Take William Nylander out of the equation, and Brendan Leipsic has arguably been the Toronto Marlies’ most effective forward this season.
Even still, Leipsic has struggled to put up the numbers that his play has so often deserved — that’s until this game, however, where the 21-year-old proved the difference maker.
Despite a poor record against the IceCaps overall this season, the Marlies have fared well in their visits to St. John’s, recording a win and a loss in a pair of overtime decisions.
In an opening period that had echoes of the crazy 9-8 encounter back in November, it was the visiting Marlies who got off to a fast start.
There was a little fortunate involved as Toronto opened the scoring 53 seconds in — after a feed from Leipsic, Matt Frattin’s shot fell kindly for Ryan Rupert. Rupert wasted no time in reversing a cross-crease pass to Leipsic, who drove to the net uncontested before firing home the opener.
The IceCaps were almost immediately on the powerplay after falling behind, but only Nikita Scherbak managed to test Bibeau. It was the Marlies who came closer to scoring on the IceCaps’ man advantage, as Frederik Gauthier sent Nikita Soshnikov away down the right wing instead of dumping the puck in. The Russian winger beat his opponent along the boards, driving the net before his shot was turned aside by IceCaps goaltender Eddie Pasquale.
Drawing a penalty themselves right after a terrific penalty kill, the Marlies had some good looks but were unable to extend the lead with the extra man.
The Marlies would soon break through and double the lead with 7:25 to play in the first period. Zach Hyman won a battle along the boards before sending a pass to Rupert waiting at the hashmarks. From one knee, Rupert’s one timer snuck through Pasquale — a goal that the IceCaps netminder will no doubt want back.
The two-goal lead was short lived, as Toronto presented the home team with a pair of goals in the space of 48 seconds. A giveaway from Soshnikov allowed Daniel Carr to tee up Bud Holloway backdoor, and the IceCaps leading scorer doesn’t tend to miss those.
Jeremy Morin then coughed up a giveaway to Charles Hudon on the wing. Despite gaining possession back in his own zone, Hudon raced away before firing past a helpless Antoine Bibeau, who had little chance on either goal.
Toronto called on Bibeau to flash the leather to deny Lucas Lessio before retaking the lead on the powerplay.
It was all about Kasperi Kapanen: The Finnish forward, first showing electric speed to beat a pair of opponents, fell to one knee in the offensive zone yet was still able to dish the puck perfectly to Soshnikov, who delivered the killer touch in the slot.
— AHL (@TheAHL) January 16, 2016
Another powerplay followed and so did another Marlies goal, as Toronto responded with a double blow inside 79 seconds. A long-range effort from Casey Bailey produced a big rebound off the pads of Pasquale. The puck ended up on Leipsic’s stick; while the Manitoba native didn’t get all of his shot, it banked off Darren Dietz before looping into the net past a bemused Pasquale.
Four goals on six shots saw the IceCaps swap their goaltenders around, with Zachary Fucale taking Pasquale’s place between the pipes.
Up 4-2, Toronto began the second period in control and looked to extend the lead. Another shot from Bailey resulted in a rebound, but Andrew Campbell couldn’t force home the loose puck.
The IceCaps’ lack of discipline wasn’t helping their cause, as Toronto ended up with almost a full two minutes of a 5-on-3 power play. The home team responded with a good penalty kill that saw them almost tally shorthanded, with Bibeau forced into a fine poke check on Gabriel Dumont.
The strong penalty kill sparked St. John’s, and Mark MacMillan should have done better, firing wide on a breakaway after a giveaway by T.J Brennan.
Bibeau was then tested by a Dan Ellis one timer before Carr attempted to sweep home a rebound with a wraparound effort.
Leipsic, a menace all game, picked up a rebound from a Frattin shot and appeared likely to score if he wasn’t upended. It mattered not, however, as he’d simply score on the powerplay that followed. Brennan kept the puck inside the blue line before firing a long-range wrist shot on net. There was Frattin once more, this time attempting a tip in front, generating a rebound for Leipsic to put home his hat-trick goal on the second effort.
That was the end of the scoring through 40 minutes, as the visiting Marlies looked thoroughly in control with a three-goal advantage.
As you would expect, St. John’s pushed back a little early in the final frame. After surviving a scramble in front of their own net, Toronto exerted some pressure of their own. The teams exchanged rushes, but it was the Marlies who scored a put-away tally on the eighth goal of the game.
After Fucale made the initial save on a Jack Rodewald slap shot, the puck bounced in off some part of Brett Findlay, who was thrilled to score his first goal of his AHL season.
St. John’s drew back within three goals with 5:31 on the clock. A spell of controlled pressure in the offensive zone worked the Marlies ragged and allowed Carr the freedom to tip home a long-range attempt from Dietz.
There would be no heroic comeback from St. John’s, however, as Toronto shut down the IceCaps for the most part. Bibeau’s best saves came on Michael McCarro as well as Lucas Lessio on a shorthanded breakaway.
Mark Arcobello clipped the outside of the post on a shot from his own zone with the IceCaps net empty as the home team went for broke.
The game threatened to boil over late on as the IceCaps’ frustrations began to show. Hudon drew Leipsic into an altercation that appeared fairly harmless, but both players received 10-minute misconducts.
It’ll certainly add fire for Sunday’s matinee’s game, but nobody can argue the Marlies were less than full value for their 6-3 victory.
Post Game Notes
– That’s seven straight wins is a franchise record for the Toronto Marlies, surpassing the three occasions they’ve registered six successive victories. Toronto also surpassed 150 goals for the season.
– Brendan Leipsic’s hat trick was the first by any Marlies player this season. The previous Marlies hat trick was scored at Ricoh Coliseum against Adirondack on April 7, 2015 — also by Brendan Leipsic.
– Sheldon Keefe might just have found the recipe to get Matt Frattin going — playing him with Ryan Rupert and Brendan Leipsic. Frattin’s two assists tonight was just the second time this season the 28-year-old winger has recorded a multi-point game.
– Three helpers for T.J Brennan, who now takes sole position of the Marlies scoring lead in William Nylander’s absence. After nine points in five games, Brennan is three shy of recording 40 points for the second time in his career.
– Despite provocation, Toronto’s discipline was excellent, as they allowed the hosts just two powerplay opportunities. On the flipside, they drew eight powerplays, converting twice with ample opportunity to score a couple more while up a man.
Marlies Player Stats — Toronto 6 vs St. John’s 3