The revolving door at Ricoh Coliseum was in full effect this past week but the Toronto Marlies were still a dominant force on the ice.
A perfect three for three against some tough opponents, the Marlies are now in touching distance of claiming the North Division title and Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy (Best regular season record).
Signed to Amateur Tryout’s were Shane Conacher, Jordan Hickmott, Kasimir Kaskisuo, Willie Corrin and 2011 fifth round selection, Tony Cameranesi.
Eric Faille and Brett Findlay were returned back to Orlando to help with the Solar Bears playoff push.
Heading up to the Toronto Maple Leafs were Kasperi Kapanen, T. J Brennan, Andrew Campbell to make his Leafs appearance and Tobias Lindberg who made his NHL debut. Frederick Gauthier would also receive a call-up after Milan Michálek’s injury.
With four gone, the same number returned in Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Rinat Valiev and Connor Carrick, who made his Marlies debut. After clearing waivers, Ben Smith was reassigned to the Marlies and suited up for the first time.
With a victory on Tuesday, Toronto finished on the right end of the series against St. Johns with a 6-5-1-0 record.
Lots of milestones and achievements this week including the Marlies became the first team to hit 100 points this season.
Kasimir Kaskisuo’s debut victory in Syracuse meant more than the young man may have imagined.
The win signified that the Marlies have now tied the AHL record for most starting goaltenders with a victory in a single season.
Those eight different goaltenders are; Antoine Bibeau, Jonathan Bernier, Ray Emery, Kasimir Kaskisuo, Rob Madore, Ryan Massa, Garret Sparks and Alex Stalock.
The Toronto Marlies tied their franchise high for wins in a season with 50, last accomplished in the 2007-08 season (80 games).
Special teams have been a thorny issue this season, especially the power play, but this week they proved difference makers. The power play was successful five times on 13 attempts while the penalty kill proved big in the wins against St. Johns and Grand Rapids, killing twelve of fourteen overall.
A rare Tuesday night game would be the final time Toronto and St. John’s faced off this season. After being giving the run-around by Montreal’s affiliate on many occasions this year, it was the Marlies chance to end the twelve game series on a winning note.
They did that by winning the special team battle and Antoine Bibeau out-duelling Eddie Pasquale. After a subdued opening twenty minutes, Toronto opened the scoring at Ricoh Coliseum with a marker with the man advantage from Tobias Lindberg.
Just 24 seconds later and Matt Frattin teed up Frederick Gauthier to make it 2-0. Both teams shared multiple power play opportunities during the middle frame but Toronto’s penalty kill held firm, even for a full five minutes after Brendan Leipsic was called for boarding. Sam Carrick and Leipsic would tally further power plays goals in the third period and the closest the visitors would come to beating Bibeau was when they twice hit the iron.
A well deserved victory for Toronto who finally managed to solve a team who had been their nemesis for much of the season. Final 4-0
Friday’s game in Syracuse saw a raft of new face hit the ice alongside Captain Rich Clune in the absence of Andrew Campbell. Despite all the changes and the decision to ice seven defensemen, it was the Marlies who dominated the opening 15 minutes of the opening period. Unable to find the net in part due to the brilliance of Kristers Gudlevksis in net, Syracuse gained a foothold in the game and opened the scoring through Jonathan Drouin. Toronto deservedly tied the game before the end of the period with the puck hitting debutant Ben Smith before it sneaked into the net.
The middle frame was a little more even and the two teams shared one goal a piece. Ben Smith netting his second with Syracuse striking a late power play goal to set up a tense third period. Josh Leivo scored a goal from literally nothing, with some assistance from mark Arcobello, which put the Marlies up 3-2 with seven minutes played. A desperate Syracuse team, striving for a late run at the playoffs, once again tied the game with a little over five minutes to play.
It was somewhat fitting for Toronto, that with all the young and new faces in the team that it would be a veteran who struck the game winner. Brendan Leipsic stripped Drouin of the puck before releasing Matt Frattin down the right wing. From the top of the right circle, Frattin struck a trademark wrist shot that beat Gudlevksis all ends up. Final 4-3
Back in Toronto to face Grand Rapids, there was not shortage of incident in an action packed matinee game on Saturday.
The Marlies took a ninth minute lead through the persistence of Zach Hyman but would have to kill four minutes of penalties after Rich Clune went in to defend Ty Stanton. Toronto would kill those penalties but some lax play allowed the Griffins to score back at even strength. The teams would exchange goals in the first six minutes of the middle frame, but Toronto would break the game open by hitting the twine twice in nine seconds.
Shane Conacher netting his first before Tony Cameranesi followed suit.
Grand Rapids were not down and out however and pulled within one, just 32 seconds into the third period. The Griffins created opportunities to tie the game on a following power play but Bibeau came up big for his team as they dodged a bullet.
A power play tally from Ben Smith at the seven minute mark eased Toronto nerves and knocked the wind out of the visitors somewhat. Sam Carrick iced the game with a great one time shot after a slick passing move involving Leipsic and Colin Smith. Final 6-3
Three points this week for Sam Carrick despite only playing in two games (healthy scratch in Syracuse).
Extends his point streak to seven and his overall total to 33 in 50 games.
Colin Smith was an assist machine this week with five helpers and now has 19 points in 17 games since joining the Marlies. His last five outings have produced three multi-point performances.
Six points for Brendan Leipsic, all spread equally amongst his three games. The lone goal was his 20th of the season, while the five assists helps take his points tally to 52 in 61 games.
Antoine Bibeau recorded his second shutout of the season in Tuesday’s victory over St. John’s
The win against Grand Rapids was Bibeau’s 25th of the season and 40th overall for the Marlies registered his second shutout of the season, both recorded this month.
Josh Leivo recorded a point in each game and is on a four game streak. Now on 45 points this season, bettering his rookie total of 42 in 59 games.
Mark Arcobello failed to score this week and this is his longest stretch of games without a goal since the turn of the year. Not for the want of trying however as he fired twenty shots. Still picked up two helpers for 55 points this season.
Ben Smith scored twice on debut in Syracuse and followed up with another goal and two assists against Grand Rapids. He’s certainly made an impact and is eligible for the Calder Cup playoff campaign.
Matt Frattin’s game winning goal versus Syracuse was his 14th in a Marlies uniform, moving him into sole possession of second on the all-time game winning goal leaders.
Kasimir Kuaskiso turned aside 26 shots to earn his first professional victory and his first victory as a member of the Toronto Marlies. There was a lot to like about the performance and the relative calmness he showed on debut against a talented Syracuse team.
Defenseman Ty Stanton recorded his first professional point, assisting on the second goal in Syracuse.
Tony Cameranesi first goal as a professional also turned out to be the game winner against the Griffins.
Shane Conacher registered his first point then goal, in the same game as Cameranesi.
Zach Hyman was imperious in the outing against Grand Rapids, recording three points. Certainly no let-down from being re-assigned and forged a nice combination with Ben Smith and Shane Conacher.
Fri, Apr 8, 2016 Lake Erie at Toronto 7:00 pm EDT
Sat, Apr 9, 2016 Toronto at Syracuse 7:00pm EDT
Sun, Apr 10, 2016 Toronto at Albany 3:00 pm EDT