A new day, and a new year for hockey at Ricoh Coliseum. Today marked the start of the Toronto Marlies’ 2012/13 AHL sesaon, making them, for a rare occasion, the number one hockey game in town. The team is a little better than it should be – with guys like Jake Gardiner, Nazem Kadri, Korbinian Holzer, Keith Aucoin, and Ben Scrivens spending lockout time here. But the opposing teams are often much of the same – take an roster like Rochester’s tonight, for instance.
Luke Adam, Cody Hodgson, and Marcus Folingo were just a few of the Sabres future bright spots in their path tonight. With a Western Conference Champions banner added to the corner, the Marlies were out tonight to show that they could repeat last year’s success, and against their 2012 first round opponents, did just that, winning 3-1.
The first period opened up with the Marlies going to their 2011/12 strong point – the penalty kill. This isn’t exactly where you’d like to be, especially with Captain Ryan Hamilton being in the box, but the unit showed its strength until drawing a powerplay of their own. While it wasn’t successful, the next one would be. Just under five minutes in, Nick Tarnasky took a holding call, and Jake Gardiner was quick to take advantage, absorbing a drop pass from Nazem Kadri before firing home the season’s first goal. That wouldn’t be all for the Marlies, this period either, as they took advantage of another powerplay just four minutes later, with Hamilton being the one to put home a pass from Joe Colborne that left Rochester goalie David Leggio way out of position.
The second period wasn’t as kind to them. Far from the overwhelming shot count advantage that they had in the first, the Marlies had a period of sloppy passes and missed connections. Perhaps the biggest example of this was a penalty to Ben Scrivens for playing the puck outside of the trapezoid, that had an exclamation point put on it when Marcus Folingo fired a knuckler from the blue line on the powerplay to bring the game within one, with nearly fifteen minutes to spare in the period. That said, neither team was able to capitalize further from this point on, despite three powerplay opportunities (two for Toronto, one for Rochester).
The third period saw Toronto back on track – at one point outshooting the Amerks 13 to 1. On their first powerplay opportunity of the game, Mike Zigomanis put home a garbage goal that was waived off due to goalie interference. That didn’t stop Ryan Hamilton from finishing the job, though – pulling a Mikhail Grabovski-esque spinorama off in front of the net to give the blue and white an insurance marker. A few penalties followed, including a routhing trade up between Kadri and Amerks rookie Zemgus Girgensons, but nothing came out of it. Rochester left their net empty with a minute to go in the game, but it didn’t make a difference in the final score, as the Marlies walked out with a win to start the year.
- Ben Scrivens had a good night, stopping 19 of 20 shots. The goal he allowed was an odd one that may have been stoppable, and really, the powerplay was a direct result of his mistake. Other than that, he was responsive, and made a few key saves.
- Ryan Hamilton had possibly the prettiest goal of his career tonight, and it was one of two for him. A big night for the captain.
- Jake Gardiner was too good for the AHL when he was down here last year. This season? He’s way too good for the AHL. Once he’s really broken in, it’s going to be a disaster for the opposition to enter the zone. A superb game out of him, notching two assists.
- Paul Ranger wasn’t particularly a standout, but he did a lot of the small things that you’d expect out of him if you saw him on the Lightning.
- Similarly, if tonight was any indication, Nazem Kadri is ready for the NHL jump whenever the league gets going again. On a line with Carter Ashton and Keith Aucoin, Kadri was the most dynamic offensive player on the ice tonight. For a guy who’s been criticized for supposed body fat issues, Kadri was carving through opponents like one would carve a Thanksgiving Turkey.
- Joe Colborne’s assist showed that his hand and wrist are ready to go again, as did much of the rest of his game. It’s going to be interesting to see how he performs this year now that he’s healthy again.
- Leo Komarov is a jerk and a half, with no respect for any opposition in his way. You’re going to love him.
- The powerplay was a stellar 3 for 7 – not just stellar by raw numbers, but when you consider the powerplay was somewhere that the team struggled last year, it’s immense. The penalty kill was a less successful 1 for 3, but looked confident on nearly all of their kills.
- The game’s attendance was 7921 – a sellout! We’all see if this lasts here at Ricoh Coliseum, and if Toronto can break through the "Leafs-only city" moniker while the NHL remains locked out.