One of the most understated adversities that an American Hockey League player or team has to overcome? The grind that is the weekend-heavy schedule. If you need any proof of this, look no further than the Toronto Marlies this weekend. They took on the Adirondack Flames at 7PM on Friday, and finished the game around 10PM. Seventeen hours later, they dropped the against them again, and finished around 6PM. Twenty hours after that (yay daylight savings!), they were on the ice again, facing the Utica Comets, and ultimately winning by a score of 2-1.
Early in the first period, Ryan Rupert put the Marlies in a theoretically bad position, taking a kneeing penalty. Byron Froese ignored conventional wisdom, however, joining Troy Bodie on an odd man rush to pick up his eleventh goal of the season with two seconds left in the penalty kill. Ten minutes later, William Nylander found Matt Frattin with a spectacular pass, and the right winger put his weight into a heavy snapshot to give Toronto a two goal lead.
The second period wasn’t particularly eventful, until the Marlies started racking up penalties. Andrew MacWilliam went off for roughing, Brendan Mikkelson was called for a hook, and Viktor Loov headed to the box shortly thereafter for a hold. These penalties all came within four minutes of each other, and the constant penalty-killing finally came back to haunt the team, as Sven Baertschi tapped in his first goal as a Comet in the period’s closing minutes.
Both teams played it safe for much of the third period, but in the closing minutes, Utica began to really pressure. Shots flew from all angles, Eriksson vacated the net, but eventually, the clock hit zero and the Marlies were still ahead.
Christopher Gibson had a fantastic night, stopping 34 of 35 shots. For all intents and purposes, the Comets really should have tied the game up in the third period, where they took seventeen shots and he complete shut the door. This brings Gibson into 0.920 territory on the year, which is extremely impressive for somebody that nobody had given much thought to despite his young age.
- The powerplay is still pretty dead, going 0 for 3 today. I wouldn’t be surprised of we see a shakeup in lines, if not actual strategy, in the next few days.
- TJ Brennan appears to be regaining some of that comfort he had when he was here the last time around, leading the team with six shots. He didn’t really make much of an impact on the scoresheet this weekend, but it’s a step in the right direction overall.
- Brad Ross played his first game since being suspended for use of an illegal substance back in January. He had a shot and took a high sticking penalty – earned by poking Cory Conacher in the face while pushing and shoving with Alex Grenier. It was the prototypical Brad Ross moment.
- It was a little odd seeing the Marlies wear their road darks at home today; it made it look like a Leafs/Canucks game at the ACC, but with fewer people in attendance and the home team winning. The reason? Utica was asked to wear their whites by Grand Rapids in their last game, so the Griffins could wear their alternate jerseys.
- The Marlies return to the ice on Wednesday night, against the Leigh Valley Phantoms. It’ll be a rare 7PM evening start, at Ricoh Coliseum.