Bernier posts shutout as Marlies overpower Amerks

The Toronto Marlies were looking to get their season back on track — not just in the win column, but also in level of performance.

They did both of those things in a Friday night tilt in Rochester.

The opening period saw no scoring but did wonders for the confidence of Jonathan Bernier between the pipes. Toronto were on the penalty kill inside the first minute of the game, and Bernier turned aside all four shots faced.

The story was pretty much Marlies domination at even strength; efforts from Arcobello and Gauthier were close, while Panik couldn’t quite deal with a rebound effort lying in the blue paint in front of Nathan Lieuwen.

It was the Marlies special teams that broke the game wide open in the middle frame.
An early powerplay looked to be heading nowhere until finally Toronto set up inside the hosts zone.

Arcobello tried to tee up Brennan, but with the defenseman covered by wary Rochester penalty killers, he swiftly transferred the puck to his right to a certain young Swede. With so much attention on Brennan, Nylander had time and space to measure a beautiful top shelf shot past the blocker of Lieuwen.

Leivo broke away with Nylander on an odd man rush following the opening goal, but his shot produced a rebound that eluded both of them.

Toronto fired the first six shots of the middle frame and Bernier wasn’t tested until Bobby Sanguinetti fired wide before an effort from the left wing circle by Dan Catenacci knocked his mask off.

It was one way traffic for the most part, with the visitors drawing penalties due to their dominance at 5-on-5.

William Nylander had the next big chance, sent away on a breakaway, but his high glove side effort forced a fine save out of Lieuwen.

Nylander was not to be denied, however, as the fourth powerplay of the game saw the lead doubled. A scramble in front of the net ensued after Arcobello’s intended pass was blocked. Nylander turned on the rebound and fired home a wrist shot from the right circle.

A pair of solid saves from Bernier with five minutes to play kept Rochester off the scoreboard, while Nylander was hungry for his hat trick. Filling in for Stuart Percy at the blueline, Nylander saw his blast denied by the pads of Lieuwen.

A late Rochester powerplay gave the home team fans some optimism, but it was short lived as Toronto dashed their hopes with a shorthanded marker. Freddie Gauthier deflected an intended Rochester pass into the vicinity of Nikita Soshnikov — it was a 2 on 1 break for the Russian, and he finally converted on one of his many shorthanded opportunities this season, beating Lieuwen far side to make it 3-0.

Toronto have failed to let slip a lead after two periods this season and they weren’t about to give Rochester a chance to break that record. Casey Bailey was denied on a breakaway as his five-hole effort only just failed to sneak under Lieuwen’s left pad. On the resulting face-off, Soshnikov fired a shot that produced a rebound off the pads. The Russian slotted home his second of the game as he proved an unstoppable force driving to the net.

With that goal coming so early in the period and still much time left to play, Toronto kept up the pressure on their hosts, playing a full sixty minute game and denying Rochester any thoughts of an improbable comeback.

Zach Hyman came close with a backhand effort, but as the clock wound down all thoughts turned to preserving Bernier’s perfect record on his Marlies debut, with a 4-0 lead looking more than enough to secure victory.

Rochester forced the Marlies goaltender into three good saves with around six minutes remaining as the puck bounced around the slot, but all looked fine until captain Andrew Campbell took a penalty with 2:04 remaining on the clock.

The Marlies rallied around their new teammate and kept the play to the outside. There was just one shot to be saved until the final second of the game, when Bernier turned aside Rochester’s 22nd effort on net to record a shutout in his Toronto Marlies debut.

Post Game Notes

– Jonathan Bernier couldn’t have asked for a better performance from those in front of him. The team provided goal support and didn’t allow Rochester to create many good chances. Bernier was solid when called upon, and this will be a much-needed shot of confidence for him. This was the 15th shutout of his AHL career.

– William Nylander was somewhere back near his brilliant best. His second two-goal game of the season propels him back to the top of the scoring charts with 26 points in 20 games.

– Mark Arcobello responded to a scratch on Sunday with a pair of powerplay assists and a far better performance than in his two previous outings.

– Two assists for Freddie Gauthier marked the first multipoint game of his professional career. Paired back with Soshnikov, the chemistry between them is still there as they, along with Bailey, were a handful all game long.

– Nikita Soshnikov fired a season-high six shots and ended with his second two-goal game on the year. He continues to impress and could find himself in with a shot at the Leafs roster come trade deadline time.

– Just under an hour or so before puck drop, the Toronto goaltending situation found a way to become more bizarre. With James Reimer apparently injured, Antoine Bibeau was recalled to the Leafs and Rich Clune reassigned to the Marlies. Rob Madore has been recalled from Orlando but with Madore unable to make the game in time, the Marlies signed Dave Ayres, a Zamboni driver, to an ATO as Bernier’s back-up. It almost sounds made up.

Game Highlights

Marlies Player Stats

Campbell, Andrew00222
Brennan, T.J.01010
Harrington, Scott00020
Percy, Stuart00000
Hyman, Zach00000
Leivo, Josh00030
Carrick, Sam00000
Panik, Richard00020
Leipsic, Brendan00020
Gauthier, Frederik02220
Arcobello, Mark02040
Bailey, Casey01120
Frattin, Matt00022
Kapanen, Kasperi01020
Loov, Viktor00002
Valiev, Rinat00220
Nylander, William20060
Soshnikov, Nikita20260