March 16 2013 11:17PM
If you're going to face a division rival a million times a year, you may as well be good at it. Thankfully for the Toronto Marlies, this is the case for the Rochester Americans. Headed into todays game, they've only lost one of thirteen games against the Buffalo Sabres affiliate in the last calendar year. With them just two points behind the blue and white for the North Division lead, a win was crucial, and the Marlies had what could be their most convincing victory of the season, beating the Amerks 6-1.
The game started with a bit of spotty back and forth between the two teams. Some sloppy passing, some bad positioning,but of all things to get the Marlies in check, they took a penalty. Specifically, Tim Connolly headed to the box. Shortly thereafter, while on the penalty killl, Dylan Yeo fed Ryan Hamilton a breakaway pass, which he followed up with a backhand/forehand/tuck to score the first of the game, shorthanded. Connolly, fresh out of the box, almost followed this up by leading a tic-tac-toe play with Will Acton, but Kenny Ryan wasn't able to finish it. Before the period could end though, one more breakaway came through for the Marlies; Brad Ross, hauled down and about to be given a penalty shot, sent a backhand through David Leggio's lead to widen the gap to 2-0 to close the first.
The second period started with an odd incident. Jesse Blacker and Cody McCormick were slashing and swinging at each other, but after Blacker threw a cross check, he went down for over a minute. He eventually got up, served his penalty, and was fine afterwards. A key point in the game came midway thorugh the period, as Tim Connolly and Dylan Yeo were sent to the box at the same time. Rather than go with one forward and two defenceman, and rotating quickly, Dallas Eakins sent out Mike Zigomanis, Ryan Hamilton, and Paul Ranger. The latter two stayed on for the entire two minutes, with Zigomanis only checking out for 30 seconds before coming back in. The penalty was killed, and for the next few minutes, Rochester continued to control the possession. A powerplay to Toronto, even with a lack of shooting, brought the pace back down. In the final seconds of the period, Greg Scott fired a wrister off the post and into the top corner to make the score 3-0 entering the final period.
Early in the third period, the game had it's point of no return, Hamilton, just trying to put a puck on net, had the benefit of a deflection to give his shot a bit of a change up and beat a visibly stressed Leggio. From this point on, Rochester seemed to be going through the motions, and the Marlies took advantage - Kenny Ryan picked up a rebound goal less than two minutes later. Rochester wasn't going to let Drew MacIntyre walk away with a shutout, however, as Maxime Legault scored his eight of the year in the final minutes. Not to be outdone, Hamilton put an exclamation point on the game with a hat trick goal, before letting the clock wind down.
- Ryan Hamilton's 26th, 27th, and 28th goals set career highs in the stat, with 20 games still to go in the season. Needless to say, it's been a breakout year for him, which is impressive, considering that's what many thought last year. Combine the goals with his PK effort, and his positioning choices (cherry picking, but while not being a liablility) to get offensive chances, and this may be one of his best games ever on the Marlies.
- Drew Macintyre stood on his head once again, making 30 saves. The one he allowed was after no shots coming his way in six minutes, and was a low-percentage effort, leading you to want to pull out the "he got bored" card. A fantsic all around effort though, peaking with a massive glove save on the only shot of the 5-on-3 PK.
- Brad Ross had a good game of his own too. Beyond the goal, he was throwing the body and getting into good areas.
- You all want to hear about Jake Gardiner, but he was arguably the most ho-hum player on the defence tonight, with the exception of a great cross-ice run that ended in a deke that lead to a scoring chance. Beyond that, don't read into tonight's game as, well, anything.
- Kevin Marshall made his debut, and he looked okay. He's very positional, shutting down by closing gaps rather than throwing htis. His puck play wasn't particularly good, but he earned himself an assist on the Ryan goal and was a +1.
- Both teams went 0/4 on the powerplay, and 1/4 on the offensive penalty kill, if that makes any sense. Interesting night.
- The Marlies now head on a 7 game road trip, returning on March 30th. Morgan Rielly and Stuart Percy are expected to join the team during this trip.
Photo courtesy TSGPhoto.com