The Manitoba Moose must be sick and tired at the sight of the all conquering Toronto Marlies.
Having lost all previous six games to the best team in the AHL, including a 9-0 thumping, the Moose were looking to avoid that streak continuing as well as halt a run that has seen them fail to record a victory in eight games.
A fast paced beginning meant a whistle wouldn’t be blown until the four minute mark.
It was the visiting Marlies who were dictating play with the Moose struggling to clear their own zone.
It’d be Manitoba’s lack of discipline that would eventually see them concede the opening goal.
A pair of penalties would lead to forty seconds of a 5-on-3 power play for Toronto.
Mark Arcobello brought a fine shoulder save from Eric Comrie but the young goaltender would be beaten on the next play. Brendan Leipsic with the cross ice feed to T.J Brennan and the league’s leading scorer somehow wired his shot in the smallest of gaps between Comrie’s shoulder and the crossbar.
A penalty by Nikita Soshnikov negated the remainder of the power play but at four on four play Toronto almost doubled their lead. A backhand effort from Connor Brown was denied before he banged home a rebound on a shot from Loov. The goal was rightly waived off for Brown being in the crease but the warning signs were there for the home team. Upon exiting the box, Soshnikov drove to the net, seeing his initial and second effort stopped by Comrie.
The shot count after the first period would only favour Toronto 8-5, as the second half of the opening frame saw few opportunities created.
Zach Hyman tried to set the right tone with a terrific opening shift of the second period.
A drive to the net produced a rebound for Gauthier that brought another good save by Comrie. Hyman might well have then tipped in a shot from Percy seconds later had he not been hooked in front.
Despite their struggles, Manitoba were playing with a certain amount of confidence trailing by just one at this stage and Thomas Raffl fully tested Antoine Bibeau with a wrist shot from the left circle.
A minute later however and the home team shot themselves in the foot with poor play in their own end.
A pair of consecutive passes from the right boards ended with Arcobello in possession alone in front and he fired into the far corner past Comrie
A following Marlies power play should have seen them extended the lead. Josh Leivo was flying everywhere but failed to convert his chances while Arcobello conspired to shoot wide with the goal at his mercy and then hit the post.
A turnover from Toronto enabled the hosts to exert some pressure at the midway point. Nic Petan watched his shot hit the crossbar and Bibeau had to be on his game to deny Scott Kosmachuk and Brenden Kichton on following efforts.
The Marlies have a habit of responding to a good shift by the opposition by scoring themselves and that happened once again. Soshnikov winning the battle along the boards before handing the puck off to Hyman. The latter would repay the gesture with an inch perfect pass out in front and Soshnikov fired home through traffic.
Toronto would capitalise on yet more defensive frailties shortly after. Somewhat unbelievably, Arcobello was left unattended on two occasions and he made the Moose pay the second time around. Allowed to watch the puck bounce of the right wall back to him under no pressure, Arcobello fired a no-look shot from the right face-off dot that beat Comrie top shelf.
Manitoba’s goaltender would be pulled after that marker but in no way was he to blame for the score line.
Jussi Olkinuora came in between the pipes and immediately had to deny Leipsic on two different occasions. He was unable however, to stop the Marlies scoring their third goal of the period in a four minute span. With Manitoba pinching, Toronto created a 2-on-1 rush heading the other way. Nylander with the perfect feed to Kasperi Kapanen who duly planted the puck past Olkinuora who had no chance.
Into the final frame of regulation and Kapanen would have doubled his tally two and a half minutes in had the puck not bounced over his tape with a huge chunk of the net to aim at.
It was finally the home teams turn to take advantage of surviving some pressure and score right back the other way. A strange way for Bibeau to lose his shutout bid, as he came out to challenge the shooter, making the save but was knocked down by Andrew Campbell. Unable to regain his footing in time, Bibeau could do nothing to deny Petan scoring with a well executed backhand shot.
The game then took a nasty turn as Ryan Olsen took out his frustrations with an unacceptable spearing on Kapanen. Olsen would rightly be given a five minute major and game misconduct for his actions, while thankfully Kapanen would eventually return to the game after taking a breather.
Matt Frattin would hit the iron on the power play, which would be mostly negated by the Marlies taking two consecutive penalties of their own.
The game meandered a little after all the penalties had ended but the goal scoring wasn’t finished just yet. With his parents having flown in from the Czech Republic to watch him play, Jiri Fronk finished off a nice play and feed from John Albert. A second goal for the home team but they still trailed by three with a little less than four minutes to play. With Campbell called for interference on the next shift, Manitoba coach Keith McCambridge threw caution to the wind and went with the extra attacker.
It so nearly paid off as Matt Fraser should have done better than to fire wide to the left of Bibeau with the Marlies goaltender scrambling to get across.
Despite some tired bodies, Toronto would extinguish any lingering home fans hopes with an empty net goal. Frederick Gauthier using his strength to win the battle to clear to the neutral zone. A totally gassed Hyman still had enough energy to beat his opponent to claim possession and ease the puck into the empty cage despite being hacked at from behind.
A 6-2 victory for Toronto who still weren’t at their best but once again took full advantage of opportunities afforded to them.
Post Game Notes:
The fourth occasion this season that Mark Arcobello has scored twice and he should have had his first hat-trick. That’s twenty goals for the season and he sits third in AHL scorers with 44 points from 34 games.
A goal extends T.J Brennan’s point streak to nine games and of course he remains the league’s leading scorer.
Josh Leivo has enjoyed playing against Manitoba this season and took his total to twelve points in the seven meetings. Two primary assists takes his points tally to 36, good enough for 14th in overall scoring.
Another man with a pair of points was Zach Hyman. Another good outing for him, especially on the penalty kill and he moves to 7th in rookie scoring with 28 points.
Toronto’s point percentage is back over .800 with this victory.
These teams face-off again Saturday afternoon in what is the last meeting between them this season.