The fourth game in five days was a tough task for both teams to start the season.
Once again left wondering how they didn’t capitalize on more of their scoring chances, the Toronto Marlies were frustrated by yet another masterclass performance in the Moose net from Mikhail Berdin.
“Berdin really turned it on the last two games,” said Greg Moore. “We probably could have done a better job of getting to the net and getting to his eyes. He saw a lot of the shots. We created a lot off of the entries and got some movement going and got some shots from the interior of the offensive zone, but when we do take those shots, there was not enough of a presence there in front of a goalie who is really feeling it.”
Toronto looked like the tired team for the first 10 minutes of the game. A plethora of sloppy giveaways under minimal pressure enabled Manitoba, who really should have grabbed themselves an early lead.
Skyler McKenzie couldn’t finish off two straight chances from the slot, although some credit should be given to Andrew D’Agostini, who came up with a pair of excellent — if unconventional — saves.
A drawn penalty by Joey Duszak was the turning point of the period. On the resulting power play, Joey Anderson and Nick Robertson both came close before Berdin performed his first piece of robbery: Adam Brooks was left all alone in front, but from just above the blue paint, the Marlies‘ center backhand chipped effort was somehow clung onto by the Russian netminder.
While they were unable to score with the extra man, Toronto carried that momentum over at even strength, earning themselves another power play. Brooks had the one good chance on the second man-advantage, but he wired his one-time shot from the slot just wide of the net.
It was a hard-luck period for the Manitoba native, to say the least — with 20 seconds remaining, Brooks’ chipped shot from in-tight hit off the top of the crossbar and away to safety. That meant a hat-trick of chances all went to waste, leaving a pair of goose eggs on the scoreboard at the first intermission.
It was yet another poor start to a period by Toronto in the middle frame as they found themselves on the penalty kill inside three minutes. The PK units had barely been tested in this series, but they were excellent on this occasion and almost scored shorthanded through Tyler Gaudet, who nearly caught Berdin wandering from his net.
The Marlies created the next best two scoring chances, but they were still unable to break the deadlock. Teem Kivihalme picked up possession at his own blue line and showed a fantastic burst of speed to weave his way through the neutral zone, creating a 2-on-1 break. Kivihalme ended up with the shot on goal, but Berdin again stood tall.
After a spell of pressure by the Marlies at the midway point resulted in a broken play, Robertson had time to weigh up his options from the high slot and rang his effort off of the far post.
Bobby Lynch should have made Toronto pay at the other end, but he missed an open net with four minutes left in the period. The Moose then opened the scoring 70 seconds later when a sharp angle shot by Jeff Malott beat D’Agostini, who wishes he could have that one back.
Toronto responded in kind before the buzzer with a goal out of nothing. Joey Anderson lost control of the puck, but it fell into the path of Calle Rosen, whose shot from the top of the left circle crept under Berdin’s glove to level proceedings.
Toronto came out firing in the final frame, forcing Manitoba against the ropes for the first three minutes. Timothy Liljegren, playing with enormous confidence right now, pulled off a deft shimmy around his man just inside the blue line, allowing him to drive to the hash marks, where his effort was turned aside by Berdin.
Kivihalme and Justin Brazeau also came close before the Marlies gifted Manitoba what turned out to be the winning goal. A neutral zone turnover shouldn’t have put Toronto in trouble with enough players behind the puck, but a series of errors — including a Marlie falling over — and some puck watching allowed Tyler Graovac to tee up Lynch to score with a backhand effort that beat D’Agostini.
Toronto almost provided an instant response, with a broken play resulting in another great chance low in the slow, but Liljegren was once again shut down by Berdin.
The Russian goaltender also turned aside Brooks on a breakaway and provided stellar goaltending inside the final three minutes as the Marlies pressured heavily with the goalie pulled. Berdin’s 16 saves in the third period and 38 in all proved the difference between the teams.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto and Manitoba split the series 2-2-0. The Marlies are now heading to Calgary to play a series of games against Stockton starting on Sunday.
– Calle Rosen tallied his third goal of the season and registered five shots on goal, while Nick Robertson led all skaters with seven shots on net.
“[Robertson] is getting better with every shift,” said Moore. “He seemed to find more comfort within himself and the timing and the space in the game. He is a really hungry, self-driven person. He has seen every shift that he has played. He has the right process in place. Because of that, he is able to learn and grow very fast. I have noticed a significant increase in the impact of his game throughout the four games.”
– Kenny Agostino recorded an assist for his fourth point in as many games (1-3-4).
– Toronto has made two transactions involving defensemen: Noel Hoefenmayer has been reassigned from Wichita Thunder to the Marlies, and Dakota Krebs (University of Calgary) has been signed to an ATO.
– Friday’s lines: