After getting stonewalled by Manitoba goalie Mikhail Berdin for two straight games, the Toronto Marlies rediscovered their scoring touch in Calgary.
After an energetic start from Stockton in their first game of the season, the Marlies appeared to utilize their edge in game readiness to run over the Heat the rest of the way, racking up five goals on their first 11 shots. All told, 14 of the Marlies‘ 18 skaters registered at least a point.
“It was really good to see everyone contributing,” said Greg Moore. “It is a sign of a good game when the points are spread throughout the roster, with all four lines contributing and the defense contributing offensively. I thought the group did a really good job defensively as well.”
A 7-1 rout of the Stockton Heat brings the Marlies to 3-2-0 on the season, with three more games versus the Heat on tap for this week.
The opening minutes of the game wouldn’t have led one to believe the Marlies were on the verge of a blowout victory. Playing in their season opener, Stockton showed plenty of jump out of the starting gates, and Andrew Agostini had to be sharp between the pipes to prevent the Heat from taking an early lead.
It took Toronto until the ninth minute to record their first shot of the game, but they made it count: A Stockton turnover was a gift for Scott Pooley, who capitalized with a shot inside the far post from the right faceoff circle.
That goal seemed to suck the life out of the Heat as Toronto then scored a second on their first power play of the game. An intended pass by Kenny Agostino into the slot area towards a driving Joey Anderson took a deflection off of a defenseman and past Dustin Wolf.
Stockton completely imploded in the middle frame as the Marlies feasted offensively. It might have been a different story without D’Agostini battling to make a pair of saves during an early penalty kill.
Following their failure to capitalize on an early opportunity, Stockton gave up a shorthanded goal two minutes into the period. After a steal by Nick Robertson sparked a rush with Tyler Gaudet, the rookie’s pass went awry, but Gaudet was persistent in his pursuit of the puck, generating a takeaway out of a 1v3 situation in the corner. Gaudet’s low shot trickled though Wolf, who was now looking very uncertain between the pipes in his professional debut.
It was then 4-0 inside five minutes thanks to another scrappy goal by the Marlies. After a shot by Jeremy McKenna wasn’t held onto by Wolf, Rich Clune batted for the loose puck in the crease and the rookie goaltender essentially scored on his own goal.
Just before the midway mark of the game, Teemu Kivihalme skated a lap around the Stockton zone before firing a low wrist shot into the far corner of Wolf’s net. Five goals on 11 shots ended the rookie’s night, with Garret Sparks entering the game in relief.
The former Toronto netminder held the fort down for a short while until the fourth goal of the period arrived at the 13-minute mark when Justin Brazeau put home a rebound from an Adam Brooks shot on the man advantage.
Stockton came close to getting themselves on the board through Dmitry Zavgorodniy, who hit the crossbar when he really should have scored before Adam Ruzicka flubbed his effort on a breakaway.
The Marlies would have made it a five-goal period through Hudson Elynuik if not for some heroics from Sparks, who wouldn’t have drawn up these circumstances for his first appearance of the AHL season.
Moments after the Heat really should have reduced the deficit on a rebound attempt two minutes into the final frame, Toronto scored a seventh goal: Joseph Duszak ripped a slap pass toward Elynuik, who deftly turned his skate to redirect the puck toward the net — without using a kicking motion — to give Sparks no chance.
Thoughts then began to turn as to whether D’Agostini could post his first-ever AHL shutout, but those dreams were dashed with a little over seven minutes remaining when Stockton scored on the power play through Luke Philp.
There were further opportunities for Toronto to add to the scoreline, but they were held to seven goals mostly due to Sparks, whose best stop of the game denied Rourke Chartier of his first goal as a Marlie.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto now has four power-play goals on 13 opportunities this season (30.8%) after scoring twice with the man advantage in this game. Justin Brazeau netted his first-ever AHL goal with his power-play tally late in the second period.
“AJ MacLean has done a phenomenal job coaching them up and giving them a game plan and a process and a structure,” said Moore. “The players have bought into that. [Brazeau] is really gaining more confidence with every game. He is a big body who needs to utilize that skill and those assets in the games. Our staff has been putting in the time to go over video with the players and give them some perspective as to how they can take advantage. Braz is one of those players who is always asking the right questions and wanting to learn. His process so far has been great and is getting better every game.”
– Scott Pooley also scored his first goal of the season with the opening tally at even strength. In his long-awaited AHL debut, Jeremy McKenna recorded a primary assist on Rich Clune’s goal. McKenna had been playing in the ECHL with Wichita Thunder.
– Hudson Elynuik and Tyler Gaudet both recorded two-point hauls (1-1-2).
– Kenny Agostino extended his point streak (2-3-5) to four games with his goal. As per Todd Crocker, the goal is his 300th career AHL point.
– Nick Robertson wasn’t able to record a shot on goal, but he did pick up a secondary assist on Agostino’s power-play goal to bring him up to four points in his first five AHL games.
– Andrew D’Agostini posted 31 saves for the victory, moving him to 3-2-0 on the season with a .925 save percentage. “The team has really rallied around him,” said Moore. “In every interview we have done so far, it is hard not to speak on how competitive and hard-working he is. He really reads the play well and anticipates well. He is definitely making it hard to pull him out of the net.”
– Sunday’s lines: