Marlies open weekend with win over Comets


The North Division is now officially a race. Thanks to a game where special teams really tilted the ice in their favour, the Toronto Marlies have defeated the Utica Comets in regulation for the second time this week and upped their hot streak to eight victories in ten games.

Toronto actually fell behind early in this one, when Brendan Gaunce managed to burn William Wrenn on a rush and followed that up with a pretty shot that beat Garret Sparks just 90 seconds in. Chad Billins also took advantage of a less than stellar effort by the same combination of the third defensive pair and first forward line eight minutes later, and it really did look like the Marlies would be poised to split their home-and-home with the Canucks affiliate.

But they recovered splendidly. Gaunce was sent to the box for cross-checking with 54 seconds to go in the period, and that started a huge run for the blue and white. Andreas Johnsson picked up a powerplay marker with ten seconds remaining in the period, and both Dmytro Timashov and Byron Froese added their own 5-on-4 tallies in the second. To show that the team was still worth its salt at even strength as well, Seth Griffith, who had an assist taken away from him prior, blasted a shot from far out to bring himself to 13 points in 9 games and bring the Marlies up to a 4-2 lead.

Toronto showed signs of complacency in the third period, though, and the Comets took advantage. Within three minutes, Wacey Hamilton and Carter Bancks had tied the game back up, and in the final twenty, Utica outshot their visiting opponents 22-9. But Garret Sparks fended off all the remaining rubber chunks for the final seventeen minutes, and Trevor Moore, who already had two assists on the night, continued his hot streak by burying the game winner. Johnsson picked up his second of the game in the dying moments, filling up an empty net to seal the deal.

It was a good night for a lot of the players we talked about this afternoon: Griffith extended his point streak, Moore had three points, Froese had three points, and Sparks made 35 saves. But credit should also go to Johnsson for his three-point explosion, and both Colin Smith and Frank Corrado for picking up a pair of assists on the same two goals.

With the win, Toronto improves to 23-21-2-1 on the season; a 0.521 record. Thanks to a St. John’s loss to Lehigh Valley this evening, Toronto now has sole possession of third in place in the North Division, and, if they can pull of regulation wins in both games against the Albany Devils this weekend, they could even move into second place. Their first crack at making it happen will come tomorrow evening at 5:00 PM, at Ricoh Coliseum.