The last weekend in November will see the Toronto Marlies pass the quarter poll of their season, with three games in as many days.
This will be the second three-in-three of the season for Toronto.
The first was spent entirely on the road, where six points were accrued in visits to Rochester, Binghamton and Lehigh.
With two home games this time around, expectations will be higher as the baby buds enter this weekend on a ten game point streak (9-0-1-0).
It’ll begin on Friday evening with the first visit of the season to Syracuse (Tampa Bay affiliate).
Toronto at Syracuse — Friday, Nov. 27, 7:00 pm EST
The two teams have already met at Ricoh this season with the Syracuse Crunch emerging victorious by a score of 3-1 — the Marlies last defeat in regulation. Since that meeting, Syracuse has picked up points in seven of their last nine, with six of those games decided by a single goal.
The Crunch have the second worst “goals for” per game average in the Eastern Conference, but in contrast have one of its better defensive records.
It’s worth noting that a third of the goals allowed by Syracuse have been scored on them during the powerplay, something the Toronto Marlies are looking for more consistency with this weekend and moving forward.
Syracuse own a 5-3 record at home, dropping their last game 4-1 to Portland after winning three straight at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena.
Their top scorer is rookie defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, who has eleven points. Tampa Bay’s first round pick in 2014 has six powerplay helpers and two of his three goals have been game winners.
Syracuse are currently missing Jonathan Marchessault and Joel Vermin from their ranks (9G/10A combined), and will be relying on the likes of Jeff Tambellini and Yanni Gourde to carry the load offensively.
Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis and rookie Adam Wilcox have been sharing the duties between the pipes, but I would expect the former to play against Toronto, with Wilcox having allowed eight goals in his last two outings.
The special teams battle could well turn out to be the decisive factor, with Toronto, on paper at least, well on top in both departments.
St. John’s at Toronto — Saturday, Nov. 28, 2:00 pm EST (Game at ACC) & Sunday, Nov. 29, 1:00 pm EST
Saturday and Sunday will see the Marlies return home to Toronto for two afternoon tilts with the St. John’s IceCaps. Saturday’s game will be the first of five this season to be held at the Air Canada Centre.
The Montreal affiliate have played just twice since Toronto left the rock, with another pair of home games, this time against Syracuse. The two North Division rivals shared three points after each game ended in overtime.
It’s been five straight games for the IceCaps where extra hockey has been needed and a total of seven occasions this season. In the East, they are only matched in the statistic by the Marlies, although Toronto has a far better OT/SO record than their opponents.
The IceCaps will begin a six-game road trip in Rochester on Friday and own a 3-5 record on the road this season.
Matters have been made no easier for them on this stretch as they’ve been stripped of three of their top five leading scorers with Bud Holloway, Sven Andrighetto and Christian Thomas all recalled to Montreal. Goaltender Dustin Tokarski is also back with Montreal while Eddie Pasquale covers for him after a stint in Brampton.
Joining Pasquale on the short trip to Toronto will be Tim Bozon. Bozon contracted Neisseria meningitis in early 2014, a life threatening illness, but thankfully the 21 year old made a full recovery and it’s fantastic to see the young man making his comeback.
With the numerous call-ups, the pressure will be on three of the IceCaps young stars to produce in Charles Hudon (7G/7A), Daniel Carr (last season’s leading rookie goal scorer) and rookie Michael McCarran (8G/9A), who was a part of Oshawa’s Memorial Cup championship team last season.
Another rookie in goaltender Zachary Fucale has the best record on the team between the pipes (6-2-1), but struggled in the infamous 9-8 game, the second of a back-to-back. I would expect him and Eddie Pasquale to split the duties.
It’s hard to know quite what to expect between these two teams after the first pair of encounters featured 22 goals.
Toronto were undoubtedly the better team at even strength when sticking to their game plan, and St. John’s have been considerably weakened by call-ups to the NHL. It’s always difficult to win a pair of back-to-back games against the same opponents, so this will present Toronto with quite the challenge.
It’s not inconceivable that the Marlies could sweep this weekend and in doing so they could be leading the Eastern Conference come Monday morning.