Marlies win back-to-back over Rochester, pull ahead in playoff race

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So, did somebody ship the Nashville Predators organization a crate of soul-stealing water? We’ve seen the parent club go from Presidents Trophy favourites to pretty good. Their AHL affiliate? Even worse; the Milwaukee Admirals have just one win in their past ten. Overtime losses have lessened the blow a bit, but it’s very possible that they’ll miss the playoffs.

This is all to the Toronto Marlies’ gain, though. They just need to keep winning, and had a pair of games against the also-struggling Rochester Americans to work with. A combined eight goals later, and the Marlies picked up a huge four points to move two ahead of Milwaukee with two games in hand.

The Rundowns

We kick things off on Friday night. This was a game that started off pretty close, with a fight between Ryan Rupert and Tim Schaller being the only highlight in the first period. In the second, however, Sam Carrick wasted no time, finally kicking off the game’s scoring just thirty five seconds in by rebounding a shot from TJ Brennan. This started off a period where the Marlies overwhelmed their opponents, outshooting Rochester 17-6, but to no further avail.

Interestingly enough, the third period began in a very similar way. Once again, Brennan picked up an assist, but this time Brendan Leipsic was the one to pick up a first period goal, converting on the powerplay to give his team some insurance. It’s a good thing that he did; Dan Catenacci scored with a minute and a half to go and the Rochester net empty, but the Amerks couldn’t get any closer. With twelve seconds left, Connor Brown added an empty netter.

Moving on to today, the two teams headed from Rochester to Ricoh to play Toronto’s regular season home finale. This game took an interesting and somewhat concerning start. There were no goals scored, but instead, sixty one penalty minutes were dished out.

Early in, Fraser McLaren took a bit of a sketchy hit from Colin Jacobs. Unimpressed, McLaren chased Jacobs, threw him to the ground, and punched him, earning himself two for roughing and a ten minute misconduct. The game calmed down for a while, but towards the end of the frame, Sam Carrick leveled Jake McCabe with a scary hit along the boards. Jarome Leduc immediate stepped in to go after Carrick, but he was taken care of within two punches.

Alas, the second period provided the hockey game that many were waiting for, and it weighed heavily into Toronto’s favour. Byron Froese set up Matt Frattin for a cross crease gimmie just four minutes, which set the tone for a Toronto controlled period. The fists reintegrated themselves at the midway point when Justin Kea challenged Carrick to a second round, but that did nothing to change the momentum – Leipsic added his team’s second of the game just a minute and a half later.

At first, it looked like the second was all but done, but with 1.7 seconds left, William Nylander finished off a play initiated by Froese and Brennan to put the icing on the cake on a fantastic period. Toronto kept pressing into the third period, but Rochester scored the first goal of the frame, breaking Antoine Bibeau’s shutout with a deflection. Froese then responded with a goal of his own, followed by an empty netter from Connor Brown to end the night off.

Blue Warriors

I’m going to give Friday’s to Christopher Gibson. His hot streak came to a bitter and extended end over his past few starts, and it would have been really easy for him to take it to heart. Instead, he stopped 21 of 22 shots, and was perfect for the first 59 minutes. That’s very good to see.

Today, there were a ton of players who were deserving, but I’m going to stay not he goalie train and say that Antoine Bibeau had a very strong night. He stopped 28 of 29, and not all of them were easy accomplishments. Needless to say, the coaching staff probably feels confident with their tandem moving into the final days.

Summing It Up

The schedule worked out just right for the Marlies. Matching up with a struggling team that you’re familiar with is always nice, but moreso when you clearly need the points. While there was a few moments of distraction, the team was able to keep their heads and check and deliver what was expected of them.

Now, the Marlies move onto their final road trip of the season. It’s not going to be an easy one, but if this team is truly deserving of a playoff spot, they’ll find a way to make it happen for themselves.

Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com