“For the most part, I thought we played a pretty good game. We have to understand that when we play this team [Rochester], we have to stay patient. We had a lot of good looks.”

– John Gruden

This defeat can be filed in the “Toronto Marlies found a way to lose” folder. All three of Rochester’s goals were cheap or avoidable, while at the other end of the ice, the Marlies showed far too much respect to netminder Devon Levi.

First Period

Toronto was somewhat fortunate not to dig themselves into an early hole. Sloppy play, including defensive zone turnovers, put the Marlies under intense pressure. On several occasions, the puck flew through the crease as passes and shots from Rochester went astray.

A power play turned the tide for the Marlies, who established their footing in the game. However, they felt hard done by with the extra skater. 

Graham Slaggert high-sticked Joseph Blandisi, drawing a fair amount of blood. Somehow, it wasn’t called. On the same power play, Zach Solow was speared when standing in the slot area, but once again, the officials’ ineptitude allowed Rochester to escape a larger numerical disadvantage.

Blandisi would have been double disappointed not to score on the power play, but the signs were encouraging regarding the generation of chances.

Solow really should have opened the scoring with six minutes remaining when Robert Mastrosimone intercepted a pass down low in the Amerks zone before teeing up his linemate. Devon Levi made a good save, but those types of opportunities must be taken advantage of at this time of the year.

If Logan Shaw could’ve corraled a pass from Nick Abruzzese, the captain would have scored into a vacant net. 20 seconds later, Toronto coughed up the first goal of the game.

The small errors that added up were a turnover at the Amerks blue line, a misjudged line change, and a lack of situational awareness. Nobody wearing a white sweater picked up Jiri Kulich, who coasted down the heart of the slot to finish a pass from Rosén.

Second Period

Kyle Clifford, Tate Singleton, and Blandisi fluffed their lines on grade-A scoring chances to begin the period. Nick Abruzzese should have done better with an effort from the heart of the slot, while Jacob Quillan’s strong drive to the net went unrewarded, although his backhand attempt didn’t have the oomph he wanted.

A penalty halted the Marlies‘ impressive start to the middle frame, but Toronto easily killed it and made hay on their second power play. With time running down, the second unit went to work. Roni Hirvonen scored with a nicely-placed shot off the far post, although Quillan should be given much credit for the fantastic screen, which took Levi’s eyes away.

The Marlies drew another infraction almost immediately, but they committed the cardinal sin of giving up a feeble shorthanded goal. It was a sloppy effort all around, but Matt Murray will be disappointed that Brandon Biro’s odd-angled effort beat him five-hole.

Toronto compounded matters by donating Rochester a third goal just 76 seconds later.  Kulich is far and away Rochester’s most talented player and gifted goal-scorer, and letting him free and clear behind the defense is a recipe for disaster. Down the right side, the Czech winger made no mistake when in alone on Murray.

Third Period

The Amerks have not lost a game in regulation this season when leading after 40 minutes. That statistic never looked in danger as Toronto was embroiled in extracurriculars that did little to help their cause offensively.

The two scoring chances of note fell to Abruzzese and Mastrosimone, but at no stage did Toronto apply anything approaching concerted pressure on the Amerks.

The Marlies mustered just seven shots on target through the final 20 minutes, going out with too much of a whimper against a team they could potentially face early in the playoffs.

Post Game Notes

– An assist for Topi Niemelä takes him to 39 points for the season. If Niemelä picks up another point through two games this weekend, he’ll become the sixth Toronto defenseman in franchise history to register 40 or more points in a single season.

–  Toronto finishes the regular season with two home games against Cleveland this weekend. The Marlies can only finish third, fourth, or fifth, with the latter two positions less desirable given the best-of-three play-in. A third-place finish is possible, even if Cleveland wins its game in hand Friday night. Toronto would have to inflict two regulation losses on Cleveland, a team they have yet to beat this season.

– Wednesday’s lines vs. Rochester:

Hirvonen – Shaw – Abruzzese
Clifford – Blandisi – Steeves
Mastrosimone – Slavin – Solow
Barbolini – Quillan – Singleton

Lajoie – Kokkonen
Rifai – Gaunce
Pietroniro – Niemelä


Post-Game Media Availability: John Gruden