Underrated in the Toronto Marlies schedule rotation is the matching up with the three teams of Texas. For the past few seasons, the blue and white have played a pair of games against the Texas Stars, Houston Aeros, and San Antonio Rampage. The road games are all played within days of each other during a road trip, giving the team a chance to adjust to several play styles in a short time. As for the road games, it gives the fans an opportunity to see something different. Today’s game against Texas was particularly important, as the Stars are atop the Western Conference, with the once leading Marlies sitting back in sixth. Today was an opportunity for Toronto to gain some ground, but the gap widened instead, as the Marlies fell 3-2.
The first period had a very promising start. Ryan Hamilton streaked into the zone just a minute and a half in and beat Chris Nilstorp to score his 20th of the season. It wasn’t his only chance either – a few bounces or split second changes and he could’ve easily had a hat trick in the first five minutes. An opportunity became available at the midway point to widen the gap, as two Texas players found their way to the box within fifteen seconds, but nothing materialized from it. In fact, the next goal came from the team in black, from one of the penalized players, as Alex Chiasson scored his 12th of the year.
The second period was all Stars, despite a lack of All Stars involved. To go with a monstrous 10-4 advantage on the shot count, Justin Dowling put his team ahead with a wicked backhand past Mark Owuya. There were several opportunities for both teams to score with an extra man, including a Gysbers call that extended into the third, but both penalty killing units were at playing strong.
Fast forward to the third. In contrast to the third, the Stars were first to the punch in a very quick fashion, courtesy of Mike Hedden, just past the one minute mark. The Marlies needed two goals to recover from here. They got their first one at the nine minute mark, as Greg McKegg put home his 6th goal of the year on a rebound. Toronto continued to pour it on, as late as the very last second as Joe Colborne took a shot off the faceoff. However, it wasn’t enough, and the game came to a close.
Mark Owuya made 30 saves on 33 shots. He looked shaky at times, strong at others, but ultimately left without a win in a rare start.
Ryan Hamilton needs just 6 goals in the Marlies remaining 33 games to set a personal best in goals.
Spencer Abbott had as many as two (but possibly one, the AHL may have removed his first) assists. He’s been very good at dishing the puck in the past few weeks. He was also a team best +2.
Will Acton was a team worst -3, on the ice for all of the Stars goals.
Greg McKegg and Carter Ashton both took four shots each, leading the team.
Toronto (finally) ends their season series against Hamilton on Tuesday, and returns home to face the Hershey Bears on Saturday.