The majority of Toronto Marlies losses last season were not due to a lack of talent but an incomplete effort over sixty minutes and poor discipline.
It was somewhat fitting then when this years first reverse was due to a repeat of those issues for this young group.
The opening period featured just ten shots on net – three of those by the hosts who really should have opened the scoring inside the opening four minutes.
Cole Schneider failed to hit the target with a one-timer from the slot after Toronto neglected to clear their own zone on multiple occasions.
Hudson Fasching and Evan Rodrigues were the next to waste opportunities just in front of the scrambling Garret Sparks.
Schneider fired wide on a giveaway before going on to take the first penalty of the game – sending the Marlies on the power play.
Toronto would create just one chance, Andreas Johnsson denied by Linus Ullmark on a broken play.
Alex Nylander is playing for Rochester after being selected by the Sabres in 2016 draft, but was unable to emulate his brother, firing wide when trying to go short side from a promising position.
A second straight Marlies power play proved unsuccessful, though Nikita Soshnikov should have hit the target from the bottom of the left circle as Ullmark was untested through 120 seconds.
The remaining minutes of the opening period would be mostly dominated by the visitors but were unable to really cause the Amerks goaltender too many issues and Rinat Valiev’s late penalty halted the charge.
Toronto killed their first penalty of the game and created the opening chance of the second period.
Byron Froese teeing up Tobias Lindberg at the hash marks, but the winger fired high over the net.
The opening goal wasn’t long in coming, timed at 4:14.
Freddie Gauthier picking up a pass from Valiev and driving down the left wing and toward the net.
Drawing players toward him, the big centre man dished the puck off to his right and Kasperi Kapanen was left with the easiest of tap-ins to break the deadlock.
The momentum was with Toronto right now but weren’t able to be clinical when it truly mattered.
On a power play following the goal, Colin Smith had an open net to fire into but a weak short enabled Rochester’s Tyson Strachan to block the effort.
Brooks Laich, making his Marlies debut and first AHL appearance in ten years, fanned on his attempt from the slot with Ullmark scrambling to get across his net.
At even strength it was more of the same for Toronto, with Colin Greening and Valiev unable to test Rochester’s goaltender, whilst Johnsson’s backhand effort hit the post at the 8:30 mark.
During a second straight man advantage, Kapanen should have done better than to fire wide on a rebound effort and the power play was cut short with Soshnikov called for tripping.
Toronto would take two further penalties upon the Russian’s forward infraction completion and ultimately led to the home team tying up the game.
Colin Greening was unable to join his team-mates in time before Taylor Fedun released a booming shot from the left circle, that flew past Sparks and inside his right post.
Brendan Leipsic was arguably Toronto’s best player last weekend but with four minutes remaining in the middle frame, floundered in front of the net when one-on-one with Ullmark. Trying to be a little too fancy, the winger lost a handle and the chance passed him and Toronto by.
The final two minutes of the middle frame and opening sixty seconds of the third period would alter the course of the game.
Toronto were controlling the puck in Rochester’s zone before rookie Andrew Nielsen misplayed at the blue line, allowing Fasching an uncontested breakaway.
Sparks stayed deep in this crease and the Amerks right winger had little trouble in giving his team a 2-1 lead.
A too man men penalty meant the Marlies would enter the final twenty on the penalty kill and soon found themselves down by a pair of goals.
A high wrist shot from Fedun was tipped in front by Justin Bailey and Sparks was picking the puck out of his net for the third time.
It could quickly have been a fourth time but for a smart poke-check to deny Dan Catennaci.
Toronto bounced back to create two good chances.
Kerby Rychel firstly on a breakaway but his backhand attempt around the left side of Ullmark brought a fine pad save from the goaltender.
Some fine team work from the Marlies forced Rochester into a cheap turnover in front of the home team’s net but Kapanen had seemingly lost his scoring touch.
The Marlies would finally pull within one thanks to a simple play from their captain.
Andrew Campbell putting a high wrist shot on net from the right side of the blue line, and Froese was able to deflect it by Ullmark.
Colin Smith was having one his poorer games in front of net and fired wildly high when presented with a chance to tie the game.
Even on a following penalty kill, the Amerks sixth straight power play of the game, it was Toronto who orchestrated the best scoring opportunity. Justin Holl was sent on a breakaway but Ullmark turned aside the defenseman’s backhand effort.
The home team were looking to cling onto what they hard and almost encouraged the visitors to push on.
Nielsen and Laich both hit the target but were denied while Smith’s troubles continued as he failed to convert on what was the Marlies 30th effort on net
The Marlies lack of discipline came back to bite them as they took a penalty with 4:17 remaining.
However as Rochester sat back even with the extra man, it almost looked as though it was Toronto were on the power play, creating some half chances.
When the Amerks finally decided to push back offensively, the game was done as a contest.
Casey Nelson finding the net with a one-timer from the right circle and killed any dreams of a comeback for the visitors.
Sparks was sent to the bench for the remainder of the game but it proved to no avail, as the salt was firmly rubbed into the wound with an empty net goal.
A 5-2 final for Rochester flattered the home team, but they punished Toronto for their mistakes and were rewarded for their proficiency.
Post Game Notes:
Toronto out-shot Rochester 36-21.
Special teams proved vital as Rochester were 3/7 on the power play while Toronto were scoreless on four occasions.
Travis Dermott and Frederik Gauthier were the only skaters not to register a shot on net, while Justin Holl and Brendan Leipsic led the way with five a piece.
Brendan Leipsic’s lone assist was his sixth point in three games and he’s tied for the Marlies lead in scoring with Kasperi Kapanen, who tallied his second goal of the year.