“We showed a lot of resilience when they scored two goals in the third. We didn’t give up or fold.”

– Robert Mastrosimone

The Toronto Marlies posted a solid 40-minute effort before slipping up in the third period. Despite bending, they didn’t break, thanks mostly to goaltender Keith Petruzzelli, who stood on his head during the second half of the game.

First Period

The Marlies were on the money from the opening puck drop, putting the Phantoms on their heels in the opening five minutes and opening the scoring, with their best line at five-on-five — Bellows – Tverberg – Blandisi — providing the early breakthrough.

They turned a defensive-zone faceoff win into a goal seconds later as Ryan Tverberg teed up Kieffer Bellows for his 17th goal of the campaign.

Toronto’s best chance to double the lead came through those two players combining once again. On this occasion, Tverberg forced a good save out of Parker Gahagen.

After the Marlies were unable to capitalize on two power plays, the tide turned in favour of Lehigh.

Keith Petruzzelli robbed Elliot Desnoyers with an incredible save from close range, but he was let down by his teammates inside the final two minutes.

Toronto switched off in the defensive zone as the Phantoms orchestrated a line change. Samu Tuomaala found space to shoot in the middle of the zone, and the rebound was finished off Bobby Brink. Marshall Rifai should have done better on the play as he kind of half-fronted the shot (unsuccessfully) and then failed to tie up the stick/box out Brink.

Second Period

Toronto started the middle frame just as strongly as the first but couldn’t capitalize on their scoring chances. Joseph Blandisi fired wide of the target on a breakaway and Max Ellis should’ve done better with his effort from the high slot.

The go-ahead goal arrived at the seven-minute mark when the fourth line was rewarded for their hard work.

The Marlies once more turned a defensive zone faceoff into offensive production. Efforts by Zach Solow and Josiah Slavin were turned aside, but Robert Mastrosimone cashed in on the third opportunity, finishing a rebound from the left circle.

Immediately on the penalty kill following the goal, Toronto relied on Petruzzelli to make three important saves to keep their lead intact.

The Marlies then doubled their lead with a power-play goal where they successfully got back to basics on the man advantage. A slap pass by Joseph Blandisi aimed toward Kyle Clifford looked innocent enough until the veteran forward turned his right skate, redirecting the puck past Gahagen.

Toronto was in complete control of the game until they switched off inside the final three minutes of the period. Petruzzelli produced an incredible double save to rob Rhett Gardner and turned aside another grade-A scoring chance for Evan Polei to ensure the two-goal lead remained intact.

Third Period

The sloppiness in Toronto’s play carried over into the third period. Petruzzelli denied Wade Allison on a breakaway just 36 seconds into the final frame. The netminder produced another equally brilliant stop on Gardner as Lehigh outshot Toronto 7-0 in the opening three minutes.

Lehigh continued to feast on poor puck management by Toronto and made the Marlies pay for a lack of discipline. Logan Shaw and Tommy Miller took hooking penalties, handing the Phantoms a two-man advantage for 28 seconds.

Lehigh needed just half that time to halve the deficit as Brink doubled his account.

With Miller still in the box, Lehigh tied the game up with a second power-play tally in 101 seconds.

It wasn’t the Marlies’ best penalty-killing effort — which featured some dubious decision-making — but the nature of the penalties and the slow start to the period were the main reasons for the lead evaporating.

Toronto collected themselves once they forfeited the lead, allowing only two shots in the final eight minutes of regulation. The disappointment was that they could not generate the calibre of scoring chances to find a decisive goal.

Two power plays passed without incident while only one chance of note was created at five-on-five. The fourth line was again an offensive threat, but Mastrosimone missed the target from the high slot.

A mistake by Max Lajoie with a minute left on the clock looked costly, but Petruzzelli came to his team’s rescue with a save on Adam Ginning.

Overtime & Shootout

The extra frame was essentially all Lehigh vs. Petruzzelli as the Phantoms carried the majority of play at three-on-three. The American native made three top-draw saves to keep Lehigh at bay.

Toronto felt hard done by when Bellows was clearly infringed on a breakaway as the officiating crew looked the other way.

Petruzzelli stopped two of three Lehigh shooters, allowing Toronto to claim the victory as Alex Steeves and Logan Shaw scored to clinch a crucial extra point.

Post Game Notes

Ryan Tverberg extended his point streak to four games (1G/5A) with the assist on the game-opening goal, moving him up to 24 points in 22 games.

– With his 17th tally of the season in his 30th game, Kieffer Bellows is tied for 10th place in AHL goal scoring. He’s scored six in his last eight games and is on pace to pass his previous season high of 22 next month.

– A 30-save performance by Keith Petruzzelli gives him wins in consecutive games, something he hadn’t achieved since October.

“He battled hard,” said Gruden. “That is two in a row for him, and I thought he looked comfortable and solid in the net.”

– Saturday’s lineup:

Clifford – Gambrell – Steeves
Bellows – Tverberg – Blandisi
Abruzzese – Shaw – Ellis
Mastrosimone – Slavin – Solow

Lajoie – Miller
Rifai – Niemelä
Gaunce – Kokkonen


Post-Game Media Availability: Bellows, Mastrosimone & Gruden