There’s no greater feeling for a prospect than finally stepping foot on the home ice of your NHL team’s arena. It usually signifies that your hard work has paid off, as you’ve made it to the biggest stage there is. This long weekend, however, brings a bunch of Leafs and Senators hopefuls to those rinks for a different reason – to represent their AHL clubs.
We’ll start things off in Ottaw…Kana… the Canadian Tire Centre, where the Binghamton Senators hosted the Toronto Marlies on Sunday night in front of 8559 fans who typically don’t get to see these guys play. Colin Greening gave the crowd reason to be excited just twenty seconds into the game,, beating Antoine Bibeau before most of those attending and playing had realized the game had started. Connor Brown was quick to respond, however, as he put home his fifteenth of the season just two and a half minutes later.
Despite Toronto’s best efforts in the second period, where they out-shot Binghamton by an astonishing 15-4, we wouldn’t see a puck hit the back of the net until the beginning of the third period. Unfortunately for them, that goal came from Carter Camper of the Senators, and was followed by several more. Jean-Gabriel Pageau widened the gap to 4-1 with five minutes to go, and while Ryan Rupert responded to Pageau’s goal within seconds, Cole Schneider added another powerplay tally and Pageau iced it with an empty netter, handing the Marlies a 5-2 loss.
From there, the teams headed down to the Air Canada Centre for a Family Day matchup. This time, the Marlies were first to strike. Despite having Andrew MacWilliam in the box, Sam Carrick flew into the offensive zone and ripped a wrist shot past Peter Mannino for his fourth of the season. This wasn’t a period that Toronto would escape with the lead, however. Schneider popped home his second goal in as many games a few minutes later, and Garret Thompson redirected Darren Kramer’s shot to give the Sens the lead.
On the other hand, the second period was all Toronto. Josh Leivo scored his sixth of the year just thirty six seconds into the frame, and Ryan Rupert added a pair to give the Marlies a 4-2 lead. Like the previous game, this was a period that was spent in Toronto’s offensive zone, as they outshot the Sens 14-8.
At one point in the third period, it looked like the wheels were going to fall off. Derek Grant redirected Alex Grant’s shot to make the game a little interesting, and second later, Pageau burst into the zone and tied things up with his eleventh of the year. The Marlies needed a response before the game completely slipped away, and thankfully for them, Sam Carrick delivered it. Finding a loose puck that nobody else saw, Carrick literally pounced towards it, flailed took a desperation shot, and beat Mannino to regain the lead. The third lead ended up being the charm, as Binghamton was unable to come back once again.
Ryan Rupert hasn’t produced a ton lately, nor was that an advertised part of his game, so it was a bit surprising to see him get a lot of offensive opportunity this weekend. But he definitely delivered, picking up three goals and an assist. It’s always good to see one of the younger players on your team contribute, especially in a league where development is key.
- A very good turnout at the Air Canada Centre today; the Marlies had 17,823 tickets sold, their highest for one of these games in quite some time.
- Frazer McLaren played in both of these games, and each game saw a different fight. Today’s tilt against Darren Kramer was a particularly crazy one – equipment flew off, celebrations were had, and it all started during the celebration of Rupert’s first goal.
- Antoine Bibeau stopped 30 of 34 on Sunday and Christopher Gibson stopped 22 of 26 today. If we’re being honest, neither performance was particularly spectacular.
- Brendan Leipsic didn’t play in either game, but spoke to the media today’s game. We’ll fill you in on the details in a little bit.
- WIlliam Nylander picked up another assist today, setting up Nylander on the second Rupert goal. That brings him to six in ten games. Not the dominance everybody was expecting, but its a step in the right direction for one of the youngest players in the league. Not many eighteen year olds can step into the AHL after playing in Europe for years and score a point every two games while adjusting.
- Lots of penalties in these two games. Toronto had eleven powerplays and ten penalty kills, getting one tally with the man advantage and giving up three a man down.
- Toronto’s next game is on Friday, against the Utica Comets.
Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com