On the weekend of March 7-9, Toronto was looking at two games versus the Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado) and one against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh). It was also the third straight game against Lake Erie after finishing the previous week against them. A feisty and physical weekend saw the Marlies gain three out of a possible six points for a decent weekend, all in all. Another step closer to locking down a playoff spot.
Marlies (2) vs Monsters (3)
Marlies Goal Scorers: Abbott, D’amigo
Marlies Assists: Kozun, Brennan, Smith, Abbott
Due to the technical difficulties (thanks hockeystreams/AHL live), the first two periods of this game weren’t available. I can only comment on the 3rd period. It seems like the first two periods of this game were wild with plenty of scraps and rough stuff. The Marlies were down 2-0 going into the 3rd. This was also Broll’s first game back from injury, while McLaren was in the line-up after being sent down.
The Marlies started off killing a couple penalties to begin the third, during which MacIntyre came out with some huge scramble saves. Shortly after, a big scrum broke out when Ross got into it with a Monster player and a second Lake Erie player came into the scrap as his teammate was getting pummelled. All hell broke loose. Biggs jumped in and scrapped the second Monster player, Marshall got into it with someone, and Ross tried to fight another guy after the ref broke up his initial fight. This game ended with over 200 pims, a testament to how much these two teams like each other. Toronto was on a PK as a result of all the madness.
After a whistle, Holzer decided to keep the fun going by sending a guy sprawling into his own net. That put the Marlies on a 5 on 3 kill and the Monsters would go up 3-0 on that power-play with 5:30 to go in the frame.
After some Lake Erie penalties, the Marlies went on their own 5-on-3 PP and finally got on the scoresheet. Brennan found Kozun down low, Kozun sauced a seam-pass to Abbott, and Abbott took one stride forward before sniping.
The Marlies pulled their goalie and the game went into full scramble mode. With a good net presence and bodies flying everywhere, D’Amigo just threw a shot along the ice into the mayhem and it went in off a Monster player to bring the Marlies within one at 3-2. Unfortunately, that’s as close as the Baby Buds would come despite some good chances.
Marlies (4) vs Monsters (1)
Marlies Goal Scorers: Leivo (3), Kozun
Marlies Assists: Kozun, McKegg (2), D’amigo, Brennan, Abbott, Smithson
Gibson was given the nod in net for his fourth career AHL game. Bryce Aneloski was called up to play D for the Marlies from ECHL as Marshall couldn’t go. The sometimes-scratched Brad Ross was in the line-up for another game. Trevor Smith was scratched in this one as well.
It was an action packed first period all the way through. The fun started early with MacWilliam dropping the gloves and getting a W in the fight. On the next shift, Devane tried to drop the gloves with Mitchell Heard, but Heard wanted nothing to do with Devane. The Marlies received some penalty minutes from that altercation but did a good job killing them off.
Broll would drop the gloves after the mid-point of the period and land some big bombs in the scrap. Unfortunately, a couple shifts after the scrap the Monsters scored. Some nice passing and stick-handling through the neutral zone gathered speed for the Monsters, and a Monster player took recent ECHL call-up Bryce Aneloski wide and scored. That made it 1-0 with about 6:45 left in the first period.
The Marlies got onto the score-sheet with about 1:30 left in the period on their third power-play of the game. Brennan skated the puck out of his zone and lost it in the neutral zone but Kozun recovered. Kozun made a great pass that was timed perfectly to McKegg for a partial break. McKegg pulled off a backhand – forehand move and hit the post, but Leivo was there to clean up. It was a 1-1 game after 20 in what was a chippy and entertaining first period.
After getting on the body in the first, the Marlies beat up the Monsters on the score board in the 2nd period. With about 12:30 left in the period, the Marlies earned their fourth power-play of the night and converted. Toronto did a great job of controlling the puck and nearly scored when McKegg set up D’Amigo, with Jerry ringing it off both posts. The Marlies recovered the puck after that chance. Mckegg worked the puck from behind the net to the half-boards before whipping a seam pass to D’Amigo; D’Amigo dished up top to Brennan, who missed the shot on goal, but the rebound bounced back out to Kozun, who was posted up in-front of the net to bury it five hole.
On the next shift after the goal, Ryan took a penalty, but a Lake Erie penalty brought it to 4 on 4 shortly thereafter. The Marlies benefited from a short PP and used it to full effect. McKegg did his usual work controlling the puck down-low, before finding Leivo behind the net. Leivo sent it to Abbott and parked himself in front of the net. Abbott went back to Leivo in front, and Leivo pulled off the JVR-move and scored his second goal of the night to put Toronto up 3-1.
Leivo wasn’t done there, though, because he would complete the hat trick with about 40 seconds left in the second. It started with Leivo dumping the puck in and getting on the forecheck; Broll and Smithson came in to support, and Leivo got the puck back, worked it out front, and scored. To top off the 4-1 lead, Toronto also went into the intermission with a 5-on-3 powerplay on deck.
That would be it for scoring in this game, as the Marlies controlled the third period and dominated play. There were some late-game antics with scrums and fights, but the game itself was never in jeopardy. A nice outing here for the Baby Buds, and Josh Leivo especially, to earn the Marlies a 4-1 win. A great response at home against the Monsters after losing the night before in their barn.
Marlies (3) vs Penguins (4) (SOL)
Marlies Goal Scorers: Ryan, Abbott, Smith
Marlies Assists: D’Amigo, Smith, Brennan
The 1964 Marlies were honoured in pre-game ceremonies in this one. MacIntyre was back in net and Smith returned to the line-up.
There was a dull pace to start this game. The Marlies’ top line put a few chances on net early, but other than that the first half of the period was without much action. The Marlies got some powerplay time near the mid-point of the period and generated enough chances, but the Pens’ goalie was up to the task. With around two minutes left in the period, the Pens went up 1-0 on an odd goal. A shot from the half boards took a weird bounce somewhere along the way and snuck past MacIntyre to put the Pens up 1-0. Holzer would take a penalty with one seconding remaining in the first.
The Marlies got on the board during their second penalty kill of the period. D’Amigo continues to do what he’s done all season, and that’s work his ass off. He picked off a D-to-D pass, sent Kenny Ryan on a partial break, and Ryan made no mistake, wiring a shot top shelf to tie the game at 1-1. The rest of the period was sluggish, with both teams taking many penalties and looking pretty tired. You could see the three games in three days were affecting both teams. Unfortunately, though, the Pens would have another burst of energy in them as they scored a late-period for the second time. With about 1:40 left in the period, the Pens won a face-off in the Toronto zone, put a point shot on net, crashed the crease, and got one behind MacIntyre. 2-1 for the Pens after 40.
Toronto started off the final frame with some momentum, but it was killed quickly with the team’s sixth and seventh penalties of the game. After killing off the last penalty, the Marlies finally received a power-play of their own and scored immediately. Smith won an offensive zone draw to Brennan, Brennan passed to Abbott, and Abbott walked in to the circle and ripped one with Leivo providing the screen. A few minutes later, Smith added another to put the Marlies up 3-2 with less than five minutes to go in the period.
The Pens would make a last ditch effort to score and did just that. With the goalie pulled and less than 20 seconds left in the game, a Pens player in the slot made a nice pass to an open shooter on the opposite side of the slot to tie it up. The Marlies were caught puck-watching on that goal and never noticed the open guy.
Overtime was filled with some chances to score for Toronto, all for naught. Smith would be the only Marlies goal scorer in the shootout, while the Pens put three past MacIntyre to take the 4-3 shootout decision. The Marlies look tired in this one, taking a tonne of penalties and conceding late goals in each period killed them.
- Kenny Ryan is completely fearless. He suffered a sports hernia to start the season and also had a procedure on his testicles after sustaining an injury, and yet he continues to block shots with no regard for his own health and safety. In the 3rd period in the first game against the Monsters, Ryan took one right in the mid-section, left hurt, and came back to block shots all weekend. This guy is a warrior. Like I said in the last report, he has a Vlad Sobotka brand of fearlessness to his game.
- I didn’t see it, but David Broll dropped the mitts to start the first Monsters game. I love that, especially considering it was his first game coming back off injury. He’s an important piece to the Marlies line-up. Broll also dropped the mitts again in the second game against the Monsters. Now, that’s something that’s not easy to do, and I’m sure the knuckles saw some ice-packs.
- After the slug fest in the first game against the Monsters on the road, it was nice to see Toronto turn up the fighting and make a statement on home ice. The Marlies let it be known that there’s no playing around on home ice. The Ricoh is a tough rink to play in.
- On that note, Jamie Devane was just itching to make something happen in the second game when he dropped the mitts. He wasn’t in the line-up for the first game and he seemed pissed off about it. Definitely made his presence known.
- Speaking of fisticuffs, Andrew MacWilliam continues to develop his fight game. He’s now starting to throw body shots before going up stairs. Whether he’s watching video, or getting some instruction, or both, it’s good to see him come this far after not doing so well to start the season. Like I’ve said in previous reports, it’s something he’ll need to keep working on to reach the next level, with his hitting game as it is.
- That was a really great pass by Brandon Kozun on that first goal in the second game against the Monsters. Great timing and perfectly placed.
- On that same goal, Greg McKegg made a real nifty move. Back-hand to fore-hand and off the post. Under-rated skill level on McKegg.
- I talked about picking up a defenceman at the deadline for some depth, but it seems they’ve had Aneloski in the ECHL available to them, with Zachary Yuen still down there, and have now added Eric Knodel this week. That should be enough for a play-off run and there’s still the potential for Finn to join this club this season depending how his OHL playoffs go.
- Christopher Gibson hasn’t gotten into a lot of games this season by this point, but he looked good this weekend. He’s pretty good at playing the puck, he has a strong glove hand, and he’s got some battle to him. I look forward to seeing more of him.
- What can I say about Josh Leivo? His hat trick was a thing of beauty. It was almost an instant replay of the Ashton hat trick the week prior. Leivo is on his way to becoming the first Marlies rookie in history to score 20 goals. He’s got the JVR move down to a science down low now, and he’s scored using it several times this season already.
- I really like the Leivo-Broll forward pairing. They’ve played a lot together going back as far as the prospect and rookie tourneys. They’re both big guys and they’re hard to contain on the cycle. They read off of each other well and both attack the net with force. They seem like good friends, too; every time the camera cuts to the bench, I see them chatting and laughing together.
- In the second game of this set, in the 2nd period, Jamie Devane received a breakout pass at the offensive blueline, dropped his shoulder into the defender and drove hard to the net before getting a quality chance off. I want to see Devane do more of this. He’s got good numbers this season as an enforcer, but I think there’s still more offensive upside there that remains untapped. I hope he continues to learn how to use his size to his advantage, because he can be a real handful.
- I liked how the Leivo line responded after the first goal against in the home game against the Monsters. They dumped it in and got on the forecheck, worked the puck around, and earned a powerplay. That’s how to turn momentum back in your team’s favour.
- I’ve talked about it before, but Brandon Kozun really does go to the dirty areas. This kid is barely 5’8, but you always find him posted up around the net, taking a beating to get a chance to score. Really gritty.
- Tyler Biggs and Duncan Siemiens battled hard against each other all weekend. They scrapped in the first game and Biggs put him on his posterior twice in the second game with a couple of hits. I hope to see that in the playoffs from Biggs as he’s going to be going up against the same group for potentially seven games. I you can constantly win battles against the same players, it goes a long way in winning a series.
- In the Pens game, it was interesting to see David Broll placed on the shutdown line with Smithson and Biggs. It’s a good sign and speaks to Broll’s versatility. He’s been a top-6 player almost all season, but Spott trusts him enough defensively to put him on that checking line. It should only bode well for Broll’s chances to make it to the NHL if he can play up and down a line-up. He’s also a net presence on the PP. The only thing I haven’t seen him do yet is kill penalties.
- You could say it was an average weekend for the Marlies, picking up three out of a possible six points, but if you zoom out a little it actually looks pretty good. They won two of three consecutive games against the Monsters and picked up a point against the Pens.