In need of a response coming off of Wednesday’s humiliating loss in Laval, the Toronto Marlies took a big step toward getting their season back on track on Friday night in Belleville.
The game began at a frantic pace, although the quality of the overall play was lacking. It took until the sixth minute for the first concrete scoring chance to emerge as Roby Jarventie got on the end of a cross-seam play, but Erik Källgren robbed him with a point-blank save.
Making his AHL debut for the Marlies, Alex Steeves was very noticeable in the first period. He showed a great burst of speed to win possession that created some offensive-zone pressure and led directly to two scoring chances. The rookie recorded four shots on goal through the first 20 minutes.
The Marlies wasted the game’s first power play and almost fell behind immediately back at five-on-five. Andrew Agozzino hit the post from an unpromising angle on a partial breakaway, but that’s as close as either team came to breaking the deadlock.
The middle frame opened up offensively, with both teams getting themselves on the scoreboard.
A breakdown defensively by Toronto in the opening minute should have resulted in a lead for the Senators, but Källgren had other ideas, stonewalling Egor Solokov.
The Marlies‘ second power play of the game was a better effort than the first, with Josh Ho-Sang denied twice in tight.
Belleville was similarly frustrated with the extra man. For the second time of the game, Agozzino hit the post, although he’ll feel he should have scored on a rebound effort.
The first goal of the game finally arrived at the midway point of the game. Excellent work by Kristians Rubins, who held the puck in deep along the left boards, was rewarded after the puck was finally released and rung around the back of the Senators net. Mac Hollowell picked up possession and attempted to find Joey Anderson for a redirect in the slot, where the intended pass deflected off of Jonathan Aspirot and into the net past Kevin Mandolese.
Belleville was allowed back into the game just over 60 seconds later following an individual mistake. Curtis Douglas opted for a low-percentage square pass across his own blue line that was easily cut out. Parker Kelly found Agozzino, who this time found the back of the net.
The Marlies came close to regaining their two-goal advantage through Pavel Gogolev on a splendid feed from Mikail Abramov, but Mandolese stood tall between the pipes for the Senators.
Toronto began the final frame with a crucial penalty kill that set the stage for the Marlies to blow the game open back at even strength.
After strong work by Abramov and Goglev to win an offensive zone faceoff, the puck was switched to Brennan Menell on the right wall. With nothing much on for the defenseman, he opted to shoot through traffic and the puck had eyes as it found the back of the net — a low-percentage play with a happy ending.
Belleville almost scored at the resumption of play, but the Marlies were indebted to Källgren, who yet again robbed Matthew Wedman.
The Senators did draw within one, however, with another avoidable goal as the Marlies turned the puck over cheaply and missed assignments allowed Agozzino a second tally on the evening.
A swift transition play quickly restored Toronto’s two-goal advantage: Steeves combined with Ho-Sang, who sniped his second of the night.
You sensed there was a renewed confidence about the Marlies, who scored a fifth goal soon after. After Joseph Duszak’s shot produced a rebound, Anderson pounced before any Belleville player to put the game to bed.
That rounded out the scoring despite additional power play opportunities for both teams as the Marlies cruised to a comprehensive 5-2 victory.
Post Game Notes
– For the second time this year, Josh Ho-Sang bagged a pair of goals. I did feel he overplayed the puck at times while looking to do too much on his own, but perhaps that is understandable after the struggles of late.
– Alex Steeves put together an impressive performance in his debut. The college free agent signing faded as the game went on, which is to be expected after a long layoff. On two occasions, he showcased a turn of speed to beat an opponent. He certainly wasn’t shy of making a play or shooting the puck when the opportunity was there. There was no point where he simply deferred to a more experience linemate. The confident rookie was entrusted with PP1 time, and an assist on Ho-Sang’s second goal was a nice addendum to his debut performance.
“He brought a lot of energy,” said Greg Moore. “He has a really good shot, a good scoring touch. His competitiveness and work ethic are some of the best we have seen. It has been a bit of a long road since his injury, and the reason he could have such a big impact in his first game back is because of all of the work he put in during that time off.”
– I am a big fan of Pavel Gogolev and have been disappointed to see him lower in the lineup so far this season. Two even-strength assists in this game for the left-winger is not a bad way to open his account for the year. My preference is for Greg Moore to keep the line of Gogolev – Abramov – McKenna together for an extended look.
– My first star of this game was Erik Källgren. Belleville created 10 high-danger scoring chances in this game but capitalized on just one. Stopping just 26 shots rarely earns you the first star, but he was the biggest difference between the two sides in this outing.
– Friday’s lines:
Seney – SDA – Anderson
Steeves – Semyonov – Ho-Sang
Gogolev – Abramov – McKenna
Michaelis – Douglas – Gabriel
Rubins – Menell
Dahlström – Hollowell
Král – Duszak