The Toronto Marlies finished the season series against the Laval Rocket with a remarkable victory.
The Marlies dressed eight AHL rookies, including a professional debut for defenseman William Villeneuve, while Laval bolstered its ranks with the additions of Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher. Despite the experience deficit, a dogged performance from the young Marlies backstopped by Michael Hutchinson extended Toronto’s winning streak to four games.
“Testing [Price] who is coming back from injury and hasn’t played in a while, you want to get to him early,” said Greg Moore. “I thought we did a good job of that, especially with how we moved our feet, drew penalties, and got on the power play. We got to him early, which is really good and key to our win tonight.”
The Marlies got off to a dream start.
After Scott Pooley drew a penalty inside the opening minute, Toronto netted on the resulting power-play, with the second unit getting the job done via a neat triangle passing sequence down low around the left circle. Joseph Duszak and Justin Brazeau combined to tee up Bobby McMann, who rifled a shot into the far top corner of Cary Price’s net.
Still inside four minutes, a relentless forecheck from Stefan Noesen and Jeremy McKenna resulted in a turnover behind the Laval net before Noesen drove to the crease and scored on his backhand to double the Marlies‘ lead just four minutes in.
Laval may have stumbled out of the blocks, but they pushed to respond immediately, recording the next six shots on goal unanswered. Michael Hutchinson’s best save of the bunch came on Laurent Dauphin on a second effort.
The Marlies‘ sloppiness with the puck inside the defensive zone allowed Laval to build even more pressure with extended periods of possession, leading to consecutive Toronto penalties that resulted in a few seconds of a two-man advantage.
The Marlies’ penalty kill stood firm, however, and the 17th save of the period from Hutchinson ensured they held onto their 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Toronto did a better job of limiting shots against in the middle frame, but they still relied heavily on their goaltender. Laval created seven scoring chances from the slot, but Hutchinson was dialed in.
With Rocket frustrated after generating 11 shots in the first 11 minutes, Toronto grew into the middle frame, drawing two penalties in the process.
The Marlies were only able to record a combined four shots on two power plays, but they still held a 2-0 lead through 40 minutes.
Although Toronto’s puck retention was nothing to write home about in the final frame, they did an admirable job defensively of keeping Laval to the perimeter for the most part. The Rocket recorded just four shots from beneath the dots, and anything from further out was either blocked or taken care of by Hutchinson, who usually was afforded clean sightlines.
The Marlies had an opportunity to make the victory stress-free with a four-minute power-play thanks to a high stick by Brendan Gallagher. They were far too casual with the extra man, however, and took two consecutive penalties themselves, with Martin Marincin following Justin Brazeau to the box.
Penalty killing hasn’t been Toronto’s forte this season, but it’s been improving of late and stood up to the test in this game. Laval pulled Primeau for the final four minutes, but they forced Hutchinson into just one save.
Hutchinson’s 39th and last stop of the game ensured that Toronto’s winning streak was extended to a season-high four games.
Post Game Notes
– Michael Hutchinson is clearly inspired when he puts on a Marlies jersey. His 39 saves earned him a 15th career AHL shutout in 174 games. Hutchinson has played a combined 29 games for the Marlies across three seasons, posting a .943 save percentage, three shutouts, and 19 wins.
“Hutch was great today — maybe the best game I’ve ever seen him play in person,” said Greg Moore. “He was really calm and really poised. He fought so hard to find pucks through traffic and get to them. Being able to get to rebounds and get to his feet and push, he was really impressive to watch today.”
Hutchinson’s highlight package can be seen at the start of the video below:
– Stefan Noesen has only played three games for the Marlies this season, but he has a goal and two assists to his name. He simply works his tail off and was deservedly rewarded with the insurance marker in this game.
– Many were asking who Bobby McMann is when he scored on Carey Price. It was a nice moment for the Alberta native, who has been mostly confined to a bottom-six role this year.
“He’s responsible with how he’s played and how trustworthy he is on the ice,” said Moore. “It has taken him some time. The change in system from college to here was a big change, so it’s taken him some reps to get comfortable. Now that he has built up some rapport with the team and the staff and we can put him in different situations, he has earned a lot of good ice just from how hard he has been playing and how detailed he is. He is watching a lot of video and making sure he is improving himself to add offensively and defensively. As of late, because he has done such a good job in that area, he is getting more ice and finding a way to get more offensive chances as well.”
– Joseph Duszak returned to action in this game, which is great news after what appeared to be a possible concussion sustained against Laval two weeks ago.
– William Villeneuve looked a little out of his depth at times in his professional debut. He settled in and showed a little more poise in the third period, though, and recorded a first AHL shot.
– Monday’s lines: