The Toronto Marlies bounced back from Saturday’s loss to Syracuse with a 3-1 win over their nearest divisional rival in the Belleville Senators.
In contrast to the game against the Crunch the day prior, the two teams were happy to exchange scoring chances off the rush in a free-flowing affair that neither coach would have been completely happy with.
The Marlies got off to the perfect start when Noel Hoefenmayer’s blast from the point gave Toronto a lead just 28 seconds into the game.
Belleville should have leveled the score 90 seconds later, but they made a complete mess of a 2-on-0 break.
The Senators weren’t the only team wasting gilt-edge chances. On a feed from Joseph Blandisi, Nick Abruzzese missed an open net that appeared harder to miss than to score.
The Marlies dodged another bullet at the eight-minute mark, although they ended up taking a penalty on the play. Jake Lucchini was alone in the slot, but Joseph Woll was able to fight off the shot with his first of many big saves in this game.
On the ensuing power play, Belleville was left wondering how they didn’t score. Woll pulled off three tremendous saves, Matteo Pietroniro made a fantastic shot block, and Lassi Thompson struck the post.
The Marlies, who are yet to go more than a game without scoring a power-play goal this season, capitalized on the man advantage with two minutes remaining. Bobby McMann applied a slight redirect on a shot from Abruzzese to give Toronto a 2-0 lead.
Toronto finished the period on the penalty kill, where they leaned on Woll for two good saves on Egor Solokov in the final 15 seconds to protect the two-goal advantage heading into the intermission.
The Marlies started the period by killing the remainder of the penalty and earning consecutive power plays. Both tries with the man advantage came up empty, although McMann rifled a shot off the crossbar.
An excellent shift down low by the fourth line resulted in the third goal Marlies goal at the midway point of the game. Mikko Kokkonen delivered a pinpoint pass for Zach O’Brien to bury from the crease to finish off a nicely-constructed goal.
The Marlies could and should have extended their lead to put Belleville way out of sight before the end of the second period. Shaw, Abruzzese, Slaggert, and Ellis couldn’t solve Antoine Bibeau, while the luckless McMann struck the crossbar for a second time as the Marlies finished the middle frame on another power play.
A goal four minutes into the final frame gave Belleville a sniff of a comeback.
There was a whiff of controversy about the goal. Woll made an initial save on Matthew Boucher, but he got caught up with Brennan Saulnier as he attempted to slide to his right. That left Jarid Lukosevicius with a partially empty net with Woll completely out of position.
The Marlies were in no mood to let another lead slip this season, though, limiting the Senators to just four shots on goal in the following 14 minutes.
Only a slashing penalty from Hoefenmayer gave Toronto any cause for concern late on. The Senators immediately pulled their netminder for the extra attacker but recorded just a single shot on goal that Woll took care of.
Post Game Notes
– Joseph Woll turned aside 32 of 33 shots to record his third straight win since returning from injury. The shutout may have been stolen from him, but he turned in yet another excellent performance in which he gave up very few second opportunities.
“[Woll] got bumped a few times,” said Greg Moore. “He has done a really good job of not getting rattled. Since my time here, there has been tremendous growth. He is a very athletic goalie, and he sometimes relied on that athleticism to make saves. Sometimes, it could feel a little all over the place. Now, he is so controlled. He is working a great system. His skating is strong, and now he only uses the athleticism to bail him out of a situation. He gives us a very calm presence back there, which a team always plays well in front of.”
– Bobby McMann scored in his second game back from injury. He was a real thorn in Belleville’s side for the entire game, and with a little more luck, he would have scored a hat trick. With Adam Gaudette out week-to-week, McMann’s goal-scoring ability is a welcome addition.
“[McMann has been really good to have back in the lineup,” said Moore. “He lives up to his last name. He skates the rink like a man — very powerful, can transport the game from the top of the circles all the way up into the offensive zone, and just win foot races and 50-50 pucks. He has a wicked shot.”
– A third goal in as many games for Noel Hoefenmayer took his season tally to five. With 18 points in 19 games, he’s currently ranked fifth among all AHL defensemen in scoring. Fellow defenseman Mikko Kokkonen recorded his first AHL points this season with a pair of primary assists.
“Given the roles that they have, all of our young defensemen have been impressive,” said Moore. “It is a physical game. Looking at our D core, they are not all large D, but they play physically. They play above their weight class and size.”
– Zach O’Brien made his season debut for Toronto and gave the fourth line an offensive jolt. It was unsurprising to see him take his chance for the goal so clinically as he’s a proven scorer at the ECHL level.
“[O’Brien] is a veteran guy that has played a lot of games at the pro level,” said Moore. “He scored at an opportune moment. He was able to find momentum for us when we needed it most.”
– Joining O’Brien on the fourth line and making his AHL debut was 22-year-old Orin Centazzo. After producing 51 points in as many games last season, the LW has already recorded 27 points (13G/14A) in the ECHL this season.
– One last note: My apologies for the Marlies’ coverage being a little late arriving recently due to personal circumstances. Thank you for your continued support and patience.
– Sunday’s lines:
McMann – Shaw – Anderson
Abruzzese – Blandisi – Steeves
Chyzowski – Slaggert – Ellis
Centazzo – Johnstone – O’Brien
Rifai – Miller
Kokkonen – Hoefenmayer
Pietroniro – Rindell