The Toronto Marlies and Rochester Americans entered this game in good form, both riding five-game winning streaks.
Despite getting outshot 36-13, the visiting Amerks played a controlled defensive game, throttling the Marlies‘ offense for the most part, and were clinical with their opportunities at the other end.
Toronto handed the Amerks a perfect start inside four minutes. A promising situation for Toronto offensively quickly turned into a disaster after a wild shot from Kyle Clifford rang around the boards, and with all three forwards above the puck, Rochester broke away with numbers. Brandon Biro teed up Lukas Rousek for a one-time finish.
The home fans had little to cheer in the opening frame as the Marlies were neutered offensively and seemingly had few answers.
A penalty kill at the midway mark put some life into Toronto, who finally generated scoring opportunities. Eric Comrie was forced into a spectacular stick stave, scrambling behind himself to rob Nick Abruzzese of what looked to be a certain goal. On the same play, Comrie denied Noel Hoefenmayer’s long-range effort as well as Abruzzese again on the resulting rebound.
The Marlies recorded one shot through the final seven minutes of the period despite earning their first power play of the game. The best chance to tie the game came on the penalty kill, where Clifford sent his backhand effort well wide of the target after some excellent work to create the opening.
The Marlies dominated possession and generated a whole host of scoring chances in the middle frame, but the lack of finish didn’t leave them with enough to show for it.
Comrie was saved by his post on a weird-looking play that featured a redirect and had the goaltender beaten. Mikhail Abramov was then given a little too much room around the Rochester net, but Comrie bailed his team out with a sharp save to deny the wraparound attempt.
Rochester didn’t register a shot until the nine-minute mark, but the first shot of the period should have been a second goal for the Amerks. A mistake from Ryan Chyzowski presented a fantastic chance to Tyson Kozak, who would have scored if not for some heroics from Erik Källgren.
Comrie continued to keep Toronto at bay, although Bobby McMann and Alex Steeves will both feel they should have scored on chances from the slot.
Toronto finally got themselves on the board with 8:33 remaining in the period when Hoefenmayer spun and shot from the point toward Graham Slaggert, who applied a perfect redirect to beat Comrie.
The score was tied for all of 23 seconds.
Toronto simply switched off defensively, leaving Michael Mersch unmarked in the heart of the slot. Källgren was somewhat handcuffed in denying the high shot and was unable to prevent Linus Weissbach from finishing off the rebound.
The Marlies registered 16 shots in the period, but they could not beat Comrie for a second time. The closest they came was an effort in the dying seconds of the period by Marshall Rifai, who whistled a shot agonizingly wide of the gaping net.
The Marlies failed to make use of an early power play before falling further behind at the six-minute mark. The dangerous Mersch scored directly from an offensive faceoff as the Marlies were switched off on the draw.
Rochester didn’t appear to be in any danger until a piece of individual brilliance pulled Toronto back within one. McMann beat Rousek in the neutral zone with speed down the right wing before brushing off Chase Priskie en route to the net and delivering a beautiful backhand finish from a tight angle.
It proved a false dawn as Rochester simply shut down the Marlies for the remainder of the game, with Comrie making just the two saves asked of him.
After a successful 2022 portion of the 2022-23 season, this wasn’t the finishing note the Marlies were hoping for.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies’ record against Rochester this season fell to 1-2-1 after this loss. The teams will meet four more times. The Marlies enter 2023 atop the North Division with a four-point lead over the Amerks, who have two games in hand.
– Bobby McMann scored his fifth goal of the season and second in as many games. He led all skaters with six shots.
“It was a great play by [McMann] to just drive wide, use his speed, and get to the net,” said Greg Moore. “I think the backhand shot is quite underrated for how difficult it was at the speed he was going. I know he has more of that. Those are the things he was doing more of last year, and he is trying to get back to it. It was good to see him do it in this one.”
– Semyon Der-Arguchintsev missed the game with a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day.
– Last but not least, may I wish you a very Happy New Year from myself and everyone at MLHS. Thank you for your support through 2022. Here’s to a successful 2023.
– Saturday’s lines:
Clifford – Shaw – Gaudette
Abruzzese – Blandisi – Steeves
McMann – Abramov – Ellis
Chyzowski – Slaggert – Johnstone
Rifai – Hoefenmayer
Pietroniro – Kokkonen
Hellickson – Villeneuve