Get ready for two cliches over the next few games – "The Toronto Marlies take on Lake Erie", and "your defence wins you important hockey games". Blame the AHL schedules for the first one, and credit the Marlies for the second, because while the team remains in low scoring times, they’ve found a way to make the situation even worse on their opponents, as they did tonight with a 2-1 win over the Monsters.
Toronto came out to a flying start, with Ryan Hamilton going on a breakaway within the first minute. While it didn’t turn into a goal, it set the tempo for the start of the game. An exclamation point was put on that by Mike Zigomanis crashing the net, which lead to a penalty that was killed off, only to immediately be followed by hooking call to Joe Colborne. Tim Connolly dropped the gloves with Andrew Agozzino after being cross checked.
The Marlies started the second period with the bulk of a powerplay still remaining, but didn’t get a single shot off on it. The next several minutes were massive for Lake Erie, but Drew MacIntyre kept out a 7-0 shot rally to keep the game scoreless. Eventually the Marlies opened the scoring, as Mike Zigomanis came out from behind the net and roofed a backhander home for his fifth of the season. The period ended with a tale of two close chances – one to an out of the box Michael Sgarbossa that was stopped by MacIntyre, and a wide open net missed by Jesse Blacker as he tried to go backhand.
Thanks to a late penalty, the Marlies also started the third period on the powerplay, giving them an opportunity to regain control, but it was Geoff Walker who was next to score, tying the game with thirteen minutes left. Joe Colborne game to the rescue just thirty seconds later, however, adding his eleventh of the year to score Toronto’s second. The Marlies shut things down in the final minutes – despite a lot of pressure, just one shot was taken in the final six minutes by Lake Erie as Marlies won their sixth game in their past eight.
Drew MacIntyre came back from his first bad game in the blue and white, with new blue and white pads and an A-game on his mind. Stopping 29 of 30 shots, this may have been his best all around game to date. There wasn’t much to talk about in terms of big saves, but that’s because his positioning was consistently on point. His goal against was the result of a scramble.
Ryan Hamilton was frequently in the right position to take in stretch passes. Some lead to breaks, some barely missed him, but he knew where to go too makle the opportunites.
Jake Gardiner is the focus of a lot of people’s attention right now, and he had an okay game. Got an assist on the Zigomanis goal, but it didn’t mean much. At one point, broke two sticks in two minutes. He had one very sloppy sequence where he got a bit too confident, sent out a floater pass, and had it intercepted. Seconds later, he was undressed by a Lake Erie forward. One of the weaker shifts I’ve ever seen him play, but he had a confident, well positioned game to make up for it.
Kenny Ryan didn’t add anything to the scoreboard tonight, but threw the body around a lot and got under the skin of a few Monsters forwards.
Ryan Grimshaw’s assist on Joe Colborne’s goal is his first with the Marlies.
Tim Connolly would have scored if he didn’t get into that fight today. The puck was directly in front of him but his gloves met it instead of his stick. You’ve got to imagine Agozzino really set him off, though – this, to my knowledge, is his first professional fight.
Beyond his goal and assist, this may have been Mike Zigomanis’ best game in a long time. All over the place in the best way possible, and was in it until the last second, acting as a third defenceman on his last shift.
The powerplay is becoming more and more predictable by the game. Something has to be shaken up, whether it’s formation or players (I’m not even sure there was a PP2 unit tonight). In any event, they went 0 for 3. The penalty kill was strong at 5 for 5.
The Marlies play their next game on Saturday against the Rochester Americans. It’s their last game at Ricoh Coliseum before hitting the road for seven games.