The big storyline heading into this game was the AHL debut of Semyon Der-Arguchintsev.
What went under the radar is that the Marlies also dressed a blue line aged between 20-23, with Timothy Liljegren the most experienced member of the defense group.
“We had a pretty young D core that stepped up in a big way,” said Greg Moore. “They logged a lot of minutes and did a lot of good things. They continue to learn and grow. Tonight was a really good step in the right direction for a lot of our guys.”
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev was straight into the action from the opening faceoff, recording a shot inside 20 seconds while following up on a play by Adam Brooks. An excellent shift by the same line — with Joey Anderson on the other wing — allowed Toronto to bring fresh legs into the attack with four minutes on the clock.
After Riley McCourt teed up Kenny Agostino for a one-time slap shot with Joseph Duszak — of all people — at the net providing a screen, Artyom Zagidulin made the initial save and Nic Petan was on hand to finish off the rebound.
Toronto continued to generate scoring opportunities from there. A nice transition play by McCourt through the neutral zone created some space for the defenseman to send a drop pass to Brooks, who has been snakebitten in front of goal lately. Despite a good drive into the slot, he couldn’t solve Zagidulin.
Rourke Chartier has found himself in the bottom six more often than not of late, but he’s still proving a threat regardless of his deployment. He came within an inch of teeing up Noel Hoefenamyer for a tap-in before seeing his excellent backhand attempt turned aside by Zagidulin.
Joseph Woll was merely an interested on-looker for the majority of the opening frame, but he stayed sharp to turn away a snap shot in tight by Dmitry Zavgorodniy.
These two teams have developed a severe dislike for one another over the course of the season series, so it was no surprise when Scott Sabourin and Colton Poolman dropped the gloves, with the Toronto man coming out on top in the tilt.
The Marlies would have felt that they were full value for a bigger lead than their 1-0 edge at the first break.
It was another good start to a period by SDA, who immediately surged down the middle of the ice from the opening faceoff and fired his effort wide of the target.
Jeremy McKenna was also bumped further down the lineup down with the recent additions, but he was still finding ways to be a factor in this game offensively. He came close with consecutive attempts on goal before McCourt drew a penalty on the same shift.
Toronto’s subsequent power-play failed to generate a shot, with Brooks guilty of passing up a good shooting opportunity.
A tying goal then arrived at the five-minute mark, when Toronto were the architects of their own demise. The Marlies were caught on a partial change, having failed to clear the puck past the red line, and Stockton transitioned with speed. With Toronto running around in the defensive zone, Adam Ruzicka tapped in a backdoor cross-crease feed after getting inside positioning on Rich Clune.
Toronto’s response was the right one, as they retook the lead at the nine-minute mark. It was one of many impressive offensive-zone shifts throughout this game, with a special mention to Noel Hoefenmayer’s extra effort to keep the puck inside the offensive zone.
Liljegren worked a give-and-go with Kenny Agostino before launching a one-time shot from just above the left circle off the far post. If you didn’t know the Swedish defenseman has that in his arsenal, you do now.
The 2-1 lead lasted 22 seconds, however. A faceoff win by Byron Froese sent the puck back to Colton Beck, who corralled the puck with his right skate before rifling a good shot by Woll.
With the momentum on their side, Stockton almost scored again directly from the restart of play. Woll made a good save to deny Eetu Tuulola before staying strong in his crease against Byron Froese’s attempts to jam the puck in.
The Marlies wasted another power-play opportunity afterward, but a piece of individual brilliance restored the lead back at even strength. Tyler Gaudet jumped into the play from the end of the bench to deny Stockton a zone clearance before breezing past a defender on the right boards, cutting inside Connor Macke, and scoring short-side top-shelf from just above the goal line.
The 3-3 tying goal for the Heat was reminiscent of their first. Mackay finished off a feed from Matthew Phillips, leaving the teams level at 3-3 through 40 minutes.
Following a second period that neither coach would have been particularly happy about — there was little in the way of structured hockey, and Stockton never generated much of a forecheck — the Marlies got their game back on track and took control in the final frame.
Kossila and Petan both came close inside the opening two minutes, but neither was able to find the finishing touch.
The third time was the charm for Toronto’s power-play at the four-minute mark of the period — the puck speed was vastly improved over the previous two attempts, and it took just 10 seconds for the Marlies to convert with the extra man after they won the faceoff.
Joey Anderson moved the puck up to the blue line to Joey Duszak, who shifted it quickly to Kossila, who found SDA in the right circle. The debutant had his head up and laid the puck off to Adam Brooks crashing through the hashmark, and Brooks made no mistake with a definitive finish.
The insurance marker evaded the Marlies despite generating some good looks through the final 15 minutes. Zagidulin kept the Heat in the game with excellent stops on Anderson, SDA, Gaudet, and Kossila, and Agostino struck the post.
Toronto limited Stockton to just five shots in the final frame — with Woll called on to make one save of note on Kris Bennett — effectively closing out the 4-3 victory.
Post Game Notes
– Defensemen Riley McCourt and Noel Hoefenmayer both recorded their first AHL points. McCourt has looked ultra-confident in making offensive plays, and the point was a due reward for his efforts. It’s a credit to Hoefenmayer’s play that the coaching staff entrusted him to play top-pairing minutes with Timothy Liljegren. His first point was the result of his extra effort prior to his partner’s goal.
“[McCourt and Hoefenmayer] have done a really good job and taking ownership over some minutes for our team,” said Moore. “They’re really working at wanting to get better every day. Since the first games they’ve played, they have come a long way in a short amount of time. That’s due to their work ethic, willingness to study the game before and after practice, and their work with Rob Davison. It has been really, really big for us to come in and carry the minutes that they have.”
– As I expected, Semyon Der-Arguchinstsev flitted in and out of this game, especially late on. All-in-all, it was a nice debut, and the intricate passing play with Joey Anderson in the third period was a thing of beauty deserving of a goal. He oozes confidence with the puck on his stick. Marlies fans should be excited to see what kind of impact he can make once his legs are underneath him in this league.
“[SDA] was really solid,” said Moore. “He had a big impact on our power-play goal. He made a lot of good plays into the middle of the rink. He is really smart, slippery, and skilled. He can find his teammates and elevate his teammates with his puck movement. A strong showing for his first game.”
– Kenny Agostino recorded two assists, taking his season point total to 13 in 12 games and extending his point streak to five games (1-5-6).
– Nic Petan is a production machine in the AHL. It’s his calling card. His goal gives him at least a point in all four games for the Marlies this season (3-2-5).
– A second goal of the season for Timothy Liljegren gives him eight points (2-6-8) in 12 games. More confident in his offensive abilities, the Swedish defenseman is shooting more this year — his shots per game average was 1.67 prior to this season, and it’s now at 2.83 this year through a dozen appearances.
– One final point: He didn’t see any action, but goaltender Ian Scott served as the backup. After a long journey back, it’s great to see him on the bench, and my assumption is that he will start on Wednesday night.
– Monday’s lines:
Petan – Kossila – Agostino
Brooks – Der-Arguchinstsev- Anderson
Chartier – Gaudet – McKenna
Clune – Conrad – Sabourin
Hoefenmayer – Liljegren
Rubins – Hollowell
McCourt – Duszak