Already hamstrung by an injury crisis and a string of NHL callups, COVID-19 protocols resulted in the Toronto Marlies playing a man short against division rival Syracuse on Wednesday evening.
Before the game, the Marlies issued the following statement:
“The Toronto Marlies announced today that one player has tested positive for COVID-19 while another four players are isolating at home for precautionary reasons despite testing negative and will not be available for tonight’s game versus Syracuse.
All players and staff are double vaccinated and are being closely monitored for symptoms while being tested daily. The team is following all protocols and its medical staff is working closely with Toronto Public Health to monitor the situation.”
With a shorthanded bench, Toronto could have really used a fast start. As has been the case so often this season, though, the Marlies found themselves trailing within three minutes played.
The Crunch outworked the Marlies and turned a spell of offensive-zone time into the opening goal through Remi Elie, who redirected a long-range shot from Ryan Jones by Erik Källgren for his fourth of the season.
The Marlies generated several chances to tie the game: Filip Král struck iron with a shot from the point 60 seconds later before consecutive turnovers by Syracuse presented chances to Mikhail Abramov and Josh Ho-Sang, but neither could find a clinical touch in front of goal. Efforts from Joey Anderson and Pavel Gogolev were turned aside by veteran goaltender Max Legace.
Syracuse then doubled their lead just before the 11-minute mark. The visitors again out-worked Toronto, and following another sustained spell of offensive-zone time, scored almost a carbon copy of the first goal as Shawn Element redirected a point shot by Andrej Sustr.
The game’s first power-play allowed Toronto to halve the deficit just past the 12-minute mark, when a point shot from Filip Král was initially touched by Joey Anderson before Bobby McMann provided the final redirect in front of Legace.
On a fantastic chance to re-establish the two-goal lead for the Crunch, Gage Goncalves fired wildly off-target on a breakaway. At the other end, a last-gasp rebound chance for Josh Ho-Sang missed the target and Toronto trailed 2-1 at the break.
Syracuse went to the power play just 77 seconds into the middle frame and would have found a third goal if not for Källgren’s excellent saves on Charles Hudon and Gabriel Dumont.
The Crunch didn’t have to wait too long for an insurance marker, though, after Otto Somppi seized on a turnover by Pavel Gogolev and picked out Cole Koepke. Using Noel Hoefenmayer as a screen, Koepke fired a shot from the hashmarks over Källgren’s shoulder.
Syracuse owned the bulk of possession and outshot Toronto by a margin great than 2:1 in the middle frame. Despite their dominance, the Crunch could not pad their lead before Toronto struck for a second time on the power play to halve the deficit.
From the top of the right circle, Goglolev let fly with a one-time shot that found the far corner of Legace’s net.
The Marlies could and portably should have tied the game on another power play in the final seconds. McMann and Anderson (x2) were both stonewalled by Legace as Syracuse escaped into the second intermission with a narrow 3-2 lead.
The Marlies appeared to run out of gas in the final frame, making a comeback look like a longshot. They generated just two high-danger scoring chances, with one of those coming in the dying seconds.
Once Elie netted his second of the game on the power play, the Crunch coasted to a 4-2 victory in the first meeting between these teams this season.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto’s power play connected for two goals on five power plays and probably should have netted a third.
“It is really good for them to find a couple of goals,” said Greg Moore. “In the first part of the season, we were unfortunate at times. Our power play success has been coming of late and trending in the right direction.”
– Bobby McMann recorded his third goal in four games. The Alberta native has five goals and three assists in 14 games this season.
“He is just a really good transporter of the puck,” said Moore. “He works really hard. The things you notice in practice and how he approaches the games — he has earned every inch of ice that he has gotten to this point. He, Douglas, and Ho-Sang have been a really strong line, generating a lot of offense.
“Bobby is a strong, powerful person who has worked really hard off the ice to be able to do things a lot of guys can’t do at this level. His skating north, being able to beat teams’ traps, and set up in the zone on offensive zone has been a strong part of his game.”
– Joseph Blandisi, signed to a PTO on Tuesday, made his debut in this game. He was fine considering he’s played no competitive hockey this season. He’s a proven performer at the AHL level and could turn into a useful acquisition given the current situation with injuries and COVID.
– Wednesday’s lines:
Suomela – Abramov – Anderson
McMann – Douglas – Ho-Sang
Kopacka – Der-Arguchintsev – McKenna
Gogolev – Blandisi – O’Brien
Rubins – Hoefenmayer
Král – Kapcheck