Toronto may not have gotten just reward for Saturday’s much improved performance but they were compensated Sunday afternoon despite another stellar performance from the man between the pipes for St. John’s.
On this occasion it was Eddie Pasquale who frustrated and confounded for long stretches of this game, no more so than in the second period when the Marlies had a stranglehold on proceedings.
The opening twenty minutes were the most evenly matched of the game although Toronto ran into penalty trouble.
Garret Sparks was called upon 17 seconds in, as a sloppy pass led to a turnover but the returning goaltender made the required save.
William Nylander was a handful for entire sixty minutes and his feed found Andrew Campbell in the slot but Pasquale denied Toronto’s Captain from scoring his second in as many games.
Sparks would perhaps make his biggest save of the game shortly after as the IceCaps leading scorer Bud Holloway was sent in alone on Toronto’s net. Sparks refused to bite early and made a fine stop to ensure we remained scoreless.
John Scott was more of a factor all round in this encounter and his big hit deep in the Marlies zone freed the puck in a good position for Angelo Miceli, but the centreman fired wide.
Freddie Gauthier then showed some poor judgement in taking a penalty but after surviving one turnover, the Marlies penalty kill stepped up to deny the home team a solitary chance. The aforementioned Scott was even receiving special team minutes and his penalty sent Toronto on a power play themselves after a few seconds of 4-on-4 play.
The Marlies were better on the man advantage but they didn’t fire the puck on net regularly enough to really test Pasquale this time around.
Toronto would need to kill a second penalty with Viktor Loov in the box. Again the PK unit stepped up but upon the resumption of even strength play, Toronto were almost the victims of a poor non-call from the officials. Coming out of his own zone with the puck, Loov was clearly tripped from behind but the officials whistles remained silent. Possession fell to Michael McCarron who fed Tim Bozon backdoor but there was Sparks again to the rescue with a wonderful sprawling save that was far more effective than elegant. Darren Dietz would be the next to test Toronto’s goaltenders while McCarron turned provider for Max Friberg but the Marlies defense did a good job of smothering the play.
It was the road team who finished stronger in the opening period with Nylander watching in disbelief as Pasquale pulled off a wonderful save to deny him. A last minute spell of possession was the precursor for a second period of utter domination for the Marlies, who could have been ahead by a hatful after forty minutes.
It was the Marlies make-shift fourth line of T.J Foster, Rylan Schwartz and David Kolomatis who set the tone for their team, with an excellent first shift. Kasperi Kapanen has been nothing but terrific since the World Juniors and his short side effort flicked off the blocker of Pasquale ended the wrong side of the post from Toronto’s point of view.
Zach Hyman was enjoying himself paired with Kapanen and Nylander with the latter teeing him up but Pasquale turned aside his low shot. It was the Finnish goal medal winner who finally cracked the home teams defense in providing the game’s opening goal. Bud Holloway coughed up the puck and Kapanen was onto it like a flash, speeding away down the right side. He fooled the IceCaps with a really nice pass to find Brett Findlay marauding down the centre of the ice. The native of Echo Bay, Ontario has been one of Toronto’s nice surprises this season and he sniped home his second of the season.
It could have immediately been 2-0 as Stuart Percy’s shot was expertly tipped in front by Frattin but Pasquale adapted well to get a piece of the effort.
It was one way traffic and Toronto were even getting the calls from the officials, ending up with a two man advantage after a poor decision from the men wearing black and white. Nikita Soshnikov would ring a shot off the post while Findlay’s effort brought another fine save from Pasquale after the puck had bounced around the slot. With eight minutes of the middle frame to play, Toronto had fired 14 shots in the period compared to one for the home team such was their utter superiority.
Nylander would take his second penalty in as many games after watching Pasquale deny him once again. Toronto’s penalty kill stood tall thanks to the excellence of Sparks and some very brave shot-blocking in front of him. Connor Brown even came close to tallying short-handed after Hyman won possession in the defensive zone.
Despite firing 19 times on Pasquale, the Marlies would only have the one goal lead to show for their supremacy after two periods of play
Another power play went begging for Toronto early in the final frame and Sparks had to be alert as the home team used that momentum to test him back at even strength.
Tobias Lindberg was having a better game alongside Soshnikov and Gauthier and he almost teed up the latter for the second goal of the game. The Marlies were finally rewarded and doubled their lead three minutes into the third period. Findlay was unable to connect with Frattin’s superb cross crease feed but he stayed with the play and corralled the puck at the backboards. Using his ingenuity with no obvious play available, Findlay banked the puck in off the backside of Pasquale who wasn’t best positioned on this occasion. A really good if unexpected finish from Findlay whose confidence has doubtless been higher than it is right now
There was no sitting back from the Marlies who kept pouring forward, looking to kill this game off as a contest. Hyman would be denied on a wraparound attempt and Brown came within inches of putting home another fine delivery from Frattin.
Toronto’s frustrations with the man advantage continued ,with the lack of puck luck noticeable around the net with rebounds not quite failing as they otherwise might..
Seconds after killing the penalty, St. John’s orchestrated a 2-on-1 rush but Rinat Valiev made a tremendous diving play to extinguish the chance.
As time wore on, the game really opened up as the IceCaps began to throw caution to the win.
Soshnikov and Lindberg would both be denied on an outstanding shift from their line before the parade of penalties began again. Toronto’s sixth power play of the game was halted by a ridiculous interference call on Stuart Percy. To the IceCaps credit, they profited from their good fortune 33 seconds into the man advantage. That man Holloway again, who blasted home a one timer from the left circle on a feed from Morgan Ellis, to break the shutout. A 2-1 game with just over three minutes to play meant anything was still possible and the home crowd certainly raised the roof to get behind their team. Toronto responded by sticking to their structure, even though the IceCaps pulled Pasquale for the majority of the remaining 120 seconds. Sparks would only really be called upon to make one decent save with under ten seconds to play to secure a thoroughly well deserved win.
Post Game Notes:
Brett Findlay’s first multi-goal game in the AHL and he could have had a hat-trick. He’s found some chemistry centred between Matt Frattin and Connor Brown in this depleted line-up, and Orlando might be a distant memory for him this season.
Matt Frattin fired eights shots on net, equalling a career high. It’s hard to say this trade has sparked him into life but he looked much improved this weekend and things happen when he shoots the puck. He could also have had a handful of assists instead of the one, with more puck luck.
For a fourth straight game Kasperi Kapanen tallied at least a point, with the Finnish winger now having recorded ten (Three goals/Seven assists) in his last nine outings since his return from the World Juniors.
The Marlies fired a season high 46 shots, in a game more notable for Toronto’s structure rather than the type of “tennis” hockey we’ve seen from them lately. Something Garret Sparks noted upon in his post game presser.
Speaking of Sparks, he had his best game of late, benefiting from an outing in Orlando and doubtless a week of practise with Pierro Greco.
Toronto’s power play went zero for six but looked a far more potent weapon.