All of the optimism gathered from the new additions to the lineup and the Toronto Marlies’ convincing win over Binghamton on Wednesday was swept away by a blowout defeat in Utica on Friday night.
Aside from the opening two minutes, this was not a competitive hockey game. The Comets dominated the Marlies and were able to take their foot off the gas with over a period left to play.
Toronto began brightly, striking a post through Egor Korshkov at 1:40 on the clock, but it only served as a wake-up call for the Comets, who feasted on a plethora of turnovers and missed assignments to build a 2-0 led with under eight minutes played.
Wacey Hamilton scored on a breakaway before Reid Boucher, left all alone between the hash-marks, had Woll fishing the puck out of his net for a second time inside four minutes.
The rookie goaltender was certainly not at fault for another poor start from his team, who had Woll’s effort to thank for keeping the deficit at two after the opening 20 minutes.
There were some sporadic signs of life from Toronto in the middle frame, but it ultimately amounted to very little in terms of challenging Utica goaltender Michael DiPietro.
Not for the first time this season, Toronto managed to dig themselves a huge hole before the mid-way mark of the game. For the second time, Boucher was left alone in front, and while Woll turned aside the first effort from the slot, Boucher reacted before anyone else to finish off his own rebound.
After Comets took their foot off the gas a little at 3-0, the Marlies were able to get on the board thanks to a one-time shot on the power play from Joseph Duszak. That tally didn’t give Toronto a foothold in the game, though; instead, it sparked Utica, who slipped into third gear and netted twice in 48 seconds.
Joseph Woll got a piece of a shot by Dylan Blujus, who had all the time in the world in the high slot, but the puck looped up in the air behind him with no Marlies defender able to react in time.
Boucher continued to make a mockery of the Marlies defense as his effort skated by two players on the right boards before delivering a perfect cross feed to tee-up Sven Baertschi for a tap-in.
Down by a score of 5-1, could Toronto salvage some pride in the final frame?
The answer was no as they wasted a pair of power-play opportunities to begin the final frame.
Utica wasn’t in the mood to expend any more energy than they needed to at this point, but even at cruising speed, they tallied a sixth goal through Justin Bailey’s 27th of the year.
Kenny Agostino and Egor Korshkov both found the net much to the displeasure of the Utica coaching staff, and certainly, DiPietro deserved better from those in front of him as the Comets coasted after making it 6-1.
It was only fitting that Boucher finished off the scoring with an empty-net goal to complete his hat-trick and a five-point night as he set a new franchise record for points in a single season (63) by a Utica Comets forward.
I doubt he’s had many easier nights than this in the AHL, albeit against a totally listless Toronto team that yet again needs to do some soul searching after a blowout defeat.
Post Game Notes
– This was the tenth loss of the season by a margin of three goals or more. That accounts for 18% of the Marlies‘ schedule to this point.
– It’s stunning that a team that should be laying it all on the ice in pursuit of the playoffs can lay an egg like this. Toronto dropped to seventh in the North Division and sits four points back of a playoff spot with three games in hand.
– Egor Korshkov hit the 15-goal mark in his 38th game while Kenny Agostino reached 20 assists with the lone helper on the Russian forward’s tally, bringing him to 24g-20a-44pts in 47 games.
– Friday’s lines: