I’ll leave it to captain Logan Shaw and head coach Greg Moore to describe this game.
Said Shaw: “To be quite honest, it just wasn’t a good performance by us. It’s not acceptable. If we want to tighten things up going into the playoffs, we can’t have any more of that.”
Said Greg Moore: “It’s just work ethic, winning 50-50 pucks, and outskating our opponent who was in a three-in-three. I actually think the timing of this game is really good. We are going to take a positive takeaway to realize where we are in the season, what we need to be as a team, and when we play good teams like this, what we can’t get away with. It’s a good little wake-up call for us right now.”
Facing a team playing their third game in under 72 hours, the Marlies got off to a bright start that faded away far too quickly. Unfortunately, their best scoring chances in this game fell to the least offensively gifted forward in their top six.
Toronto should have opened the scoring inside 15 seconds when the puck took a weird bounce off the Zamboni door on a dump-in play, resulting in a fortuitous bounce straight to Kyle Clifford alone in the slot. With tons of time, the veteran winger couldn’t take advantage, ringing a shot off the far post.
Max Ellis and Zach Solow both tested Hugo Alnefelt inside the opening five minutes before another key chance fell to Clifford 60 seconds later. Pontus Holmberg escaped down the right wing and delivered a telling pass into the slot. Positioned on the doorstep, Clifford’s lack of touch in front of goal meant Alnefelt wasn’t tested on the play.
The opening six-minute sequence was about as good as things got for Toronto in this game.
Syracuse opened the scoring on the first power play after Gabriel Dumont applied a redirect on a shot from Darren Raddysh, giving Keith Petruzzelli no chance.
The Marlies created two chances to tie the game in the remainder of the period — a partial shorthanded breakaway by Dryden Hunt forced Alnfelt into a pad save, but a huge rebound did not fall kindly for the Toronto forward. Logan Shaw rang a shot off the same post as Clifford from the high slot, on a power play for the Marlies.
The middle frame was a complete bore fest as Syracuse suffocated the life out of Toronto. The Marlies recorded four shots, all of which came from way above the circles.
The lone grade-A scoring opportunity again fell to Clifford after more excellent play by Holmberg, this time from below the goal line, but the former missed the target.
After stopping 14 of 15 shots in the first period, Petruzzelli kept Toronto in the game with another strong performance in the middle frame. He turned aside all 12 shots against, the best of which came on Trevor Carrick on a breakaway.
At no stage did Toronto work hard enough to test the resolve and tired legs of a Syracuse team that traveled overnight.
The Marlies‘ cause was not helped by a pair of inexcusable penalties taken by Clifford and Blandisi, although Toronto’s penalty kill stood firm and created one half-chance on the second of the two PKs.
Clifford led a 2-on-2 break with Hunt, but the former ignored his teammate before firing a weak shot into the chest of Alnfelt, scuppering any chance of a rebound.
Generating absolutely nothing offensively at five-on-five, the Marlies’ best chance to tie the game looked to be on the power play. They were afforded their one and only man-advantage opportunity with nine minutes remaining, but they recorded just one shot on goal.
Petruzzelli continued to make key saves at the other end when called on to keep Toronto within one. A defensive breakdown allowed Gage Concalves to skate in alone, but the big netminder refused to bite early on a deke and made a comfortable pad save.
Toronto spent the majority of the final two and a half minutes camped inside the Syracuse bench after opting for the extra attacker. It proved a fruitless endeavour as Alnefelt was called on to make just two saves to complete a 16-save shutout.
Post Game Notes
– This marks just the second occasion that the Marlies have been shut out this season.
– The defeat snaps a three-game win streak, but Toronto has the chance to get back on the horse quickly with a school day game against Rockford on Wednesday before heading on the road to face Hershey and Lehigh this weekend.
– Keith Petruzzelli has allowed only a single goal in each of his last three starts. He has a combined .968 save percentage over those three outings.
– Defenseman Filip Král made his return to the lineup for the first time since the middle of January. “I was really happy with his first game back,” said Moore. “In the pulled-goalie situation at the blue line, I thought he had a lot of poise with the puck. He looked calm and made some good passes to Shaw to get those one-timers off… He has a real good touch with the puck. In a pressure situation, I thought he handled himself really well.”
– Sunday’s lines:
McMann – Shaw – Abruzzese
Clifford – Holmberg – Steeves
Hunt – Blandisi – Ellis
Slaggert – Johnstone – Solow
Rifai – Miller
Král – Villeneuve
Kokkonen – Pietroniro