The Toronto Marlies produced a performance similar to Friday’s game and were easily despatched by a defensively solid Charlotte outfit on Saturday.
“I don’t think our mindset was there the past two games,” said Joseph Blandisi. “We didn’t come ready to play. Our puck play was a little slow and our legs weren’t moving. I think it’s going to be good to get back to practice and not be so comfortable with where we are in the standings.”
Toronto flattered to deceive on a few occasions by creating sporadic scoring chances, but at no stage did they put the Checkers under any concerted pressure.
Logan Shaw attempted to get the Marlies off to a perfect start with barely 60 seconds on the clock, but Toronto’s captain rang a shot from the right circle off the far post.
Marc Johnstone should have opened the scoring two minutes later, but he rifled his effort high from close range.
The Marlies killed the game’s first penalty but fell behind just before the midway mark when John Ludvig pinched in from the blue line to the top of the left circle. The defenseman scored on a low shot that Erik Källgren would want back.
Noel Hoefenmayer was guilty of missing the target following a rare defensive error by Charlotte before Pontus Holmberg struck the post on a power play.
The Checkers held a 9-6 shot advantage through 20 minutes but could have been disappointed not to take a bigger lead into the intermission having created three additional high-danger scoring chances.
Gerry Mayhew fired over the crossbar just 90 seconds into the middle frame when Charlotte failed to take advantage of a 2-on-1 break. Källgren kept Toronto in the game with a good save on Connor Bunnaman after the Marlies were caught floundering in the defensive zone
The Marlies flattered to deceive offensively and only tested Alex Lyon during their lone power play of the period. Otherwise, Charlotte dictated the terms and came close to doubling their lead with a short-handed tally.
Aleksi Heponiemi struck the crossbar as the middle frame passed without any addition to the scoreboard.
Charlotte fully took control of the game with two goals in five minutes of the final frame. Mayhew and Holmberg will both feel as if they should have scored inside the opening two minutes before the Checkers struck at the 2:27 mark.
Grigori Denisenko escaped down the left wing and used Mikko Kokkonen as a screen before beating Källgren with a shot that might have taken a slight deflection.
Bunnaman extended the lead to 3-0 after slotting home a rebound as Charlotte capitalized on the power play. It’s a goal Källgren would want back as he initially gloved the shot by Matt Kiersted but couldn’t hold onto the puck.
It was going to take a piece of individual brilliance or a stroke of luck for Toronto to score. They benefitted from one of the latter after a shot by Shaw resulted in a rebound that fell kindly to Holmberg in the left circle. #29 made no mistake with an emphatic first-time finish.
Henry Bowlby should have quickly restored the Chckers three-goal lead, but he was robbed by Källgren after a terrible giveaway by Noel Hoefenmayer.
The closest Toronto came to making the game a contest arrived on a shorthanded opportunity after a slip by Denisenko allowed Joseph Blandisi to escape on a breakaway. The Marlies forward never seemed fully in control of the puck as Lyon denied the five-hole attempt.
Källgren was pulled in favour of the extra attacker with four minutes remaining but to little effect. Charlotte made sure of victory with Cameron Morrison’s empty-net goal to complete a weekend sweep.
Post Game Notes
“We certainly need to have more pride and consistency in our efforts,” said Greg Moore after the game.
– Toronto has struggled for offense in the past five home games. They’ve scored just eight goals in regulation play and were twice shut out.
– It was a difficult set of circumstances for an introduction to professional hockey for Ryan Tverberg, but there were some nice touches and interplay in the first period, and he certainly didn’t look overwhelmed by the occasion.
“It was a tough game to get him into,” said Moore. “Early on, he had some good looks with some speed around the rink and some good puck play. He looked calm. He didn’t look too nervous.
“Toward the third period, it was tough to give him the number of reps I wanted to give him just based on where the game was at. But it was something he could build confidence off of as a stepping stone for him.”
– Saturday’s lines:
Abruzzese – Holmberg – Shaw
Clifford – Blandisi – Johnstone
Ellis – Slaggert – Solow
Centazzo – Tverberg
Rifai – Benn
Pietroniro – Hoefenmayer
Hellickson – Král