It’s a rare occurrence for the Toronto Marlies to open their season on the road.
This was just the fifth time in franchise history, and it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. The Marlies were outplayed, outworked, and lacked discipline in a lacklustre performance.
Eight minor penalties (four in the first period) did the damage as Rochester struck three times with the extra man. The Amerks also recorded a shorthanded marker on a disastrous night for the Marlies‘ special teams.
The opening shifts of the season were scrappy, with neither team able to establish an early foothold. The game’s opening goal, timed at 3:30, was scored in that fashion.
A combination of Joey Anderson and Pontus Holmberg harried Rochester into a turnover in the defensive zone. After swipes at the puck from Michael Mersch and Sean Malone resulted in Alex Steeves grabbing possession, Steeves made no mistake with a clinical finish from the slot.
The Marlies should have increased their lead at the six-minute mark when Logan Shaw led an odd-man rush, but Nick Robertson was denied by a good left-pad save from Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
Fortunes flipped due to penalty trouble for the Marlies, who were tabbed for four infractions in 12 minutes.
Rochester made hay on their first power play, with Toronto looking clueless on the penalty kill. Linus Weissbach won’t score an easier goal this season than his tap-in into an empty net at the eight-minute mark.
The Marlies killed the next penalty, but they were not able to connect on a first opportunity with the extra man before Kyle Clifford went to the box twice inside four minutes.
The Americans struck on the first opportunity with another tap-in, this time for Brett Murray. Rochester led 2-1 after 20 minutes and were good value for it.
The Marlies were merely interested passengers for the majority of the middle frame. The shots may have only been 7-5 Rochester, but the ice was firmly tilted in the Americans’ favour.
The main talking point arrived at 7:34 on the clock when another sloppy turnover by the Marlies enabled Rochester to orchestrate an odd-man rush. Ethan Prow was the trailer and probably should have scored; instead, he bulldozed Erik Källgren at the top of the blue paint.
Given there was plenty of time for the Amerks defenseman to avoid contact with the netminder, it was an illegal and reckless play. After spending considerable time down on the ice, Källgren was replaced by Dylan Ferguson between the pipes.
This is what happened to Erik Källgren.
He had to leave the game and Ferguson makes his debut. pic.twitter.com/rBkUZbFidw
— Mark (@MarkUkLeaf) October 15, 2022
To his credit, Ferguson kept Rochester at bay for the remainder of the period. The Marlies were unable to provide their debuting goaltender with any scoring support, creating two chances of note.
Shaw broke away down the right side and sent a great cross-ice feed to Nicholas Abruzzese, who fired wide. In the final minute, Robertson combined with Abruzzese, but the former hit the post on a backdoor feed.
As it turned out, the Marlies’ only chance to get themselves back into the game arrived 40 seconds into the final frame. Anderson escaped on a partial breakaway and had his shot turned aside while being impeded by a hook from Kale Clague.
On the resulting power play, the Marlies allowed themselves to be pushed around and outworked by the Amerks PKers. Chase Priskie gave Rochester a 3-1 lead while shorthanded, and Rochester was almost home and dry at that point.
The home crowd was celebrating again just two minutes later when Isak Rosen scored on a one-time shot as the Amerks capitalized on yet another power play.
There were still 15 minutes left on the clock, but a comeback was never in the cards. Only efforts from Robertson, Clifford, and Bobby McMann gave Luukkonen anything to think about. On a late delayed penalty, Toronto came within a whisker of scoring an own goal, which would have summed up their special-teams efforts on the night.
With Ferguson pulled for an extra attacker, Toronto did net a consolation goal via Logan Shaw, whose shot through a screen opened his Marlies account.
Despite flattering to deceive with a flurry of activity around the Rochester net in the final two minutes, the Marlies slumped to a defeat that was thoroughly deserved on the merits of their performance.
Post Game Notes
– This performance was worryingly similar to many of last season. There is far more expected of this group, and GM Ryan Hardy might have to make tough decisions if this becomes a trend.
– The only line to come out of the game with any credit was that of the Nick Robertson, Logan Shaw, and Nick Abruzzese unit. They were the only consistent threat posed by the Marlies, combining for 10 shots on goal.
– The injury to Erik Källgren is a concern, but the organization did build some depth with their signings in the summer. Keith Petruzzelli will take the start Saturday afternoon with Dylan Ferguson backing up.
– The Marlies have not named a captain as yet. Wearing As in this game were Joseph Blandisi, Joey Anderson, and Logan Shaw.
– Adam Gaudette did not travel with the team to Rochester due to the recent birth of his child.
– The average age of Toronto’s six defensemen was a mere 22.5, with no player older than 24.
– Currently among the injured are Alex Rindell, Mikhail Abramov, and Jack Badini. Joseph Woll is still recuperating from shoulder surgery.
– Friday’s lines:
Robertson – Shaw – Abruzzese
Steeves – Holmberg – Anderson
McMann – Der-Arguchintsev – Slaggert
Clifford – Douglas – Blandisi
Rifai – Mete
Král – Hollowell
Kokkonen – Villeneuve