Hildeby makes AHL debut, Niemelä scores first goal for Toronto, and more: Marlies Weekly

Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Nick Barden
1 year ago
It was a week of North American debuts for a few Maple Leafs prospects who arrived from Europe a week or so ago.
Before we break down the play of those players, let’s look back on the week that was for the Toronto Marlies. It began on the positive side as Toronto defeated the Belleville Senators 6-2 for their first win since March 17th.
It was a valiant win by the Marlies where six different players got on the score sheet.
READ MORE: Inside Topi Niemelä’s debut as Toronto clinches North Division’s top spot: Marlies Weekly
Following that win, though, it was once again all downhill for the Marlies. First came a 2-1 loss to Hartford where both teams were tied at zero until the Wolfpack found the back of the net with 1:12 left in the third period.
What I’ve learned about this Marlies team this season is that they don’t have quit. Every player will push as hard as they can until the final whistle is blown, and that again, was apparent on Wednesday night in Hartford.
With 13 seconds left, Topi Niemelä launched a shot from the point which found its way through traffic and into the back of the net.
An incredible scene for both the Marlies and the 21-year-old defenceman. But it’s also just a great call from Toronto’s play-by-play commentator, Todd Crocker.
It was a special game because of that goal, but also because Todd Skirving made his AHL debut in this game. The 30-year-old has spent the last four years with the Newfoundland Growlers, and it was very nice to see him make his debut with Toronto on Wednesday.
“(It was a) pretty surreal moment,” Skirving told Crocker after the game, “to have my parents in the stands.”
Toronto would end up falling to Hartford in overtime, giving them another loss during what is a tough stretch for the hockey club. That was their eighth loss in their last nine games and you’d hope for it to be only uphill climbing from here.
Except it wasn’t.
The Marlies played the Utica Comets on Friday and we saw more debuts that night. The first was Grant Cruikshank, who signed an AHL contract with Toronto out of St. Cloud State earlier this month.
Another player who debuted on Friday was Maple Leafs prospect Dennis Hildeby, a goaltender who was selected by Toronto in the 4th round of the 2022 NHL Draft.
Unfortunately for both players, and the entire Marlies team, it was a game that they’d forget quite quickly. The Marlies were handed a 5-0 loss from Utica and Hildeby stopped 37 of the 42 shots against.
The 21-year-old had a good outing for the most part, making some nice saves throughout the game. But ultimately, the team in front didn’t give him the effort needed for a better result.
“This was a really disappointing game for us.” Said Marlies head coach Greg Moore to Crocker after Friday’s game.
“I understand that we’ve clinched first place and the points may not be as desperate for us as they are for everyone else in our division right now but we’ve still got to be playing the game in the right way and as a team that wants to come together and play hard for one another and right now, there’s too many guys that aren’t showing up and willing to step in and do the role that’s needed right now.”
Toronto will also be without Ryan Tverberg for the foreseeable future. He was injured during last Sunday’s game vs. Belleville and is listed as week-to-week with an upper body injury. That’s a big loss for the Marlies as they approach the postseason.
The team has three games remaining before their quest for the Calder Cup begins. This upcoming week will allow them a final tune up prior to their first round bye.

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