“I wouldn’t say it was a good game for us. Friday night we played a much better overall game and deserved to win that one. Tonight was a little bit less of that.”

– Logan Shaw

“We weren’t executing at a high rate It wasn’t our best [effort]. But we came out in the third period with a purpose and because of that we got a lot more done. We gave ourselves a chance for the two points.”

– John Gruden

With this 4-3 overtime loss to Cleveland on Sunday, the Marlies have now lost four in a row (0-2-2), dropping them off the pace in the North Division. They sit in fourth place with an 8-5-4 record, five points behind leaders Rochester.

First Period

Toronto owned the lion’s share of possession and zone time in the opening period but did little with it. Cleveland kept the Marlies to the perimeter, limiting Toronto to a pair of shots in the opening seven minutes.

The Monsters, a team that thrives on creating opportunities off the rush, should have scored inside 30 seconds. A misplay by the Marlies resulted in a 4-on-2 back the other way, but the Monsters overplayed the situation and the puck trickled in on Martin Jones, who covered it up.

Once Toronto began to get inside the Cleveland defense and in between the dots, the tide began to turn, resulting in the opening goal. The Marlies had the Monsters on the ropes before Zach Solow crashed the crease and applied a redirect to Topi Niemelä’s point shot to score his first of the campaign.

The period meandered for the next eight minutes before Toronto paid the price for giving up an avoidable odd-man rush. Carson Meyer scored on a feed by Trey Fix-Wolansky, with Martin Jones getting a piece of the shot but not enough to keep it out.

A sloppy play by Josiah Slavin led to the forward taking a needless tripping penalty with 2:30 remaining, but the much-improved Marlies penalty kill stood tall. In the final seconds of the frame, Toronto drew a penalty to give them a man advantage to open the middle frame.

Second Period

The second period turned into a special teams affair, and — unsurprising knowing their numbers heading into the game — Toronto did not fare well in those exchanges.

Cleveland struck a go-ahead power-play goal just before the four-minute mark. Logan Shaw should have sent the puck clear or even comfortably knocked it past the last Cleveland player to create a breakaway. Instead, Stanislav Svozil grabbed possession and delivered the puck to Kent Johnson in the right circle, where Johnson drove toward the middle of the ice and beat Jones cleanly.

The Marlies wasted two additional power plays and were fortunate not to concede a shorthanded tally. Cleveland streaked away on a 3-on-1 advantage, but Jake Gaudet somehow didn’t finish off what was essentially a tap-in. Jones kept the puck out, although he didn’t know much about it.

Third Period

The Marlies ended up throwing away a regulation win after scoring twice in eight minutes to take a 3-2 lead.

After killing 70 seconds of a penalty carrying over from the previous period, Toronto came close to tying the game back at full strength. Kieffer Bellows found some room in the left circle, where he rifled a shot off the crossbar. 

Pontus Holmberg then scored from the slot on a slap pass from Tommy Miller, which was almost a carbon copy of the first goal.

Toronto killed another penalty, and Bellows should have scored back at even-strength after the top line created a quality chance with a slick passing move. Jet Greaves made a nice save, but Bellows will know he should have buried the opportunity.

A misplay by the Cleveland netminder presented Toronto with a go-ahead goal. Nick Abruzzese seized on the giveaway below the goal line and threw the puck out front to Zach Solow, who attempted to score with a deft flick before Dylan Gambrell jammed home the loose puck. It was a much-needed goal for both the player and the team, giving the Marlies a lead to protect with 9:48 remaining.

It lasted all of 24 seconds.

Toronto allowed yet another goal off the rush as Emil Bemstrom slotted home his eighth goal of the campaign.

The Marlies would have lost in regulation without a stellar penalty-killing effort. Back-to-back infractions led to a 5-on-3 for seven seconds, but Cleveland could not take advantage of the situation.

The much-maligned Toronto power play was given one last chance to redeem itself inside the final three minutes, but a lone shot by Logan Shaw was all the Marlies could muster.


Toronto was second-best in the extra frame, although Nick Abruzzese did have the game on his stick at one point. He buried a shot into the pads of Greaves when a lifted effort would have clinched the extra point.

It was little surprise when Cleveland scored the game-winner as Bemstrom struck for a second time to extend the Monsters’ winning streak to five games.

Post Game Notes

– What can I say about the power play that I haven’t written countless times already this season? It remains dreadful and about as effective as a chocolate teapot. It’s ranked 29th in the AHL at 13%, but perhaps the biggest frustration is the number of opportunities drawn because of generally excellent five-on-five play. Toronto’s 77 power-play opportunities rank sixth-best in the league.

Zach Solow recorded just the second multi-point haul (1G/1A) of his 68-game AHL career. He’s performed admirably since the promotion to the second line due to player absences. “He brings the juice and jam, and it’s nice that he got rewarded with a goal,” said Gruden.

– It’s now two goals in 17 games for Dylan Gambrell. With the monkey off his back, hopefully, he can begin to convert on a few more scoring chances.

– Sunday’s lineup:

Bellows – Holmberg – Shaw
Abruzzese – Gambrell – Solow
Mastrosimone – Blandisi – Ellis
Suthers – Slavin – Ovchinnikov

Lajoie – Niemelä
Pietroniro – Villeneuve
Rifai – Miller


Post-Game Media Availability: Shaw & Gruden

Game Highlights: Monsters 4 vs. Marlies 3 (OT)