In front of over 7,000 raucous children in a school day game at Ricoh Coliseum, two unlikely heroes led the Toronto Marlies to their most fortunate win of the season.
Toronto were inept beyond belief through forty minutes, and the visiting Syracuse Crunch should have held a bigger advantage than a 2-0 lead.
Dmytro Timashov and Brett Findlay both stepped up to the plate, to ensure the Marlies kept their recent good run of results going.
The opening minute of play was about the only positive to take from the first period.
Shane Conacher and Andreas Johnsson both forcing Adam Wilcox into making some alert saves.
From that point on, Toronto were second best in almost every facet.
An inability to win any puck battles was allowing Syracuse to spend prolonged spells in the offensive zone, leading to opportunities and drawing the first penalty of the game.
Six seconds after the penalty expired, Syracuse opened the scoring after Sparks failed to grab hold of a shot in front. He wasn’t helped out by his team-mates however, as once again the visitors won the battle in front – Cory Conacher credited with a final touch through the scrum
Sparks redeemed himself somewhat thirty second later, pulling off a blocker save to deny an excellent opportunity for Kevin Lynch.
Toronto only chance of note bar the opening sixty seconds came with 7:30 remaining.
Seth Griffith leading a rush with Colin Greening but the latter would see his effort smothered.
Syracuse would strike for a second time inside the last five minutes. Frank Corrado did a fantastic job of denying a 2-on-1 break but Syracuse regained possession easily. Cory Conacher was somehow left uncovered in the high slot and he blasted a one timer over the shoulder of Sparks.
The middle frame was highly forgettable for both team, though for differing reasons.
Toronto managed just one shot on target, whilst Syracuse failed to capitalise on a host of chances to take the game away from the home team.
Just over two minutes in and Toronto were presented with a four minute power play.
Not only did the home side not threaten the visitors net, they almost allowed a short-handed goal on two occasions.
A turnover from Timashov resulted in a chance for Erik Condra, but his shot was a tame effort.
Cory Conacher was then gifted a breakaway but his attempt appeared to clip the outside of the post on it’s way wide of goal.
The Marlies comfortable killed a penalty before heading back on the power play but it was the same story as before. Cory Conacher had a pair of excellent chances but Sparks denied him both times.
A lack of a killer instincts from the visitors allowed Toronto to remain unscathed and begin the unlikeliest of comebacks in the third period.
It was a pad save from Sparks that would lead to an important early strike for the Marlies.
Kerby Rychel picked up possession on the left wall and immediately sent Brett Findlay away down the same side of the ice.
With space to manoeuvre, Findlay drove to the net and across the net, evading an attempted poke check from Wilcox before sliding the puck home on his backhand.
Just 67 seconds into the final frame and the game had a different complexion.
Toronto were flying for the next few shifts and almost tied up proceedings via a face-off win. Justin Holl letting rip from the left circle and the puck proceeded to bounce off bodies before Wilcox dove back into his crease to stop it bouncing past him.
Another effort from Holl was so nearly tipped home by Shane Conacher, who then proceeded to hit the crossbar with his next attempt.
Syracuse would weather the storm and pushed back strongly.
Griffith almost gifted them a third goal with his turnover allowing a 2-on-0 break. He was reprieved however, as Henri Ikonen whiffed on an intended pass, allowing trailing Marlies players a chance to clear the danger.
An undisciplined slashing penalty from Mike Halmo halted the visitors spell of dominance and would see Toronto tie up the game with ten minutes to play.
Trevor Moore and Rychel would both go close to netting before an offensive face-off win proved key.
It was the only influence Brooks Laich had on this game, but his win on the dot would result in Colin smith striking a shot against the iron. In on the rebound before everyone else was Dmytro Timashov, and the rookie forward made no mistake.
The Marlies would not be able to build on that tying goal, as Andrew Campbell was called for spearing.
The penalty kill remained steadfast as Syracuse continued to struggle with the extra man.
The two teams would both have a couple of chances to take victory in regulation but neither could apply the finishing touch.
A drive to the net from Greening ended in something resembling a rugby scrum but the puck remained the wrong side of the goal line from the home team’s point of view.
Another face-off win, this time from Greening, allowed Corrado to direct a booming shot on net and the rebound lay in the crease. Various sticks were flailing at the loose puck but it was a Syracuse piece of lumber that got there first to allay the danger.
It was off to overtime but the fervent crowd would not have long to wait for a deciding tally.
Griffith, Greening and Dermott dominated the opening minute of OT but it was the next shift who jumped on a tired three man Syracuse crew.
Rychel dispossessed Condra and then drew two men toward him as he drove to the net on his backhand. Spinning back onto his forehand, Rychel found Holl to his left, and the defenseman waited for the perfect moment to slide a pass to Findlay driving down the slot.
The man who began the comeback ensured it’s completion with a calm and collected low finish past Wilcox.
Post Game Notes:
A fourth straight win for Toronto, which equals their longest streak of this season.
The Marlies are now just two points behind both Albany and Syracuse for the divisional lead.
Toronto’s goal differential is +20, which is at least sixteen better than any other team in the North Division.
Three goals and four points in two games for Brett Findlay. He’s been dynamite since being paired back with Kerby Rychel (two assists in this game), and Andreas Johnsson placed on the right wing.
Dmytro Timashov is riding a four game point streak, in which he has three goals to his name.
Garret Sparks would want the first goal back and possibly feels he should have done better with the second. He did make 28 saves however, including a handful on excellent opportunities for Syracuse.
Sparks has won seven of eight games during February.
Rich Clune was injured in Monday’s game and did not dress today.
Shane Conacher and Mason Marchment both made a positive impact considering a quick turnaround for them and having played a lot of hockey for Orlando of late.
It was announced on the broadcast that Associate Coach Gord Dineen had been relieved of his duties by the Toronto Marlies before the game. No details were forthcoming.