With the Toronto Marlies facing the Utica Comets and the Rochester Americans facing the Binghamton Senators tonight, it looked like it was just the right occasion for the blue and white to clinch their division title. After all, all they needed was to gain a point, or for Rochester to lose one. However, the absolute worst case scenario happened; Rochester got two points, and the Marlies had their worst period of the season en route to a 5-1 loss.
The first period started with the Marlies in control, not giving up shots for the first several minutes. Around the midway point, TJ Brennan took a wrist shot from the point that was tipped by Peter Holland and into the back of the net to open the scoring. The Marlies killed off the period’s lone penalty a few minutes later, and things looked pretty good after twenty minutes.
What happened in the second was disasterous. Moments after Brad Staubitz and Darren Archibald dropped the mitts, a point shot by Frank Corrado beat Garret Sparks to tie the game. Brad Ross and Alex Mallet dropped the gloves seconds later, followed by Kevin Marshall going to the box on a boarding call. This time, the penalty kill wasn’t so successful, as Brandon DeFazio gave Utica the lead, taking advantage of a confusing bounce. A goal by Pascal Pelletier on a Utica powerplay just a few minutes later ended Sparks’ night, and shortly after that, Pelletier opened Christopher Gibson’s by beating him on a shorthanded breakaway.
That ended the scoring for the night. The third period was the most score effects period in the history of score effects, with the Comets taking zero risk offensively or physically, just trying to keep the Marlies out of their zone. With only ten shots taken between the two, it was relatively successful. The game came to a weird ending – Sam Carrick got his hands on a Utica player and threw some punches, Ross swung his stick around, and once that was settled, the home team came out to celebrate their victory.. with 2.3 seconds left on the clock. At that point, it just wasn’t worth trying to fix, and the game was called.
- The second period may have been the worst that the Marlies have played the entire season, and probably a fair chunk into last season. It’s the first time this year they’ve let in five goals in a period, and did so in just 13:33. At least three of them came from questionable positioning, akin to what we were seeing from the Leafs during some parts of their losing streak of doom.
- Garret Sparks stopped 12 of 16 and Christopher Gibson stopped 3 of 4, giving them both a 0.750 on the night. That’s a terrible number, but hardly reflective of either’s play. Not that they were playing amazing, but they both had their moments. The only goal I can really say a goalie can really take much blame on is the first one, and even then, TJ Brennan ducks a shot block at the last second.
- Peter Holland has 18 points in 20 AHL games this year, including ten goals. In fact, he has 5 and 4 in 10 with both Norfolk and Toronto. I just found that interesting.
- #SuperFancyStats of the night: Both fights had a Brad throwing punches for Toronto. Utica’s last two goals came with a Marshall in the box, each playing for different teams.
- Going 0 for 2 with a shortie allowed on the powerplay and 2 for 4 on the penalty kill has to be up there for the weaker special teams performances of the season.
- Meaningless (I’m not big on jinxing being a thing), but ever since the Marlies started selling playoff tickets without clinching, they’re 0-1 and Rochester, the only team that can knock them out, is 2-0.
- Brendan Burke, the play by play guy for Utica (Marlies guy Todd Crocker is great, but I like seeing what everyone else in the league has to say sometimes) said before the third period that the reason for the Comets taking off was the advantage they had in the fight column. I think he was close to the right idea, but not quite. From m perspective, it wasn’t so much the fights as it was the distraction; even before Staubitz and Archibald dropped the gloves, Toronto seemed focused on beating this team up rather than beating them. It happens it all levels of hockey, but can’t happen often. I don’t know if that explains the lack of structure, but it wouldn’t be a surprising outcome.
- Steve Spott mentioned on Tuesday that Andrew MacWilliam “dodged a bullet” after crashing head first into the ice on Sunday and would play in this game. He didn’t. I’ll ask tomorrow to see if he had a setback. If he did, it’s good to see the staff is taking things seriously and giving him the time he needs. Head injuries aren’t anything to mess with.
- Toronto’s next chance to clinch is tomorrow, as they take on Rochester. Very simple goal here; win (or go to OT) and you’re in. Game is at 3, and it’s at Ricoh Coliseum.