Despite the positive result, this was one of the Toronto Marlies’ least effective performances at five-on-five this season.
“We were definitely happy with special teams, especially the penalty kill,” said Greg Moore. “Five-on-five wasn’t nearly where it needed to be. We didn’t manage the game well. We didn’t manage the score well. We didn’t manage the clock well. There were immature turnovers at the bluelines at certain times in the periods.
“The group knows what they need to be doing and they’re not executing on some of those items. We are going to continue to have a sharp message until things are executed correctly at five-on-five. The effort is there, and the guys are working. Some of it is just decision-making right now throughout the game. There are areas in our systems we can work on — and we will — but for the most part, it is the decision-making around the rink.”
With a second consecutive 4-2 win over Manitoba, the Marlies improved to 6-4-0 on the season and now face the Stockton Heat in a two-game series in which they’ll seek revenge on an embarrassing 8-1 loss in Calgary.
The Manitoba Moose rode roughshod over the Marlies for the first 12 minutes of the game, deservedly taking the lead through Hayden Shaw after an initial redirect in front resulted in a broken play. From just inside the left circle, the Moose defenseman beat Andrew D’Agostini with a shot that was just over his right pad and below the glove hand.
Toronto had been out-shot by a margin of 13-4 by this point, with only Tyler Gaudet and Calle Rosen testing Mikhail Berdin. Instead of capitulating, however, conceding first seemed to galvanize the Marlies for the remainder of the period.
After Kalle Kossila forced Berdin into an excellent shoulder save, the Marlies drew a penalty, and the power play immediately clicked. Tyler Gaudet drove down the left flank, where his intended feed to Rourke Chartier missed the target but bounced off a defenseman’s skate and straight to Justin Brazeau, who buried the loose puck.
With the tide now turned, the Marlies established a lead with 50 seconds remaining when Mac Hollowell’s tape-to-tape breakout pass sent Gaudet driving toward the net in a 1v1 with Jimmy Oligny. Gaudet went outside-inside on Oligny, and fired a low shot past Berdin — a move and finish that displayed the confidence the veteran forward is playing with offensively this season.
Toronto opened the middle frame in the same vein as they ended the first, drawing another penalty inside two minutes, although they were unable to make it 2-for-2 with the extra man.
An excellent first penalty kill of the game turned into a third power-play opportunity as Toronto thrived in the special teams battle and netted their second goal with the man advantage: Alex Galchenyuk threaded the needle with a cross-ice pass to find Kalle Kossila with some room to maneuver in the left circle, where Kossila showed off his finishing touch with a low finish past Berdin’s left pad.
There was a little pushback from Manitoba at this stage of the game, although it never felt overly threatening until Toronto gifted the Moose a second goal. After an unforced giveaway from Mac Hollowell presented Oligny with possession, a hard pass into the slot allowed C. J Seuss to score with a deft redirect.
The Moose were now in the ascendancy as they dominated possession and offensive zone time in the second half of the middle frame. Toronto held on, however, with D’Agostini making some unorthodox but effective saves to keep the lead intact.
Toronto almost snatched an insurance marker against the run of play in the final minute, but Rourke Chartier was stonewalled by Berdin on a partial breakaway.
The final 20 minutes was a non-affair from Toronto offensively, but they showed a great deal of resilience to hold on for the two points. They did ride their luck somewhat, however, as Leon Gawanke rang a shot off the post on a power play at the four-minute mark.
The Marlies’ penalty kill played a big part in the team’s success when it was called back into action at the 10-minute mark and then again with 2:25 remaining.
Manitoba immediately pulled Berdin for the extra attacker as soon as they gained possession in the Toronto zone, but the Marlies stuck to their task, as they were organized and asserted enough puck pressure on the Moose to make their execution difficult despite two extra players on the ice.
Toronto netted the insurance marker after capitalizing on a poor zone entry by Manitoba. Adam Brooks rang the puck around behind his own net along the boards to Calle Rosen on the far side, and there is probably no better defenseman suited to finding the empty net from almost 200 feet than Rosen. The Swedish defenseman’s perfect shot found the middle of the vacant Moose net.
Post Game Notes
– Andrew D’Agostini posted 31 saves for the victory. He will probably feel he should have done better on the first goal, but I am loathe to heap any criticism on a player with such a remarkable story. 10 games in 20 days is a tough ask for anyone, let alone a 27-year-old goaltender receiving his first taste of the AHL amid a global pandemic. His save percentage was crushed in the 8-1 loss to Stockton, but in six of his ten starts, D’Agostini has posted a .926 save percentage or above.
– Tyler Gaudet extended his point streak to six games with his third multi-point haul of the season (1-1-2). He leads the Marlies in scoring with 12 points (5-7-12) in 10 games.
– Adam Brooks recorded a pair of assists. He wasn’t as dominant offensively as he has been of late, but he was excellent defensively. With 10 points (3-7-10) through nine games, he has adapted seamlessly to playing on the wing, which is an interesting move by Greg Moore to shift him there.
– Mac Hollowell recorded his first points of the season with a couple of assists. I have liked his game and he’s been more physical this season, but he was at fault for the second goal with a lazy pass in the defensive zone. That’s something to learn from. Overall, it’s been a promising start to the year for him.
“He has been very consistent and is playing a lot of minutes for us,” said Moore. “He has improved in a lot of areas. He is just a really smart player. He is a really fluid skater. He can anticipate the play. He is a really good puck mover. There are a lot of good things he does out there, and now he is adding a lot of consistency to how he defends, which creates a more well-rounded defensive game. It is fun to see.”
– Riley McCourt made his professional debut and was noticeable for the right reasons. The 20-year-old former Flint Firebird brought a physical presence and was even involved in one fracas along the end boards.
Defensively, there were no notable errors, as he was rarely out of position and made a couple of excellent reads on Manitoba attacks off the rush. Offensively, he didn’t lack for confidence — he was happy to jump into the play and made at least two moves that led directly to scoring chances.
In a smart move by Greg Moore, Toronto paired McCourt with the experienced Martin Marincin, which allowed the rookie the freedom to play his game. The Marlies aren’t short on capable blueliners, so this performance will give the coaching staff something to think about for the upcoming games.
– Wednesday’s lines: