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Toronto Marlies: weekend in St. John's

From Pension Puppets

The Marlies went off to St. John’s to face the strange IceCaps, the team that has a very good record against them: 3-1-2 going into this weekend’s games.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

The way Montréal has been bouncing guys up and down to the IceCaps lately, it’s good the team is so conveniently close. They’ve done a lot more than just make the trade which got everyone’s dander up since the last time the Marlies played them.

First they got forward Max Friberg in a deal for their surplus goalie Dustin Tokarski. They sent Jacob de la Rose up to the Habs, and got Daniel Carr and Sven Andrighetto back. Stefan Fournier was traded to Arizona, and they sent one guy down to their ECHL team and released Eric Neilson from a PTO–Neilson was a big penalty minute, non-scoring guy.

The plus/minus on all of that adds up to -1 goalie, -1 forward, and then you add in John Scott and it’s all back to how it was. Neilson barely played, so Scott is very fit for that role. If he ever reports to the team. He did not for Saturday, so instead the IceCaps welcomed Nikita Sherbak, a top draft pick from 2014 who’s been out with an injury. I know who’d I rather have in my lineup.

Meanwhile, Rich Clune is with the Leafs on their road trip, so the Marlies recalled good Orlando Solar Bear’s forward Eric Faille. He had one game with the Marlies so far this year, where his goal led the comeback against the Utica Comets who were up 3-1. The Marlies took that one to OT and ultimately lost.

The rest of the Marlies changes happened before this set of games, but to refresh memories, Connor Brown is still out with and injury, Scott Harrington has been scratched lately and may be injured, Kasperi Kapanen is back, and checking the status of the Marco Yo-Yo: currently with the Marlies.

Toronto Marlies at St. John’s Ice Caps

Saturday, January 16

This game was about one thing: Goals, goals, goals.

Some were gorgeous.

Some were frustrating, like when IceCap’s Charles Hudon, who has a way with the Marlies, ripped the puck right off of Jeremy Morin’s stick while he was fiddling around trying to decide what to do with it, and roared off and tied the game.

Brandon Leipsic’s second goal of the night chased Eddie Pasquale, a goalie the Marlies have a way with, and Zach Fucale took over. Trouble is, the Marlies have a way with him too.

The wheels came off completely for the IceCaps in the second. They started taking penalties by the tonne, and the ref wasn’t interested in playing any even up games. The ref in question is Terry Koharski who the IceCaps play-by-play man Brian Rogers does not care for at all.

The Marlies are not a team that sits quietly on a lead, however. They ended up with a 5-on-3, and just as the IceCaps killed the first penalty and it switched to a 5-on-4, they had a serious short-handed attempt. Antoine Bibeau was up to it, but he wasn’t a brick wall, since he’d already been done for 2 goals.

Leipsic quieted everyone down with the only goal in the second period, it gave him the hat trick, the team a 5-2 lead, and the crowd, evenly split as always between Marlies and IceCap fans, had nothing left to cheer for on either side.

The IceCaps continued to press hard in the third as they had all game, and the final score was 6-3.

At the end of the third, Hudon took a boarding penalty plus an unsportsmanlike like misconduct, and he was frustrated at the game, the officiating, and likely just being on the team when he’d like a chance at the NHL. I think we can all relate to that. He’s 5’10” and around 200 pounds. And I couldn’t help thinking what would have happened if John Scott were out there. He’s the biggest guy in the AHL right now at 260 pounds, and is never on the ice to handle the puck.

Rogers was also frustrated, and he went off a rant about how the IceCaps couldn’t by a frigging thing out there, and that was virtually a Canadian Heritage Moment and a reason why AHL games are so much fun.

T.J. Brennan’s three assists put him ahead of William Nylander for the team scoring lead and within one point of the league lead. Maybe he’s more than just the best defenceman in the AHL?

See Maple Leafs Hot Stove for a more indepth recap.

Toronto Marlies as St. John’s Ice Caps

Sunday, January 17

The day dawned with the news that the meme had landed.

There were rumours he was on the roster or in the lineup, and it was a big buzz or anticipation, but in the end, the IceCaps iced a hockey team. No John Scott today.

More, importantly, Garret Sparks was back in net! It started out as a tight game, with no goals coming in the first period, and the Marlies just barely outshooting the IceCaps. (In the AHL, that always means shots on goal, as that’s all that’s tracked.)

In the second, the troubling trend from Saturday continued with the IceCaps outshooting the Marlies. They had better control of the puck today and the Marlies didn’t.

But the IceCaps have some real defensive failures from time to time, and early in the second they left Soshnikov totally alone in the slot, and you can’t do that. 1-0 Marlies.

The Marlies took a penalty shortly after and chased their tails for most of the PK and paid for it. Tie game.

Less than a minute later and an easy tic-tac-toe goal for Casey Bailey from Brett Findlay who made the play with Faille in the right spot to be the tac. 2-1 Marlies.

The IceCaps got another power play goal, the Marlies PK unable to do anything to prevent it. Tie game again.

The third period was where the heroes got separated from the goats. Problem is, sometimes they’re the same guy!

Lucas Lessio took a penalty for the IceCaps, which is bad, but then Markus Eisenschmid outplayed T.J. Brennan to get his first pro goal. And it was a shorty.

A bit later it was Morgan Ellis from out in the weeds, and it was 4-2 IceCaps and they seemed like they could roll home on that lead.

But the Marlies don’t quit. An excellent rush by Rinat Valiev who made the play possible, led to Arcobello and Morin combining to get it in the net by rushing in and winning the battle for the slot. 4-3 IceCaps.

The hero turned into the goat when Valiev, just trying to move the puck up in front of Sparks, got done by Lessio who snuck up and shoved it off of Valiev’s stick and right past a startled Sparks. 5-3 IceCaps.

The Marlies pulled the goalie really early, and there were two goals: one from T.J. Brennan from a shot from the blueline, and one a few seconds later where the IceCaps put the game away. 6-4 was the final score, and the Marlies got beat by the team that played better.

Too many penalties, too much defensive slack, too much lack of speed against a tough team that had found their cohesion, and the lazy Sunday game went against them.

T.J. Brennan is now tied with the AHL points leaders with 38 points, pending the results of later games.

The Marlies next game is Wednesday against Syracuse. Will Jonathan Drouin appear?

Nylander won’t, but it’s getting closer:

Source: Toronto Marlies: weekend in St. John's

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