Photo Credit: Mike Ivall / @M_IvallOJHLI
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; there’s something about the St. John’s IceCaps that just make the Toronto Marlies play differently. Games against Toronto excluded, the team appears to be a slightly above average group of players on the younger end of the American Hockey League.
But if you put the Marlies in front of them, it becomes very obvious that they’re a group of Montreal Canadiens prospects looking to carry on the rivalry in the league below. They put an extra step in their stride, hit a little harder, cause a little more trouble, and attack the Marlies where it hurts the most; the scoreboard. Tonight was no exception to this, as they handed Toronto just their sixth regulation loss of the season.
While the end result wasn’t what they wanted, the Marlies actually opened up the scoring in this one; Zach Hyman was the victor in a puck battle with Josiah Didier that resulted in his sixth goal of the season. Four minutes later, the IceCaps responded with a nearly identical goal, though his came on the powerplay while Josh Leivo was in the midst of his second penalty box vacation of the period.
Toronto regained the lead in the second period, as Nikita Soshnikov made a seeing-eye, east-to-west pass over to Brendan Leipsic, who continued his hot streak by roofing his eighth of the year. Justin Holl added what appeared to be insurance later in the period, but was met with a response goal by Joel Hanley just 38 seconds later.
The third period didn’t go in Toronto’s way. Bud Holloway made his way to the front of the net and tied the game in the final frame’s first minute, and after TJ Brennan fumbled with the puck a few minutes later, Jacob de la Rose turned it into a go-ahead goal for his team.
The Marlies struggled to stop the IceCaps, who outshot them 31-26 on the night, away from the slot throughout the third period, but in the final minutes made a push to tie things up. With an empty net and 1:22 to go, Rinat Valiev delivered, scoring his third goal of the year from the point. It looked like that would be enough to send Toronto to overtime, but once again, St. John’s counter-attack proved successful. Gabriel Dumont chipped away in front of the net, and his last shot of the game trickled through Ray Emery’s pads with 37 seconds to go. With tonight considered, St. John’s can now claim responsibility for half of Toronto’s regulation losses this year.
It wasn’t the nicest of home debuts for Emery, who is signed with the Marlies on a Professional Tryout as the entire organization tries to sort out their goaltending’s health. His 26 saves on 31 shots move him to a 0.875 over two games, which is a small sample but in line with his 0.878 in his stint with the Ontario Reign earlier in the year. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s capable of bouncing back, though if the Marlies are going to leave as many higher-danger chances available to their opponents as they did today, that might prove difficult.
Tonight’s loss moves Toronto’s points percentage from 0.806 to 0.781. Interestingly enough, they’ve actually improved their control of first overall despite the loss, as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were shut out for the second consecutive game, against Lehigh Valley tonight, bringing them from 0.768 to 0.741. The Marlies also became the first AHL team to score 125 goals on the year tonight.
Toronto’s next game is against the Lake Erie Monsters on Tuesday.