“I think we really took it to them [Manitoba Moose] again and executed well… I didn’t see a whole lot, so it’s a pretty good testament to the boys.”
Those were the postgame words of rookie goaltender Joseph Woll after a shutout in his professional debut helped send Toronto to a 3-0-0 start to the season with a 4-0 rout of Manitoba.
While Woll will receive the majority of the headlines, it was a dominant team display from the Marlies — the Nicholas Baptiste, Pierre Engvall and Pontus Aberg line, in particular.
After slow starts from the Marlies in both games to start the season, it was no different on Saturday. Either team could have held led after 20 minutes.
Darren Archibald should have made the Moose pay for an early turnover in the slot, but his weak backhand effort was dealt with comfortably by Adam Carlson in the Manitoba net.
The first power play was awarded to the Moose, who sustained pressure in the Marlies zone for almost the whole two minutes, but Toronto didn’t break, with Joseph Woll making one blocker save of note to keep the game scoreless.
At the eight-minute mark, both teams felt they should have taken the lead. The Marlies coughed up a terrible turnover in their own zone before C.J Suess’ wild attempted finish — high and wide of the net — sent Toronto back the other way, where Adam Brooks’ five-hole attempt was turned aside following a perfect pass by Jeremy Bracco.
The Marlies power play fared no better than Manitoba’s before the deadlock was finally broken inside the last minute of the period back at even strength.
It was a goal made in Sweden: Pierre Engvall picked up the puck behind the goal line following a shot by Timothy Liljegren and skated up the right wall before circling to the middle of the ice and ripping a wrist shot that produced a rebound for Pontus Aberg to finish off.
The game broke open in the middle frame as the Marlies found their rhythm and overwhelmed the Moose with 17 shots on net, including nine from the slot.
Manitoba’s only real opportunity to tie the game while still within one arrived at the five-minute mark, but Woll staved off Cameron Schilling’s slapshot from the circle.
Two goals in under four minutes gave Toronto a 3-0 lead with a little under half the game remaining, and the Marlies didn’t look back from that moment on. A long-range attempt from Baptiste was blocked out in front, but Engvall showed great strength in front and used his long reach to corral the loose puck before finishing his second of the season.
The impressive Tyler Gaudet brought out the best in Carlson on a backhand attempt following an excellent set-up from Matt Read, but it only delayed the inevitable third Toronto goal. The standout line combined once again, swarming the Moose net as Baptiste and Engvall created carnage around the crease before Aberg swept home the rebound at the far post.
Engvall was robbed of a third goal following more excellent work from Baptiste as the Marlies were well deserving of a three-goal lead at the break.
If the Moose still entertained notions of a comeback, they were dealt a dagger blow inside the opening two minutes of the third period.
Manitoba’s power play was manhandled by Toronto’s penalty killers, who forced a risky pass across the blue line that Egor Korshkov intercepted and took off to races. With goals in his first two previous games, confidence wasn’t an issue for the Russian forward, who finished with aplomb past Carlson to keep his goal-scoring streak intact.
With the two points secured, the only question left unanswered was whether Toronto could keep the clean sheet for their rookie netminder. Woll had been solid enough in the second frame — barring a pair of juicy rebounds that were cleared to safety — but he wouldn’t be called in the final stanza until the final nine minutes.
Skyler McKenzie was frustrated by a sprawling save from the rookie stretching out across the blue paint before Woll’s best of the night came on an attempt from Schilling. On two follow up efforts, Andrei Chibisov couldn’t beat Woll, who made a pair of unconventional stops — including the second from his backside — to keep his debut shutout intact.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies shave won three games to begin the season for the first time since 2015-16.
They’ve out-scored opponents 11-3 and have yet to allow a power-play goal against (9 for 9 on the PK).
– In turning aside all 23 shots faced, Joseph Woll became the first rookie goaltender to record a shutout in his debut in Toronto Marlies franchise history. His decision making was relatively sound, he handled the puck with confidence outside of the crease, and he kept his concentration in a game where it could have wavered due to long periods of inactivity.
“I thought he was really good,” said Sheldon Keefe. “We didn’t give up a great deal, but he looked really confident back there and moved really well. Not just the saves, but anything that came his way — puck handling, that kind of stuff. It certainly didn’t look like a guy in his first game, so that is a really good sign for us in terms of the confidence that he has. We can come out of this weekend feeling pretty good about our goaltending.”
– Egor Korshkov has scored three goals in the opening three games of the season and now has four points. Highlighting his play in all situations, the Russian has scored at even strength, on the power play, and netted a short-handed tally.
– Pierre Engvall was at his best in this outing; a goal and two assists takes his season tally to five points (2-3-5).
– Pontus Aberg appears like a man on a mission and is brimming with confidence in the offensive zone — almost always looking to make a play rather than the safe option. The Swede netted twice, led the team with five shots on goal, and has four points (3-1-4) in three games.
– With Garret Wilson resting, Nic Baptiste took advantage of his opportunity higher up the line-up alongside the two aforementioned Swedes. He looked more like the offensive player Toronto has faced in opposition in previous years and definitely gave Sheldon Keefe something to ponder ahead of the next game. The two primary assists are Baptiste’s first points of the season.
“Baptiste fit into that line very nicely,” said Keefe. “Engvall and Aberg have been very good. Aberg was real fun to watch out there today. He was pretty dialed in. Clearly, they were difference makers for us offensively, as we would expect them to be.”
– Saturday’s lines:
Archibald – Brooks – Bracco
Korshkov – Gaudet – Read
Baptiste – Engvall – Aberg
MacMaster – Elynuik – Clune
Gravel – Liljegren
Harpur – Schmaltz
Kivihalme – Lindgren