Marlies too hot for Moose to handle

The Manitoba Moose must be sick and tired of the all-conquering Toronto Marlies.

Having lost all previous six games to the best team in the AHL, including a 9-0 thumping, the Moose were looking to snap the streak as well as halt an overall eight-game losing slide.

A fast paced beginning went without a whistle until the four-minute mark. The Marlies were dictating play with the Moose struggling to clear their own zone.

Manitoba’s lack of discipline eventually saw them concede the opening goal. A pair of penalties led to 40 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play for Toronto.

Mark Arcobello brought a fine shoulder save from Eric Comrie but the young goaltender was beaten on the next play. Brendan Leipsic’s cross-ice feed found T.J Brennan and the league’s leading scorer wired his shot through the smallest of gaps between Comrie’s shoulder and the crossbar.

A penalty by Nikita Soshnikov negated the remainder of the powerplay, but at four on four Toronto almost doubled their lead. A backhand effort from Connor Brown was denied before he banged home a rebound on a shot from Loov. The goal was rightly waived off due to Brown being in the crease, but the warning signs were there for the home team.

The shot count after the first period only favoured Toronto 8-5, as the second half of the opening frame was light on opportunities.

Zach Hyman set the right tone with a terrific opening shift of the second period. A drive to the net produced a rebound for Frederik Gauthier that forced another good save out of Comrie. Hyman might well have tipped in a shot from Percy seconds later had he not been hooked in front.

Despite their struggles, Manitoba was playing with a certain amount of confidence trailing by just one at this stage. Thomas Raffl fully tested Antoine Bibeau with a wrist shot from the left circle. A minute later, however, the home team shot themselves in the foot with poor play in their own end.

A pair of consecutive passes from the right boards ended with Arcobello in possession alone in front and he fired into the far corner past Comrie.

A Marlies powerplay should have seen them extended the lead. Josh Leivo was flying but failed to convert on his chances, while Arcobello contrived to shoot wide with the goal empty before later hitting the post.

A turnover from Toronto enabled the hosts to exert some pressure at the midway point. Nic Petan watched his shot hit the crossbar and Bibeau had to be on his game to deny Scott Kosmachuk and Brenden Kichton on the following efforts.

The Marlies have a habit of responding to a good shift by the opposition by scoring themselves, and it happened once again in the second period. Soshnikov won the battle along the boards before handing the puck off to Hyman. Hyman repaid the gesture with an inch-perfect pass out in front, where Soshnikov fired home through traffic.

Toronto capitalized on more Manitoba defensive frailties shortly after. Somewhat unbelievably, Arcobello was left unattended on two occasions and he made the Moose pay the second time around. Allowed to watch the puck bounce off the right wall and back to him under no pressure, Arcobello fired a no-look shot from the right face-off dot that beat Comrie top shelf.

Manitoba’s goaltender got the hook after that, but in no way was Comrie to blame for the score line.

Jussi Olkinuora entered the game between the pipes and was immediately called on to deny Leipsic on two different occasions.

He was unable to stop the Marlies scoring their third goal of the period in a four minute span. With Manitoba pinching, Toronto created a 2-on-1 rush heading the other way. William Nylander’s perfect feed found Kasperi Kapanen, who gave Olkinuora no chance on the shot.

Kapanen nearly doubled his tally two and a half minutes into the third, but the puck bounced over his tape with a huge chunk of the net to aim at.

Two and a half minutes in to the final frame, finally the Moose found a break through and it was a strange way for Bibeau to end his shutout bid. Bibeau came out to challenge the shooter and made the save, but he was knocked down by Andrew Campbell. Unable to regain his footing in time, Bibeau could do nothing to deny Petan, who finished well on his backhand.

The game then took a nasty turn as Ryan Olsen took out his frustrations with an unacceptable spear on Kapanen. Olsen was rightly assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for his actions. Thankfully, Kapanen eventually returned to the game after taking a breather.

Matt Frattin hit the iron on the subsequent powerplay, which would be mostly negated by the Marlies taking two consecutive penalties of their own.

The game meandered a little after all the penalties expired, but the goal scoring wasn’t finished just yet. With his parents having flown in from the Czech Republic to watch him play, the Moose’s Jiri Fronk finished off a nice play on a feed from John Albert.

With Campbell called for interference on the next shift, trailing by three, Manitoba coach Keith McCambridge threw caution to the wind and sent on the extra attacker.

It nearly paid off as Matt Fraser should have done better than fire wide to the left of Bibeau with the Marlies goaltender scrambling.

Despite some tired bodies, Toronto extinguished any lingering hopes of a comeback with an empty net goal. Frederik Gauthier used his strength to win the battle to clear to the neutral zone, before a totally gassed Hyman mustered up enough energy to beat his opponent and claim possession. Hyman eased the puck into the empty cage despite being hacked at from behind.

Post Game Notes

– It was the fourth two-goal night for Mark Arcobello, and he should have had his first hat-trick. That’s twenty goals for the season, leaving him third in AHL scorers with 44 points in 34 games.

– A goal extends T.J Brennan’s point streak to nine games, as he remains the league’s leading scorer.

Josh Leivo has enjoyed playing against Manitoba this season, taking his total to twelve points over seven meetings. Two primary assists takes his points tally to 36, good enough for 14th in AHL scoring.

– It was also a multi-point night for Zach Hyman. Another good outing for him, especially on the penalty kill, and he moves to seventh in rookie scoring with 28 points.

– Toronto’s point percentage is back over .800 with this victory.

– These teams face off again Saturday afternoon in the eighth and final meeting between them this season.

Game Highlights

Marlies Player Stats — Toronto 6 vs. Manitoba 2

Campbell, AndrewD00-232
Brennan, T.J.D10210
Percy, StuartD01332
Hyman, ZachRW11220
Leivo, JoshRW02210
Leipsic, BrendanLW01020
Gauthier, FrederikC00110
Arcobello, MarkC20342
Brown, ConnorRW00010
Findlay, BrettLW00-112
Bailey, CaseyRW01200
Frattin, MattRW00-110
Holl, JustinD02220
Kapanen, KasperiRW10010
Loov, ViktorD00310
Valiev, RinatD00-200
Nylander, WilliamC02020
Soshnikov, NikitaLW10042