The personnel may be a little different, but the Toronto Marlies picked up where they left off last season with an emphatic victory in game one of the 2018-19 regular season.
This was only the third time in franchise history that the Marlies have begun a season on the road. They set a new record by scoring seven goals, surpassing the six scored in a 6-0 victory against Syracuse in 2006.
That came despite an inauspicious start to the game that saw Utica claim the lead inside a minute. With Dmytro Timashov in the box, Reid Boucher put the Comets in front ahead on a broken play in front of Toronto’s net.
Trevor Moore and Adam Cracknell combined to force a sharp save from Comets netminder Richard Bachman as the Marlies almost responded at the 3:30 mark.
Utica nearly doubled their lead on a second power play, but Tanner Kero’s effort struck the iron. From that point on Toronto, dominated the remainder of the opening 20.
Pierre Engvall was denied twice and debutant Sam Gagner was robbed by Bachman with one second left on the clock.
The Marlies found the equalizer on the power play inside the first minute of the middle frame. A booming slapshot from Jordan Subban tied up the game at 1-1 before Josh Jooris came close to putting the Marlies ahead three minutes later on an excellent set up from Jeremy Bracco.
During a spell of four-on-four action, the Marlies found the go-ahead marker. Afforded some room to operate on a fast break down the left wing, Pierre Engvall’s perfectly-placed wrist shot found the top far corner of the net.
Timothy Liljegren then got in on the act with a top-shelf shot from a bad angle that appeared to handcuff Bachman for Liljegren’s first of his sophomore season.
Kasimir Kaskisuo denied Adam Gaudette in tight to ensure the two goal-lead remained intact before Toronto struck again during four-on-four play.
Trevor Moore picked up possession after a good defensive pokecheck from Andreas Borgman at the Marlies blue line and broke the other way in alone, where he made no mistake with a low near-post finish past Bachman to put Toronto ahead 4-1.
Four could have become five, but Calle Rosen was hooked with a great chance to score and the Marlies failed to find the net on the resulting power play.
Instead, the Comets responded following a sloppy series of miscues from Toronto and Zack MacEwen outwaited a stranded Kaskisuo before chipping the puck over his pads.
Trailing by two, the Comets needed a response to start the final frame and they found one three minutes in. Courtesy of a giveaway from Calle Rosen, Reid Boucher made no mistake from the heart of the slot for his second goal of the game.
The Marlies were then forced to kill a penalty before re-establishing a two-goal lead. A deceptive wrist shot from the left circle by Carl Grundstrom beat Bachman and the Marlies never looked back after taking the 5-3 lead.
A power play for Utica with under five minutes remaining resulted in two shorthanded goals for Toronto — the first by Moore, who rounded Bachman after a good forecheck and setup from Adam Cracknell. The second was an empty-netter for Josh Jooris after an unselfish piece of work from Colin Greening.
The 7-3 final was the start the Marlies were looking for before they head to Binghamton for a Saturday night tilt with the Devils.
Post Game Notes
– Timothy Liljegren was given expanded duties in the season opener (both special teams and top pairing minutes) and responded with a big performance. Lugging the puck with purpose on the power play, he created two excellent scoring chances with end-to-end rushes.
Liljegren has been so good with the puck on his stick tonight.
So, so good.
— Mark R (@MarkUkLeaf) October 6, 2018
– Trevor Moore (two goals), Pierre Engvall (one goal/one assist), Jordan Subban (one goal/one assist) and Calle Rosen all recorded two-point games. Engvall was the most impressive of the above listed and could easily have added to his goals total. Subban made a handful of mistakes defensively but his offensive ability was plain to see in his debut.
On Moore, Keefe was effusive in his praise after the game: “It really clicked for him towards the end of the season and into the playoffs, and he’s continued that here now. I think his confidence is really high. He believes in himself and he knows this is an important year for him and that he’s an important part of our team. To see him come through the way he did today is a real good sign for both he and us.”
– Andrew Nielsen delivered a solid showing on the third pair. He bailed out Subban on at least three occasions and made simple but smart plays under pressure. It’s just one game, but there’s reason to be encouraged by his season debut.
– Sam Gagner went pointless but got off to a nice start to his career in Toronto without ever really imposing himself on the game. He was effective on the power play and found some chemistry on the top line alongside Chris Mueller and Carl Grundstrom.
– Kasimir Kaskisuo faced too much rubber for Sheldon Keefe’s liking, but his 43-save performance was an excellent start to his tenure as the Marlies new number one.
“It was sloppy and we gave up too many chances, too many shots, and took too many penalties,” said Keefe. “But we knew full well coming in this wasn’t going to be a masterpiece here today. It’s the first game and we’ve frankly only had one practice as a group. It’s been kind of a strange week for us, but the fact that we were able to persevere through some different things here, it’s obviously on the back of some very strong goaltending by [Kaskisuo], so credit to him.”
– Friday’s lines:
Grundstrom – Mueller – Gagner
Timashov – Cracknell – Moore
Engvall – Jooris – Bracco
Clark – Greening – Molino
Rosen – Liljegren
Borgman – Loverde
Nielsen – Subban
Post-Game: Sheldon Keefe
Game Sheet: Toronto Marlies 7 vs. Utica Comets 3