The Toronto Marlies finished the month of March with an 11-3-0 record and set a league record in Manitoba this past weekend.
With five wins and a single loss through the last fortnight, Toronto has now accumulated 102 points and 50 victories on the season, requiring just two wins in the final six games to secure the North Division title.
Eight points will secure the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy — awarded to the AHL’s best regular season team — for the second time in three campaigns.
A 2-0 shutout over Springfield at home was followed by two wins in Manitoba against the Moose, clinching an AHL record for road wins. Saturday’s 5-4 success meant Toronto recorded their 29th road victory of the season, surpassing the previous best of 28 set by Norfolk Admirals in 2011-12. The record is made more remarkable by the fact that all 29 victories have been achieved in regulation.
Toronto’s penalty kill gave up a single goal in three consecutive games but remains the league’s best at 89.2%. The power play more than made up for any deficiencies from the PK by scoring eight times on 29 opportunities.
Toronto Marlies Player News
– Garret Sparks won all four of his starts, posted a single shutout, and was selected as the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending March 25th. Recorded against Springfield, the clean sheet was the sixth of the season for Sparks, which breaks his own single-season franchise record. Despite not being at his best in the 5-4 victory against Manitoba in the final game of the weekend, Sparks has now tied Drew MacIntyre for most wins in a single season by a Marlies goaltender. His record sits at 29-9-2 on the year with a 1.81 GAA and .936 SV%.
– The rookies are beginning to blossom offensively. Jeremy Bracco led the Marlies in scoring this past fortnight with seven points (1-6-7). The right winger has found success on the power play, with 11 of his 26 points this season accrued on the man advantage. The lone goal on Saturday was his first game winner of the season. Appropriately, it was a power play marker.
Adam Brooks has been switched to a left wing role and has flourished, posting six points (2-4-6), including his first three-point haul. Dating back a little further, Brooks is at point-per-game pace through his last nine games and has benefited from playing alongside the likes of veterans Chris Mueller and Ben Smith.
– Speaking of the captain, Ben Smith re-took the Marlies scoring lead in the absence of Andreas Johnsson. Three goals and as many assists gives him 57 points on the year – good for ninth in league scoring. Smith also reached a milestone by recording his 100th AHL goal in the most recent win, which was his first shorthanded marker this season and tied his single season career-high (27) for goals as well.
– Chris Mueller had been somewhat snake bitten in front of goal, registering just one assist in seven games before the most recent weekend. Three points against Manitoba (1-2-3) included his 15th goal of the season, breaking a 12-game scoreless streak.
– Miro Aaltonen has begun to find his groove in what’s been a long road back since recovering from a concussion. Three goals for the Finnish forward leaves him two shy of the 20 mark, and he became the fourth Marlies player to surpass 40 points (18-23-41) this past week.
– Pierre Engvall has made an immediate and positive impact to this Marlies team, especially on the power play. Without much effort, the left winger shoots the puck very hard and has two goals to his name already. His wicked wrist shot also produced the game winner on Saturday, creating the rebound for Jeremy Bracco to finish off.
Listed at 6’4”, Engvall has a great reach and owns the ability to keep plays alive along the wall and the back boards. Sheldon Keefe has noted that he’d like him to use his size a little more to get on the inside and play more physically, but four points in his first five games has gone some way to filling the void created by the absence of Andreas Johnsson.
– A second multi-point haul of the season for Calle Rosen in his most recent outing (1-1-2) gives him four points in the last six games. The defense as a whole chipped in secondary scoring with Vincent LoVerde (2-1-3), Andrew Nielsen (1-1-2) and Timothy Liljegren (0-2-2) all recording more than a point.
While Liljegren hasn’t been putting up a ton of offense recently, his defensive play of late has been excellent and it looks to have been a focus of the coaching staff and player alike. With his ability, the points will come.
I’ve been a harsh critic this season, but Andrew Nielsen has also been better defensively in the past fortnight with the turnovers and ill-advised pinches reduced in his game.
– Dmytro Timashov surpassed his career high in goals with his 12th of the season. With a pair of assists, he also surpassed 30 points (12-19-31).
– Andreas Borgman has started to settle into the American Hockey League and is beginning to look like an NHL player at the AHL level, especially with the puck on his stick. A highlight reel goal against Laval was a showcase of the ability he possesses jumping up into the attack and he’ll be a real asset to the Marlies if he’s here when the playoffs roll around.
– Mason Marchment decided fighting Tyler Randell of the Belleville Senators was a good idea and has not played since March 23 due to a concussion sustained in the altercation. The rookie is said to be making good progress and could feature before the regular season comes to an end.
– It’s notable that the only signing from the NCAA to fly out to Manitoba was Derian Plouffe as Sheldon Keefe looks to get his roster set for the remaining six games heading into the post-season. Plouffe has looked like a solid depth option at centre and registered his second assist in what’s now been a seven-game stint.
– Scott Pooley scored on his debut with an empty-net insurance marker against Springfield, while Brady Ferguson recorded a first professional point in his second game.
– Trevor Moore netted twice to hit the 11-goal mark, just two shy of last season’s total.
It’s been an inconsistent season offensively, but March has been a good month for the sophomore forward with nine points (4-5-9) in 12 games.
– Calvin Pickard was pulled in the first of his two starts in the past fortnight. Sheldon Keefe pulled the plug after the goaltender lost his cool with the officials during the home defeat to Belleville. The Winnipeg native responded by posting 25 saves in the 3-2 victory against the Moose for his 20th win of the season.
Orlando Solar Bear News
A pair of comprehensive victories against Jacksonville (6-1) and Greenville (5-0) cemented the Solar Bears final position of third in the North Division with two games remaining.
Of some concern are the two defeats (one shootout) to South Carolina that proceeded those victories. The two teams will do battle in the first round of the playoffs and will meet again before then, as Orlando finish their regular season campaign on the road in Atlanta (April 6) and South Carolina (April 7).
– Hunter Fejes was released from his PTO with the Toronto Marlies and made an immediate impact upon his return with a three-point haul. He added another point for three goals and an assist in two games and has since been reassigned to Toronto, for whom he put in solid if unspectacular performances during his last AHL stint.
– Cal Heeter took just two of the four starts available but is in excellent form at this stage of the season. He posted 34 saves in the shootout loss to South Carolina before shutting out Greenville by registering 36 stops. That was the first clean sheet of the season for Heeter, who now owns a 19-14-6 record and a .914 save percentage.
– Joshua Winquist made a welcome return to the score sheet with a pair of assists to surpass the 50-point mark (18-33-51) for the season.
– He’s not a Toronto prospect, but a special mention for Joe Perry, who accumulated six points (4-2-6) in his last two outings, including a hat trick.
– Martins Dzierkals also accumulated four points (1-3-4) including his 15th of the year, taking his season point tally to 36 in 50 games.
– Kristian Pospisil registered just a single assist and has only one point through the last six games.
– J.J Piccinich (1-2-3) surpassed the 40-point mark and sits third in team scoring (18-24-42).
Toronto Marlies Player Stats – April 3
Toronto Marlies Goalie Stats – April 3