The Rochester Americans calling card this season has been their offensive production (fourth-best in the AHL), including a potent power play.
In the Marlies‘ first shutout performance through 41 games, this was as perfect of a road game as they’ve played this season.
“It was a good 60-minute effort,” said Greg Moore. “Good energy, good start. We built momentum and got stronger as the game went on, especially when it comes to being smart, managing the puck, and not giving them turnovers in transition toward our net.”
There was an inauspicious start to the contest, with neither team able to assert themselves on the game. It was a bit of a surprise when the deadlock was broken three minutes in.
After Filip Král’s lofted pass through the neutral zone set in motion a 2-on-1 break for the Marlies‘ dynamic duo of Joey Anderson and Brett Seney, Anderson teed up the man they call “Shooter,” who delivered an emphatic finish past Aaron Dell.
Rochester’s power play has been clicking around the 25% mark all season and has been consistently one of the best in the AHL. On their first opportunity of the game, the Amerks spent the two minutes almost exclusively inside the Toronto zone, but they were unable to break through and Källgren turned aside four shots to prevent an immediate Amerks equalizer.
There weren’t many high-danger scoring chances created by either team in the period. Toronto did create a pair of chances on either side of the 10-minute mark: Anderson managed to deny a pass in the Amerks zone and the puck squirted free to Mikhail Abramov, whose snapshot was stopped by Dell, who also made a good save on Seney’s wraparound attempt.
Two mistakes by Curtis Douglas led to consecutive odd-man rushes for Rochester with seven minutes remaining. Arttu Ruotsalainen wasted the first opportunity with a hopeful backhand feed across the crease, while the second was denied by sharp defending from Král, who intercepted the intended pass.
Capitan Rich Clune would have been disappointed not to get on the scoresheet late in the period when Abramov found the veteran forward alone in front, but Dell robbed with him a point-blank save.
The middle frame was a very physical affair featuring a flurry of minor penalties and a fight. Taking center stage were special teams, where Toronto carried an edge.
The Marlies fired six shots without response to begin the period, but Rochester arguably had the best chance for either team on their first effort on target. A strong forecheck resulted in a chance for Matej Pekar from the slot, but Toronto’s Swedish goaltender blocked the shot.
Back on the power play, Källgren was called on to make another great save on Ryan Scarfo before Joseph Blandisi ended the Amerks man advantage by drawing a penalty.
Tempers boiled over at the nine-minute mark, resulting in Curtis Douglas and Brett Murray dropping the gloves. Toronto’s forward comprehensively won the fight, landing three punches that dropped his opponent to the ice.
If there was one downside to the Marlies‘ play, it was their lack of discipline in the second period. Alex Biega and Mac Hollowell took consecutive penalties, but the Toronto penalty kill held strong. Anderson came close to netting shorthanded but whistled an effort just wide with only Dell left to beat.
There were opportunities late in the frame for Toronto to extend their advantage — Jack Kopacka couldn’t solve Dell on the blocker side on a 2-on-1 rush before Anderson and Seney came close again.
A penalty taken by Rochester in the final second of the previous period set the tone for the final frame. The Amerks were called for three more infractions that stunted any momentum towards a comeback.
On their second power play of the period, the Marlies made it 2-0 through a one-timer from Alex Steeves. The rookie loves to shoot and has made the top of the right circle his wheelhouse on the power play.
The Marlies could even afford the luxury of wasting a 58-second two-man advantage as the Amerks struggled to create anything offensively at even-strength play.
The dagger goal arrived with 8:29 remaining. Seconds after Källgren made another key stop to deny a diving effort from Brendan Warren, a low, long-range goal from Semyon Der-Arguchintsev was one Dell might want back. The Rochester bench wasn’t happy with the goal standing, and after a quick look at the replay, it was a close call as to whether the play was offside.
Yet to record a shutout as a team this season, Toronto almost kept that record intact in the final four minutes. Peterka’s slap pass into the slot area was adeptly redirected by Oskari Laaksonen and met by a good save from Källgren.
A power play for the Americans’ led to them opting for the extra attacker in search of at least one goal for their home fans to cheer. Instead, Antti Suomela’s heads-up play sent Anderson in alone to finish into the empty net.
One final stop from Källgren with 34 seconds remaining secured a well-deserved shutout and a 4-0 victory for the Marlies.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto’s penalty kill was a perfect five for five. The Marlies improved to 12-8-1 on the road and have won six of the last 10 on their travels.
– As of Saturday evening, Toronto sits second in the North Division and third in the Eastern Conference. They have 30 games left on their schedule, which is tied for the heaviest workload remaining with divisional rivals Laval and Syracuse.
– There weren’t too many spectacular stops, but Erik Källgren came up with saves when his team needed them the most. The team plays with a greater confidence level with the Swedish netminder behind them and he’s definitely earned this first career AHL shutout. Källgren improved to 14-6-1 with a .912 save percentage.
“He was great today,” said Moore. “That is back-to-back games where has done a really good job shutting the door. To this point, he deserved a shutout prior to this one. There are a couple of games in there where we had some leads and maybe didn’t shut the door the way we should’ve in the third period. He has been working really hard. The consistency and calmness with which he plays gives our team a lot of confidence.”
– This was the second three-point haul (1-2-3) for Joey Anderson in the span of three games. This was a bounceback performance from him after an off game against Laval.
18 goals in 33 games include four shorthanded tallies, tied for the league lead in that category.
– Alex Steeves extended his point streak to four games (3-4-7) with his goal. The rookie remains on point-per-game pace through 31 appearances.
– Reaching double figures in goals was Semyon Der-Arguchintsev. His 10th of the year was the backbreaker in this game. The diminutive forward has scored six goals in his last 12 games, which is notable for a ‘pass-first’ player.
– Saturday’s lines:
Seney – Suomela – Anderson
Blandisi – Der-Arguchintsev – McMann
Steeves – Abramov – Kopacka
Biega – Hollowell
Král – Duszak
Rubins – Menell