The second three-in-three of the season for the Toronto Marlies certainly wasn’t devoid of talking points, with plenty of transactions and goaltending sub-plots.
It all began so well as Toronto put in a terrific performance in front of rookie goaltender Ryan Massa, who was making his AHL debut.
Toronto Marlies 3 vs. Syracuse Crunch 1
Syracuse were unable to live with the visitors, and fired just one shot on Massa during the opening twenty minutes. A powerplay goal from Josh Leivo in the first period was added to by a double blast from Sam Carrick and Frederik Gauthier, putting the Marlies up 3-0 seven minutes into the middle frame.
Syracuse would break Massa’s shutout bid in the third period with a powerplay marker, but Toronto kept the home team to the outside for the majority of the game, allowing just 17 shots on net through the sixty minutes for a 3-1 victory.
That was as good as the weekend got for the Marlies, who were thoroughly put in their place by the visiting St. John’s IceCaps.
St. John’s IceCaps 6 vs. Toronto Marlies 2
Saturday’s matinee game at the ACC was an abject performance from the Marlies — probably their worst showing on the year. William Nylander was benched in the third period during his poorest performance this season in which he was directly responsible for the IceDogs’ opening goal. Antoine Bibeau had not made the trip to Syracuse to keep him fresh, but he looked rusty and out of sorts.
A nice powerplay goal from Brendan Leipsic tied the game in the first period, with the left winger showing patience and a good deal of poise before firing top shelf.
The middle frame was all about the visitors, and the Marlies were lucky to only be trailing 3-2 after forty minutes. Toronto’s lone goal came off a Matt Frattin deflection on a shot from Andrew Campbell. It’d take just 52 seconds for the IceCaps to tally in the third period, and despite taking their foot of the gas slightly, two more goals would round out a 6-2 victory.
St. John’s IceCaps 5 vs. Toronto Marlies 1
Sunday’s game back at Ricoh Coliseum was more notable for poor officiating and a plethora of penalties than the actual hockey played.
A pair of powerplay markers and one during four-on-four put St. John’s up 3-0 after just twenty minutes.
Yet again Bibeau struggled and would want a couple of goals back. Toronto responded with a better second period showing, as TJ Brennan scored the only goal on the powerplay while Bibeau responded by shutting the door to keep his team in the game.
Another early third period goal against put to a halt the momentum of the second period, as any chance of a comeback was extinguished soon after by Brennan’s error, serving one up to MacMillan on a plate in the slot to secure a 5-1 IceCaps victory.
Two points from a possible six and a weekend means Albany and St. John’s both made ground on Toronto, cutting their advantage atop the North Division.
It was also the first time this season that the Marlies have lost two straight.
Sheldon Keefe had been warning against the hype, impressing upon his players and media that the team hadn’t been playing that well and offense was papering over some of the deficiencies.
How right he was, and there will be much to do before next weekend.
Special teams are certainly at the forefront, especially after the loss on Sunday. Despite Toronto notching a powerplay goal in each game over the weekend, they also allowed at least one in each as well.
The powerplay was 3/15 while the penalty kill allowed five on sixteen times shorthanded.
– Defenceman James Martin was signed to an AHL contract after Petter Granberg was claimed by Nashville off waivers. The 24-year-old Martin, a 6’2 200-pound left shot, split last season between Fort Wayne and Alaska of the ECHL with a cup of coffee in the AHL for Lake Erie.
– Ryan Rupert was re-assigned to Orlando with Brett Findlay and Jack Rodewald coming back the other way.
– The story of the weekend was Ryan Massa being called up from Orlando, starting on Friday and recording a win in the process. Massa is a 25-year-old rookie who was backing up Rob Madore with the Solar Bears this season. He had played just six professional games in the ECHL having finished his college career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha last year. He was actually pulled in his most recent outing for Orlando. It was some achievement for Massa to record the win on debut for the Marlies, despite only facing 17 shots.
– Many healthy scratches were made on the trip to Syracuse to keep players fresh for the weekend, a move that eventually backfired, but that‘s on the players, not the coaching staff.
– After Saturday’s loss, Keefe would make Arcobello, Kapanen, Valiev, Johnson, Bailey, Arcobello and Loov healthy scratches for Sunday, and slot Jack Rodewald into the line-up for his seasonal debut.
– T.J Brennan led the way with three points over the weekend, but he had a poor performance by his high standards on Sunday.
– Andrew Campbell added another pair of points to take his tally up to eight on the season in just 19 games. His career high of 19 points looks well within his sights at this juncture.
– How can I finish without mentioning Garret Sparks? His excellent play with the Marlies during November was rewarded with his first NHL start — and win, and shutout — last evening, followed by AHL goaltender of the month honours today in what was a whirlwind and unforgettable couple of days for the young netminder.
The Leafs kept us guessing as to the health of Reimer, and Sparks took his chance.
What happens with the Marlies goaltending situation this week and heading into the weekend now becomes an interesting watch.
Toronto face yet another three-in-three this weekend, with travel on Friday before returning for two home games.
A preview will be coming up later this week.
Fri. Dec. 4 — Toronto at Rochester, 7:05 p.m. EST
Sat. Dec. 5 — Manitoba at Toronto, 5:00 p.m. EST
Sun. Dec. 6 — Manitoba at Toronto, 3:00 p.m. EST (ACC)
Marlies Player Stats – December 1
|Richard Clune (X)||LW||15||2||4||6||2||59||1||0||14||14.3|
|Ryan Rupert (X)||C||8||3||1||4||4||2||1||0||7||42.9|
|Byron Froese (X)||C||4||3||0||3||-1||0||1||0||13||23.1|
|Frank Corrado (X)||D||7||0||3||3||3||2||0||0||7||0|
|Garret Sparks (X)||G||11||0||2||2||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jack Rodewald (X)||RW||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|