Makeshift Marlies too strong for Syracuse

This game had a talking point before a puck was even touched.

The Marlies coaching staff decided that Panik, Nylander, Soshnikov, Percy and Bibeau would be rested in an effort to preserve them for a three-in-three weekend.

That wasn’t the biggest bombshell, however, as around ten minutes before puck drop it was announced that Ryan Massa would not be backing up Garret Sparks — he’d actually be making his American Hockey League debut.

Ryan who? Exactly.

The 25 year old, formerly of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, is playing his first season of professional hockey.

Pulled in his last start for the Orlando Solar Bears, his appearance in this road game was a total curveball.

The debutant was far from overawed, however, and the team in front of him pulled out all the stops to make sure he wasn’t overworked.

For the opening forty minutes, the Toronto Marlies absolutely dominated their hosts, limiting them to just a single shot on net in the first period.

That solitary effort on net brought a fine glove save by Massa through a wall of traffic, and interrupted a strong spell of possession hockey for Toronto.

More prolonged offensive zone time from the Marlies led to drawing a powerplay and scoring the opening goal of the game. Leivo sniped from the right side with Syracuse goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis slightly unsighted.

Further efforts from Leipsic, Valiev, Kapanen, Brennan and Frattin came close to extending the lead, but the shot clock only registered five for Toronto after twenty minutes while the scoreboard read 1-0.

A mark of the Marlies control of the game in the opening frame: After hemming Syracuse in their own zone for two minutes, the home team tried to make a desperate line change but were called for too many men.

Kapanen and Brennan yet again were threatening the Syracuse goal early in the middle frame and it took just under five minutes for Toronto the double their lead.

A terrific shift from the Carrick line produced a couple of scrambles in front. On the second of those the goal came, although it was unclear as to who had applied the final touch. It was attributed to Carrick for his third on the year.

It was then Ryan Massa’s time to shine as Syracuse responded after falling further behind.
Philippe Paradis provided a beautiful feed from the left side to find Tanner Richard driving the net, and it looked all over a goal until a remarkable stretch from Toronto’s rookie net minder. The home team argued the case, claiming the puck had crossed the goal line, but the officials were having none of it.

The mood wasn’t improved a minute later when, as simple as you like, the visitors made it 3-0.

A booming shot from Andrew Campbell produced a rebound that Freddie Gauthier gratefully received and tucked away.

A following powerplay for the hosts almost saw them allow another goal after Gauthier won a face-off in his own zone before heading on a rush and forcing Gudlevskis into a fine save.

Syracuse began to claw their way into the game late in the second period, although they were thankful for Gudlevskis blanking Gauthier once again after a strong Marlies forecheck created an opening.

A strong glove save from Massa was followed by a better pair of stops on a resulting Syracuse powerplay.

The shot clock still read 20-8 in favour of the Marlies after forty minutes, and the home crowd were certainly becoming restless at their team’s reluctance to shoot and the lack of offense in general.

Another strong forecheck for Toronto early in the final frame resulted in a terrific chance for Brett Findlay on his seasonal debut, but Gudlevskis was not going to be beaten again as he kept his team in the game.

A Syracuse powerplay gave all those in white some hope, but again it almost turned to grief as Hyman almost scored shorthanded after showing excellent speed down the right wing.

Massa’s shutout bid would come to an shortly after, as Toronto failed to deal with Tyler McGinn alone in front and he had the easier task of slotting home a rebound opportunity.

The momentum of that goal was quickly erased as Henri Ikonen was sent to the box within 30 seconds.

The Crunch would not pull within one as they were mostly kept to the outside, and more elaborate plays weren’t clicking for a desperate team as the clock ran down.

Massa held on to make eight saves the rest of the way, even as Syracuse pulled Gudlevskis and played with an extra attacker for the majority of the last three and a half minutes.

It says something that the Marlies can go into another team’s building and outplay them with a rookie netminder while missing some of their best offensive players.

It’s a five-hour journey back to Toronto followed by a 2 p.m. puck drop tomorrow against the St. John’s IceCaps at the ACC.

Post Game Notes:

– T.J Brennan took his assists tally into double figures with a pair of primary helpers.

– Ryan Massa stopped 16 of 17 shots, and I’m not sure he or the team could have asked for much more.

– Josh Leivo’s goal was his sixth of the season and his third on the powerplay.

– Mark Arcobello’s assist takes him to six points on the man advantage, just one behind William Nylander.

– Sam Carrick’s goal was his third on the year and his sixth point, all at even strength.

– With a healthy Sparks making the trip, I would expect him to back-up Bibeau tomorrow before taking the start on Sunday.

– There were altercations after the final buzzer in what became a testy affair late on. If any suspensions are forthcoming from those events, I will post them as soon as they are announced.

Game Highlights

Marlies Player Stats

Campbell, AndrewD01112
Brennan, T.J.D02122
Hyman, ZachRW00000
Leivo, JoshRW10140
Carrick, SamC10135
Clune, RichardLW01110
Leipsic, BrendanLW00130
Gauthier, FrederikC10130
Martin, JamesD00020
Arcobello, MarkC01020
Findlay, BrettLW00010
Bailey, CaseyRW00010
Frattin, MattRW01130
Holl, JustinD00110
Kapanen, KasperiRW00010
Johnson, JustinRW00010
Loov, ViktorD00000
Valiev, RinatD00112