The Toronto Marlies completed a 4-0 season-series sweep of the Manitoba Moose with a 4-1 victory at Coca Cola Coliseum on Sunday rematch.
There wasn’t much between the two teams for the most part throughout the back-to-back set this past weekend, but like in the first game on Saturday, the Marlies were the more clinical side offensively when it mattered most.
The Moose dominated the shot-clock in the opening frame, with Joseph Woll called on to make 14 saves to keep Manitoba off the board in the opening 20 minutes. The rookie was far from steady at times, giving up a few too many rebounds, but he settled in nicely throughout the game.
The Marlies wasted the only power play of the period after Matt Read fired high and wide on a nice play by Garrett Wilson, while Jeremy Bracco was robbed by a diving stop from Mikhail Berdin following a great individual rush by Timothy Liljegren.
After a scoreless opening stanza, the Marlies woke the home crowd up early in the middle frame.
Each team wasted a great scoring chance in the opening three minutes — Adam Brooks fired into the chest of Berdin on a partial breakaway, while Woll robbed J.C Lipon in tight at the other end on Manitoba’s first man advantage of the game.
After killing a penalty, Toronto took the game to the Moose, hemming them in their own zone with sustained possession before breaking the deadlock with 5:36 on the clock.
From the point, Jeremy Bracco put the puck toward the net, where Kenny Agostino provided a deft redirect from the hashmarks that looped the puck over Berdin and into the net.
The Marlies doubled their advantage just 30 seconds later after capitalizing on a Moose turnover in their defensive zone. Logan Stanley sent the puck aimlessly around his own net and eventually onto the stick of Pontus Aberg, who had options available. Aberg sent a pass right through the crease, where Tanner MacMaster was on hand to scramble the puck home.
The Moose weren’t short of scoring opportunities, but they weren’t as opportunistic as the Marlies. At the midway point of the game, Nathan Todd was gifted a breakaway but didn’t force Woll into a save.
The Marlies finished the second period as the better team. Read, Brooks and Wilson all came close, with the latter forcing a top-notch reaction save out of Berdin.
To Manitoba’s credit, they showed no quit the entire weekend and gave themselves a lifeline with a little over three minutes into the final frame with a power-play marker by Jansen Harkins.
With the deficit halved, it now appeared to be game on — except it wasn’t, as the Marlies never gave the Moose a sniff of a comeback from there, limiting Manitoba to just six shots through the third period, with just one coming from a dangerous scoring area.
Egor Korshkov was robbed of an insurance marker by Berdin after a nice pass by Aberg, but Toronto’s inevitable third goal to seal the deal arrived with a little under three minutes remaining. On the second power play of the game for Toronto, Agostino caught an intended clearance at the Manitoba blue line and sent a pass to Aberg waiting in the left circle, where the right winger was left all alone to beat Berdin with a one-time finish.
Teemu Kivihalme made absolutely certain of the two points with an empty-net goal just 26 seconds later as the Marlies cruised to a 4-1 victory and remain unbeaten on home ice this season.
Post Game Notes
– The Toronto Marlies set a new franchise record by recording their ninth consecutive win on home ice. With six wins on the bounce, the Marlies have propelled themselves to first place in the Eastern Conference and would be the first-placed team in the AHL if the standings were based on points percentage.
“With everything that went on this week, the guys were very focused and dedicated to the plan,” said AJ MacLean. “For moments, Manitoba got to their gameplan for longer stretches than us, but when we stuck to our plan, we were very opportunistic and it ended up working out in the end.”
– Pontus Aberg recorded his sixth multi-point haul of the season (1-1-2) and leads the team in scoring with 19 points (9-10-19) in 18 games.
– Another to record his sixth multi-point haul of the season was Kenny Agostino (1-1-2), who scored 10th of the year in his 16th game. He leads the team in goal scoring.
– Tanner MacMaster extended his points streak (2-4-6) to six games with his fourth goal of the season.
– Adam Brooks registered his second point of the weekend with an assist on the opening tally. He should have scored a goal, too, but either way, he’s back up to full speed since returning from injury.
– That’s the fourth win of the season for Joseph Woll, who posted 31 saves, and he has only tasted defeat once in regulation through seven starts. A .902 save percentage isn’t a fair indication of his play, and my expectation is his numbers will improve if his learning curve stays on its current trajectory, along with the improving play of the team.
“I knew he was a very good prospect for us, but seeing him from game one of Leafs camp, he works incredibly hard every day,” said MacLean. “His attitude is great. He smiles all the time. You literally have to drag him off the ice every day. He’s a true professional. I have no doubts in his game any time he is in the net.”
– Sunday’s lines: