Marlies frozen out by St. John’s on ACC stage

Consistency of performance is what every team strives for. A hard enough feat for many, let alone a young team with burgeoning prospects.

After a fantastic road performance in Syracuse Friday evening, the Marlies produced a flat, abject showing at the ACC in front of 8,635 patrons who were expecting a lot more from this free-flowing, high-scoring team.

Ironic, then, that they should reserve their worst performance of the season at the home of the struggling Maple Leafs, who would also fall to defeat several hours later.

It’s not as if things weren’t in the Marlies favour.

Riding an eleven-game point streak, Toronto had rested their better players on Friday to make sure they were fresh for this Saturday matinee game. St. John’s were also coming in off a Friday night win, on the road in Rochester, but were missing three of their top five scorers and relying on call-ups from Brampton.

Full credit to the IceCaps, who outworked and outplayed the home team and were full value for the two points, having never trailed in the game.

The early signs were not good for the hosts as turnovers allowed the IceCaps to fire the first three shots inside the opening 90 seconds.

Toronto responded with a long-range effort from Campbell that produced a rebound off Eddie Pasquale, but Hyman was unable to chip the puck over the right leg of the St. John’s goaltender.

A Marlies powerplay produced some good looks but no real opportunities. St. John’s first man advantage would also not officially tally, but an effort one second after it expired opened the scoring.

William Nylander coughed up a terrible giveaway in his own zone to Fournier, and despite an option to his right, the right winger beat Bibeau top shelf with a beautifully placed wrist shot. An ugly moment for Toronto’s young star, who chose this stage for his worst performance of the season.

Timed at 10:51, Toronto would respond to the opening marker exactly six minutes later.

The powerplay clicked, as Percy found Leipsic and the left winger, with some room from the left circle, showed a great deal of patience before firing over the glove of Pasquale.

A powerplay that carried over from the first period into the middle frame almost saw Toronto snatch the lead, but Leipsic’s effort brought an arm save from Pasquale. From the moment the penalty was killed, it was the visitors who took a stranglehold on the game, eventually outshooting the Marlies 16-8 in the second period.

As the IceCaps pushed hard, Toronto’s penalty kill held firm. Bibeau had to be excellent shortly afterwards to deny Carr, as the hosts were pinned in their own zone.

The home team’s best opportunities of the period came at around the twelve minute mark when Pasquale first denied a rocket from Brennan and then turned aside Nylander’s attempted set up with teammates crashing the net. That was by far Nylander’s best moment of the game.

Antoine Bibeau had an extremely mixed performance. At the midway point, he robbed Brandon McNally with a right pad save after a nice play from the visitors that began below the goal line. St. John’s were creating so many openings it was just a matter of time before they found a way through.

The go-ahead marker would be one the young Toronto goalie would want back. Dumont beat a pair of Marlies players to the right side and then fired over the short-side shoulder of Bibeau as the netminder appeared to cheat off his post.

Toronto would respond immediately by grabbing a frankly undeserved tying goal. Matt Frattin deflected a blast from Andrew Campbell past Pasquale, something Frattin is very adept at.

Just two minutes later, the IceCaps were back in front and it was yet another error from Bibeau.

Fournier’s wraparound effort didn’t look particularly potent, but on the rebound effort he somehow snuck it through Bibeau to ensure the visitors took a lead into the third period.

It’d take just 52 seconds of the final frame for St. John’s to extend their advantage. With two seconds remaining on a man advantage carried over, Charles Hudon fired a dart from the point past a screened Bibeau.

The visitors were guilty of sitting back a little after giving themselves a two-goal cushion, almost gifting Toronto a way back into the game in the process.

A dump-in from Findlay was mishandled by Pasquale, but he redeemed himself on the following shot from Bailey, who cut a frustrated figure after the save.

Leipsic then came close on an individual effort, showing speed and guile to work around the defense, but Pasquale’s right pad denied him.

The hosts’ last real chance to claw their way back into the game came with nine minutes remaining on the powerplay. They managed just one effort on net, however — although it was a booming shot from Brennan after a tic-tac-toe set-up involving Nylander and Arcobello. Pasquale gloved the effort in what was a strong overall performance by the goaltender called up from Brampton.

The dagger came at the 14 minute mark as Toronto were caught pressing high up the ice. A chipped pass from Daniel Carr sent Hudon away to the races and he beat Bibeau after cutting across him right to left, scoring his second of the game.

Down 5-2, Toronto pulled Bibeau on the powerplay but were unable to make the two extra men count as the St. John’s penalty kill did a fantastic job of keeping them to the outside.

The salt in the wound was applied by Carr’s empty net goal inside the last thirty seconds as Toronto fell to a regulation defeat — their first since October 28.

Post Game Notes

– Antoine Bibeau has allowed 17 goals in his last three starts, looking out of sorts after returning from his time with the Leafs.

– Stuart Percy registered his fifth point in as many games and now has eight on the season.

– Brendan Leipsic has three goals in his last five games, and his line alongside Carrick and Frattin looked the most threatening.

– Matt Frattin has yet to really set his season alight, but he’s now riding a four-game point streak.

– Andrew Campbell is still really surprising people with the offensive side of his game, riding a three-game assist streak. His shot really is a weapon that must have been sorely underused in the past.

– William Nylander’s ten-game point streak came to a crushing halt, as he registered just one shot on net.

It was his poorest performance of the season. He was culpable for one goal against, but this is still a learning process for the young man, and I would not bet against him rebounding in style Sunday afternoon.

– Gauthier, Martin, Holl, Johnson were healthy scratches, while Clune is said to have an upper-body injury.

Game Highlights

Marlies Player Stats

Campbell, Andrew01110
Brennan, T.J.00-244
Harrington, Scott00000
Percy, Stuart01-400
Hyman, Zach00-130
Leivo, Josh01-210
Carrick, Sam01000
Panik, Richard00012
Leipsic, Brendan10-242
Arcobello, Mark00-120
Findlay, Brett00-210
Bailey, Casey00-210
Frattin, Matt10020
Kapanen, Kasperi00000
Loov, Viktor00-420
Valiev, Rinat00110
Nylander, William00-210
Soshnikov, Nikita00-120