With Belleville engaged in a dogfight with Cleveland for the fourth spot in the North Division, this was always going to be a tough encounter for a Toronto Marlies team that is still without a few of its key contributors.
After a hard-earned 3-2 victory, the Marlies improved their road record to 23-9-6 and remain the league’s second-best team away from home by points percentage.
The opening period saw neither team create much in the way of offense, with the best opportunities coming by way of a few turnovers generated on the forecheck. Belleville had the best of the scoring chances early, but Kasimir Kaskisuo stood tall, including on an odd-man rush for the Senators.
Belleville ended up opening the score nonetheless after Erik Brown didn’t clear his own zone, leading to a spell of zone time for the Senators. From the left wall, Christian Wolanin found Joseph LaBate in space and his far-side shot beat Kaskisuo with almost 11 minutes played.
Toronto slowly worked their way into the game and tied up proceedings with a little over two minutes remaining in the opening frame. Adam Brooks forced Marcus Hogberg to rush a clearance from behind his own net before Jeremy Bracco picked up the puck on the left wall and flipped the puck back to Kristians Rubins waiting at the point, where the towering defenseman’s shot was redirected in front by Brooks past Hogberg.
After a quiet first 20 minutes, the officials made their mark early in the second frame, penalizing Toronto twice inside three minutes.
The Marlies killed the first penalty despite spending the entire two minutes camped inside their own zone, but the Senators struck just 11 seconds into their second man advantage after Jack Rodewald applied the slightest of deflections to a shot from Drake Batherson and the puck rolled in behind Kaskisuo.
The Senators appeared to be in control of the game until Toronto tied it back up on a seemingly innocuous play. A chip forward by Rasmus Sandin seemed like nothing more than a measured clearance, but Mason Marchment showed great desire to beat out two Belleville defensemen, splitting the pair before rifling the puck past Hogberg.
The turnaround was completed just 78 seconds later when the Marlies took the lead for the first time. Steve Oleksy took a drop pass from Michael Carcone just inside the Belleville zone and drove hard to the net, where his initial effort was denied before Carcone followed up on the play and finished off the rebound for his 20th goal of the year.
The Marlies were finally awarded a power play of their own with five minutes remaining, but they were kept off the board despite generating some good looks.
The Senators ended the period with the extra man, but the Marlies almost tallied an insurance marker as Pierre Engvall was turned aside by a good save on a shorthanded rush.
The Marlies were rarely troubled in the final 20 minutes despite having to kill their fourth penalty. Toronto really should have doubled their lead at the three-minute mark, but Carcone fired high after combining with Brooks on an odd-man rush.
Belleville felt aggrieved after they were penalized twice in the span of 35 seconds, giving Toronto a two-man advantage for 1:25. However, the Marlies power play was a shadow of its former self and Hogberg was barely called into action.
Belleville recorded nine shots through the third period, with their best scoring chance arriving with eight minutes to play: A back door play resulted in Jack Rodewald unloading a booming one-time slap shot that brought out the very best in Kaskisuo, who flung himself to his right to deny the former Marlie forward.
From there, Toronto comfortably held on for just their second regulation victory against Belleville this season and dealt a damaging blow to their rival’s playoff hopes in the process.
Post Game Notes
– Kasimir Kaskisuo recorded 25 saves for his 12th win of the season. He was caught scrambling a little bit at times, but he came up with some key saves when needed. In his last four appearances (including one in relief), the Finnish netminder has posted a .971 save percentage.
– Adam Brooks scored his 21st of the season and has goals in consecutive games to bring him up to 21 goals and 40 points in 60 games on the season.
– Jeremy Bracco recorded an assist on Toronto’s first goal and now leads the league with 78 points (21-57-78). He led all Marlies skaters with four shots.
– Mason Marchment has two goals in three games since his return from injury. Tonight’s tally was his 13th of the season and 25th point in 43 games.
– Michael Carcone reached the 20-goal mark with the game-winner, giving him 14 goals in 41 games as a Marlie.
– Marlies defensemen combined for four points: Kristian Rubins, Rasmus Sandin, Andreas Borgman, and Steve Oleksy all chipped in with an assist apiece.
– Wednesday’s lines: