One of the great things about the oddity that is the AHL schedule is the fact that most teams will face the same opponent twice in an opening weekend. Why is this great? It gives the chance to hammer home or brush away any narrative from the opening game. Win the first one? You won’t leave the weekend on a high unless you win the second. Lose it? You have a chance at redemption. That chance was what the Toronto Marlies had today, and they earned it, with an overtime victory.
The game started with a pretty snooze-worthy first period. Most of it was spent in the neutral zone, with the only real action coming after Tom Nilsson took a holding penalty at the mid-way point of the frame. Nothing came out of it, and the buzzer sounded with two scoreless teams.
Toronto started the second period down a man; Trevor Smith took an elbowing penalty with seven seconds left in the first. Normally, this is a disadvantage, but Troy Bodie and Greg McKegg found a way to turn it into a positive. Stealing a puck at centre ice, Bodie created a give-and-go with the young centre that lead to his own drive to the net and deke to beat Joacim Eriksson.
This was the peak of the Marlies’ momentum in the second, though. Utica pressured strong throughout the period, outshooting Toronto 10 to five in the middle frame. Their efforts were rewarded most in the closing minutes, as Alex Grenier snuck past Petter Granberg and Kevin Marshall and took a shot. As they scrambled to cover him, Dustin Jeffrey trailed and tucked home the rebound to tie the game.
Two minutes into the third period, the Comets took the lead, thanks to a bad misplay of the puck by Christopher Gibson. Brandon Defazio was in front of the net and able to grab a loose puck. It began to look like the score from the day before would repeat itself, but with six and a half to go, Connor Brown threw an incredible saucer pass to a pinching Viktor Loov, which tied the game at two.
Eventually, we headed to overtime; the first time under the new format. With just under a minute to go and three-on-three hockey in place, Loov found himself crashing the net once again, and put home his second goal of the night to win the game.
Well, this is pretty obvious. There were moments where Viktor Loov seemed to be in questionable position, but he was very active on the ice tonight and got the game tying and game winning goals. Huge statement game for the rookie, who is a fan of the new OT format and definitely showed why.
- Petri Kontiola looked very good. Made a lot of creative passes and definitely seems like he has the NHL skill. The Leafs probably hope that he’s up to speed with his skating soon, because talent level like that can only make them better.
- Greg McKegg followed up a very strong opening game with a pair of assists. If these two games are any indication, he’s going to have a great year.
- Minus the mistake that lead to the second goal, Christopher Gibson looked very good. Made 25 saves on 27 shots.
- The new overtime format is as follows, by the way: Dry Scrape, followed by 7 minutes of OT. The first three minutes are 4-on-4, and the rest are 3-on-3. If time expires, the teams head to a shootout.
- Tonight was Gord Dineen’s first win as head coach of the team.
- Their next game is on Friday, a 7:30PM matchup against the Hamilton Bulldogs.
While you wait for puck drop, you should sign up for the Nations Draft. Get all the details here .