“It was clear from the start in the first period and by a little bit into the second that we weren’t ready to play physically or mentally. It’s pretty frustrating that the group thought they were going to come into a game and have an easy time against a team that definitely wanted to respond to how Sunday went.”
Those were the post-game words of an utterly frustrated Greg Moore after he watched the Toronto Marlies mail the game in for a good 36 minutes or so before almost completing a huge comeback against one of the weakest teams in the AHL.
The game began badly and deteriorated from there as Toronto found themselves down 2-0 with 5:12 on the clock. Jake Walman netted on the power play for the Marlies just 42 seconds in after Mike Vecchione drew a penalty after slicing through the Marlies defense.
Vecchione proceeded to do the trick for a second time and a lack of effort by Jeremy Bracco on the back-check combined with Teemu Kivihalme and Jesper Lindgren failing to engage the Rampage forward allowed San Antonio’s leading goal scorer to net his 18th of the season in alone on Joseph Woll.
Toronto offered very little threat offensively, creating next to nothing on the power play, and only a strong drive to the net by Tyler Gaudet gave Adam Wilcox caused any concern between the pipes for the home team.
The Marlies were fortunate to only trail by two at the intermission, but their luck ran out in the middle frame.
Kivihalme’s rough game was no better encapsulated by the penalty he took just 24 seconds into the middle frame after he played himself into trouble.
Toronto survived that man deficit, but they conceded two goals in just over two minutes of play afterward as the Marlies trailed 4-0 with not even the half-way point of the game reached.
A sloppy and disjointed line change resulted in Cam Darcy escaping down the left wing, although Jordan Schmaltz should have done far better when the Rampage forward easily cut across and slotted past Woll.
A redirection by Klim Kostin on a shot from Mitch Reinke was all too simple, and the prospect of a thumping like Syracuse inflicted on Toronto two weeks ago appeared in the cards.
However, San Antonio failed to make good on further opportunities and Toronto got themselves on the board thanks to their second power-play unit. An excellent piece of hand-eye co-ordination by Scott Pooley in the slot resulted in him whacking the puck past Wilcox baseball-style.
With just two wins in their last ten and entering this game on a three-game losing streak, it’s perhaps not surprising that San Antonio stood pat and attempt to hang onto what appeared to be a comfortable 4-1 lead.
It seemed to be a tactic that was working for them until Toronto finally strung some passes together in the offensive zone, resulting in Nic Petan producing a deft finish on a pass by the unchallenged Bracco.
With ten minutes remaining, a comeback still looked unlikely, especially after Kivihalme took his second penalty of the game.
A third goal did arrive for the Marlies after an outstanding effort by Kenny Agostino, who danced his way across the Rampage blue line and through a plethora of black jerseys before beating Wilcox on a wraparound attempt.
Now holding just a one-goal lead, a degree of panic set in for San Antonio, with Toronto pulling Woll for the extra attacker and applying a good amount of pressure through the final 90 seconds of the game.
The Marlies only registered seven shots in the final frame, however, and the Rampage took a well-deserved two points with a 4-3 win.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies fell to 1-3 on the road-trip and have now won just three of their last 15 games.
– Kenny Agostino extended his point streak to six games (3-3-6) and remains at a point-per-game pace through 32 games (19-13-32).
– Scott Pooley continues to impress on the fourth line. A point of note is now that he’s receiving penalty kill and power play time, such is the faith placed in him by the coaching staff. That is now three goals in two games for the right winger, and it would be no surprise to see him moved up a line or two.
– Nic Petan recorded his eighth goal of the season and his seventh point in the last three games (5-2-7).
– Thursday’s lines: