Divisional rivals playing each other twice within 24 hours usually leads to some hostility between the two teams.
With the same four-man officiating crew thrown into the mix, this game would feature 27 infractions, 78 penalty minutes and a combined twenty power play opportunities.
Special teams would be the order of the day and it’s a battle Toronto prevailed in as they split the weekend series with the visiting Syracuse Crunch.
The parade to the penalty box began just 63 seconds in, with the home team called for too many men.
Toronto’s first penalty kill was excellent and set the tone for them in that department.
There would be very little in the way of goal scoring opportunities until Syracuse were called for three infractions in the space of two minutes and twenty seconds.
It was the visitors who had the first of those chances, Kerby Rychel turning the puck over to Cory Conacher who raced away alone on goal. Having scored twice during Saturday’s victory, it was somewhat surprising to see the Crunch forward fire wide of the target.
A one timer from Byron Froese would strike the crossbar but he would open the scoring during a two-man advantage for the Marlies, seconds after the post had been rattled by Dmytro Timashov.
Rychel and Seth Griffith would settle down the puck during the scramble and tee up Froese for his 18th goal of the season.
Back at even strength both teams failed to create much, though one piece of individual brilliance almost doubled Toronto’s lead.
Frederik Gauthier split the visiting defence with a burst of speed down the middle of the ice but failed to hit the target when looking to pick a corner.
Two penalties just seconds apart on the same play would lead to a full two minute 5-on-3 power play for the Marlies. Bar for one outstanding save from Adam Wilcox to deny Timashov’s backdoor effort, Toronto failed to seize upon the chance to build their lead.
Before the first period was over, another power play would go begging and Toronto would find themselves on the kill for the final 18 seconds.
The middle frame would provide the fewest amount of infractions but the home team would spend over eight minutes killing penalties.
After killing the infraction carried over from the opening period, Toronto would be back on the PK with Viktor Loov called for boarding.
Garret Sparks would only be called into action on one occasion to ensure the lead stayed intact .
Justin Holl and William Wrenn were the next defenseman to head to the box on separate occasions, as Toronto were guilty of taking four penalties in a twelve minute span.
In-between times, the Marlies were the better team during even strength play and created some openings.
Eric Faille shot over the net from the bottom of the right circle after Rychel’s endeavour had caused a turnover.
Faille then led an odd-man rush but Wilcox made the save from his effort and corralled the rebound to good effect.
Rychel and Rich Clune than harried the home defence – creating an opening from nothing but sadly Gauthier failed to hit the target once more from the slot.
The final eight minutes of the second period belonged to the Marlies and their dominance would eventually be rewarded.
A 3-on-2 break resulted in a cross ice feed to Andrew Campbell in the right circle, but the Captain’s booming slapshot smashed off the crossbar and into the netting. On the following face-off Trevor Moore and Froese would both be denied from the blue paint during a scramble in front of Wilcox.
Rychel would be the next man to tee up the Captain but Wilcox proved equal to his attempt with an excellent pad save.
After a spell of offensive zone time, in which Toronto showed a ton of patience with the puck, a second goal was deservedly scored with 37 seconds remaining. Campbell attempted a curl and drag move around his opponent but lost control at the vital moment. It mattered not as the puck slid to Froese who wasted no time in placing the puck past the glove of Wilcox, using a Syracuse defenseman as a screen.
All momentum was swiftly halted when Colin Smith chipped the puck out of play in his own zone with twenty seconds to play in the middle frame.
Sparks would be called upon to deny Matt Taormina and Conacher before the buzzer sounded.
Toronto’s penalty killed remained defiant in the third period and Gauthier so nearly extended his team’s lead. Having engineered his own breakaway, the centre would finally hit the target but Wilcox was equal to his effort.
The parade to the penalty box began in earnest once more, with four players called to take a seat in just two and a half minutes.
On their fifth two man advantage of the game, Toronto finally made Syracuse pay for their misdemeanours. Rychel with a fantastic redirect from a shot by Travis Dermott, and the home team now led 3-0.
The game boiled over shortly afterwards as the visitors frustrations were all too apparent.
An effort from Mike Halmo was well held by Sparks but hell broke loose as Dermott was targeted when trying to protect his goaltender from oncoming forwards.
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Halmo and Rychel would all be handed ten minute misconducts and Toronto would be presented with yet another power play.
Griffith would hit the crossbar before another rash of penalties would cut short the man advantage and eventually lead to the Marlies being down by two men.
Syracuse would get themselves on the board with their first 5-on-3 of the game.
Sparks made a right pad save to keep Conacher’s shot at bay but could do nothing to prevent Tanner Richard putting home the rebound.
There was still the best part of seven minutes to play and Syracuse struck for a second time just 102 seconds later.
The Crunch had pulled Wilcox whilst on another power play. Despite being unable to score with six skaters on the ice, the pressure finally resulted in a goal that Sparks would want back.
Toronto’s goaltender failed to get back into position properly after making a save from Conacher.
Though Adam Comrie was tight to the left boards, he just let fly on net and the puck hit the post before rebounding into the net via the back of Sparks.
The final five minutes would prove a frantic affair with no whistle forthcoming until there were thirty seconds left on the clock.
Sparks somewhat made up for his error by making a couple of solid saves but in the main Toronto stood firm and nullified the late push from the visitors.
Froese almost found the empty net inside the final minute for his hat-trick but it mattered not as the Marlies clung on for a vital two points.
Post Game Notes:
Victory means the Marlies are back to .500 and re-take fourth spot in the North Division.
Toronto were 2/11 on the powerplay and the penalty killed prevailed on eight of the nine occasions it went to work.
Byron Froese helped himself to three points for the third time this season. He now has 19 goals, which surpasses his seasonal best set in 2014-15.
A pair of points for Kerby Rychel, who was one of Toronto’s most effective players at even strength play. That breaks a four game pointless streak which had belied his current form.
Seth Griffith kept his record intact of scoring at least a point in every game thus far for the Marlies. Just a solitary assist on this occasion but he was luckless in front of goal today.
Andrew D’Agostini (Brampton Beast) was signed to a PTO and backed up Garret Sparks. Antoine Bibeau was reported to be suffering from an illness.