothered the chance and the game seemed to fizzle out with neither team able to generate much offensively.
It was expected that the Comets would push back after tight games between these two teams this season and that began with seven minutes remaining. Friesen was arguably Utica’s best player and he came close after some nice interplay with Shinkaruk.
Utica should have scored a minute later, but Brandon Marino contrived to miss an empty net after Sparks had stopped the initial effort from Landry.
The home crowd feared the worst when the Comets earned another power play with five minutes to play and they were right to be concerned. Jordan Subban jumped into the play late and with time to measure his shot, rifled home from the right circle past Sparks.
Kapanen would take the game by the scruff of the neck with two minutes left on the clock.
Once again using his speed to good effect down the right wing, he made the correct play to shoot and his bullet of a shot ricocheted off Cannata’s pads to Zach Hyman driving the net. Looking certain to score, the Marlies forward was unable to apply the finishing touch as he was being held by Taylor Fedun.
The resulting powerplay with 1:58 to play saw a backhand shot from Arcobello bring a fine save from Cannata. It was followed by Frattin surging on an end to rush, which deserved better than his shot hitting the iron.
Utica were forced to leave their net empty with forty seconds left on the clock in search of the tying goal. It would prove fruitless as thanks to some hard work from Hyman, Nikita Soshnikov was given the easiest of tasks to seal the victory by firing into the vacant cage.
A 4-2 victory that saw the Toronto Marlies far from their best but continue to find a way to win.
Post Game Notes:
For the first time this season, the Marlies tallied three power plays goals in a single game.
T.J Brennan’s solitary assist took his points tally to the 40 point mark.
A third straight multi-point game for Mark Arcobello, who has 15 goals and 20 assists this season.
Kasperi Kapanen drew one penalty, was responsible for another and put up two points. Extends his point streak to four games.
Garret Sparks made 31 saves for the win and looked far sharper on his second start after injury.
Casey Bailey was responsible for three of the four penalties, Utica capitalising on two of those. Two tripping calls in the offensive zone and a delay of game, will not have endeared himself to the coaches.
Toronto Marlies Signed defenseman David Kolomatis to an AHL contract before Saturday’s game. He’s an AHL veteran with over 300 game experience.
These two teams go back at it Sunday afternoon and Connor Brown is expected to make his return from injury.