Stepping into Ricoh Coliseum this afternoon was a much different experience than the start of the season. It was a lot more… full. Not surprising, given that the team doesn’t aggressively market before its big November road trip, but it was nice to see a return of the typical crowd of 6-7000 fans.
They weren’t the only ones making a return, though. Marlies forward Kasperi Kapanen played his first game since November 6th and delivered a performance that impressed Sheldon Keefe.
“I thought he had some really good moments in the game,” said the Marlies head coach. “He played with a lot of speed and had some great scoring chances. [There were] probably a couple of plays he’d like to have back, but that’s more of a timing thing; just getting comfortable in game situations.”
Despite this being his first game back in the lineup after missing four with a minor back injury, Kapanen gave a good demonstration of his high tempo play to the hometown fans, whom he’s played just five games in front of this season. Early in the first period, for example, he streaked past Rochester’s defencemen and unleashed a heavy wrister towards the net, beating Andrey Makarov but hitting the crossbar. In the third period, he had another opportunity in a scramble that was inches from crossing the line.
While he was held pointless, it was a good effort for a young forward who has been fighting an uphill battle in the opening weeks. “He’s had a tough go here to start the year,” said Keefe. “A couple lengthy periods of time where he hasn’t been getting game action, it’s hard for a young player.”
Kapanen also missed Toronto’s opening weekend with an illness, and has been in and out of the lineup a couple of times as Keefe and the rest of the coaching staff experimented with lineup combinations in October. Through ten games, Kapanen has four goals, no assists, and 14 shots; not overly impressive, but given that he’s a 19-year-old playing his second year in North America, the team is surely not putting too much pressure on him to rush those totals up; especially while Toronto as a whole continues to score the most goals in the AHL.
- William Nylander continued his scoring tear today, picking up a point in his ninth consecutive game. His goal, a second period tally easily placed into an open net, brings him to 6 goals and 9 assists over the stretch.
- On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mark Arcobello has finally had a game with the Marlies that didn’t result in him getting a point; snapping a 22 game streak between Oklahoma City and Toronto.
- Garret Sparks was a presence on both sides of the scoresheet; he stopped 30 of 31 shots and assisted on two goals.
- One of those goals was Rinat Valiev’s; his first professional tally. He also picked up an assist.
- Brendan Leipsic was the game’s first star, and it was completely deserved. Five shots, two assists, and a lot of creativity, including two attempted spinoramas.
- Play of the game? Nikita Soshnikov had his stick break on a shot, and rather than give up on the play, he chased down the Rochester player who attempted to take advantage of it and stole the puck back with his feet. We knew his puck protection skills were good, but come on.
- Toronto returns to the ice tomorrow afternoon against Binghamton.
Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com