The Marlies’ past weekend could be appropriately titled “Last Man Standing” on account of their decimated roster — a far cry from Toronto’s embarrassment of riches from the beginning of the season.

The latest losses were Josh Leivo and Frederik Gauthier, with the latter making his Leafs debut (Gauthier has since been returned to the Marlies with Tyler Bozak set to return to the lineup on Thursday).

Two players from Orlando, another two on tryout contracts, and Matt Frattin on loan from Ottawa were all in the lineup, while James Martin was forced into action as a forward at various times.

The fact that that Toronto were still able to take four points of a possible six, and feel they should have taken at least another point, reflects kindly on the coaching staff and the drive and determination of the players.

Special teams were a disappointment, but how much you can realistically expect with so much change is debatable. The penalty killed allowed three goals on ten times shorthanded, but the positive to takeaway is the improved discipline of late. Two victories achieved despite scoring just one powerplay goal on 17 opportunities shows how strong the Marlies were at even strength, but it also proved their downfall against the Bruins.

The 45-win benchmark was attained and surpassed, while Sunday’s victory was the Marlies‘ 25th on the road. Toronto also surpassed the 250-goal mark, sitting at 257 with ten games to go.

A playoff berth was officially confirmed, and now the quest is on for the Marlies to cement their place as the best AHL team in the regular season.

Toronto Marlies 3 vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms 2

Toronto began the weekend with a late rally at home against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Despite holding the upper hand in the opening period, Toronto failed to take their chances and fell behind to a powerplay goal early in the middle frame.

The Phantoms were the better team during the second period, outshooting Toronto 14-10 and forcing Alex Stalock into some key saves.

The Marlies came out firing in the third period but again couldn’t capitalize on opportunities, especially on the man advantage. Toronto fell further behind after a fine individual effort from Petr Straka with 5:53 remaining.

Toronto halved the deficit a mere 24 seconds later thanks to Sam Carrick on the powerplay as he popped home a rebound from Mark Arcobello’s initial shot. The Marlies were motoring now and managed to tie the game up at twos through Brendan Leipsic two seconds after another powerplay expired.

Despite finishing regulation in the ascendancy, Toronto couldn’t find a winner and it was off to overtime. The Phantoms had the better opportunities inside the opening minute of extra hockey, but Stalock came up with three stellar saves to keep the game alive. That set the stage for Colin Smith to rifle over the glove hand of Anthony Stolarz to complete the rally and claim the extra point.

Providence Bruins 5 vs. Toronto Marlies 4

Providence Bruins were Saturday’s visitors with the team’s having only met for the first time last weekend. Toronto were a stronger team on that occasion despite needing to make an ATO signing in Tylor Spink just to field a full complement of forwards.

Despite some unfamiliar names taking the ice, Toronto began well and took a lead three minutes in through Eric Faille. Keeping Providence at bay, the Marlies thought they had made it 2-0, but the goal wasn’t awarded despite video evidence to the contrary.

Brett Findlay came close to doubling the lead on a breakaway before the visitors tied the game up on the powerplay. Toronto struck back and retook the lead through a snipe from Mark Arcobello. It was an advantage that lasted less than 50 seconds as leading scorer Frank Vatrano scored on a breakaway to tie the game up after twenty minutes.

Providence were in control of the second period but were unable to take a lead into the final frame. They converted one again on the powerplay, this time through veteran Max Talbot, but Toronto pegged them back with just under two minutes to play as Brett Findlay tallied his sixth of the season.

One of the frustrating things about this loss for the Marlies was their relinquishment of the lead on several occasions. The Marlies held the advantage once again when Sam Carrick put them up 4-3 five minutes into the third.

Two goals in the span of 3:05 put the Bruins ahead for good at 5-4. Special teams proved crucial as Toronto spent the lass seven minutes or so with the extra man, even pulling Bibeau for the extra attacker, but ultimately went 0 for 6 on the powerplay.

Toronto Marlies 4 vs. Lake Erie Monsters 1

Sunday’s task was a daunting one, as a tired Marlies team took on a strong Lake Erie side that has a sterling record on home ice.

With no help forthcoming from the Leafs, the Marlies were left even further depleted by the loss of Mark Arcobello. Taylor Doherty was dressed as a seventh defensemen while Tylor Spink was asked to play his fourth professional game in as many days.

Cue what will probably be characterised as the season’s most valiant performance in which every last player healthy player on the team gave the last ounce of energy they owned.

Toronto rode their luck in the opening period and the first few minutes of middle frame, indebted to some less-than-clinical finishing from the home team and excellence from Antoine Bibeau. The Marlies rewarded their goaltender by scoring three times in the second period, although they could easily have allowed goals in-between. Name the three unlikeliest players to score and you wouldn’t have been far off, with Rich Clune, John Kurtz and Eric Faille all finding the twine.

A pushback, as expected, was forthcoming from the Monsters, who got themselves on the board 78 seconds in. Killing a penalty following the goal was huge for Toronto, appearing to puncture the home team’s bubble somewhat. Good discipline and playing percentage hockey enabled Toronto’s tired legs to ease to victory in the end, with the icing on the cake applied by TJ Brennan’s empty net goal for a 4-1 victory.

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Eric Faille recorded the first multi-point game of his short AHL career versus Providence and had three points over the weekend.

Sam Carrick was another to register three points and he continues to be in fine form over the last couple of weeks. Carrick is on a four-game points streak and has 13 points in his last 13 games.

T.J Brennan was back to point scoring form even while playing less than his best hockey. A goal and four assists takes him to 63 point in 65 games, which places him tied for second in the league.

Tobias Lindberg took his points tally to 10 in 17 games for the Marlies with three assists over the weekend. Unfortunate to see one goal waived off, he came close on several other occasions this weekend.

John Kurtz scored his first goal for Toronto against Lake Erie and added an assist versus Providence.

Tylor Spink’s first four days in professional hockey were something he will tell the grandkids about. Two games for Toledo Walleye of the ECHL, including a goal and three points in his second game, followed by a pair of outings for the Toronto Marlies, where he was awarded an assist before having it taken away after the game. Spink has now returned to Colgate to finish his schooling.

Alex Stalock recorded his first victory for the Marlies, bearing a new mask with a Toronto design. Not a whole ton of saves were required,  but he came up with big stops at crucial times in a victory that should breed some confidence.

Antoine Bibeau gave up five goals in Saturday’s game, but could count himself unfortunate with one breakaway and four redirections in front. Bibeau was superb on Sunday, keeping his team in the game until the offense arrived.

Upcoming Game:
Saturday March 26 — St. John’s at Toronto, 1:30 p.m. EST (ACC)

Toronto Marlies Player Stats — March 22

T.J. BrennanD6523406334518015914.5
Mark ArcobelloC4123295219227213517
Colin Smith (total)C671828462352113713.1
Colin Smith (SA)C54132134-4332111511.3
Colin Smith (TOR)C13571262002222.7
William Nylander (X)C371827458103011016.4
Brendan LeipsicLW5718274516304115311.8
Josh Leivo (X)RW4514264013125013210.6
Zach Hyman (X)RW5413203328220412110.7
Tobias Lindberg (total)RW511022321318201168.6
Tobias Lindberg (BNG)RW345172210800677.5
Tobias Lindberg (TOR)RW175510310204910.2
Matt FrattinRW64112031151201209.2
Sam CarrickC4713162911862010612.3
Nikita Soshnikov (X)LW5018102824183211915.1
Richard Panik (X)RW3391625534006613.6
Kasperi KapanenRW399162558405616.1
Connor Brown (X)RW2891524108216314.3
Andrew CampbellD63913223866008410.7
Stuart PercyD534182204100606.7
Richard CluneLW417142116120124017.5
Rinat Valiev (X)D5431821322801535.7
Justin HollD5251520331500865.8
Casey Bailey (X)RW384141851600557.3
Brett FindlayLW396111796005411.1
Frederik GauthierC52511161710004710.6
Viktor Loov (X)D5331215134000754
Eric FailleF1242632002119
John Kurtz (total)LW34325-138002512
John Kurtz (UTI)LW25202-538001612.5
John Kurtz (TOR)LW91234000911.1
James MartinD1705511300190
Byron Froese (X)C4303-10101323.1
Scott HarringtonD1712341400205
Frank Corrado (X)D7033320070
David KolomatisD151128400119.1
Rylan Schwartz (X)C5101-1000616.7
Eric Baier (X)D1011000030
Taylor DohertyD50112110060
Jack Rodewald (X)RW7011140070
Justin JohnsonRW80110360050
T.J. Foster (X)RW2000000040
Tylor Spink (X)C2000000010

Toronto Marlies Goalie Stats — March 22

Ryan Massa159:56:00100011160.941
Rob Madore4240:00:00400151.25990.952
Jonathan Bernier4239:43:00300351.25910.948
Garret Sparks201151:33:0013403452.345570.925
Alex Stalock5302:54:003200122.381310.916
Antoine Bibeau331935:52:0022801932.888740.904