“The shorter memory we have right now the better. We can’t linger too long on what this game was and feel bad for ourselves. We’ve got to be ready to go because every game right now is so important.”
– Greg Moore
The ice was in a terrible state, and traveling through the night for a game the next day is not ideal, but these are just excuses at this point of the season.
Every single play, shot, and save is critical at this stage of the schedule, but the Marlies were never competitive in this outing against Syracuse. Admittedly, the Crunch are in great form and have surged up the standings in recent weeks, but they were never truly challenged in this game.
Their forecheck overpowered Toronto, and the Marlies created very little offensively as they struggled to get inside the Syracuse defense.
Greg Moore mentioned that the first period featured a lack of scoring chances for either team. You could certainly make that case, but Toronto was clearly second-best in the run of play, setting the tone for the remainder of the game.
Gemel Smith really should have given the Crunch a 1-0 lead inside three minutes following a giveaway from Curtis Douglas, but he buried his shot into the crest of Michael Hutchinson.
The breakthrough arrived with a little over four minutes remaining when poor coverage from Toronto on a long stretch pass from Darren Raddysh down the middle of the ice found Alex Barré-Boulet in behind the defense. Teemu Kivihalme slowed him up with a holding infraction, but Barré-Boulet sent a reverse pass to Charles Hudon for a tap-in.
After the restart of play, Toronto failed to connect on an odd-man rush and almost immediately fell further behind. Anthony Richard didn’t make the most of a partial breakaway, missing the target altogether.
The Marlies had one power-play opportunity, but it was short-lived after they gave up an odd-man rush against and Brett Seney was called for hooking.
Two more defensive mistakes meant Syracuse was well on top with just over 32 minutes played.
Barré-Boulet and Hudon should have connected again at the four-minute mark, but the passing between the two on an odd-man rush wasn’t as sharp as they would have liked and Hutchinson made the glove save.
The second goal arrived in a comedic fashion. Phil Myers appeared to run into Hutchinson, albeit not at speed or with much force. The goaltender lost his balance and ended up swinging around the net via his left post. Hudon was left with another tap-in for his second of the night.
Hutchinson somewhat redeemed himself with a stop on Gabriel Dumont on a partial breakaway after the Syracuse captain showed a turn of speed and more desire to win a puck race against Mac Hollowell. The Toronto defenseman took a penalty on the play, and there was much worse to follow on the resulting penalty kill.
The Marlies sent a lofted clearance into neutral territory to clear their zone, but away from the puck, Hudon clattered Marc Michaelis with a terrible mid-ice hit. It was a headshot — intentional or not — and Michaelis stayed down on the ice for several minutes before heading down the tunnel. For a player who has missed five months through injury this season, it is a devastating blow. Hudon was assessed just two minutes for interference on the play.
The usually reliable and responsible Joseph Blandisi was at fault for the next goal. His turnover resulted in Alex Barré-Boulet finding Nick Perbix to score his first professional goal.
Hutchinson made way for Keith Petruzzelli at this point, but the move failed to spark the Marlies. On a power play less than 30 seconds after falling behind 3-0, Toronto failed to register a shot on net.
It was then a shock to everyone when the Marlies struck late in the period to give them some hope of an unlikely comeback. Mikhail Abramov and Nick Robertson orchestrated a zone entry with a give-and-go play. Both players like to shoot, but Syracuse seemed a little taken aback when the former opted to shoot from above the circles.
Abramov’s shot beat Max Legace clean on his glove side, giving Toronto some impetus for the final three minutes of the period.
The opening three minutes produced two chances for Robertson to bring Toronto back into the game. Max Ellis sent a cross-ice feed to the left-winger, but Robertson was unable to corral the puck in the high slot. Robertson was able to take a pass from Blandisi just above the hash marks, but he wired his shot over the net.
Undoubtedly, Robertson was one of Toronto’s bright spots in this game, but #89 will have been left ruing some missed opportunities.
Hudon recorded his hat-trick at the midway point of the period to secure the two points. His shot from the left boards through traffic is one Petruzzelli would want back, but it came as a result of Toronto running around in the defensive zone.
The salt in the wound was then applied by Daniel Walcott, who netted a short-handed goal on yet another odd-man rush for the Crunch.
The sporadic bursts of momentum in this game were too little, far too late for the Marlies, who now face an uphill battle to secure a playoff spot.
Post Game Notes
– The final six regular-season games are split equally against second-place Laval and Belleville, who currently sit fourth. Both teams are in great form, with the Senators winners of three straight and Laval currently on a seven-game points streak (6-0-1).
– Three games against Belleville means that for the most part, the Marlies’ fate is in their own hands. Toronto is ahead of Rochester by a mere 0.005% — such are the narrow margins with points percentage in play and the different schedule lengths.
– This was the second goal in four games for Mikhail Abramov after going eight games without a goal or point.
– Nick Robertson kept his point streak alive with the only assist on the lone Marlies goal. His six-game point streak (4-2-6) also keeps him at a point-per-game pace through 23 AHL appearances (12-11-23).
– Not featuring in this game was Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, who suffered a hand injury in the win against Hartford. His status isn’t currently known.
– Saturday’s lines:
Robertson – Michaelis – McMann
Seney – Blandisi – Steeves
Suomela – Abramov – Ellis
Slaggert – Douglas – Clune
Dahlström – Myers
Kivihalme – Duszak
Krys – Hollowell