Alex Steeves is just two games into his professional career, but he’s already turning heads.
Following an impressive debut in which he recorded his first professional point (an assist) and five shots on goal on Friday night, the rookie scored his first two AHL goals — both in impressive fashion — in a 5-2 win for the Marlies in Belleville on Saturday.
Toronto dominated the opening frame, creating almost as many high-danger scoring opportunities (five) as Belleville registered shots (six).
The only point of frustration for the Marlies was that they had only one goal to show for their efforts through 20 minutes.
The Marlies shifted the puck with ease from low to high and Kristians Rubins was on hand to sweep in a rebound off of an initial shot by Mac Hollowell.
Unable to take advantage of two power-play opportunities, Belleville found themselves trailing 1-0 at the first intermission.
Unlike the opening frame, the Senators created the better of the scoring chances, but a pair of goals in the middle frame — both coming on a single Belleville power play — meant the margin remained one for the Marlies after the middle 20.
Entrusted with penalty-killing duties already, Alex Steeves made a solid defensively play on the wall to deny Belleville possession in the Marlies‘ zone. The puck broke free to Marc Michaelis, who found Steeves breaking on the left wing with room to roam.
After a good burst of speed to gain separation on the defender, Steeves found a hole in Kevin Mandolese with a hard shot for an impressive first professional goal.
The Senators responded 40 seconds later when Joseph Woll was unable to hold onto a shot and Mark Kastelic potted his first of the season in the ensuing scramble.
The result was firmly in the balance until the final four minutes of the game, when Toronto finally put the contest out of reach.
One wasn’t enough for Steeves, who doubled up his goal tally inside five minutes. Joseph Duszak and Semyon Der-Arguchintsev combined to feed the rookie forward in the middle of the ice, where Steeves let fly with a bullet of a shot that beat Mandolese top shelf from just above the hash marks. It’s worth a second look:
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) October 30, 2021
Mikhail Abramov and Brennan Menell both came close to adding an insurance marker on individual efforts. At the other end of the ice, Egor Solokov was beside himself after missing the target from the slot with six minutes left on the clock.
60 seconds later, a brain fart from Woll almost presented the Senators with a crucial goal. The goaltender found himself caught out behind his net after misplaying the puck, but Woll somehow got back between the pipes to make a desperation save despite some interference by Solokov when scrambling back to his crease.
It proved to be the Senators’ last real opportunity to take anything from the game. An additional three goals were tallied inside 48 seconds, with the Marlies scoring two of them.
A heads-up play by Menell teed up Toronto’s fourth goal — the right-shot defenseman picked off a dump-in by the Senators before sending a pass off the right boards that got by two defenders and sent Josh Ho-Sang away on a breakaway. There was never any doubt as the winger went forehand to backhand to finish with aplomb.
The fifth goal for the Marlies emerged from a gritty effort by the fourth line. Rich Clune and Curtis Douglas both won battles to retain possession before the latter found Bobby McMann sneaking down the middle of the ice, where McMann followed Steeves’ lead with a roof job past Mandolese.
Jake Lucchini’s redirect tally on a shot from Erik Brannstrom was nothing more than a consolation tally for the Senators, who were clearly second best over this weekend series.
A 5-2 victory for the Marlies moves them up to a 4-3-0 record and has them feeling better about life after some heavy defeats to start the season.
Post Game Notes
– Two things stood out to me in this victory:
- The Marlies did a far better job of driving inside the interior of the offseason zone to create dangerous scoring opportunities than in any performance to date this season.
- The zone exits and entries were also tidy and a key component of the team’s first-period dominance.
– Is there any point in my trying to calm the Alex Steeves hype? His shooting ability is far better than I imagined from viewing his past highlight packages. Flat out beating professional goaltenders two games into his professional career is impressive.
“He has brought a lot to our team in the last two games,” said Greg Moore. “Not only the goal scoring, but all of the little things that help win hockey games — his work ethic, competitiveness, his ability to make plays with the puck, game-management items. He has come in and led by example.”
– Semyon Der-Arguchintsev recorded his fourth assist in seven games. A worrying trend has been his hesitance to shoot from promising scoring positions, which would ultimately make him more of a threat moving forward. After recording 11 shots through the first four games, SDA has registered just one shot on net in his last three appearances.
– Kristians Rubins and the newly-recalled Bobby McMann both recorded their first goals of the AHL season.
“[Kristians Rubins] has learned a lot about where he is positioning himself on the rink offensively and defensively,” said Moore. “He is just a smarter hockey player. He is having to do less because of how he positions himself… You can see his maturity with it.”
– Josh Ho-Sang netted his fifth of the season and now leads the Marlies in goal scoring.
– Saturday’s lines:
Seney – SDA – Anderson
Steeves – Semyonov – Ho-Sang
Gogolev – Abramov – Michaelis
McMann – Douglas – Clune
Rubins – Menell
Dahlström – Hollowell
Král – Duszak