There’s no place like the road for the Toronto Marlies this season.
While the home form (5-5-1) remains a concern, the Marlies now have 10 wins in 14 games on their travels this season (10-3-1). Their 10 road wins are only bested by Coachella Valley Firebirds (12), who have played 18 away games.
The Marlies‘ win in Rockford on Friday night owed a lot of thanks to goaltender Joseph Woll, who has been in excellent form since his return from injury.
Rockford will look back on the first period and wonder how they didn’t build themselves a game-winning lead. The IceHogs overwhelmed the Marlies out of the gates, striking inside the first minute through Isaak Phillips.
The ice was tiled for a little over five minutes before the Marlies finally got themselves a foothold in the game, but any momentum was halted by the game’s first penalty. Joseph Woll was Toronto’s best penalty killer with a pair of excellent saves on Dylan Sikura and David Gust.
Back at even strength, the IceHogs thought they’d taken a 2-0 lead, but upon review, it was ruled that former Marlie Brett Seney kicked the puck into the net.
Toronto rarely tested Jaxson Stauber between the pipes despite finishing the period on the power play. A lone effort from the slot off the stick of Logan Shaw was the only time the Rockford netminder really worked.
Thoroughly outplayed in the opening frame, the Marlies were fortunate to only trail by one after 20 minutes.
The Marlies came out with a chip on their shoulder in the middle frame, immediately taking the game to Rockford. A trademark Noel Hoefenmayer slap shot from the point leveled the scores 55 seconds into the middle frame.
With the momentum of the tying goal, the Marlies started to dictate the pace of play and generate more scoring chances. They were good value for a second goal at the eight-minute mark.
Joseph Blandisi was rewarded for his persistent puck pursuit, stealing possession in the offensive zone and dishing off to Nick Abruzzese, who appeared to fake going around the back of the net before driving across the crease and outwaiting Stauber to make it 2-1.
The IceHogs should have responded within 15 seconds as the Marlies let their guard down, but Woll stepped up with a terrific blocker save to turn aside Filip Roos on the doorstep.
Toronto’s penalty kill remained steadfast, but during four-on-four action, a rookie mistake allowed Rockford to tie the game at 2-2. William Villeneuve was caught flatfooted by a stretch pass from Dylan Sikura, allowing Cole Guttman to speed by him and beat Woll with a decisive finish.
Abruzzese had three good scoring chances in the period besides his goal, but he couldn’t find a second.
Woll continued his excellent form with two huge saves in the opening six minutes of the final frame.
Lukas Reichel was the beneficiary of a fortunate play in which an official inadvertently intervened, but Woll held onto his snapshot. After a giveaway by Ryan Chyzowski, Michael Teply was then the recipient of the errant pass, but he could not force the puck behind Woll.
At the other end, the relentless Blandisi was rewarded for his committed puck pursuit. He recovered possession three times in the same sequence before setting up Semyon Der-Arguchintsev in the slot and then finishing off SDA’s rebound.
The goal went straight to the legs of the Marlies, who struck again 29 seconds later.
Mikhail Abramov stole the puck from Gutmann in the left circle before stickhandling his way into the slot and slotting the puck through the five-hole of Stauber — a brilliant individual goal from a young player who is never shy on confidence.
The Marlies nearly found a fifth immediately after the restart of play, but Bobby McMann’s shot brought a blocker save out of Stauber, not an extra insurance marker that would have secured the victory.
Instead, Rockford threatened to conjure up a comeback as they went for broke on a power play with a little over five minutes remaining. With 40 seconds remaining, the IceHogs opted for the extra attacker. Stauber remained on the bench even with Toronto back at full strength, and while Rockford dominated possession, they were unable to turn it into shots on goal.
A rookie mistake provided the IceHogs with a sniff of a comeback, though. With the puck loose in the crease following a broken play, Tommy Miller dithered instead of clearing the puck, and Seney took full advantage.
Rockford then drew a power play with 66 seconds remaining on a penalty call where the Marlies felt hard done by. Logan Shaw was tabbed for boarding after the officials let other borderline hits go uncalled earlier in the game.
Blandisi almost made the penalty redundant within a few seconds. He won the faceoff and created enough space to launch a shot down the length of the ice, but the puck hit the post flush and bounced out.
It mattered not as Woll came up with another three huge saves in the final 35 seconds of regulation to ensure the Marlies claimed the two points.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies’ penalty kill went a perfect five-for-five, shutting out a Rockford power play that has been connecting at 21% this season.
– Four wins in four starts are no fluke for Joseph Woll. He turned aside 29 of 32 shots and was the biggest difference between the two teams. “He did a great job of keeping us in it and weathering the storm for us,” said Greg Moore.
– This was the best outing in a little while for Nick Abruzzese. The defensive mistakes were cleaned up, and he flourished on the second line that has a good mix of complementary pieces (Abruzzese – Der-Arguchintsev – Blandisi). He was rewarded with two points (1G/1A), his first multipoint game since November 5.
– Whatever role the Marlies plug Joseph Blandisi into, he finds a way to be effective. His relentless forechecking and puck pursuit were the perfect complement forDer-Arguchintsev and Abruzzese. A goal and an assist extended his points streak (3G/2A) to three games.
“[Blandisi] is relentless with the way he works,” said Moore. “The 50-50 pucks, blocking shots, taking hits to make plays, and trying to get to the net… He makes it really hard on other teams with the things he does. He is a leader of our group for a reason.”
– Noel Hoefenmayer became just the seventh defenseman in the AHL to hit the 20-point mark this season. His game-tying goal was his fourth in six games, moving his goals tally to six for the season. He currently ranks fifth among AHL defensemen in points.
– Friday’s lines:
McMann – Shaw – Steeves
Abruzzese – Der-Arguchintsev – Blandisi
Chyzowski – Abramov – Ellis
Centazzo – Slaggert – Johnstone
Kokkonen – Miller
Hoefenmayer – Hollowell
Rifai – Villeneuve