Marlies end road trip with loss to St. John’s


As good as the Toronto Marlies have been this year, “you can’t win them all” is still a phrase that rings true for the first-place team. The team has had some impressive runs, going on four winning streaks of at least five games in their first 40 games. Arguably, the most impressive of the bunch was them going six for seven during their Royal Winter Fair road trip, but tonight, they had the opportunity to one-up that by winning out their second extended disappearance.

It wasn’t meant to be, however, as the blue and white dropped the last game of the tour against the St. John’s IceCaps.

There were ten goals in this game, though none of them came until the second period. The ice-breaker was one that followed a formula lifted from yesterday (Kasperi Kapanen does something great, puck eventually makes it to Nikita Soshnikov, goes in), but in a different fashion:

Garret Sparks, who was in between the pipes for his first competitive game since injuring his groin with the Leafs in December, started this game of very well, fending off most pucks that were directed his way. Eventually, though, the expected rust began to show a little. Morgan Ellis cracked his shell with a point shot from the left side, and while Casey Bailey restored the lead a few minutes later, Daniel Carr once again equalized it, taking advantage of Soshnikov’s presence in the penalty box.

The Marlies found themselves in a position to go ahead once again with an early third-period powerplay, but it didn’t work out anywhere close to how they planned it to. AHL rookie Markus Eisenschmid blew past TJ Brennan on the penalty kill and managed to tuck himself past Sparks to slip in his first goal of his AHL career, giving St. John’s their first lead of the game. Minutes later, Ellis scored his second of the night from a distance similar to his first one.

Jeremy Morin gave the Marlies a chance to regroup with this goal, just before the halfway point in the period. It was a bit of a fortunate tally; Mark Arcobello carries this into the zone well, feeds it off to Rinat Valiev, who gives Morin a clear shot. It’s not the best shot in the world, in the sense that it goes off of Zach Fucale, but it trickled and bounced just enough to close the gap a bit. 

Unfortunately for Valiev, his involvement in a good play was met quickly with one of the least fortunate moments I’ve seen from him in his career. As he tries to break out from behind the net, Lucas Lessio creeps up behind him, steals the puck, and slips it past Sparks in one solid motion.

With the Toronto net empty, Valiev and Brennan did get chances to make up for prior blunders, working together to give Brennan his fifteenth goal of the season. It wasn’t enough to bring the game to overtime; Gabriel Dumont added an empty net soon after, but it didn’t create a positive footnote for Brennan, who now shares the top spot in the AHL scoring race. That’s pretty impressive for a defenceman, even if he pushes the limits of his position more than most.

With the loss, the Marlies move to 31-8-2 on the season. Interestingly enough, five of those losses have come at the mercy of St. John’s who are 22 points behind them in the standings. Toronto is still well ahead of just about every team in the league in points percentage. As well, with Texas losing 2-1 today, they close in on regaining the goals-for lead; an accomplishment that really only matters for bragging rights.

The next game for the Marlies comes on Wednesday night. With the Boat Show gone, Ricoh Coliseum returns to its typical hockey rink state, as Toronto gears up to face the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday. Many are hoping to see Jonathan Drouin lace them up if the Lightning don’t trade him by then; especially with him being way overdue to snap a terrible cold streak. The puck drops at 7 PM.

  • Gary Empey

    Toronto, Soshnikov 14 (Campbell, Kapanen) 5:49.

    Toronto, Bailey 4 (Findlay, Faille), 13:02

    Toronto, Morin 11 (Arcobello, Valiev), 7:57.

    Toronto, Brennan 15 (Valiev, Arcobello), 17:54

    Goalies-Toronto, Sparks 8-3-0 (33 shots-28 saves)