Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
The Toronto Marlies aren’t winning games blindfolded this year. They’re still one of the best teams in the league, but it isn’t quite as effortless as it was before. Nonetheless, a pair of games against Syracuse and Utica saw the Marlies set out to go back to their winning ways. It worked out to an extent, with the team picking up three of a possible four points.
Friday vs Syracuse
This one started off with some cause for optimism. Toronto dominated the first period, outshooting the Crunch 12-5 while Kasperi Kapanen and Bryon Froese both grabbed their ninth goals of the season. A minute into the second period, Colin Greening turned a penalty to Kapanen into a good situation, grabbing a shorthanded goal to put the Marlies up by three.
But things fell off the rails from there. Former Marlies forward Jeremy Morin grabbed his first goal of the year before the end of Kapanen’s penalty, and just a few minutes after, Joel Vermin and Michael Bournival scored goals seconds apart to tie the game. Kerby Rychel scored his own powerplay tally with five minutes remaining in the period, but that was immediately met with another Syracuse goal to tie the game back up.
The Crunch got progressively more eager from this point to pull ahead, as evidenced by a 15-4 shot spread in the third period. Antoine Bibeau stood on his head to keep the team alive, but Dylan Blujus finally put the Marlies away two minutes into overtime to create a 5-4 final score.
Saturday vs. Utica
Toronto had a similar start to this one but were better about holding on. Tobias Lindberg buried a puck into a wide open net created by some shifty work by Colin Smith and Andreas Johnson to open the scoring. Nine minutes later, Trevor Moore added his third of the year, firing a puck made loose by a missed attempt by Milan Michalek.
Just like on Friday, the team eventually made it 3-0, this time through Brendan Leipsic blasting a one-timer delivered to him by Smith past Michael Gartieg. Cody Kunyuk did get Utica on the board nine minutes into the third period, but Jeff Glass, who made his first appearance today, kept the door shut the rest of the way for a 22 save performance and Smith added a dagger tally with eight and a half to go.
Sheldon Keefe confirmed today that Marlies goaltender Garret Sparks has been suspended for violating team policy this week. Keefe noted that he was aware of the circumstances, but that he nor the team had any further comment, mirroring statements from public relations this week. The suspension is suspected to be connected to inappropriate comments made by Sparks on social media.
Sparks missed two weeks of action earlier in the season, but that was a result of a physical ailment. The 23-year-old has been sent home to Illinois for now, with no timeline set for his return; hence the appearance of Glass today.
Coming Up Next
With the OT loss and the regulation win, the Marlies improve to 10-5-1-1 on the season, giving them a points percentage of 0.647 that ranks them 7th in the Eastern Conference and third in the North Division. Their goal differential remains a division-leading +10, giving some reason to believe that they’ll be able to turn the ship around soon enough. Their next game comes against a tough opponent, though; they’ll be taking on the 0.694 Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Tuesday night at Ricoh Coliseum. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM.