“We weren’t ready to play. It’s not good enough, and it’s not fair to our fans… We’re working every day to try and find solutions and push this group in the right direction, but we’ve got to find it really quick as we are not too far away from our first playoff round.”
Just like Greg Moore’s Marlies, the Belleville Senators entered this game with nothing but pride to play for after they were eliminated from the playoffs the previous evening. The Senators humbled Toronto with an inspired performance, scoring five power-play goals in the process.
It was yet another lopsided opening period as Toronto dug themselves a three-goal hole.
Keith Petruzzelli tried his best to keep Belleville at bay, making a spectacular save just three minutes in. A defensive breakdown left Matthew Wedman alone in front with an open goal to aim at, but Petruzzelli robbed the Senators’ forward with a spectacular diving glove save.
It merely delayed the inevitable as Belleville struck less than a minute later when a turnover by Semyon Der-Arguchinstev following a miscommunication resulted in a breakaway. Matthew Wedman’s backhand finish put the Senators up 1-0.
Jake Lucchini should have doubled the lead at the nine-minute mark after another defensive breakdown by Toronto. Petruzzelli came to his team’s rescue with a sharp pad save, but the tone was now set as far as the direction of the game.
There were just two opportunities for Toronto to gain a foothold in the game. A shorthanded breakaway for Marc Johnstone was easily dealt with by Dylan Ferguson before Kyle Clifford failed to bury a point-blank chance at five-on-five.
Clifford was lauded on the broadcast — and in part during the post-game presser — because of his effort level compared to other Toronto skaters. But his suspect decision-making created problems at various points for Toronto.
The Marlies’ enforcer attempted to go coast-to-coast after beating two opponents, but his turnover resulted in a penalty to Johnstone. He took a penalty of his own on the resulting penalty kill, putting Toronto down by two men for 61 seconds.
Just as Johnstone exited the box, Roby Jarventie scored with a wrist shot through traffic to give Belleville a deserved 2-0 lead.
Clifford found himself back in the box less than two minutes later for an ill-disciplined crosscheck. Egor Sokolov found the net with a one-time shot from the left faceoff dot to score Belleville’s second power-play goal of the period.
Six penalties turned the middle frame into a special-teams battle.
The second period began with four-on-four action after some shenanigans to end the opening frame. Joseph Blandisi might have scored on his own rebound, but he was cross-checked in the final moments before five-on-five play resumed.
Toronto’s power play was disjointed, resulting in a breakaway for Cole Cassels, but another good save by Petruzzelli averted disaster.
A second consecutive Marlies man advantage went to waste before Belleville scored on their next power-play chance.
It was a weird broken play on a bouncing puck, but in the end, it was down to hunger and execution as Maxence Guenette pounced on the opportunity to put Belleville ahead 4-0.
Petruzzelli was replaced by Dennis Hildeby, who was scooping the puck out of his net less than 90 seconds later when Ridly Greig pounced on a fortunate bounce off the boards to score from the blue paint. The scoreboard now read 5-0 Belleville with 29 minutes played.
Toronto gave the home fans a little respite by scoring a power-play goal of their own with a little over two minutes remaining. Clifford was credited with the final touch during a melee in front of the Senators’ net.
You might have expected Belleville to take their foot off the pedal, but no such grace was forthcoming for Toronto.
Matthew Boucher was gifted a breakaway three minutes into the third period, but Hildeby produced an excellent pad save.
The Marlies‘ best sequence of the game arrived around the eight-minute mark when a Nick Abruzzese drive to the net from the right wing forced Ferguson into a decent save. That was followed by a tip effort by Filip Král from the slot after Logan Shaw found him with a slap pass.
Toronto went on to draw a penalty, and Blandisi poked home a rebound from the blue paint to bring some kind of respectability to the score line.
That lasted for all of 11 seconds as Belleville scored directly from the restart of play. A stretch pass from Lassi Thomson somehow dissected all five Toronto skaters, presenting Rourke Chartier with a breakaway opportunity that he buried.
Lucchini completed the touchdown for Belleville by scoring with a perfectly-placed shot into the top corner — the Senators’ fifth power-play goal of the game.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies have lost 11 of their last 12 games and have been outscored 44-17 in regulation during that stretch.
In my time covering the team, I cannot remember such a poor run of results and level of performance heading into the playoffs. There is clearly a disconnect at some level which needs to be rectified in a hurry.
“At this point, we’re very frustrated with where things are at and the inconsistencies of our play,” said Moore. “Regardless of having clinched first and knowing we are in a playoff berth for a while, it is not good enough… [Sunday] is going to be a very important response after what happened [Saturday]… There has to be more passion, more effort, more compete, and more care for wearing the sweater.”
– I normally look for at least one positive in these notes, and of late, it’s been very difficult. Joseph Blandisi has missed a fair chunk of time due to injury, but he is working his way back to 100%. He was instrumental in creating a couple of scoring chances, went close to scoring on a nice play by Topi Niemelä, and netted a power-play tally. He will be a key part of any success Toronto hopes to achieve in the post-season.
– Saturday’s lines:
Abruzzese- Shaw – Steeves
Zohorna – Holmberg – Der-Arguchintsev
Clifford – Blandisi – Johnstone
Badini – Cruikshank – Slaggert
Dahlström – Benn
Rifai – Niemelä
Král – Hoefenmayer