“We had our opportunities. We ran into a hot goalie, and unfortunately, weren’t able to get one by him.”

– John Gruden

Rochester goaltender Devon Levi performed well, but to an equal extent, the Toronto Marlies‘ poor finishing cost them two points at Scotiabank Arena on Monday.

Toronto’s head coach threw his forward lines into the blender at an important time of the season, although, on the blue line, his hand was forced due to callups and injuries.

First Period

The game wasn’t as one-sided as the narrative surrounding Levi’s performance and the shot count (53-26) would suggest. Toronto could easily have fallen behind 0-2 inside the opening three minutes if not for Dennis Hildeby, who turned aside Mason Jobst and Isak Rosen as the Americans dominated the early stages to the point where they were able to bring fresh legs off the bench into an extended offensive-zone possession.

The Marlies opened the scoring at the 11-minute mark a little bit against the run of play. After a down-low cycle play, Kieffer Bellows delivered a feed from behind the net to Dylan Gambrell, who has frittered away so many prime scoring chances this season but capitalized on this one with a forehand-backhand-roof job from the side of the goal.

The Marlies might have doubled their lead before the intermission with a little more puck luck. Bellows batted a puck out of midair and narrowly missed the net, while Robert Mastrosimone looked set to score until a Rochester stick diverted his goalbound shot high.

Second Period

I sing the praises of Joseph Blandisi quite often in these game reviews, but this wasn’t his best performance. In the opening minute of the second frame, emotions got the best of him and he took a selfish retribution penalty. That allowed Rochester to tie the game through Jobst’s low shot from the bumper spot on the power play.

It took a couple of minutes for the Marlies to regain their composure, but they dominated the remainder of the period once they settled back into the game and should have built a healthy lead.

Mastrosimone fired wide from the high slot, Josiah Slavin was unable to lift the puck high enough to beat a scrambling Levi, and neither Ryan Tverberg nor Alex Steeves could capitalize on their grade-A scoring chances.

The Marlies registered 15 shots in the middle frame, a number that would have increased by at least 50% if they were more accurate with a plethora of shooting opportunities from below the dots.

Third Period

Excellent work from Logan Shaw inside the opening minute sent Tverberg in alone on goal, but the frustration was evident after Levi made a glove save on the rookie. 

That stop seemed to spark the Amerks, who took control for a two-minute spell in which they were again able to change on the fly with possession in the offensive zone. 

Hildeby stepped up with some key saves with Toronto on their heels and scrambling.  Jeremy Davies looked set to score for the Amerks, but he clunked a shot off the post (Hildeby may have gotten a faint touch on it).

Toronto survived the barrage, killed off a penalty, and dodged another bullet when Graham Slaggert fired a rebound over the crossbar.

The Marlies generated two further spells of complete domination, but once more their finishing let them down. Bellows, Shaw, Slavin, and Kyle Clifford all couldn’t bury as Toronto outshot Rochester 12-0 in the final five minutes of regulation without a game-winning goal to show for it.


The Marlies held possession for the first half of overtime but only had an effort from Topi Niemelä to show for it. Once Rochester went on the attack, the gaps appeared and the scoring chances followed at both ends.

Nick Abruzzese drove to the net, but his weak shot was easily dealt with. Logan Shaw followed suit on the next shift, resulting in a rebound that Blandisi thumped off the post. Moments later, Blandisi missed another gilt-edge chance after William Villenueve’s shot produced another rebound off the pads of Levi.

Blandisi then capped off a bad day at the office by turning the puck over, allowing Davies to skate in alone on Hildeby to score on Rochester’s first shot of three-on-three overtime.

Post Game Notes

– This is the Marlies’ fourth loss in five games. They’ve scored nine goals in the last five outings, which has to be a big concern for John Gruden.

– Shaking up the forward lines is something that should have been done 10 games ago, but the timing of the decision to do it now can be fairly questioned. The line comprising Alex Steeves, Logan Shaw, and Ryan Tverberg worked well and is worth exploring further. Robert Mastrosimone proved he could be impactful in an elevated role, but otherwise, the chemistry seemed to be lacking at first.

“A couple of the lines were really good,” said Gruden. “Sometimes it takes a little time. I don’t want to change it all the time. You want to give it some time to build some chemistry.

“Sometimes it is good to get a little bit of a break from one another. With the way the [Blandisi – Tverberg – Bellows] line was playing, we figured we would put one on each line to give everyone some energy. That was our thought process behind it because they have been so good.

“Some of the guys had still played together — Blandisi, Clifford, and Solow as well as Shaw and Tverberg. We tried to use some familarity, but we wanted to change it up and add some energy into each line.”

– Toronto’s overtime record is now a pitiful 2-8 this season (tied with San Jose for most OT losses in the league). To compound matters, six of those overtime losses have come against division rivals. The Marlies are 7-11-8 against teams in the North after this loss.

“It was one of our best three-on-three periods, but we have to avoid that big-time mistake at the end,” said Gruden. “We’re turning pucks over, giving up breakaways and short 2-on-1s. We missed a couple of wide-open nets before that, but it was much better. At times, I am not happy with the execution (in OT), but I thought this was one of the better ones.”

– Defenseman Matt Anderson was signed to a PTO as Toronto searched for reinforcements before this game. He’s a second-year pro playing in the ECHL for Toledo Walleye. Making his AHL debut at an NHL arena was pretty special for him as well as the other debutant, Jonny Tychonik. Anderson played a solid, conservative game and did not look out of place. He registered a secondary assist on Toronto’s only goal.

–  Paired with Topi Niemelä, Jonny Tychonik needed to restrain his offensive instincts and did a good job of deferring to his more experienced partner. The 23-year-old has 41 points (6G/35A) for Newfoundland this season, fourth in team scoring. Overall, it was a solid AHL debut for Tychonik and a long overdue one given the quality of blue-liners at the minor-league level.

–  Dennis Hildeby deserved better than an overtime defeat. The headlines went to Devon Levi for making 52 saves, but Hildeby performed just as admirably, making several key saves when Toronto was under siege.

“He made a game-changing save early in the third, and you could see the bench and energy go up,” said Gruden. “That was when we played our best and played really well in the second half of the third period.”

– Monday’s lineup vs. Rochester:

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

Gaunce – Miller
Tychonik – Niemelä
Anderson – Villeneuve


Game Highlights: Americans 2 vs. Marlies 1 (OT)

Post-Game Media Availability: Tychonik & Gruden