Photo Courtesy of Mike Ivall / Marlies.ca
A two week road trip is one of those things that sounds great in theory, but eventually becomes taxing and tiring to the point of losing all appreciation of the experience. Particularly when the trip is for work, and your work requires you to go all out for extended periods of time. If I was a pro hockey player and you told me I was playing in seven cities in fourteen days, I’d consider changing careers. That’s probably why I’m not a professional hockey player.
The point being, the Toronto Marlies had that trip, going an impressive 5-1-1 over the stretch. On Saturday, they returned home for the second and third of back-to-back-to-back games. Here’s what went down:
The first of the two home games came against the Chicago Wolves, affiliate of the St. Louis Blues (formerly Vancouver, formerly Atlanta, etc etc). This was recent acquisition Brandon Kozun’s first home game with the team, and I must say that I was very impressed. His ability to anticipate the play and get into position offesnively is going to be very useful for a team that has trouble scoring on many nights, especially on the powerplay. He didn’t end up getting any points, but was one of the most dangerous players on the ice.
The Marlies sputtered out of the gate though, allowing the first six shots of the game and not taking one of their own until nearly the five minute mark. This was the one time over the course of the three-in-three where they legitimately looked "fatigued", especially while killing Brad Staubitz’s penalty, taken just two minutes in. They looked much better on their second kill and beyond, but Chicago was able to hold onto that momentum just long enough for Dmitrij Jaskin to score the first goal of the game, taking advantage of an out-of-position Petter Granberg and letting one rip past Garret Sparks (who stopped 27 of 29 shots).
Before the end of the period, the Marlies were able to use a trio of Wolves penalties to catch up on the shot count, and tie the game. Predictably, the goal came off of a TJ Brennan slapshot, but a lot of credit should be given to Greg McKegg for winning a clean faceoff that turned into the one game tying one timer.
The game didn’t stay tied forever, though. Chris Porter scored the go-ahead and eventually game winning goal in the second period off a slapshot fed by Taylor Chorney, as Tyler Biggs sat and watched from the penalty box. Toronto had their chances to come back, most notably in the very end, throwing a flood of pucks in net in the final minute.
With three seconds left, Sam Carrick was the centre sent out to win a major offensive zone faceoff. That’s a gutsy move by Steve Spott, as many would have looked to Jerred Smithson, who has a reputation at the dot. However, I think that trusting your younger players with that responsibility has a lot of long term gain, and while my short term gut would’ve hesitated, it worked out and the Marlies got a couple more opportunities.
The Marlies had a chance to end the weekend off on a high note against the Lake Erie Monsters, affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. This time, Drew MacIntyre took his regular spot between the pipes and, to be honest, he didn’t start off particularly well. Ten minutes into the game, Andrew Agozzino opened the scoring for Lake Erie, sneaking past Kevin Marshall and tipping a point shot past MacIntyre. Just five minutes later, Cody Reid was next to go in front of the net and redirect a puck to advance the Monsters’ lead. After that, the mesh behind number 34 was closed for business for the rest of the night, finishing the game with thirty saves.
To make this a good night, however, the rest of the team would have to claw their way back. Three minutes after Reid’s goal, the wheels began to fall in motion, as Stuart Percy fired a point shot past Calvin Pickard for his first of the year and second professional goal. While this story’s photo shows him pretty straight faced, you could see the excitement from him as soon as it crossed the line. Toronto finished the first with a 10-9 edge in shots for.
Impressively, after being outshot in nine straight periods to close the road trip, the Marlies managed to have the edge in 4 of the next six periods. "Fatigue" is an easy storyline, but it didn’t end up applying all too much. Steve Spott acknowledged the work of his strength and conditioning staff as key to keeping the team so involved after all the time invested.
Back to the game, we find ourselves in the third period. Jamie Devane picked up his second goal of the season after taking a point shot that must have bounced off at least two Monsters players on the way to the net. The two teams traded scoring changes throughout the period, with the Marlies getting two powerplays in the second half, but the game ultimately went to overtime, and eventually a shootout.
MacIntyre’s shutout run continued into the breakaway trade-off extravaganza, stopping all four attempts against him. Toronto struck with there first two, as Spencer Abbott and Brandon Kozun both opted to deke out Pickard to close the weekend out strong.
The Marlies leave for a southern road trip tomorrow, making stops in Oklahoma City, Austin, and San Antonio. Before they drop the puck in OKC, however, I’ll have a breakdown of their last road trip up here, so be sure to check back!