Kerby Rychel has largely been a peripheral figure while Kasperi Kapanen and Brendan Leipsic have lit up the American Hockey League so far this season.

Rychel has been far from a passenger, however, filing a number of fine performances that went unrewarded on the score sheet — until tonight, that is. Rychel finally bucked the monkey off his back with a double strike to lead Toronto to an impressive road victory over Wilkes-Barre Scranton.

First Period

The first-placed Penguins began strongly and generated the first powerplay of the game less than two minutes in. Antoine Bibeau was called upon to make just one save; despite some good looks for the home team, Toronto’s penalty kill stood up to the early test.

The Marlies had to wait until around the six-minute mark for their first real spell of pressure as the Leivo-Gauthier-Kapanen line took the hosts to task inside their own zone. It eventually led to Toronto’s opening goal and their first powerplay tally of the game.

Tristan Jarry was forced into two good saves inside the first few seconds of his team’s penalty kill, while Rychel fired just wide from in tight. A pair of familiar faces then combined to set up the goal; after Brendan Leipsic found a seam to Kasperi Kapanen to the left of the net, the Finnish winger wasted no time sending a cross-crease pass to Rychel waiting at the back door. Rychel scored on the simplest tap-ins for his first as a Marlie.

Energized after scoring first, the Marlies quieted the home crowd by taking control of the game. On a set up from Tobias Lindberg, Colin Smith was denied of a pretty goal by a sharp save from Jarry.

WBS survived the Toronto barrage and almost tied the game up just after the midway mark of the period. Captain Tom Kostopoulos forced the turnover but Carter Rowney failed to find the perfect pass during the ensuing odd man rush.

Smith — certainly snake-bitten during this game — was robbed by Jarry again, who made an incredible glove save to deny him after a quality feed from Rychel. Toronto’s momentum was halted by a ridiculous penalty from Milan Michalek, who closed his hand on the puck during a harmless looking play in the neutral zone.

The Marlies almost scored shorthanded goal on a breakaway from Kasperi Kapanen, while the closest WBS came was through Jean-Sebastien Dea. Bibeau was equal to the high shot from the Pens centreman and Toronto were able to successfully kill the penalty.

The final four minutes of the opening frame were dominated by the Marlies, who deservedly doubled their lead. After Smith and Johnsson’s excellent forecheck saw Johnsson come away with the puck, the Swedish winger measured a perfect pass to Rychel all alone at the top of the crease. With his confidence now spiked, the former Blue Jackets forward made no mistake.

It could have been an even bigger advantage heading into the intermission without further brilliance from Jarry, who kept his team in the game with a couple of late saves.

Second Period

Toronto began the second period with the same verve but a turnover by Viktor Loov almost gave the home team a foothold three minutes in, enabling a 2-on-1 break for WBS. The league’s leading rookie scorer Jake Guentzel was presented with a gilt-edged chance in front of net, but Antoine Bibeau showed great reflexes making the save.

The Marlies responded to the ten-bell stop from their netminder by extending the lead with 4:30 on the clock. A long-range shot from Loov made its way through traffic and provided a rebound to the right of Jarry. Frederik Gauthier won the battle in front and scooped the puck into the empty cage to make it 3-0.

WBS only fired five shots on net during the second period but Bibeau needed to make some saves of note. Kevin Porter was afforded some time to measure a shot from the hashmarks, but the Quebec native was equal to the shot and more importantly clung on to the puck to avoid a rebound.

On a Toronto powerplay with 12 minutes to go in the second, Josh Archibald was sent in alone on a breakaway for the Pens. It was a big moment in the game, with Bibeau again coming up with the big save when his team needed it most.

Jarry was still trying to keep the home side’s hopes alive and denied Josh Leivo after more excellent work from Rychel. Every Toronto line was firing on full cylinders at this point; the Marlies chances were numerous as Johnsson, Michalek, Leivo, Lindberg, Andrew Nielsen and Brooks Laich were all turned aside by the impressive Jarry, who must have been feeling the strain of wave after wave of Toronto pressure.

Gauthier, whose confidence appeared high coming off of his goal, almost doubled his account after leading a rush through the neutral zone. He dropped the puck off to Justin Holl, who returned the puck to Gauthier at the far post. The Goat saw his backhand effort smothered on the second attempt by Jarry.

Rychel looked likely to grab himself a hat trick and probably would have if not for more brilliance from Jarry. After a denial at even strength on a feed from Smith, Rychel saw his backhand effort smothered on the powerplay. Leivo was also frustrated on the following play before Johnsson ended up in the box. A shortened man advantage for the home team proved fruitless as Toronto held onto their three-goal advantage heading into the final 20 minutes.

Third Period

The game was almost done as a contest during the opening sequence of the third period.
Off of a broken play, Leipsic’s hard slapshot produced a big rebound that almost fell into the path of William Wrenn.

As expected, there was a pushback from WBS, although Toronto didn’t help themselves by failing to clear the zone on four occasions, inviting unwanted pressure. The calm Bibeau held onto the puck to give his teammates a chance to reset.

After the restart, Byron Froese was taken down behind the Pens net. With no call made, the Pens almost went down the ice and scored. After Bibeau came rushing from his net to deny a partial breakaway, he inadvertently gifted possession to Guentzel. The goaltender made up ground in no time and was composed enough to deny the rookie.

The next threat came from defenseman David Warsofsky, who showed a dangerous turn of speed and some nifty skills to get around the Marlies defense, but Bibeau was again equal to the effort.

A powerplay for Toronto with exactly eight minutes remaining on the clock extinguished the hopes of a comeback. Despite Jarry turning aside Rinat Valiev and Johnsson failing to score from two excellent shots, WBS appeared resigned to their fate with ten minutes remaining.

Gauthier, Michalek and Leivo all could have extended the lead, but the bigger question was whether Toronto could remain solid enough defensively to blank WBS the rest of the way. It was almost a familiar face who broke the shutout bid, but Stuart Percy’s tip in front whistled wide of the cage.

A pair of Penguins penalties inside the final three minutes made the Marlies task easier, including a lengthy two-man advantage. Leipsic hit iron before getting stonewalled by Jarry, a fate that also befell Leivo seconds later.

More importantly, Toronto ensured Antoine Bibeau recorded his third shutout of the season in what was the Marlies finest road performance of the season so far.

Post Game Notes

Antoine Bibeau only needed to make 19 saves, but once again he came up with the crucial stop when needed. He now has a 6-1-1 record and a 0.939 save percentage, and his three shutouts lead all AHL goalies.

Kerby Rychel was finally rewarded for consistent performances and his persistence in putting pucks on net. He was unfortunate not to claim a hat-trick, but hopefully he can kick on with this brace of goals under his belt.

Frederik Gauthier’s goal was his first this season and he showed great desire and good strength in front of net to break his duck. It was also his first point in five games, but it’s worth noting his linemates have been thriving around him.

Milan Michalek notched his first Marlies point with an assist on Gauthier’s goal. This was by far his best performance thus far and a good showing from his line overall, including Brooks Laich and Colin Greening.

Kasperi Kapanen recorded his sixth assist of the season, but way out ahead in that category is Brendan Leipsic, who recorded a helper on the same goal for his 16th on the year.

– Toronto’s victory ensures they are now tied with Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins for the Eastern Conference lead.

Sheldon Keefe Post Game

Marlies 3 vs. WBS Penguins – Game Sheet

Campbell, Andrew00001
Valiev, Rinat00011
Holl, Justin00011
Loov, Viktor01031
Nielsen, Andrew00040
Wrenn, William00000
Smith, Colin00031
Froese, Byron00020
Johnsson, Andreas01231
Michalek, Milan01221
Leipsic, Brendan01020
Laich, Brooks00011
Kapanen, Kasperi01000
Leivo, Josh00030
Gauthier, Frederik10221
Rychel, Kerby20051
Lindberg, Tobias00030
Greening, Colin00000