It’s been a busy period for the Toronto Marlies with six games in the span of 10 days.
Already without Pierre Engvall, further complicating matters was the loss of leading scorer Pontus Aberg (also to the Maple Leafs) as well as Matt Read and Egor Korshkov to injury early in the games against San Antonio this past weekend.
The first three-in-three of the season for the Toronto Marlies provided a stiff challenge with a visit to Rochester followed by a pair of home games against a Utica Comets team that always seems to save its best performances for Toronto.
The Marlies then moved on to a rare midweek game in Rochester before hosting San Antonio for a pair of weekend encounters at Coca-Cola Coliseum on December 7-8.
Friday, November 29 vs. Rochester – 3-2 OT Win
The Marlies found themselves trailing after 20 minutes despite generating more scoring opportunities through the opening 20 minutes.
The middle frame featured wide-open hockey, with both teams squandering excellent chances before Tanner MacMaster potted his fifth of the season with 33 minutes on the clock to tie the game at 1-1.
The game didn’t stay tied for long as Scott Wilson scooped home his own rebound to give the Amerks the lead heading into the final frame of regulation.
To the Marlies‘ credit, they responded by driving the play in the third period, while Kasimir Kaskisuo shut the door when needed to give his team every chance at a comeback. A goal from Darren Archibald earned Toronto at least a point as the game headed to overtime, where the Marlies survived some near misses and then claimed the extra point.
Pontus Aberg was the OT hero with his 10th goal of the season to get the weekend off to a good start.
Saturday, November 30 vs. Utica – 4-3 Loss
In the first game of the season hosted at Scotiabank Arena, the Marlies saw their unbeaten home record come to an end. Far too often the Marlies were careless in possession and unable to cope with Utica’s swift transition game, leading to countless breakaways and odd-man rushes against.
After some near misses in their own zone, Toronto struck first with almost 12 minutes played through Tanner MacMaster, who scored for the second straight game. Kenny Agostino really should have doubled the lead 60 seconds later, and it looked like a costly miss after Utica tied the game with a quick power-play marker through Sven Baertschi.
Agostino redeemed himself by netting his 11th of the year on a late period power play as Toronto held a 2-1 advantage through 20 minutes.
The Comets continued to press hard in the middle frame, with Joseph Woll called on to make a number of good saves. A tying goal appeared in the cards for Utica and arrived on the man advantage, where Justin Bailey tipped home a shot by Baertschi to tie the game at two through 40 minutes.
The third period was dominated by Utica as they carried the play and took a deserved lead at the four-minute mark through Kole Lind. A tying marker didn’t appear likely, but yet another Marlies power play saved the day, with Darren Archibald recording his fifth of the season to give Toronto hope of grabbing at least a point.
That was a good possibility until the final four minutes when the prolific Reid Boucher was allowed one opportunity too many, making the Marlies pay with a top-shelf finish Woll had no chance on.
Sunday, December 1 vs. Utica – 5-3 Win
It should have been losses in consecutive games for the Marlies, who performed a miraculous third-period comeback to defeat the Comets in the rematch.
The Marlies again struck first after Adam Brooks redirected a pass from Jeremy Bracco on the power play less than five minutes in. That fantastic start was quickly extinguished by some sloppy defensive play as goals from Jonah Gadjovich and Lukas Jasek propelled Utica to a 2-1 lead through 20 minutes.
The middle frame was forgettable from Toronto’s point of view; they lacked discipline, racked up penalties, mustered just four shots, and fell further behind after Justin Bailey’s fifth of the season put the Comets up 3-1.
That scoreline remained the same until the nine-minute mark, when hope arrived via Hudson Elynuik. A redirect by the big centerman on a shot by Jordan Schmaltz halved the deficit before a goal just 90 seconds later from Adam Brooks tied the game at 3-3 with nine minutes remaining.
The tide turned, with Toronto now in full control and Utica back on their heels looking a little shell-shocked. Further goals from Jesper Lindgren and Brooks (completing his hat-trick) rounded out a 5-3 victory as the Marlies scored four times unanswered to get back to winning ways.
Wednesday, December 4 vs. Rochester – 4-0 Loss
This was a totally forgettable performance by the Marlies, who found themselves trailing by two after just 3:15 of play while failing to match the intensity or the work-rate of a hungrier Amerks team.
It could and should have been a greater deficit than two after 20 minutes, but it was all academic anyway. Andrew Hammond posted a 20-save shutout — only notable for one incredible save with his right skate — as the Amerks netminder essentially enjoyed a night off.
The Amerks scored once in the second and third periods, respectively, and cruised in second gear against a lifeless Marlies team that seemed incapable of executing the basics properly and were lucky the margin of defeat wasn’t worse than 4-0.
Saturday, December 7 vs. San Antonio – 3-2 Win
Match-ups against Western Conference opponents freshen up the schedule and provide a much different challenge. Certainly, the Marlies were tested by San Antonio’s heavier brand of hockey over the weekend and were fortunate to take the two points from the first encounter of the weekend.
Jordan Kyrou opened the scoring by finishing off his own rebound after his initial redirect was turned aside by Kasimir Kaskisuo.
A wonderful piece of play from Rasmus Sandin teed up Kenny Agostino to tie the game four minutes later, sending the bears flying to the ice on Teddy Boss Toss night. The lull that followed the delay seemed to suit the Rampage, who netted a go-ahead goal 56 seconds later. A redirect in front, possibly off a high stick, from Tanner Kaspick beat Kaskisuo cleanly.
It took Toronto until the 9:49 mark of the middle frame to record their first shot of the period, but it resulted in the tying goal — Jeremy Bracco combined with Agostino, who ripped a hard slap shot by goaltender Ville Husso.
The Marlies really should have carried a lead into the second intermission, but they failed to make hay on several power-play opportunities, including almost a minute combined of 5-on-3 time.
The Marlies did, however, strike early in the third period — a Teemu Kivihalme blast from the point took a wicked deflection off a San Antonio player to put Toronto ahead at the three-minute mark.
From there on in, the Rampage dominated the shot clock but couldn’t find a way past Kaskisuo, who made all 15 saves needed along with one assist from the post.
Garrett Wilson, in particular, was outstanding with some brave shot-blocking at the end of the game as the Marlies showed some much-needed resilience to see out the win.
Sunday, December 8 vs. San Antonio – 4-1 Win
If ever a scoreline didn’t tell the full story, it was the Marlies’ 4-1 win over San Antonio this past Sunday. Joseph Woll was simply outstanding, and if not for a dubious piece of officiating, he should have recorded a shutout.
The Marlies’ success was built on a fast start that saw them create a 2-0 lead with just 5:35 on the clock. Kristians Rubins netted his first AHL goal from the slot with good composure and finish on a broken play. Rich Clune then made an impact as he finished a cross-crease pass by Hudson Elynuik to double the Marlies’ lead.
In-between times, Woll made a good save on Tanner Kaspick on a breakaway and continued to stand tall as the Marlies turned pucks over and failed to clear the zone properly.
A power play for the Marlies only resulted in a penalty shot for San Antonio following a mistake from Rasmus Sandin, but he was bailed out by Woll.
Moments later, the Marlies were handed a 5-on-3 power play for 90 seconds, but just like on Saturday, they couldn’t make it count.
The middle frame was all San Antonio except for Jeremy Bracco striking iron on a Marlies power play. Woll was yet again outstanding, turning aside all 16 shots, with one Rampage goal correctly called off after he was bulldozed out of the net.
It took until the final five minutes of the third period for San Antonio to finally solve Woll, but there was a big assist from the officiating crew. Adam Brooks was tabbed for a delay of game on an icing call despite being no slower going back for the puck than many others I’ve seen this season.
After San Antonio pulled Wilcox from the net for a sixth attacker, Ryan Olsen halved the deficit.
To the Marlies’ credit, they responded the right way, awakening from their slumber and playing on the front foot for a spell. It took just 48 seconds to take a stranglehold on the game again, with Jeremy Bracco netting his third on the year. The result was then secured inside the final 90 seconds thanks to an empty-net goal by Adam Brooks.
The real hero of the night, however, was Joseph Woll, who finished the game with 40 saves to his name.
- The Marlies went 4-2-0 through their most recent stretch and continue to lead the North Division and Eastern Conference with a record of 17-4-3.
- Toronto sits second overall in the AHL behind only the Milwaukee Admirals, who strung together a staggering winning streak of 13 games that came to an end recently. The Nashville affiliate responded by winning their last two games to remain four points clear at the top of the AHL standings.
- Toronto’s power play is beginning to slip somewhat, albeit missing an integral player like Pontus Aberg naturally makes a big difference. It’s now striking at 20.2%, good for 10th best in the AHL, while the penalty kill remains of concern at 77.8% (29th).
- Tanner MacMaster saw his point streak end at nine games (4-5-9) in the defeat against Rochester. He hasn’t recorded a point or a shot in three straight outings.
- Adam Brooks registered his first-ever regular-season AHL hat-trick and picked up an assist to give him a four-point haul in the win against Utica. The Winnipeg native has 12 points (6-6-12) in 15 games this season despite the injury situation.
- Jeremy Bracco now has six points in as many games (1-5-6) and hit the 100 career AHL assists (101) milestone. His goal was just his third of the season; as good of a puck distributor as he is, Bracco really needs to shoot more, especially on the power play, where teams are playing the pass.
- After returning from injury, Darren Archibald quietly built himself a five-game point streak (2-3-5) that ended this past weekend. With Toronto now missing a few key figures offensively, it’s crucial that experienced forwards like Archibald are stepping up.
- A five-game point streak (2-6-8) may have to an end in the shutout loss to Rochester, but Pontus Aberg thoroughly deserved his call-up to the Maple Leafs. Despite his absence, Aberg’s 24 points (10-14-22) in 22 games continues to lead the Marlies in scoring.
- Kasimir Kaskisuo won all three starts in the last two weeks and now boasts an impressive 9-1-1 record. Seemingly unaffected by his brutal introduction to the NHL, Kaskisuo has a .925 save percentage through 10 outings.
- For whatever reason, the Toronto Marlies haven’t played well at all whenever Joseph Woll has taken over the net — and that hasn’t always been the second game of a back-to-back, either. After taking two losses against Utica and Rochester in which he received little support, Woll put on a fantastic 40-save performance in the most recent win vs. San Antonio. He’s 5-3-2 on the season with a save percentage of .903%, which isn’t a fair reflection of his play.
- Four points in the last five games for Kenny Agostino (3-1-4) includes his third multi-goal against San Antonio on Saturday, which proved the difference in the game. He’s now the leading Marlies scorer among the players on the active roster with 22 points (13-9-22) in 21 games.
- Mason Marchment finally made his season debut after returning from an injury sustained in training camp. He’s looked relatively sharp for someone who has missed a huge chunk of the season and picked up an assist in Sunday’s victory. Not surprisingly, his timing is still not totally there yet, but he looks like he’s ready to make a real impact offensively once his feet are fully underneath him.
- Egor Korshkov and Matt Read were both injured during the weekend games against San Antonio. Their status at this stage is unknown.