The Toronto Marlies closed out the 2017-18 regular season by tying a franchise record.
The 4-3 win over Belleville on Sunday was the club’s 54th win of the season, tying the franchise mark set by the 2015-16 team. 112 points is two shy of the total set by the aforementioned team two years ago.
In what was a feisty game throughout, a clean hit from Andrew Nielsen drew the first penalty of the game two minutes in after Belleville took umbrage with the defenseman’s physical play.
The Marlies weren’t able to find the net, and as the penalty expired, were indebted to debutant goaltender Ian Scott for denying Daniel Ciampini on a partial breakaway down the right side.
A vastly more experienced Belleville lineup then took control of the game and eventually opened the scoring at 13-minute mark. A turnover from Justin Holl was pounced on by Ciampini, who beat Scott five-hole.
Mason Marchment almost responded immediately after, but his effort from above the hash marks struck the cross bar following a pretty series of passes from Timothy Liljegren and Jeremy Bracco.
The game was tied three minutes after the opening marker thanks to an offensive zone faceoff win from Brady Ferguson. Nielsen, the recipient on the left side, was afforded all the time in the world to measure a wrist shot that had eyes through traffic.
After a scrum in which Nielsen was again the main target, Toronto ended up with their second power play of the period and made this one count.
Liljegren and Bracco combined again, this time to find Pierre Engvall low in the left circle for his fourth of the year.
The middle frame began poorly for the Marlies, who gave up a tying goal just two minutes in. Ian Scott was beaten on a wraparound attempt that the officials missed the first time around, with play continuing for over a minute before video review revealed the puck actually went in.
Both teams wasted a power play apiece before Belleville missed a gilt-edged opportunity to retake the lead. On a 3-on-1 break, Ville Pokka struck the post at the midway point of the game.
The Marlies then opened up a slender 3-2 lead heading into the final period of the regular season — Engvall won a crucial battle for possession, which allowed Mason Marchment to tee up Adam Brooks in the slot for the Marlies second power play goal of the game.
There was no shortage of drama in the final 20 minutes, beginning with a goal just 44 seconds in. After Nick Moutrey prevailed in a puck battle on the right wing, the Marlies allowed Nick Paul far too much space to coast into the high slot and rip the puck past the glove hand of Scott.
The officials were then forced into action as Belleville decided cheap shots and reckless hits were the ingredients for success. Thankfully, no damage was done as Brooks, Bracco and Engvall were targeted and the Senators sent four players to the box in a five-minute span.
Despite elongated power plays, including a pair of two-man advantages, the Marlies weren’t able to make the visitors pay on the scoreboard.
It appeared as if overtime might be required before a barn-storming shift from the ‘kid line’ broke the deadlock. Marchment and Brooks both came close before Bracco scored from behind the goal line with a clever bank shot off of goaltender Filip Gustavsson.
Kyle Baun had a chance to ice the game, but his effort struck the crossbar with 73 seconds remaining.
That nearly proved costly, as Belleville threw everything at Toronto in the final minutes and came really close to tying the game. Numerous blocked shots and flailing stops from Ian Scott were just enough to keep the Senators off the board and secure a win on debut for the rookie goaltender.
Post Games Notes
– A goal and an assist for Adams Brooks was his third multi-point haul in nine games. Brooks centered Mason Marchment and Jeremy Bracco, who also chipped in a goal and an assist. Bracco has been one of the hottest players offensively for the Marlies down the stretch — he’s only failed to record a point in two of his last 11 games, putting up two goals and 12 assists during that time.
– Pierre Engvall recorded his first multi-point haul (1-1-2) and accumulated eight points in nine games overall since joining late in the season.
“I think he had a great year this year in a really good year in Sweden,” said Keefe. “He made the jump to the top league in Sweden and was very productive after coming off of a tough injury. We were very intrigued about what he was able to bring. It’s been a process for him game over game, but he’s been able to find ways to contribute. The games are going to get a lot more competitive and a lot harder, but we like what we see from him so far.”
– Ian Scott posted 30 saves for the victory in his professional debut. Especially considering the makeshift lineup in front of him, he showed impressive composure between the pipes.
“I thought he was terrific,” said Keefe. “It’s a difficult circumstance for a goalie to come into a game like this with a lot of our regulars not playing and we’re not nearly as organized. We looked like a team that doesn’t practice together out there a lot of the time. That’s tough on the goaltender, but I thought he was excellent — confident, made a number of great saves, battled right to the end. It was a great debut for him and it should help his confidence moving forward, which is what we were hoping would come out of this.”
– Last but not least, thank you for your support during the regular season. It’s been one for the record books. The Toronto Marlies begin their quest for the Calder Cup against Utica next weekend. Keep an eye out for a series preview later this week.
– Sunday’s lines: