(Photo courtesy of the Rockford IceHogs Twitter)
The Toronto Marlies have a history of sputtering during long road trips. Even this year, their Royal Winter Fair-fuelled departure saw them drop four of six games, cementing the cancelling out of a hot start. Maybe it’s bad luck, maybe they make a slight mistake in travel arrangements that makes them 0.6% more tired, or maybe there’s something in the air at Ricoh Coliseum that makes them better for a couple of days.
This time around, as their home ice plays the part of "giant swimming pool" for the Boat Show, things actually look kind of positive. Going into Rockford, the Marlies had a 3-0-1 record over nine days, with a — loss to St. Johns being the only blemish. The mission today? Keep the good times rolling, and slightly ruin the day of the thousands of local school children in attendance. They did just that, winning 3-2.
The Marlies were heavily outshot for most of the game, but no period was worse than the first. A whopping 20 shots were taken by the IceHogs in the first 20 minutes, a season high against for Toronto. Eleven minutes in, Drew MacIntyre misplayed the puck behind his net and gave Rockford a chance to set up, ultimately leading to Alex Broadhurst beating him with a point shot.
Just six seconds into the second period, Sam Carrick dropped the gloves with Joakim Nordstrom, and took him down with one of the only blows in a tug-driven scrap. Nothing further came out of it, but the two teams exchanged minor penalties for the next couple of minutes. With the Marlies eventually going to the powerplay, TJ Brennan blasted a shot off the glass, leaving Greg McKegg (who lead the team with four shots) a perfect chance to tie the game. Just a minute and a half later, Spencer Abbott scooped up a loose puck in front of the net to get his 10th of the year and put the Marlies ahead.
The powerplay unit went back to work in the third, this time with Brennan scoring his 17th of the season with the aforementioned Abbott and McKegg padding their assist totals. While Kenny Ryan sat in the box, Nordstrom moved from the penalty sheet to the goal sheet to give Rockford some life, but that was the last time a puck beat Drew MacIntyre, or the IceHogs’ Jason Labarbera, before the final buzzer sounded.
- Drew MacIntyre made 40 saves on 42 shots. His play that lead to the first Rockford goal was questionable, but he was otherwise incredible today, keeping his team in while they had stretches of pure shot bleeding.
- Spencer Abbott’s first assist and goal came just a minute and a half apart. He now has 41 points on the season, good for 4th in the AHL.
- Trailing just behind him is TJ Brennan, who has 40 points, and is tied for 4th in goals with 17. Not bad for a defenceman. Brennan and Abbott have been money together on the powerplay over the past few weeks, Abbott moving back to make up for John-Michael Liles’ departure.
- The Marlies are back at it tomorrow at 8PM, taking on the Milwaukee Admirals. It’s their last American game of the trip, physically returning home before playing one last road game in Hamilton on Friday.
- On that note, road coverage is back at The Leafs Nation! I did recaps for away games last season but didn’t for a variety of reasons this year.