Special teams and goaltending were the difference between these two bitter rivals, as they did battle for the last time this season.
This was an all or nothing game for the IceCaps, as they were required to run the board the rest of the way to even have a shot at making the post season.
It’s a different story for the Marlies, who made yet more changes to their line-up as the organisation is taking the chance to look at different prospects.
Recent ATO signings Jordan Hickmott and Ty Stanton both made their debuts while Shane Conacher was making his second appearance.
The opening twenty minutes was pretty much a snooze fest as neither team really got going, sharing a paltry twelve shots.
Toronto had the opening pair of efforts on net and Rich Clune should have done better than to fire wide on a rebound opportunity from Shane Conacher’s initial attempt.
Neither goaltender was really tested until twelve minutes had elapsed and both came up with a dandy save a piece.
Antoine Bibeau doing well to glove a measured wrist shot from Morgan Ellis who has enjoyed plenty of success against Toronto this season. Seconds later and it was Eddie Pasquale with an even better save. Clune finding Freddie Gauthier sneaking in backdoor but the IceCaps goaltender denied the centre man with a right toe save.
The Marlies would kill the only penalty of the period late on and almost tallied upon it’s expiry.
Mark Arcobello with a trademark wicked wrist shot from the left circle which saw Pasquale flash the leather to deny him. From the resulting face-off Kasperi Kapanen would also be stopped by Pasquale and the game would be scoreless after the opening period.
The middle frame turned into a special teams battle in which Toronto were able to come out on top.
Penalties taken by Max Friberg and John Scott (double minor) handed the Marlies a two man advantage for 29 seconds early in the piece.
Despite Arcobello being robbed with almost half a cage to fire into, Toronto would score with the one extra man.
Colin Smith finding Sam Carrick by the side of the net and the centre man spun and tried to slam the puck home. Pasquale made the save but the rebound fell to Tobias Lindberg to tap home his 11th of the season.
Just 24 seconds later and Toronto made it 2-0 back at even strength.
It was the Matt Frattin of old as he split the defense with speed and hurdled past two opponents before delivering a perfect cross ice feed. Gauthier was the trailing man driving to the net and he made no mistake for a well earned tally that his play deserved.
Following the second goal, Brendan Leipsic was called for boarding after hitting Gabriel Dumont, with the IceCaps captain having gotten himself into an awkward position.
St. John’s were guilty of too often firing wide on the five minutes of power play time, while Bibeau deflected any shots on net away to safety.
Ryan Johnson would come the closet to getting the IceCaps on the board but his shot clanged off the iron.
Despite some tired legs, Toronto were able to survive for five minutes but were right back on the penalty kill with Charles Hudon somehow managing to draw a call on Taylor Doherty but getting away Scott free himself.
It mattered not as the home team’s penalty kill units were at their best to protect Bibeau, with plenty of blocked shots, especially from Gauthier.
It was as if both teams had exhausted themselves on special teams and the remaining time at even strength produced nothing of note, as Toronto gratefully took a deserved 2-0 lead into the third period.
Taking the bull by the horns early in the final frame, Toronto never looked like relinquishing their advantage and set about the visitors with gusto.
Kapanen, Arcobello and Josh Leivo combined in a wonderful piece of played that resulted in the latter not quite able to chip the puck past Pasquale. They would draw a penalty on the shift however and would result in the home team scoring a third.
The goal judge would be a little premature after a shot had hit the cross bar and the rebound looped off Clune and somehow wide of the net, but the red light would be pressed correctly shortly after.
More terrific and swift puck movement from Smith and Leipsic never allowed the IceCaps to settle and Carrick was on hand to tuck away the rebound.
The special teams battle continued as it was back to the penalty kill for Toronto and St. John’s came awfully close to solving Bibeau. A stinging shot from Bud Holloway hit the post dead on and fell to Dumont standing by the side of the net. Bibeau reacted quick as a flash to jam his right toe against the post to deny what looked a certain goal.
Following the kill, the Marlies poured on the pressure and the visitors were seemingly unable to stay out of the box.
St. John’s were able to kill one penalty but would be undone on the following occasion.
Josh Leivo drew a penalty from Bozon after a fantastic shift and Toronto were gifted a two man advantage after Pasquale fired the puck out of play
Some rapid, precision passing from Leivo and Arcobello never allowed Pasquale to settle and Leipsic smashed home from the right side, with the IceCaps net minder unable to get back across to his left in time.
An eight power play for Toronto almost saw them score for the fourth time with the man advantage.
Another blistering shot from Leivo produced a second effort for Arcobello who was yet again denied.
The only question left was whether Bibeau could record a shutout, with the two points firmly secured.
He would be tested with Carrick and then Clune heading to the box inside the final three minutes or so.
Toronto would hold firm to secure a 4-0 victory in what was one of their better performances against St. John’s this season.
Post Game Notes:
Toronto wrapped up the series by winning the last two games at home and a 6-5-1-0 record.
The Marlies became the first team to hit 100 points this season (101).
The power play went 3/8 while the penalty kill was a perfect six for six.
Sam Carrick scored his seventh goal in nine games. He’s riding a six game point streak.
Colin Smith has four multi-point games in his last nine outings. That’s 16 points in 15 games since being traded.
Antoine Bibeau registered his second shutout of the season, both recorded this month.
Brendan Leipsic scored his fourth goal in six games, taking his tally to twenty for the season.
Mark Arcobello fired a season high ten shots but was unable to add to his goals tally. He did register a single assist and is riding a five game point streak.