A haul of four points from three games would have been the minimum requirement for Toronto and that’s what they duly achieved. It really should have been at least a point more but it’s a healthy return from a three-in-three weekend with travel involved and the Marlies wretched road record
Though still sixth in the North Division with only Rochester below them, Toronto are still within striking distance of the Utica Comets with a little less than half the season remaining.
Special teams proved crucial in the two victories.
Though earning just ten opportunities with the extra man through three games, a 50% strike rate was achieved with a power play goal in each outing.
The penalty kill was similarly successful, conceding just once during ten times short-handed.
It proved a weekend of milestones and personal firsts, for players old and young, beginning with the game on Friday night.
Friday, January 20, 2017 Toronto Marlies 7 @ Hartford Wolf Pack 4
Added by a red-hot power play, the Toronto Marlies found their shooting boots against the 30th ranked team.
A pair of goals from Andrew Nielsen put the Marlies up 2-0 less than 9 nine minutes into the game including an opening power play marker.
Hartford would half the deficit thanks to an error from the visitors, who would hold a 2-1 lead through twenty minutes.
A six-goal second period began with a bang. Andreas Johnsson and Trevor Moore scoring two goals inside the opening two minutes as Toronto stretched out to a 4-1 advantage.
It was short-lived as two pieces of poor play allowed the Wolf Pack to strike twice themselves.
The second was a short-handed marker and pulled the home team within one.
Straight from the face-off and still on the power play, Brett Findlay scored his first of the season.
After five goals in seven minutes, the sixth wouldn’t come until late in the middle frame. Findlay once more finding the net after good work from Kerby Rychel.
Findlay was on fire and tallied once again for the hat-trick just 2:20 into the third period, the first of his professional career.
Hartford would have a few near misses but never looked like recovering from such a huge deficit, only scoring once more late in the game when it was over as a contest.
Saturday, January 21, 2017 Toronto Marlies 3 @ Bridgeport Sound Tigers 4
Despite an astonishing comeback to tie the game after trailing 3-0, the Toronto Marlies fell to yet another frustrating one goal defeat.
Toronto found themselves down early after allowing two goals in 69 seconds, with Bridgeport hitting the post in-between times.
The closest the Marlies came to getting on the board was a short-handed breakaway by Tony Cameranesi but he was denied by a fine save. The visitors showed some promise during the final five minutes of the opening period but found themselves down 3-0 early in the middle frame after being made to pay for another turnover in their own zone.
The turning point came at the midway point of the game as Toronto tallied on the power play.
Andres Johnsson was alert to a broken play to jam home from in-tight and five minutes later the Marlies drew within one.
Travis Dermott scoring his first professional after Brendan Leipsic had gone close himself.
It was a brand new game less than two minutes into the third period as Brett Findlay struck for the fourth time over the weekend on another assist from Kerby Rychel.
Toronto’s penalty kill had been excellent throughout but they couldn’t hold Bridgeport at bay for a fifth time. Viktor Loov assessed a double minor for an altercation with Steve Bernier following a questionable hit on Johnsson.
Bracken Kearns showed why he was the Sound Tigers leading scorers by putting home a rebound for what would turn out to be the game winner.
The Marlies threw everything they could at the home team and at the very end created two good chances for Brendan Leipsic. Toronto’s leading scorer was denied by Jaroslav Halak as Bridgeport held on to deny the Marlies a point.
Sunday, January 22, 2017 Toronto Marlies 2 @ Springfield Thunderbirds 1
Far from a classic between two teams playing their third game in as many days but the Marlies put in a resilient performance to prevail.
The home side were by far the better in the opening twenty minutes – out-shooting Toronto 13-6 and grabbing the first goal of the game late in proceedings. A terrific shot from Kyle Rau beat Garret Sparks and found the net via the inside of his far post.
Without some fine saves from their goaltender, the Marlies would have found themselves down by more than one after twenty minutes.
Sparks would be called into action three times in the first 70 seconds of the middle frame but his endeavour would not prove in vain.
Good work from Andrew Campbell to keep the puck in the offensive zone, allowed him to dish off to Trevor Moore who in turn set up Marc-Andre Cliché to tie the game from the blue paint.
The road team were now well on doubt and creating some decent scoring opportunities.
A powerplay in the last five minutes of the second period would prove decisive to the outcome.
Rau found himself on a short-handed breakaway but would denied a second goal of the game by a fine stop from Sparks. Toronto proceeded to go straight back up the ice and Byron Froese put home the rebound after a strong drive to the net by Kerby Rychel.
Up 2-1 with twenty minutes to play the signs appeared promising but disaster struck thirty seconds into the final frame. Brendan Leipsic was rocked by a huge hit from Rau right by the Marlies bench. The left winger struggled to get to his feet and would not return to the game after heading to the dressing room.
It was now a case of whether Toronto could cope with one less body on a tired team and see out victory. They did so with the help of a handful of fine saves from Sparks and a gritty, determined performance from the group, with every player leaving everything on the ice in the cause for victory.
Kerby Rychel recorded seven assists, lifting himself to fourth in Marlies scoring.
Brett Findlay netted his first goals of the season for Toronto in scoring a first professional hat-trick. He would finish the weekend with four goals in total as his line including Kerby Rychel and Eric Faille found immediate chemistry.
Andreas Johnsson netted twice, taking his goals tally to double figures, becoming just the fourth Marlies player to do so this season
A three point weekend for Andrew Nielsen which included him registering his 20th assist. He continues to be second in rookie defenseman scoring and eighth overall amongst blue liners.
Byron Froese was another player to record three points. A pair of goals takes his seasonal tally to 16, just two shy of his 2014-15 haul.
Trevor Moore has managed to generate some offense playing alongside Tony Cameranesi. He helped himself to a goal and two assists, including his first multi-point game in the victory over Hartford.
Reassigned from the Leafs to the Marlies, Seth Griffith made his debut Saturday night. Found some immediate chemistry with Byron Froese and Brendan Leipsic. Considering the amount of travel he had to incur and then being thrown into an unfavourable situation, a pair of assists was a good haul. There’s likely better to come with familiarisation, from a player who has dominated the AHL in his short career.
Travis Dermott has waited a long time for his first professional goal and it certainly wasn’t a classic by his own admission! He was excellent this weekend, showing composure beyond his years, during the final minutes of Sunday’s victory. It’s taken a while, but he’s back to the form he showed pre-injury.
Garret Sparks won both his starts, taking his record to 7-5-0-2. He was excellent during Sunday’s win over Springfield, stopping 32 shots and his overall save percentage sits at 0.928.
Andrew Campbell and Justin Holl were paired together this weekend and both hit personal milestones. Campbell played his 600th professional game Friday night, while Sunday’s game was the 100th in the AHL for Holl.
Willie Corrin was added to the roster from Brampton and made a single start on Sunday. A really solid performance from a defenseman very much on the fringe this season and did his chances of another opportunity, no harm at all.
Daniel Maggio, Ty Stanton and Shane Conacher have been reassigned to Orlando, while defenseman Nikolas Brouillard has been recalled for the first time this season.
Milan Michalek managed just a single outing during Friday’s game but absent throughout was Rinat Valiev. The defenseman hasn’t featured since January 11.
Brendan Leipsic’s lone helper was his 100th AHL career assist. His injury occurred on Sunday is a crushing blow to the Marlies who are already without Kasperi Kapanen. There is no update regarding his status at the time of writing.