“I can’t fault our team on our effort. We are trying. We’re working hard. I think that sometimes our mental mistakes are what’s costing us.”
Logan Shaw is absolutely correct in that it was ultimately defensive mistakes that cost Toronto dearly in this 3-1 loss to Hershey, a clear pattern during the Marlies‘ current six-game losing slide. More concerning, however, is the continued lack of offense and inability to generate enough Grade-A scoring chances.
“In these last few games, we didn’t have a consistent net front,” said Greg Moore. “As any coach knows in the history of hockey, taking away the goalie’s eyes is the best way of creating offense.
“We focused on that [vs. Hershey]. There were opportunities for us to get into the middle of the rink and find the F3. We just weren’t able to get in there enough to create enough chances. We’re chipping away at it to find more ways to create offense.”
The Marlies were second-best in every facet of a lopsided opening period. Hershey built a 2-0 lead in five minutes and would have put the result beyond doubt if their finishing was more clinical.
The Bears struck first with two minutes on the clock. After a mistimed hit attempted by Dmitry Ovchinnikov in the neutral zone allowed the Bears to create an odd-man rush, Hendrix Lapierre finished the move off by netting his 11th goal of the season.
An even larger collective brain fart followed from the Marlies. An ill-judged line change resulted in a 3-on-1 break for Hershey, and there was little that Filip Král or Joseph Woll could do to prevent Sam Anas from making it a two-goal lead.
Only a power play for Toronto halted the tilted ice in Hershey’s favour. One slot chance for Nick Abruzzese was all the Marlies could muster.
At the other end, Woll kept Toronto in the game with a sharp save to rob Matt Strome.
The Marlies were fortunate to only trail 2-0 through 20 minutes as Hershey failed to capitalize on several other notable scoring chances.
The Marlies were a little more competitive in the middle frame, but they were still outmatched by their Atlantic Division opposition.
The first line generated an early scoring chance, the Malries’ best of the game to that point. Radim Zohorna was robbed by an excellent right-pad save by Hunter Shepherd after a nice piece of interplay between Logan Shaw and Abruzzese.
The Marlies continued to be bailed out by Woll at the other end. The goaltender denied Strome a second time following a mistake by Carl Dahlström and followed it up with a key save after Riley Sutter escaped on a shorthanded breakaway.
Against the run of play, Toronto halved the deficit late in the middle frame. For what felt like the first time all day, the Marlies broke through the neutral zone at speed, putting Hershey on the back foot. Abruzzese teed up Shaw, whose one-time shot beat Shepherd cleanly.
An uncharacteristic error by Woll just 89 seconds into the third period allowed Hershey to restore their two-goal cushion. The goaltender flubbed a clearance straight to Sam Anas, who sent the puck into the vacant cage.
Toronto mustered just a single shot on goal in the opening eight minutes and followed that up by taking consecutive penalties.
After Woll was pulled with five minutes remaining, the Bears twice missed opportunities to ice the game by missing the empty net.
Ovchinnikov came closest to scoring a second goal for Toronto, but he was unable to bury a rebound off of a shot by Dahlström inside the final minute.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto has been outscored 21-5 during the current six-game losing streak. The Marlies finished the month of March with a record of 4-6-2.
“When you are going through things like this in the season, you go through waves of turbulence in terms of what your emotions are,” said Greg Moore. “There is anger and frustration. As a coaching staff, we try different methods to get responses out of the group.
“I can tell the group is very frustrated. There are no excuses. We need to win hockey games. We need to play better, but also, at this point, we need to find the fun and enjoyment in what we are doing.”
– Logan Shaw found the net for the first time in six games to score his 19th goal this season.
– Radim Zohorna returned to the lineup after missing four games due to injury.
– Wednesday’s lines:
Zohorna – Shaw – Abruzzese
Steeves – Holmberg – Ellis
Clifford – Slaggert – Johnstone
Ovchinnikov – Solow – Tverberg
Dahlström – Benn
Král – Miller
Pietroniro – Villeneuve