The past fortnight has seen the Toronto Marlies haul themselves from their worst form of the season into another winning streak.
A narrow 2-1 defeat at the hands of Belleville Senators in the Boxing Day Classic was followed by a 5-4 reverse in Syracuse, where special teams were crucial, with the Crunch striking twice on the power play.
Toronto proceeded to lose their third straight with a feeble performance at home against Rochester, who shut them out 2-0 after the Marlies recorded just 22 shots and failed to make any use of five power-play opportunities.
After incurring six losses in their previous seven games, Toronto needed to get back on track and did just that with a dominant display against Belleville on New Year’s Eve. A 5-1 victory could easily have been doubled if not for excellent goaltending from Andrew Hammond.
The new year brought three games in four days for the Marlies, beginning with a trip to Laval, where a 5-2 victory against the Rocket was followed by a pair of games against Atlantic Division teams at Ricoh Coliseum.
A come-from-behind shootout win against Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday showed character, although Toronto really should have won comfortably in regulation.
Most recently, the Marlies put six past Bridgeport but were fortunate to escape a first period in which they were out-shot 21-4 and thoroughly outworked by the Sound Tigers.
Four straight victories have catapulted Toronto back to the top of the North Division and the Eastern Conference after relinquishing that perch at the end of their losing skid.
The shutout against Rochester was the first time Toronto has been blanked this year, while Belleville registered their first win over the Marlies this season (series is 4-1). Despite that, the Marlies continues to dominate North Division opponents on the whole (18-6-0 record).
The victory on New Year’s Eve saw Toronto score their 100th goal of the season and ensured that Sheldon Keefe will coach the North Division in All-Star game, with Marlies at the head of the Division standings at the turn of the year.
The road victory in Laval is a league-leading 15th of the season (15-4-0), while the come-from-behind win against Lehigh saw the Marlies improve to 3-8-0 when trailing after two periods of play.
Six goals in the latest win is a single game season-high, as was the 21 shots against in the opening 20 minutes — the most faced in any period this season.
After showing intermittent promise, the power play struggled during this latest stretch of games, striking just three times at 12%. Not helping matters during the losing skid was the normally-reliable penalty kill conceding four goals against on eight opportunities. Back on track having allowed just one goal in the last four games, the Marlies’ PK has returned to number one in the AHL at 88.2%.
– Andreas Johnsson was one of Toronto’s most consistent offensive players this past fortnight with four goals and a pair of assists. Nine of his 14 goals this season have been scored at even strength — just one shy of the 10 he produced at ES through 2016-17.
– Kasperi Kapanen has shown great maturity handling his reassignments to the Marlies this season. Six points (2-4-6) in the past seven games included his 10th goal of the season, and he also converted in the shootout against Lehigh. With 10 goals and 18 points in 22 games, the 21-year-old has been him selected for the AHL All-Star game.
– Colin Greening recorded the first four-point game by a Marlies player this season. Three goals and as many assists gives Greening 18 points for the season. He looks set to surpass his disappointing offensive output of 24 points in 69 games last year. He also surpassed the 100-point mark in his AHL career during the victory over Bridgeport.
– Travis Dermott returned to action in some style by putting up three assists in consecutive games. A call-up to the Leafs was well deserved and he’s not looked out of place in the NHL thus far. A selection for the AHL All-Star game, his participation will be determined by the Leafs need for him.
– A first professional three-point game (2-1-3) for Frederik Gauthier before he was called up to the Leafs to centre the fourth line. It shouldn’t be understated what the big man has achieved so far this season when he wasn’t even supposed to make his comeback from injury until December.
– Kerby Rychel (1-2-3), Justin Holl (0-3-3), Rinat Valiev (1-2-3), Miro Aaltonen (2-1-3) and Dmytro Timashov all put up three points through the current stretch. Valiev’s goal was his first of the season, Aaltonen had the shootout winner against Lehigh, and Timashov played in his 100th AHL game.
– It took him 24 games, but finally, Adam Brooks scored his first AHL and professional goal. It’s proven a confidence boost for the rookie, who has now tallied three times in his last four outings and added an assist.
– Named Captain of the Toronto Marlies, Ben Smith continues to lead the team with 29 points despite just two assists to his name during this recent stretch.
– Andrew Nielsen got off the mark with his first goal of the season and followed it up with a second the next game. His defensive flaws continue to remain a significant liability, however.
– Four points (2-2-4) for Chris Mueller lifts him to third in team scoring with 24 points. It’s somewhat of a disappointment that he has just eight goals to his name with the number of excellent scoring chances falling his way. Just three of his goals have come during 5v5, but I would not be surprised to him turn that around in the second half of the season.
– Calvin Pickard’s recall to the Leafs saw him give up four goals in an overtime loss to Colorado. Back with the Marlies, Pickard posted a season-high 36 saves in a victory over Bridgeport. His current record stands at 11-5-0 with a .924 save percentage.
– Garret Sparks gave up five goals in his reappearance against Syracuse, but since then, he’s allowed just seven goals in four games while winning three straight. He’s 14-6-0 this season with a .937 save percentage
– Mason Marchment travelled with the team to Laval as he works his way back from injury. No timeframe has been given for his return, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him dress on the upcoming road-trip.
– Timothy Liljegren has returned from the World Juniors tournament and will return to action this coming weekend for the Marlies.
– Martins Dzierkals has been returned on loan to Orlando, along with defenseman Jeff King, who didn’t feature for the Marlies.
– Matias Cleland has been loaned to the Reading Royals by the Toronto organization.
– Cal Heeter was brought in as cover in Pickard’s absence but failed to see any action as Sparks took all the starts during that period.
– Defenseman Michael Paliotta has been traded to the Texas Stars in exchange for future considerations. The 24-year-old has suited up on just eight occasions this season (zero points, 10 shots) as the Marlies log-jam at the blue line has limited his opportunities. With Timothy Liljegren having returned from the World Juniors, the Connecticut native was unlikely to receive the playing time he was looking for, making a trade the best outcome for both parties.
Orlando Solar Bear News
By winning five of their last seven games, the Solar Bears have clambered back to a .500 record (16-16-5). Orlando sits fourth in the South Division and holds a playoff berth by two points ahead of Atlanta Gladiators.
– A five-point game for Joshua Winquist equalled the single-game franchise record for Orlando set by Michael Neal, who had two goals and three assists on January 17, 2013 against Wheeling. The Solar Bears leading scorer put up nine points in all (5-4-9) and sits seventh in league scoring with 38 points (14-24-38).
– Alex Gudbranson made his return to action after being hurt in the second game of the year. A multi-point haul in his first game back and three points (2-1-3) overall for the defenseman.
– Reassigned to Orlando, Martins Dzierkals recorded two goals and three assists, including his 10th helper of the season. He has 18 points in 20 games for the Solar Bears on the season.
– Orlando made a recent trade acquiring forward Hunter Fejes, who promptly scored a hat-trick in his second game.
– Sam Jardine and Kristian Pospisil recorded four points (0-4-4) and two points (1-1-2), respectively, while Max Novak (1-2-3) and J.J. Piccinich (0-3-3) both had three-point hauls during the past fortnight.
– Mackenzie Skapski recorded his first shutout of the season in Orlando’s most recent victory.
– Cal Heeter recorded consecutive victories on his return to the Solar Bears, the last of which gave him his 10th win of the year and an overall record of 10-8-3 (.902 save percentage).
Toronto Marlies Player Stats – January 12
Toronto Marlies Goalie Stats – January 12