A toothless performance from the Toronto Marlies saw them out-worked by a hungrier Central Division opponent on Sunday afternoon.
The Marlies yet again spotted the opposition a first-period lead and were left playing catch-up for the majority of the game en route to a 4-2 loss to Rockford.
The Marlies were flat from the outset as Rockford drove the majority of the play before striking first with 5:41 on the clock. Kasimir Kaskisuo would like back John Quenneville’s goal back — it beat him at his near post — but the early lead was no more than the Icehogs deserved.
The Marlies started to come alive offensively when the lesser lights of the bottom six caused some problems with a strong forecheck, eventually leading to a tying goal. Rich Clune showed some patience in front after picking up the loose puck off a blocked shot and rounded Kevin Lankinen with ease before finishing into the empty net.
The Marlies then shot themselves in the foot just two minutes later as they gifted Rockford a breakaway. Philipp Kurashev made no mistake with a beautiful backhand finish past Kaskisuo to put the IceHogs ahead 2-1 at the first break.
The middle frame started in a similar fashion to the first as Rockford caused havoc in the Toronto zone for the opening 60 seconds.
Against the run of play, the Marlies quickly transitioned the puck the other way, where a nice feed from Matt Read set up Adam Brooks to beat Lankinen top shelf.
The Marlies almost immediately put themselves ahead, but Tyler Gaudet was unable to find the finish following a perfect pass from Mason Marchment.
Yet again, the IceHogs took a stranglehold on the game and re-established their lead on the power play. The Marlies’ penalty kill was passive as Rockford tore them apart and broke them down, allowing Quenneville to score his second of the game with ease.
The Marlies then wasted two power-play opportunities of their own and should have found themselves trailing by two late in the period. An awful turnover by Nic Petan during four-on-four action sent MacKenzie Entwistle in alone on goal, and the officials ruled a stick lift on the backcheck was worthy of a penalty shot.
Kaskisuo made the save needed to deny Entwhistle and ensured the Marlies’ deficit held at one with 20 minutes left to play.
The state of affairs wasn’t pretty ahead into the final frame: The Marlies mustered eight shots through 40 minutes, trailed 3-2, and were facing a third-period deficit for the 10th time this season.
It always appeared to be a bridge too far, and Rockford never looked in any real danger of relinquishing their lead. The Marlies managed just five shots in the third period, with none taken from below the dots as Rockford simply ground Toronto down.
Penalties taken by Garrett Wilson and Tyler Gaudet inside the final eight minutes ensured the Marlies could never create any momentum in the search of a late tying marker before their fate was sealed by an empty-net marker by Nick Moutrey.
Post Game Notes
– Greg Moore will take over the reins on Monday morning with much work ahead for the Toronto Marlies new head coach. A third straight loss marks the Marlies’ longest losing streak of the season and they’ve been out-scored 14-7 during that stretch.
“I just think we didn’t generate enough chances or anything to the net, really,” said AJ MacLean. “The lack of quality in the attacking third was pretty much our demise for the weekend.”
– Special teams let the Marlies down on Sunday — they went 0/2 on the power play and the penalty kill allowed one on four opportunities.
“The power play looked good today,” said MacLean. “There was good movement of the puck and our bodies, but it was still the same as we talked about at five on five: We just need to generate a few shots at the net. That will be the message going into next week.”
– Rich Clune scored his second of the season in his seventh game, while Adam Brooks recorded his seventh goal and 13th point in his 17th appearance.
– The Toronto Maple Leafs announced after the game that Rasmus Sandin will join Team Sweden for the World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic.
“[Team Sweden is getting] a terrific player,” said MacLean. “He is smart, moves the puck well, can skate and defend. I hope he dominates, gets to play with the puck, and has a lot of success. He already has good confidence, but it would be good if he came back with a nice swagger and kept things rolling.”
– Sunday’s lines: