“The good, the bad and the ugly” perfectly encapsulated each period of play for the Toronto Marlies on Saturday afternoon, although not necessarily in that order.
Playing an Amerks team who struggle to score with much regularity, the Marlies barely reached third gear and almost paid the price for a lack of structure and some individual mistakes.
The first period represented “the bad” as both teams and the officials played out a forgettable opening 20 minutes. Kasperi Kapanen was guilty of firing high with Toronto’s best early opportunity, but the first goal wasn’t long in coming.
With less than three minutes on the clock, T.J Brennan drove into the offensive zone down the left and let fly from the top of the circle. Striking a rolling puck, the shot appeared to deceive Linus Ullmark in the Rochester net, going in off his glove.
Rochester tied the game up a mere 87 seconds later as Toronto played some awful defense in their own zone. With the Marlies caught down low and guilty of puck watching, William Carrier was allowed to throw a pass out in front; after Tim Schaller attempted to jam the puck home, defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti was on hand to apply the finishing touch.
Toronto appeared to reply through Rich Clune 90 seconds later, but the lone referee whistled the play dead despite the goaltender not having control of the puck when Clune buried his opportunity — the first of many questionable calls by the three-man officiating crew.
The home team reclaimed the lead through William Nylander seven minutes later. Spinning from the left to the centre of the ice, leaving three or four Rochester players in his wake, the Swedish forward sniped home his 18th of the season.
Once again the Marlies lead was short lived as the Amerks tied the game 31 seconds into the first powerplay of the game. Bobby Sanguinetti’s second of the period contained a whiff of goaltender interference but the goal was allowed to stand.
Tied at two apiece after 20 minutes, the middle frame proved “ugly” as Toronto were outshot 19-7 but still managed to hold a lead after seven goals had been tallied.
The carnage began 32 seconds in. Brennan looked to be searching for Sam Carrick down low with a pass, but the puck rebounded off a defenseman into the path of Colin Smith alone in front of the blue paint and the recent addition from San Antonio scored his first goal as a member of the Toronto Marlies.
It became 4-2 inside three minutes of the middle frame as Viktor Loov stepped into a shot from the blueline that found its way past Ullmark. It should have been three goals in five minutes, but Kapanen was unable to slide a pass across to Andrew Campbell for a tap-in.
The Amerks pulled within one with more success on the powerplay. If Rochester’s second goal was debatable, this one was surely goaltender interference, but Evan Rodrigues’ effort was allowed to stand despite a shove on Antoine Bibeau.
Toronto went straight down the ice on the resulting shift, with Soshnikov and Clune both missing chances and Ullmark pulling out one good save in between.
The two-goal cushion was restored thanks to some generosity from the Amerks. After a clearance from behind the visitors net went straight to Carrick, his attempted shot took a weird deflection. The puck seemed to remain in the air for the longest time before Matt Frattin batted it in on the backhand to make it 5-3.
The game was only at its midway point at this stage and thoughts were turning towards another possible 9-8 outcome.
That looked even more likely when Rochester scored for the third straight occasion on the powerplay through Phil Varone. Bibeau looked shaky on that goal, and he would be let down by his defence less than a minute later when the Amerks tied the game at five. Carrier was allowed to stand in front alone and redirect a shot from Chad Ruhwedel with the Marlies defense AWOL.
With ten goals scored inside 35 minutes, the offensive onslaught showed no signs of slowing down. Smith, who had a game to remember, turned provider this time around, holding the puck up and waiting for the support of Carrick arriving to his right. Smith put the pass on Carrick’s tape, and Carrick’s momentum relayed into a wicked shot as the puck beat Ullmark clean.
Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was famous for throwing tea-cups at half time when he wasn’t happy with his team’s performance; you wouldn’t have blamed Sheldon Keefe for smashing some chinaware of his own during the second intermission. Whatever was said in the room had the desired effect as Toronto played their best period in the final 20.
Nathan Lieuwen replaced Linus Ullmark between the pipes to begin the final frame, but it made little difference for Rochester.
The Americans continued to crash the net and upset Bibeau, who must have been feeling the strain of the way this game was turning out. It backfired for the Amerks as 4-on-4 hockey resulted and Toronto made it 7-5. Frattin was too easily afforded possession behind the right side of the net and had the easy task of sliding the puck to an unchallenged Colin Smith for his second goal of the game.
The Marlies received just one powerplay opportunity all game but they made full use of it. Connor Brown and Nylander played pitch and catch before switching the play over to Brennan, who had been left completely alone in the right circle. His one-time effort gave Lieuwen little chance.
Down by three goals, Rochester knew the game was over and it petered out as a contest after the Marlies were able to succesfully kill a pair of penalties.
With an empty net, Brennan came close to scoring his hat trick before Viktor Loov scored the ninth of the afternoon. Loov was trying to find Smith for his hat trick goal, but his intended pass was too hard for his teammate and banked off the right board and into the yawning cage.
Nine became ten with just over a minute to play as Brett Findlay’s intended pass to Tobias Lindberg was deflected by a defenseman past Lieuwen, finally finishing the scoring and putting a bow on this madness of a game.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto scored a season-high 10 goals, last accomplished February 8, 2009 against the Grand Rapids Griffins (also a 10-5 victory). The Marlies are the first AHL team this season to score ten goals in a game.
– Toronto lead the season series with Rochester 5-0-0-0, out-scoring the Amerks by a staggering 28-8.
– With the Reimer trade resulting in Garret Sparks being called up, David Ayres (yes, the Zamboni driver) signed an ATO before the game to back up Antoine Bibeau.
– Two goals and three assists for T.J Brennan gave him 55 points in as many games.
It’s the second time in his AHL career that’s he’s registered five points in a single game (he was playing for Rochester the first time, ironically).
– The last time a Toronto Marlies player achieved Brennan’s feat was February 26, 2012, when Nicolas Deschamps also helped himself to two goals and three assists.
– What a way to get off the mark: Colin Smith announced himself with a pair of goals and assists.
– Sam Carrick continues to roll offensively since his return. A goal and a helper to extend his point streak to three games.
Sheldon Keefe Post Game
Marlies Player Stats — Toronto 10 vs. Rochester 5