Slow starts have plagued the Toronto Marlies during Greg Moore’s tenure. Refreshingly, that was not the case in the rubber match against the Belleville Senators on Monday afternoon.
The Marlies came out with purpose, plenty of energy, and generated enough early offense to get themselves back into the win column.
The Marlies put three goals on the board in the opening frame while also relying heavily on Joseph Woll between the pipes. He produced an excellent glove save just 63 seconds into the game to stonewall Rourke Chartier from the slot.
After surviving two minutes of early pressure from the Senators, Toronto scored on their first real foray into the Belleville zone. The play started with a fantastic outlet pass from Mac Hollowell to set a 3-on-2 break in motion before Joseph Blandisi settled down the pass and picked out Pavel Gogolev to his left. Gogolev faked a slap shot and delivered a perfect backdoor feed for Ryan Chyzowski to finish off.
The Marlies‘ lead just lasted 75 seconds, however, after Xavier Bernard threw the puck toward the top of the crease and an unmarked Parker Kelly buried it from close range.
Toronto then reclaimed the lead at the six-minute mark thanks to Josh Ho-Sang and Bobby McMann. Ho-Sang carried the puck with speed through all three zones and backed off the defense before dropping a pass back to McMann just above the right circle. With multiple Belleville defenders in front of him but none closing him down, McMann stepped just inside the top of the right circle and beat Kevin Mandolese at his far post with a well-placed wrist shot.
Inside the next 60 seconds, Woll produced three top-drawer saves to deny Belleville tying the game for a second time, twice on Andrew Agozzino twice and once on Parker Kelly. That set the stage for the Marlies to pad their lead at the other end.
After taking a pass from Brett Seney in the Belleville zone and finding himself with a little space to the right of the goal, Hollowell opted for a pass back across the crease. The puck hit the inside of Mandolese’s pad and snuck across the goal line — a fortuitous goal but a reward for trying to make the correct play.
That spelled the end of the game for Mandolsese, who was replaced by backup goaltender Mads Sogaard. The second half of the first period was much quieter in terms of offense with no goals and just six shots recorded, but it did include a march to the penalty box that carried over into the middle frame.
The middle 20 turned into a special teams battle — it featured seven minor penalties and a fight between Chyzowski and Agozzino — as tempers flared in the third consecutive game between the 401 rivals.
Toronto created two chances of note, the first of which came on the power play, where Sogaard pulled off a tremendous stop to deny Brett Seney, who hasn’t had much luck in front of the net in the past two games.
Seney then nearly turned into the provider on the penalty kill, where his cross-ice feed found Joey Anderson alone in front, but Anderson buried his effort into the chest of Sogaard.
Woll made nine saves in the middle frame, none better or more important than his stop on Mark Kastelic. With 30 seconds left on the clock, Woll robbed the Belleville forward with an athletic left pad save to preserve the Marlies‘ 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Game management and protecting a lead is one thing, but the way Toronto climbed into a shell in the final frame from the puck drop wasn’t the best process with a two-goal advantage.
Belleville attempted to get on the board with an early power play, but the Marlies’ PKers stood firm. McMann’s effort was particularly impressive with a pair of shot blocks that went much appreciated on the Toronto bench.
The seemingly inevitable happened at the five-minute mark with Toronto caught running around in their zone — Chartier tipped a shot from Zac Leslie past Joseph Woll to make it 3-2.
The Marlies seemed content to dump and change for remainder of the game, but it worked against a Belleville team that appeared to run out of gas and mustered just six shots through the final 20 minutes of play.
After a slashing penalty taken by Belleville’s Kastelic with 1:52 remaining, Joseph Blandisi made sure of the victory with a power-play empty-net tally.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto’s penalty kill went a perfect four-for-four for the second straight game and is now ranked 11th overall in the AHL at 82.8%.
– Mac Hollowell recorded his first multi-point haul of the year with a goal and an assist on the empty-net tally. He also played a pivotal role in Toronto’s first goal. Since his return from a nearly three-week absence, Hollowell has racked up a goal and three assists in three appearances.
“[Hollowell] has been playing really well the last few games,” said Moore. “I thought he was one of our best defensemen in the game overall with how he defended, moved the puck, and skated. He made it hard on the other team, and he was also able to chip in offensively. Overall, I thought it was a great game by him.”
– Joseph Woll turned aside 24 of 26 shots in the winning effort. He stopped 69 of 73 for a .945 save percentage in his two starts vs. Belleville.
– Joseph Blandisi scored his first goal in a Marlies uniform and picked up an assist on the opening marker. This was just his second game for Toronto, but the PTO signing looks to be a useful option to have around for the fourth line.
“You can tell the maturity [Blandisi] has in how he plays and how he manages situations,” said Moore. “He is really good on faceoffs. You can tell we will be able to use him in a lot of different scenarios. He is a competitor and has been a great addition.”
– Bobby McMann is a player I’ve frequently advocated for in terms of getting him more ice-time and better opportunities up the lineup. The 6’1, 205-pound Alberta native is strong on the forecheck, surprises defenseman with his speed, and owns an above-average shot. McMann’s goal was his sixth of the season in just 17 games.
– Brett Seney recorded an assist for his sixth point in as many games (3-3-6) to go along with a team-high four shots on goal in this game.
– Monday’s lines:
Suomela – Der-Arguchintsev – Anderson
McMann – Douglas – Ho-Sang
Seney – Abramov – Steeves
Chyzowski – Blandisi – Gogolev
Král – Dahlström
Krys – Rubins
Hellickson – Hollowell