A first-line of Pavel Gogolev, Kalle Kossila, and Jeremy McKenna was not something we could have anticipated coming together this season.
With the Marlies playing their fifth game in seven days, Greg Moore opted to shake things up with a few intriguing lineup choices ahead of this tilt against Laval.
Toronto rode their luck in the opening 20 minutes, but clinical finishing offensively allowed them to take a lead into the intermission.
A poorly judged line change by Laval in the second minute of the game almost gave Toronto an early lead. Colt Conrad teed up Scott Pooley, but the latter’s effort was deflected narrowly wide.
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard struck the post 90 seconds later before Toronto took the lead inside five minutes.
An extra effort from Kalle Kossila to retain possession on the left boards allowed Pavel Gogolev to circle back and pick out Justin Brazeau as the trailer on the play. With Laval all out of sorts defensively, the big man finished into the top shelf.
The Marlies extended their lead a little before the eight-minute mark. The goal was created by Gogolev, who surged through the neutral zone via a give-and-go with Brennan Kapcheck. After crossing the blue line, the rookie picked out Kossila, who made no mistake with a far-post finish past Cayden Primeau.
Laval struck the iron for a second time through Corey Schueneman, but they otherwise failed to fully test Michael Hutchinson.
The Marlies reverted to the bad habits of recent losses in the middle frame. Laval registered 14 unanswered shots in 13 minutes, making two of them count.
Consecutive giveaways failing to clear the zone led to Yannick Veilleux and Laval’s first goal of the game inside five minutes.
Hutchinson was resilient between the pipes job the lack of support in front of him, but he was beaten a second time at the midway point of the game when Alex Belzile netted his fourth of the season.
Toronto showered some pushback, however, weathering the storm and retaking the lead against the run of play.
Jeremy McKenna showed strength to hold off his man while driving to the net from the left circle before shoving the puck toward the net with just one hand on his stick. Primeau’s feeble attempt to clear the danger failed, and an alert Stefan Noesen shifted the puck across the crease to Gogolev, who finished on his backhand.
The Marlies almost restored their two-goal lead 35 seconds into the final frame when Tyler Gaudet drove hard to the net, but Primeau stood strong this time around.
Impressively, Toronto did an excellent job of shutting down Laval the rest of the way to secure the victory. The Rocket recorded 14 shots, but they were mostly limited to the perimeter as the Rocket looked for tips and redirects in front of Hutchinson.
Scott Pooley ringing a shot off the iron on a breakaway attempt with six minutes remaining was as close as Toronto came to netting an insurance marker.
In what was a hot-tempered and poorly-officiated game, a debatable cross-checking penalty called on Calle Rosen gave Laval a power-play with a little over three minutes left in regulation. Hutchinson made the one save asked of him on the penalty kill and an additional three in the final seconds to secure the win.
Post Game Notes
– A first career three-point game (1-2-3) for Pavel Gogolev, who was instrumental in every Toronto goal. Gogolev has eight points (4-4-8) in nine games this season and is visibly growing in confidence with every performance. It’s a small sample size, but he strikes me as a player who has notable upside given time to develop, and he should be offered at least an AHL deal for next season.
“He is starting to find his way in this league,” said Greg Moore. “He has a knack for finding goals, finding the net, and putting himself in the right spots. He is learning game management and how to be responsible on the ice at this level.”
– Kalle Kossila extended his point streak to six games (1-7-8) with his fourth multi-point haul (1-1-2) of the year.
“He has been a really consistent, steady player for us,” said Moore. “He logs really important minutes, is good in all three zones, helps to transition the puck, makes his teammates better, and you can tell he has found a new sense of confidence this year.”
– Michael Hutchinson yet again came up trumps for the Marlies, making 39 saves and keeping Toronto in the game during the middle frame.
“It was good to see him in a game and to really stand strong and make big saves for us,” said Moore. “He is really good through traffic, which is something Laval really relies on within their game play.”
– Defenseman Brennan Kapcheck recorded his first professional point with an assist on the second goal.
– Justin Brazeau scored his third goal of the season and first since March 3, 2021.
– Friday’s lines: