Brendan Leipsic the OT hero as Marlies edge Amerks

Unpredictability is what makes hockey one of the greatest sports on earth.

Just four days after a crazy 9-8 overtime victory in St. John’s Newfoundland, Toronto went into Rochester to face a slumping team (three losses in a row) that they had beaten 8-2 earlier this season.

A goalless sixty minutes of regulation was the last thing expected, so of course that’s what occurred.

Toronto earned themselves a power play with 25 seconds remaining of regulation time, resulting in a 4 on 3 advantage during the first part of overtime.

With seven seconds left with the extra man, the Marlies finally found a way past the impressive Andrey Makarov. Arcobello slid the puck down to Nylander standing by the left side of the goal. The young Swede showed more of his lethal passing skills to sneak a pass past the Rochester defenseman and find Leipsic waiting backdoor. The left-winger made no mistake, and Toronto left the Amerks building with two points.

In truth, it was a deserved victory in what was a pretty unspectacular game, or maybe we’ve had our expectations raised after a crazy weekend in St. John’s.

Either way, Toronto were by far the better team but were unable to turn the dominance into goals, while Garret Sparks gave another solid performance to make sure the only goal would be the crucial one.

It was the hometown Amerks who had the better opportunities in the opening twenty minutes. Returning to the Blue Cross Arena, where they have a 4-1 record, Rochester carved out two chances inside the opening two minutes, but both Matt Prapavessis and Justin Bailey would be denied by Sparks.

Jerry D’Amigo was making his comeback after injury and his shot provided a rebound for Phil Varone, who was unable to capitalize.

The one power play in the period fell to Toronto, but nothing of note occurred, with composure sorely lacking. Soshnikov had the best effort for the Marlies with eight minutes remaining, while — with 1:20 left on the clock — Varone was frustrated to see his effort drift wide of the post from a great position with Sparks heading the opposite direction.

A penalty kill early in the second period motivated the road team. Brennan came close on two opportunities, firing just wide and bringing a fine shoulder save from Makarov.

The Marlies were pinning Rochester inside their zone for long stretches of play, with Makarov keeping his team in the game, denying both Gauthier and Soshnikov as their line with Clune provided plenty of action and energy.

Loov then came close as he found himself deep on the right wing — deep enough to actually be on the Amerks goal line. With little else on, the prudent play was to throw the puck on net. The effort almost snuck past Makarov with Carrick banging away for any possible rebound, and despite it looking close on a subsequent replay, the officials would not ask to go upstairs for a closer inspection on this occasion.

The one-way traffic drew a power play for Toronto at the mid-way marker, but we would witness yet another fine save from Makarov. Panik was effectively screening the young netminder, who must have been using the force to glove a shot from Arcobello heading toward the top corner of his net. There was certainly no way he could have seen that, but nonetheless it was a terrific stop.

Sparks would not be undone in the goaltending duo, pulling out a fine save himself with five to play in the middle frame. Varone threaded a perfect feed to Jason Akeson in alone backdoor, but Sparks pulled off a terrific save he made look very easy as he swiftly moved from left to right across his net.

Toronto’s penalty kill would stay secure shortly after, while at the other end of the ice the frustration for the Marlies continued as Makarov continued his outstanding play. A beautiful set-up from the top line ended led to a great chance for Campbell jumping into the play, but the Amerks goaltender continued to confound his opponents with his 23rd save of the game.

The third period continued in the same vein as the second, but Rochester will kick themselves for missing one huge opportunity to pounce on Toronto. The Marlies dominated the opening five minutes before D’Amigo drove in on net, forcing Sparks to be strong in denying his former teammate.

A fourth Marlies power play drew another fine stop from Makarov; this time it was Nylander, but his effort from one knee was turned aside.

The real drama occurred with 8:21 left on the clock, as Carrick and then Campbell were called for penalties within 32 seconds of one another. Both were questionable calls to say the least, but the best opportunity during the Amerks two man advantage actually fell to Toronto.

Varone was guilty of a poor pass, and Zach Hyman wasted little time in trying to make him pay. Grabbing control of the puck, he banked it off the left boards and past his man before re-gaining possession again and heading in on net. He tried an inside out move on Makarov that saw the goaltender perform a forward snow angel and stop the effort with his left toe.

Hyman, in hindsight, will wonder why he didn’t lift his shot, as it would have been a certain goal, but it was a terrific play from the rookie up until that point.

With the penalty killed off and little to unsettle Sparks in the process, Toronto set about winning in regulation.

Campbell, who recorded four shots on goal, threw his last effort toward the crowded net and Hyman nearly put home the rebound in the resulting melee.

Makarov left probably his best save of the night until 68 seconds remained in regulation play. Panik walked in from the right boards and from the slot and fired top shelf on Makarov — it looked a certain goal until another flash of leather.

Toronto would ultimately refuse to be denied the victory and will now finally return to Ricoh Coliseum on Friday, having not played on home ice yet this month.

Quick Stats

Goal Scorers
RCH: None
TOR: Leipsic (2)

RCH: 23
TOR: 38

RCH: Makarov – L (37/38)
TOR: Sparks – W (23/23)

Post Game Notes

– William Nylander’s assist was his 20th point of the season, and by virtue of having played one less game than Joe Witney (Bridgeport Sound Tigers), the Marlies forward leads the league in scoring.

– Mark Arcobello continues his record of scoring in every game he’s played for the Marlies thus far. Eleven points in seven games for him now.

– Brendan Leipsic’s game winner was just his second goal of the season. His numbers are far from indicative of his play — always a threat on a line with Arcobello and Bailey. Three points on this road-trip will disappoint him though.

– Garret Sparks’ shutout was his second of the season and he’s looking so much more assured and confident than at the beginning of the year. A 7-2-1 record with a goals against average of under two and a 0.935 save percentage puts him in the top seven of the league in both categories.

– Nikita Soshnikov led the way with five shots, a season high for him.

– Toronto’s penalty kill was perfect on four occasions and currently ranks fifth in the league.

Game Highlights

Marlies Player Stats

A. Bibeau00000
G. Sparks00000
A. Campbell00042
T. Brennan00020
S. Percy00020
Z. Hyman00030
J. Leivo00010
S. Carrick00012
R. Clune00000
R. Panik00032
B. Leipsic10030
F. Gauthier00020
M. Arcobello01010
C. Bailey00020
M. Frattin00010
J. Holl00040
V. Loov00012
R. Valiev00010
W. Nylander01020
N. Soshnikov00050

Author’s Note

Last but not least, this is my first ever Marlies post game for Maple Leafs Hotstove.

I’m delighted to join and be a part of such a well respected Leafs website, and I thank the fine gentlemen here for the opportunity.

I hope those of you reading enjoy my take on the Toronto Marlies.

My coverage will include post games, weekly round-ups and some more focussed articles as time goes along.