With the St. John’s IceCaps in town for a double-header, the Toronto Marlies required a bounce back performance after consecutive defeats.
It would be no easy task against an IceCaps team that has been on a good run of form and owns the best road form in the North Division.
This Saturday night tilt was certainly played at a frantic pace, befitting the importance of the points for both teams trying to secure a playoff spot.
The first whistle wouldn’t be blown until three minutes had transpired, with neither team able to sustain any time in their opponents zone.
Seth Griffith carved out the first chance, created mainly by his speed but Colin Greening’s one time shot nestled into the chest of Charlie Lindgren.
On a following power play it was Griffith again turning provider but Mike Sislo whistled a shot wide after winding up from the left circle.
Having killed the first penalty of the game, the IceCaps finally began to assert some pressure on the home team but Antoine Bibeau wasn’t called upon to make a save.
It was the visitors who came the closest to opening the scoring on their first power play at the nine minute mark. After Toronto had twice failed to clear their zone, Chris Terry clipped the crossbar with a ferocious one-timer effort.
The game was certainly chippy from the outset but Jeremy Gregoire went a little too far and as he sat in the box for roughing, Toronto opened the scoring.
Griffith found Andreas Johnsson low in the slot but instead of shooting, the Swedish winger dished off to Trevor Moore on his left. The latter would strike the post with a short-side attempt but wasted little time in recovering the rebound and scoring with a rapid wraparound.
Bibeau had been a passenger up until the opening tally but he would be called on to make some crucial saves to keep the lead intact.
Toronto were caught out by a stretch pass that perfectly found Charles Hudon on the left wing.
He teed up Terry in front but Bibeau turned him aside with a blocker save.
Toronto’s goaltender then had to be alert seconds into St. John’s next power play. Making excellent stops to deny Zach Redmond and Terry once again.
Sergey Kalinin was unable to corral a rebound with half a net to aim at inside the last minute, whilst yet another penalty ensured the Marlies would begin the middle frame down a man for the best part of two minutes.
A superb diving play from Steve Oleksy denied St. John’s on their one clear chance with the extra man but it was back at even strength that the visitors almost tied the game.
A turnover in the slot gifted Mark MacMillan possession but Bibeau came to his teams rescue.
Toronto responded to that save by hemming the visitors in their own zone for over a minute.
William Wrenn fired wide after a fine set-up from Griffith and Andrew Nielsen struck the post moments later. Griffith’s backhand wraparound attempt brought an end to an impressive shit, as Lindgren held on to give his team a breather.
The turning point of the game came with eight minutes on the clock as Jeremy Gregoire failed to test Bibeau in alone after an error from Nielsen.
Seconds later, the puck was in the IceCaps net.
Tobias Lindberg and Frederick Gauthier combined with tape to tape passes to send Tony Cameranesi away. The centreman used his blazing speed to comfortably beat two defenseman, before driving across the left of the crease and scoring on his backhand.
At the resumption of play, Bobby Farnham engaged with Oleksy and the two would drop the gloves. The Toronto man would come out on top in this tilt, which featured many exchanges of blows from both players.
T third Marlies goal wasn’t far away and it was all about the patience of Brett Findlay. Having received possession on the left side, Findlay chose to swing around the net before coming out the other side and delivering a perfect pass to the pinching Travis Dermott. The rookie defenseman beat Lindgren glove side with a snapshot that found the twine via the iron.
A let down from Toronto allowed the road team to respond in just 37 seconds.
Keegan Lowe scoring his fourth of the season and Hudon would have pulled his team within a goal just after the restart but for a fine right pad save from Bibeau.
Both teams would share a power play opportunity a piece before the second period was through but neither could find a way to add the scoreline.
The sloppy play from both sides that characterised the end of the middle frame carried over into the third period. Misplayed passes and carelessness in possession were a feature until an unnecessary hooking penalty sent Toronto back on the power play.
Griffith was yet again the architect but Lindgren denied Moore from netting his second of the game.
Some four on four action provided a fantastic chance for the IceCaps at the eight minute mark.
Nikita Scherbak ran rings around Dermott but Bibeau made his best save of the game to deny the Russian forward his 13th goal of the season
St. John’s were certainly smelling blood at this stage and proceeded to create further opportunities.
A 2-on-1 break materialised after a long outlet pass and Dermott was forced into hooking Hudon after being caught flatfooted. Hudon’s frustration’s were evident as that chance evaporated and then during the following power play. Terry teed up Steffan Matteau but Bibeau was more than equal to the one-time slapshot, holding on despite pressure in front of him.
Daniel Audette was the next player to be thwarted by Bibeau on a pair of chances back at even strength play.
With a little under four minutes remaining, a turnover from Toronto looked certain to cost them. Terry was the recipient and was utterly robbed from a fantastic save by Bibeau in tight.
The destination of the two points were still not certain however as a dubious penalty called on Andrew Campbell, gave the visitors one last penalty with over two minutes left on the clock.
After a timeout the IceCaps ventured with six skaters but the Marlies penalty killers were superb – Bibeau only required to make run-of-the mill stops as St. john’s became visibly exasperated.
That would lead to a penalty called on the road team as Toronto were able to see out the final forty seconds with a level of comfort and claim the two points.
On what was Superhero day at Ricoh Coliseum, Antoine Bibeau was Toronto’s man of steel between the pipes – a boost for him and the team, after some indifferent performances of late.
St. Johns IceCaps 1 – Toronto Marlies 3 Final
Post Game Notes:
This was the Toronto Marlies 30th win of the season and their 18th on home ice.
Toronto draw within one point of second place in the North Division, currently held by Albany.
A two point game for Trevor Moore, who has goals in consecutive outings.
Tony Cameranesi broke a nine game pointless streak with his fourth goal of the season.
With a solitary assist, Andreas Johnsson extended his points streak to four games.
Antoine Bibeau recorded 26 saves for his victory. It was the first time he’d allowed just one goal against since December 18 (eleven games).
Tobias Lindberg returned to action after being out since January 14. Also back in the line-up was Brett Findlay, who had been hurt in the recent victory over Binghamton.
Kasperi Kapanen was rested but is expected to play on Sunday.
Mike Sislo made his Marlies debut and showed some promising glimpses of what we know he’s capable of.