This game was a perfect opportunity for Toronto to right the wrong after Saturday’s heavy loss against Rochester.
Facing a Cleveland Monsters team playing its third road game in as many days, the Marlies needed to go out and take advantage of a weary opponent.
The fast start out of the blocks never really manifested itself. Toronto was less susceptible defensively and gave up fewer odd-man rushes, but they played like a team fearful of making mistakes for the most part.
The one odd-man rush they did allow should have resulted in Cleveland opening the scoring four minutes in. A turnover in the Monsters zone resulted in a 4-on-2 break, but the returning Joseph Woll was on top of his game early to make the save.
An early power play for the Marlies allowed them to create a flurry of scoring opportunities, but they only once tested Jean-Francois Berube between the pipes.
The two goals in the first period came in the span of 42-seconds, and both came off of goaltending errors. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev challenged Berube with a low shot that the goaltender appeared to have a hold on, but the puck snuck through his puck and lay in the blue paint. It was an easy tap-in for the alert Marc Michaelis’ first AHL goal.
Speaking of first AHL goals, Cole Fonstead also reached that landmark with a short-side shot that snuck by the arm of Woll, who would have wanted that one back.
The shot clock showed Toronto leading 17-7, but in truth, it wasn’t the domination it appeared with Berube only called upon to make four saves of note to keep the Monsters level through 20 minutes.
Toronto began the middle frame on the penalty kill after Brett Seney was tabbed for a double-minor penalty in the dying seconds of the first period. With the special team units doing their job in limiting Cleveland to one shot, Toronto retook the lead at the six-minute mark.
It was the impressive top line that inevitably made the breakthrough. Kirill Semyonov threaded a pass to Joey Anderson alone in front of the Monsters net, where the right winger’s forehand-to-backhand move solved Berube.
The lead lasted only five minutes at the Monsters struck on their second power-play opportunity. Josh Dunne applied the redirect on a shot from Josh Dunne, giving Woll no chance.
The tide was starting to turn as Cleveland found another gear after the tying goal, out-shooting Toronto 12-9 through the middle frame.
Toronto began the final frame on a power play that carried over from the previous period.
The Marlies continued to struggle with the extra man and found themselves second best during 5v5 play throughout the third period.
Tyler Sikura had two excellent opportunities to put the Monsters in front, but Woll continued to keep Toronto in the game. He also turned aside the dangerous Tyler Angle, who is off to a hot start to the season with six points in five games.
The Marlies generated 12 shots on goal, but only two were legitimate scoring chances. Semyonov was robbed in tight by Berube midway through the period, and the Cleveland netminder pulled off another great save to prevent Josh Ho-Sang from grabbing the headlines inside the final minute of regulation.
Gavin Bayreuther almost clinched the extra point in the first few seconds but rang his effort off the post and out. After both Filip Kral and Ho-Sang were shut down by Berube, it should have been the Monsters who claimed the extra point.
Tyler Sikura yet again brought the best out of Woll, and the Monsters couldn’t make hay on the power play during the final 39 seconds remaining of the period with Semyonov in the box.
In the shootout, Woll turned aside four of five Cleveland shoots, Ho-Sang netted the first for Toronto, and rookie Mikhail Abramov clinched the winner with a dazzling move to earn his Marlies the second point.
Post Game Notes
– This victory did nothing to eliminate the worries I have for this team under Greg Moore’s leadership. It was an improved performance from games two and three of the season, but that wasn’t exactly a high bar to clear. A midweek clash with Laval followed by a home and home tilt with Belleville next weekend will provide a good test of where this team and coaching staff stand.
– Kirill Semyonov has proven to me in four games that he’s too good for the American Hockey League. He is consistently the Marlies’ best forward and was a standout performer in this game during regulation. One assist takes him up to four helpers for the season and five points in total.
– The Marlies’ net is waiting for a goaltender to stake a claim to it. The opportunity open to Joseph Woll is clear in what might be his last chance in the organization to run with it. He would want the first goal back, but he was otherwise excellent and worthy of the first star awarded to him. There was just one sketchy moment playing the puck outside of his crease, but I am happy to put that down to jitters in his first game back.
“He was, no pun intended, a wall back there,” said Greg Moore. “He made some key saves at big moments in the game. He shut the door there in the shootout. It is really good to see him back and doing well. He has come a long way in the last couple of years, and the work is paying off.”
– Filip Král continues to deliver hard, telling hits in the manner of a far more experienced defenseman. He continues to separate the puck from opponents effectively and shows great strength in his battles along the boards.
He looks for safe breakout plays rather than anything too adventurous, rarely giving away possession. There is more to come from him with the puck and in the offensive zone. He’s shown some encouraging flashes across the opponent’s blue line. Do not be surprised if the points start to arrive shortly.
It’s early in the year for such a bold statement, perhaps, but I believe Toronto has an exciting defensive prospect in Král.
– Sunday’s lines:
Seney – Semyonov – Anderson
Michaelis – SDA – Ho-Sang
Gogolev – Abramov – McKenna
Clune – Douglas – Kopacka
Král – Biega
Dahlstrom – Hollowell
Rubins – Kivihalme