The divisional games are coming thick and fast right now – each taking on more relevance as the league enters the last third of the season.
A 2-1-1-0 record for Toronto this past week having faced Albany and Utica twice.
A points haul of five which could have easily have been better but for blown leads, or substantially worse had the power play not excelled.
Sheldon Keefe will doubtless have been happy that his team has been finding a way to win until the most recent outing..
Wednesday’s lost to Utica broke a five game points streak for the Marlies – a run for form that has seen them climb into third place in the North Division and significantly increase their chances of making the post-season.
Special teams played a pivotal role in every game, with the bare statistics looking fantastic until both units went haywire most recently in Utica. Both the power play and the penalty kill went to work on twenty occasions and Toronto were a plus one, having scored five and allowed four.
There were also four short-handed goals, of which the Marlies also won that argument by a 3-1 margin.
The majority of Toronto’s success has been attained when out-shooting opponents (18-11-1-0) – a feat they failed to manage in any of the four games played. A respectable 120 shots were recorded by the Marlies during regulation but they allowed 145 against, an average over 36 per game.
Toronto faced the Albany Devils for the last ever time in the regular season, with New Jersey moving their affiliation to Binghamton for 2017-18. The Devils edged the season series 10-8 in points and as things currently stand, these two teams could yet meet again in the first round of the playoffs.
Friday, February 10, 2017 Toronto Marlies 6 @ Utica Comets 4
The Marlies penchant for slow starts saw them allow the first two goals of the game inside ten minutes.
Utica should really have taken a 3-0 lead but Toronto escaped a poor period down by a single marker. Andreas Johnsson tallied on the power play with nine seconds of the opening frame remaining.
The game turned on it’s head in the second, as the Marlies struck twice more on the power play through Dmytro Timashov and Byron Froese, to go ahead 3-2.
In-between times, the Comets missed several opportunities and were made to pay for those a minute before the buzzer.
After multiple near misses, Seth Griffith scored Toronto’s first even strength goal of the game, for a 4-2 lead with twenty minutes to play.
Three minutes into the third period and it was once again a tied hockey game. The Marlies were half asleep as Wacey Hamilton and Carter Bancks both found the net for the home team.
The Comets would take a penalty and Toronto’s power play rescued them again, halting the home team’s momentum and altering the course of the game.
Trevor Moore scoring his seventh of the year from Colin Smith and Frank Corrado. After killing just their second penalty of the game, the Marlies then proceeded to play their best brand of even strength hockey for the final ten minutes. The win secured by an empty net goal from Johnsson.
Saturday, February 11, 2017 Albany Devils 5 @ Toronto Marlies 4 OT
Toronto led 3-0 and 4-1 but were unable to close out victory against the team one place above them in the standings.
Eric Faille opened the scoring less than three minutes in with a wraparound finish following a stretch pass from Tony Cameranesi. Byron Froese doubled the lead after Seth Griffith and Trevor Moore had both laid their body’s on the line to make a play.
During a brief penalty kill following 4-on-4 action, Travis Dermott scored just his second of the second to out Toronto up 3-0 with 15:50 on the clock.
Taking their foot of the gas, the Marlies were made to pay 41 seconds before the intermission.
Petr Straka putting home the rebound after an initial drive to the net from Jacob MacDonald.
The tide had turned with that goal and Albany were the better team during the middle frame.
The only two goals scored during the second period would both be scored on an Albany power play in the final minutes.
Justin Holl with a coast to coast rush down the left wing, before cutting across the crease and beating MacKenzie Blackwood.
The euphoria of the short-handed tally and a 4-1 lead lasted mere seconds. The Devils netting on their power play to trail by just two through forty minutes.
The road team would be dominant in the final frame, out-shooting the Marlies 17-4.
Antoine Bibeau making a series of fine saves to preserve the lead but Albany kept pressing to finally receive their just desserts.
Ben Sexton with a pair of goals, the second with 34 seconds left on the lock to send the game into overtime. Both teams came close to winning and a shootout looked odds-on before an error from Trevor Moore. Yohann Auvitu took advantage to seal the extra point for the road team and capped an impressive comeback.
Sunday, February 12, 2017 Albany Devils 2 @ Toronto Marlies 6
Less than 24 hours after surrendering a pair of three goals leads, Toronto were able to bounce back to victory thanks to some clinical finishing.
Travis Dermott put the home team ahead at the three minute mark with a power play marker but the Marlies weren’t able to build on that. Having to kill three penalties in the opening twenty minutes, Toronto were only able to muster five shots to Albany’s eleven.
A fast start to the second period saw the home team double their lead thanks to Justin Holl.- who made use of the extra space during 4-on-4 action.
Albany responded 18 seconds later. Carter Camper reacting first to a rebound after Sparks had initially blocked Josh Jacobs effort.
The Marlies were guilty of too many infractions during this game but would re-establish a two goal advantage during an Albany power play.
Byron Froese finishing five-hole on a breakaway for his 23rd goal of the season.
As they had done the day before, Albany responded by scoring on the same power play – Reece Scarlet with the perfectly placed one time shot from the left circle.
The visitors would have chances to level the score line in the first ten minutes of the final frame.
Garret Sparks came up with fine stops to ensure the fragile lead remained intact and three quick tallies killed the game dead.
Corrado, Holl and Johnson all netted in the space of three minutes to enable Toronto to cruise to victory, albeit with a final margin of victory that failed to tell the whole story.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 Toronto Marlies 2 @ Utica Comets 5
Special teams have helped the Marlies win games they shouldn’t have in recent weeks but proved their downfall in this defeat.
During a cagey first period, in which Toronto played their best hockey of the game, Andreas Johnsson would tally the opening goal.
The middle frame would prove a penalty ridden affair and it was the Comets who came out on top despite being in the box on four occasions to the Marlies two.
It took less than two minutes of the second period for Utica to tie up the game. Borna Rendulic beating a floundering Garret Sparks with a backhand shot.
The home team really should have taken the lead but missed some glorious chances to do so.
They were made to pay for that after Toronto put in their best shift at even strength of the period.
Frederik Gauthier’s line had Utica running around, drawing a delayed penalty before Andrew Nielsen launched a customary rocket from the blue line for his tenth goal of the season.
Twenty seconds later and Dmytro Timashov split the Comets defense but was hauled back.
Toronto’s stuttering PP once again failed to connect and gifted Utica a short-handed marker through some lackadaisical play.
The Comets go-ahead goal and eventual game winner would turn out to be somewhat controversial. Sparks indicating to officials that his net was off it’s mooring before the puck even entered the Marlies zone. He was ignored and the home team would eventually score on a shot from the point.
Toronto never looked like mounting a comeback in the final period – mustering just five shots through twenty minutes of play. The insurance tally was a backhand shot that Sparks would want back and the fifth goal against came courtesy of a total breakdown from the Marlies penalty kill.
Byron Froese led the way with six points (3G/3A) and see’s him atop the AHL’s scoring charts. His 23 goals is tied for league best with Chicago’s Wade Megan.
Frank Corrado has proved an excellent addition to the Marlies blue line and added an offensive boost. Five assists and a first goal for Toronto this past week, giving him nine points in twelve games overall.
Andreas Johnsson is having his best run of scoring form and helped himself to four goals and an assist.
Now sixth in Marlies scorers with 29 points through 50 games, the Swedish forward is one of only two ever-presents for Toronto this season.
Colin Smith might be struggling to find the net but he assisted on four goals and in the process registered his 100th career AHL assist.
Justin Holl scored his first goal of the season back on October 23. It’s taken him until this past weekend to find the net again and he did so on three occasions, including a highlight reel short-handed tally.
He has the skill set to be a far more consistent producer offensively and hopefully a four point week is a much needed confidence boost for him.
Andrew Campbell is another defenseman who’s found offense hard to come by this season. Three helpers for him this week and he could easily have potted a couple of goals with a little more fortune.
He joined Colin Smith by also registering his 100th career AHL assist.
It was never going to continue forever, as Seth Griffith saw his points streak halted in his eleventh game.
Griffith went pointless in his last two outings, with Wednesday’s performance proving his most ineffectual thus far.
Trevor Moore’s three point haul took his season’s total to twenty points in just 33 games.
Goals in consecutive games for Travis Dermott, including a first power play marker for the rookie defenseman.
A pair of points for Kerby Rychel included his 20th assist of the season.
Dmytro Timashov has proven himself a consistent points producer in the last couple of weeks.
Three points in the last four games, and eight in his last nine, including four goals.
Some small milestones for Andrew Nielsen, who scored his tenth goal and registered his 30th point of the season in the process. That broke a six game pointless streak for the rookie defenseman.
Brooks Laich made his return from injury, playing for the first time since December 17.
With injuries on the blue line, Toronto have attained Alex Gudbranson on load from Minnesota. In the final year of his entry level contract, Gudbranson has been playing in the ECHL for Quad City Mallards. The defenseman made an inauspicious debut for the Marlies in the loss to Utica.