Despite opening the campaign without a recognizable goaltender on the active roster, the Toronto Marlies were able to claim victory in game one of the 2021 AHL season.
ECHL journeyman Andrew D’Agostini gave up two goals in the first frame, but he shut the door the rest of the way and picked up his first win in his AHL debut.
Manitoba forward Joona Luoto really should have made the Marlies pay for a turnover at the four-minute mark, but his effort struck the post. Just a minute later, Toronto made hay on their first opportunity.
Nick Robertson’s shot was deflected wide, but Tyler Gaudet was quick to the loose puck. After his wraparound attempt was turned aside, the rebound was swept home by Joey Anderson.
That early Marlies lead lasted only 79 seconds, however. After Manitoba took control from an offensive zone faceoff win, rookie Declan Chisholm had all the time in the world to wind up a slapshot from the top of the left circle and beat D’Agostini through traffic.
Mikhail Berdin kept the game tied with a pair of quick saves to deny Kenny Agostino and Teemu Kivihalme, allowing the Moose to edge their noses in front with 4:41 remaining in the period. A turnover by Rasmus Sandin allowed Bobby Lynch to tee up rookie Cole Perfetti for his first professional goal.
The game could have been deadlocked after 20 minutes if not for more brilliance from Berdin. Agostino looked odds-on to score, but the Winnipeg prospect dived to his right to make a great paddle save.
Toronto wasted little time tying the game up early in the middle frame. Less than three minutes in, they caught Manitoba out with a breakout play starting inside their own zone.
Hudson Elynuik found Timothy Liljegren at the far blue line, allowing the fourth-year defenseman to set up Tyler Gaudet, who fired home from the slot.
D’Agostini was called on for a good save to deny Kristian Reichel and was sharp on a clunky Toronto power play in which Manitoba generated three good scoring chances while shorthanded.
Toronto needed to kill back to back penalties in the final stanza, and they built on those efforts to earn themselves a man-advantage after sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
It wasn’t quite a power-play tally, but eight seconds after Cole Maier exited the box, the Marlies put themselves 3-2 ahead. A passage of zone time in which Toronto repeatedly threw pucks at the net paid off as Gaudet finished off a rebound from the slot.
The Marlies rarely looked in real danger from that point on despite Manitoba pulling Berdin for the final two minutes.
Post Game Notes
– Rasmus Sandin did not play in the third period. I am unable to confirm at this time whether he suffered an injury or whether it was a precautionary move. “I am not sure what his situation is, but I thought he did a lot of good things with the puck with the reps that he had and showed himself well tonight,” said Greg Moore.
– It was a three-point game for Tyler Gaudet (2-1-3), who looks like a different player from the one we saw last season. The forward group isn’t blessed with major offensive firepower, so they need a veteran like Gaudet to pick up some slack.
“I was really impressed with Tyler tonight,” said Moore. “He has put in a lot of preparation in the offseason and has come in with a lot of expectations for himself to contribute more offensively. He was disappointed last year. It is really nice to see a person who comes to work every day and does things the right way put a process in place, have goals for the season, and get rewarded tonight.”
– Rourke Chartier picked up a second assist on the game-winner, a deserved reward for a Marlies debut performance brimming with promise. With a little more luck, he could have netted a pair himself.
– Nick Robertson also registered his first assist for the Marlies. The left-winger certainly wasn’t lacking in confidence, but he was guilty of making a play too many on occasion. As I predicted, he received time on the penalty kill — no surprise knowing the organization’s emphasis on getting their prospects all-situations experience on the farm — and it can only be a positive experience for the rookie.
– Andrew D’Agostini stopped 25 shots for the win. Ian Scott is dealing with a groin injury and is expected to be out for a week.
“The guys were really excited for him,” said Moore. “His compete level is really high. Another team that sees a goalie battling that hard in the net wants to play hard for him. He did a great job of staying within his game and making some key saves for us. The team is really happy for him.”
– Monday night’s lines:
Clune-Conrad-Duszak (at RW!!!!)