“It was to be expected… This was Stockton’s first four games and they got better with every game. We expected them to push and really challenge us. You could tell our energy was a little flat. It’s been eight games in 12 or 13 days here.”
– Greg Moore
Where to begin?
The Marlies were understandably tired physically and mentally after such a tough road trip to begin this season, although it felt like there was little in the way of professional pride from a few players once the ice tilted against the Marlies in this 8-1 loss to Stockton.
Let’s run through this recap as quickly as possible.
After McMann’s linemate, Kalle Kossila, took a penalty five minutes later, Stockton made them pay as Emilio Pettersen batted the rebound out of midair past Andrew D’Agostini.
Toronto only gained the offensive zone and retained possession down there once in the opening frame, and it resulted in a tying goal. Timothy Liljegren played pitch-and-catch with Nick Robertson before hammering a one-time slapshot home from the point.
The teams weren’t level for long as Stockton showed more hustle and desire to win puck battles all over the ice. Joseph Duszak and Hudson Elynuik failed to deal with a loose puck below the goal line, allowing Stockton to cycle the puck back to the point, where Zach Lelslie’s long-range shot was tipped in by the unchallenged Mark Simpson to put the Heat ahead 2-1.
It was then Joey Anderson and Calle Rosen’s turn to be a complete mess in their own zone during four-on-four action. After Anderson gave the puck away, neither he nor Rosen closed down on Adam Ruzicka, who was wide open in the slot to tap home a cross-crease feed.
As Patrick Williams succinctly tweeted to me at the time of the goal, “Lazy giveaway, even lazier defensive effort.”
The game was over as a competitive contest less than three minutes into the middle frame when Tyler Gaudet’s failure to clear the zone on the penalty kill came back to bite the Marlies. Luke Philp redirected an effort from the slot and then tucked home his own rebound.
Stockton added their fifth goal during more four-on-four action, where Calle Rosen tamely lost a battle at the Stockton blue line against Ruzicka and didn’t expend much effort to chase down the Heat forward. Liljegren attempted to cover for his partner, but he was unable to recover inside positioning on Ruzicka, who comprehensively beat D’Agostini with a low finish.
The Marlies goaltender was playing in his eighth straight game and must have been exhausted at this point. He should have been pulled by Greg Moore, but the head coach left him in to face the carnage that ensued.
The Heat tagged on three more goals, all almost identical in their origin as Toronto failed to cut out passing lanes and left forwards alone in the slot or on backdoor plays. It could easily have been more than three goals. Simpson, Philps, and Martin Pospisil were all the beneficiaries of the Marlies’ lack of compete level without the puck.
The game meandered to the final buzzer in the third stanza. Greg Moore finally pulled D’Agostini, with Kai Edwards making his professional debut in his place. The young goaltender made just one save of note as Stockton completely dialed it back with the result well in hand.
There was a fight between Colt Conrad and Pospisil that saw the latter ejected from the game, but the period became a practice session for Dustin Wolf in the Stockton net, who had been a passenger for the first 40 minutes. Toronto recorded 15 shots on target without success and slumped to their heaviest loss of the season.
Post Games Notes
– The Marlies finished their eight-game road-trip with a record of 4-4-0. Eight games in 12 days with travel and little practice time is not a recipe for success, but there were some encouraging performances along the way despite this emphatic defeat to end off the trip. A blowout loss is easy to disregard if the response next week is appropriate, so there is little need to get carried away at this juncture.
– Adam Brooks missed the game due to injury, with Greg Moore calling his status “day-to-day.”
– Bobby McMann made his AHL debut, but I’m loath to judge anyone — let alone a rookie — after a performance like this one from the team as a whole.
– The Marlies are returning home this weekend. The upcoming schedule sees them play Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday next week, hosting both Manitoba and Stockton twice. That will be followed by a much-needed five-day break.
– Additions to the roster should include the recalled Noel Hoefenmayer, Pavel Gogolev, and former Newfoundland Growlers goaltender Angus Redmond (signed to an AHL deal).
– Friday’s lines: