The force was with the Toronto Marlies on Star Wars Night, but today is just another Saturday. At least, as far as marketing promotions go. On the ice, however, it was a different story – each weekend afternoon matchup carries just a little more weight than the one prior. Today, they took on the Rochester Americans, a team way behind them in the standings but still capable of preventing them from points, and capitalized, winning 4-1 and tying the Hamilton Bulldogs for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
This game started with Frazer McLaren taking a ceremonial faceoff, which meant that we were minutes away from seeing him punch somebody in the face. Sure enough, he dropped the gloves just two and a half minutes in, though he was taken down by Jack Nevins. To make matters worse, the Amerks, who were held shotless for the first five and a half minutes, scored on their first opportunity, courtesy of a shot from Rochester captain Drew Bagnall.
The tides turned pretty quickly, though. While Matt MacKenzie sat in the penalty box, the Marlies headed to the powerplay, and William Nylander made the most of it, firing home a knee-drop one timer to tie the game. From then on, the Marlies fired on all cylinders, overwhelming their opponents for the next half hour. However, Rochester goaltender Anthony Peters was equal to the task, weathering the barrage of shots that came afterwards.
The Marlies got a break in the third period, courtesy of another powerplay. Matt Frattin, coming in from Peters’ glove side, ripped a wrist shot through a hole not much larger than the puck to give him his twentieth of the season and Toronto their first lead of the night. It looked like Rochester had tied things up with six minutes to go, but a referee stopped play before the shot was taken, having lost sight of the puck in the scramble. Rochester put in a big effort to claw back in this period, but the Marlies held on, adding a pair of empty netters from Greg McKegg and Josh Leivo.
Christopher Gibson could have been argued as the warrior last night, but today, it was undeniable. After allowing an early goal, he was lights out, which is something that matters whether you’re outplaying a team or getting slaughtered in your own end. Gibson has put up a stellar run in the past few weeks, and has become the indisputable starting goaltender for this team.
Summing It Up
The Marlies had an excellent run of hockey, spanning the bulk of game. Realistically, they should have been running away with this one from an early point, but were thwarted by a hot goaltender; one who was playing his first professional game, no less. Nonetheless, they pushed hard in the third and got the goals they needed to secure a massive pair of points. The Marlies play their next game on Wednesday morning against Oklahoma City.
Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com