Marlies Weekly: The Baby Leafs push for the playoffs

Photo credit:(Photo from Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
Bennett Jull
18 days ago
The Toronto Marlies had 13 games in March. With a game almost every other day, there was certainly lots of opportunity for the boys to climb into a playoff spot. They had two weekends of back-to-back-to-back’s (yes three games in three nights), their first of the season. Let’s see how they faired…
March opened with a home and home against the Syracuse Crunch. I won’t spend too much time on these games as the Marlies dropped both. Kyle Clifford led the way with a goal and an assist in each, while Logan Shaw and Joe Blandisi had two points over two games, including a 20th tally of the year for Blandisi. Stick taps to Jonny Tychonick who notched his first ever AHL goal!
Up next was a mid-week ‘school day’ game against Belleville. Nick Abruzzese got the party started with a pretty breakaway goal in the 1st period. Belleville roared back with two goals of their own before Roni Hirvonen banged in a PP marker to even the game up after 40 minutes. Early in the 3rd Zach Solow’s seemingly innocuous shot found a way in to put the Marlies ahead. Dennis Hildeby kept the door slammed shut in the final frame earning the Marlies two big points.
Following Belleville the Marlies headed out of town for back-to-back games away in Utica and Springfield. Up first was a wild one against the Comets. A seesaw affair saw the Marlies jump out to a 2-1 lead after the 1st period. Utica stormed back with four goals in the middle frame. The Marlies clawed their way back eventually tying the game 6-6 with just over two minutes left in the 3rd. Overtime solved nothing, and thanks to an Alex Steeves goal the Marlies earned the extra point. Logan Shaw and Kiefer Bellows had three-point nights.
It was clear that a lot of energy was spent in the thrilling win over Utica, as the Marlies came out flat the next day against Springfield. Former Marlie Adam Gaudette notched a hattrick in a 5-1 win for the Falcons, although this game will be remembered for Kyle Clifford going after another former Marlie, Joseph Duszak. I could write a whole article or two on Duszak’s falling out with the Marlies, and Clifford took exception to his antics after he scored.
The next set of games saw the Marlies embark on their first ‘three in three’ (three games in three days). The first two were against Rochester, and the finale saw them host Laval. In their first game of the weekend, they were simply outlasted by Rochester. The Americans scored twice in the final frame to beat the Marlies 5-3. Josiah Slavin led the way with two points.
The next day the Marlies looked to flip the script. Sporting all-green uniforms, the Marlies jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Rochester got their way back into the game knotting the score at 3 in the last minute of the 2nd period. While Rochester outlasted the Marlies in their game the day before, it was Toronto’s turn to pour it on in the 3rd. The Marlies delighted the Scotiabank Arena crowd with four straight unanswered goals, winning 7-3. Kiefer Bellows led the way with four points as his strong season continued.
No rest for the wicked, as the Marlies hosted the Laval Rocket the next day. Toronto came out flying, perhaps still buoyed up from their dominant 3rd period the day before. In perhaps their strongest opening frame of the season, the Marlies doubled Laval in shots and took a 4-0 lead into the 2nd period. The final 40 minutes was more of the same as the Marlies drubbed Laval 7-1. Joe Blandisi led the way with a pair of goals, while Bellows, Steeves, Pietroniro, and Gambrell each chipped in two points.
Following their first three-in-three of the season, the Marlies certainly earned a five-day break. They resumed play the following Friday commencing yet another three-in-three. Up first, the Rochester Americans. Late in the 1st period, Dylan Gambrell tucked home a beautiful Tate Singleton pass to put the Marlies up 1-0. It was Singleton’s first AHL point. The Marlies were outshot the rest of the way, and Dennis Hildeby managed to keep the Americans at bay until late in the 3rd. With the score knotted at one, the game headed into overtime. Nothing was solved in the extra frame, and Hildeby came up big once again in the shootout stopping Rochester’s first three shooters. With the game on his stick, Nick Abruzzese calmly slotted the winner, earning the Marlies a big extra point.
The next day the Marlies hosted the Hartford Wolfpack in a matinee. Former Marlie Nic Petan opened the scoring in the 1st while another former Marlie, Mac Hollowell, collected the assist. Luke Cavallin got the nod between the pipes, and after surrendering the first goal looked very sharp. The Marlies gave him plenty of run support in the 2nd and 3rd periods. With balanced scoring coming from all over the lineup, they scored five giving them a decisive win. Dylan Gambrell, Topi Niemela, and Matteo Pietroniro each had two points.
To finish off this three-in-three the Marlies hosted Laval. Alex Steeves opened the scoring with a shot from distance off a pass from Topi Niemela. After that, the Marlies ran out of steam. Laval rattled off four straight to take the contest 4-1.
Next on the schedule were two away matches with the Manitoba Moose. Tate Singleton was heavily involved in the first game. He recorded his first-ever AHL fight and his first-ever AHL goal. Congratulations to Tate, who has gotten off to a hot start since being called up.
Manitoba tied the game early in the 2nd period. From that point on, both goaltenders shut the door. This game needed overtime, and who better to step up than your captain… Logan Shaw hammered home a one-timer from Alex Steeves and Topi Niemela, giving the Marlies a vital extra point.
In their second match with the Moose, goals from Zach Solow and Logan Show gave the Marlies a 2-1 lead after the 1st. Manitoba equalled Toronto’s 1st-period output in the 2nd, and so the score was knotted at 3 heading into the 3rd. Unfortunately, the Moose found the decisive goal to edge the contest.
Next week I’ll go over how the Marlies have done in April, and as we end the regular season I’ll preview the playoffs and do some player reviews. I hope everyone enjoys this glorious weather, and let’s hope the entire organization finishes the regular season strong!

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