Ten years. It’s been about that long since Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment sat down and decided that having an AHL affiliate three kilometres away from the Air Canada Centre made more sense than having one three thousand away. Over the years, the team has gone from a convince to a competitor, one that has been loaded with youth. Today, the Toronto Marlies opened up yet another season against the Utica Comets, and unfortunately for them, the game ended in a 2-1 loss.
In fitting fashion, the season was opened up by the Marlies’ captain, Trevor Smith. After seven minutes of neutral ice play, Connor Brown found Smith in a high percentage area, where he had lots of time to charge up a wrister to beat Jacob Markstrom. Penalties to Petter Granberg and Troy Bodie meant that the the lead would last long, however, as Alexandre Grenier tied things up just a couple of minutes later.
The Marlies gave up another full-length 5-on-3 in the second period, and they didn’t fare much better than the one prior. About halfway through, Dustin Jeffrey picked up on a loose puck and went top left, beating Antoine Bibeau to give the Comets the lead. It was an exclamation point on a bad start to the period, one where the Marlies struggled to move the puck out of their zone. Those issues didn’t end as the period progressed, either – Utica ended up outshooting the blue and white twenty to five.
A better third period was needed by the Marlies if they had any chance of tying the game, and they did deliver, taking fewer penalties and driving the play forward throughout. A too many men call against Utica gave the team an opportunity to tie things up, but not even an extra attacker could push them over the top.
I’m going to give this one to Greg McKegg. On one hand, he wasn’t on the ice for any goals for, but he also wasn’t on for any against. This may just be due to the fact that neither penalty killing unit had a chance to change before the puck went in, but the kills that he did participate in were successful. More importantly, he lead the Marlies in shots (6) in a game where they struggled to put many on net for a while, and had a couple of serious opportunities.
- Lines tonight: Smith-Kontiola-Brown, Broll-Carrick-Bodie, Abbott-McKegg-Leivo, Devane-Vail-Biggs. On Decence, Loov-Holzer, Mickelson-Granberg, MacWilliam-Nilsson.
- Scratched: Findlay, Finn, Kessel, Knodel, Marshall, McLaren, Orr, Ross, Rupert, Sparks, and Watling.
- Looking at the two 5-on-3 penalty kills that lead to goals, I couldn’t help but notice that the staff opted for two forwards. Trevor Smith was on with Tyler Biggs for the first goal, and returned again with Sam Carrick for the second.
- Antoine Bibeau ended up facing 34 shots and stopping 32 of them. A good first game out of him; we’ll see how many more he gets in the coming weeks.
Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com