Sparks gets shutout, Marlies explode at evens in blowout over Rochester

Jeff Veillette
January 07 2017 08:46PM

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Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com

Sometimes, it takes just one big win to turn the tides around for a struggling hockey team. The Toronto Marlies are hoping that Saturday gave them one of those nights, as the young blue and white earned themselves a commanding 5-0 win over the Rochester Americans.

The icebreaker in this game came from a surprising situation. A minute and a half after Brendan Leipsic recieved a roughing minor, the Marlies penalty kill unit put on enough pressure to force an offensive zone faceoff. Byron Froese won the ensuing draw, and Rinat Valiev quickly buried his second goal of the season to put his team up.

It didn't stop there, though; Toronto began an even-strength onslaught. Kerby Rychel picked up his eight of the year just two minutes later. It was the period's last goal, but by the end of twenty, the Marlies already had eighteen shots.

Their run of form carried into the second, where they outshot Rochester at a near 2-to-1 ratio. Rather than a 2-1 score, though, they opted to go 3-0, courtesy of a Bryon Froese pass that went delightfully wrong.

Froese did pick up a for-realsies goal in the third, though; in this case, he roofed a pass from Brendan Leipsic, helping the North Division All-Star add yet another point to his collection. With six minutes and change remaining, Andreas Johnsson took a tripping penalty, but more than made up for it with this:

It was a monumental night overall from the Marlies, who have been struggling to score at even strength all season. Today, they grabbed four at 5-on-5 and one on the penalty kill, showing that the team is still capable, on occasion, of beating goaltenders when even or shorthanded. By the end of the game, the shots were a very lopsided 42 to 24 for Toronto, and the score matched the level of domination.

On the other side of the ice, Garret Sparks put on a clinic. While they didn't need him to be incredible, he stood on his heads in their odd moments of weakness and managed to pick up his second shutout of the season, improving his 2016/17 save percentage to 0.922.

With the win, Toronto's record moves to 15-16-1-1, giving them a 0.485 points percentage. They don't climb up any further in the standings, but with Rochester not horribly far behind them, its good to keep them at bay. They're going to have to do the same tomorrow, though; the two teams will reconvene at Ricoh at 3:00 PM.

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Managing Editor of Hockey Content at the Nation Network. Just here so I'll get the opposite of fined. If you'd like to collaborate or simply have a question, email me at jeff@veillette.me