The Toronto Marlies have begun the new year with four consecutive wins on home ice.
After a somewhat fortuitous victory against Laval, the Marlies deserved this midweek 3-2 victory against a Manitoba team who refused to lie down.
The Marlies got off to a strong start to the game, outshooting the Moose 7-2 through the opening seven minutes. After Toronto wasn’t able to make it count on the scoreboard, they started to cheat a little for offense, ultimately allowing Manitoba a foothold into the game.
Declan Chisholm showed why he’s AHL All-Star this season by charging down the middle of Toronto’s zone and breezing past Mac Hollowell, but Joseph Woll was equal to Chisholm’s effort.
It was a warning sign that went unheeded. Hollowell was guilty of a sloppy pinch as Jansen Harkins exited the Manitoba zone with speed, leaving Logan Shaw in his wake before slotting the puck by Woll on a breakaway.
With the Marlies in need of a quick response, Adam Gaudette delivered 49 seconds later.
The veteran forward blocked an attempted shot by Simon Lundmark and immediately spun away for an odd-man rush thanks to Kyle Clifford’s quick outlet pass. Gaudette’s shot caught a piece of Oskari Salminen’s blocker and looped up and over him into the net.
Toronto then struck for a second time to take a 2-1 lead into the intermission.
Nick Abruzzese first forced a pass to Joey Anderson when shooting was the better option during a two-on-one break, but he subsequently took possession below the goal line and delivered a picture-perfect pass to Logan Shaw in the slot. Toronto’s captain had time to settle the puck down before firing it home glove side.
The Marlies needed to lean on their goaltender in the middle frame as the Moose dominated possession and offensive-zone time. Manitoba’s relentless forecheck was too much for the Marlies to handle in the middle 20 as they were in survival mode inside their own zone.
The game’s first penalty resulted in a tying goal for the Moose. Toronto’s penalty kill has been tremendous of late, but they were carved open with ease on this occasion, resulting in a tap-in for Dominic Toninato.
The Marlies killed a second penalty, but they failed to threaten offensively at even strength and found themselves down to five defensemen by period’s end. Following an altercation with Leon Gawanke, Mac Hollowell left for the locker room and did not return for the third period.
Woll made several key saves — none better than the ones on Ashton Sautner and Kristian Reichel — and he also needed some help from the post. Cole Maier struck the iron after the puck sprung free from a melee in the crease, keeping the teams deadlocked at 2-2 through 40 minutes.
In the final frame, the Marlies re-established the upper hand they held in the first period.
Shaw tested Salminen with a wrist shot seconds into the final frame before Max Ellis forced a good save out of the Moose goaltender following a swift transition play that put the Marlies forward in behind the Manitoba defense. Defenseman Matteo Pietronirio struck the iron from the left circle after creating some space for himself with a nice move around a defender.
Manitoba responded with their best shift of the period, but a penalty took away any momentum and the power play for Toronto proved to be the turning point in the game.
Woll made two saves to prevent Reichel from scoring a shorthanded tally, the second of which came on a breakaway for the Moose forward.
Toronto rewarded the play of their netminder at the other end by capitalizing on the man advantage. Joseph Blandisi — a willing occupant of the dirty areas on the ice — finished off a rebound on the doorstep after Semyon Der-Arguchintsev’s initial shot.
The Marlies generated plenty of chances to pad their 3-2 lead. I’ve seen two penalty shots in the same game, but never two for one team, and certainly not two for the same team in one period just three minutes apart.
Two breakaways resulted in penalty shots for the Marlies, but neither Joey Anderson nor Clifford was able to score on their penalty-shot attempts, with the latter failing to hit the net.
In the end, it mattered little as the Marlies did an excellent job of holding the lead and shutting down the Moose late in the third period. Manitoba mustered just three shots through the final seven minutes of regulation despite opting for the extra attacker with three minutes remaining on the clock.
The Marlies remain perfect in 2023 with four straight home victories and now have an opportunity to extend their run against the same opponent on Friday.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto’s strong start to the calendar year has helped them extend their lead at the top of the North Division to six points. The Utica Comets are in the midst of a 12-game point streak (10-0-2) and currently hold second place. Perhaps most importantly, there is now a 17-point gap between the Marlies and Belleville in fourth, with a playoff berth all but assured barring a catastrophic second half of the season.
– Speaking of AHL All-Stars, Joseph Woll set a new franchise record with his ninth consecutive victory. I’m running out of superlatives for Woll, who is playing the best hockey of his career and — by his own description — is in a good mental space at the moment.
“Joseph Woll has been here for some time, and it is impressive to see how much better he has gotten year to year,” said Greg Moore. “This year, he is putting it all together and looks really solid and confident. He is relying on a good system. Proud of him for the work he has put in.”
– Adam Gaudette scored for the fourth consecutive game, taking his season total to 16 (10th among all AHL skaters). He’s bounced back to form in some style in 2023 and now has 25 points (16G/9A) in 26 games.
– Toronto’s captain extended his point streak to six games with his 12th goal of the season. Logan Shaw is ranked seventh among all AHL skaters in scoring with 37 points in 34 games and is well deserving of his All-Star recognition.
“You could go on and on about the character Shawsy brings to the group,” said Moore. “He elevates the leadership within the room for everybody and demands from everyone as well in a really healthy way. He pushes the group and himself. He has high expectations for his play on the ice and backs it up every night.”
– Wednesday’s lines:
Abruzzese – Shaw – Anderson
Clifford – Der-Arguchintsev – Gaudette
Steeves – Blandisi – Ellis
Chyzowski – Slaggert – Johnstone
Rifai – Hoefenmayer
Král – Hollowell
Pietroniro – Kokkonen