Marlies Weekly: February recap, the dog days of the season

Photo credit:(Photo by Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
Bennett Jull
1 month ago
The Toronto Marlies had a busy month in February as we are well and truly in the dog days of the season. The shortest month of the year brought the Baby Leafs 11 games, six of which were on the road. The Marlies went 5-3-3, and are firmly in the playoff hunt. They sit in the middle of the North Division standings with just over 20 games left. So, who performed well and what was notable from the past month? Let’s dive in:
The Marlies started off with back-to-back away matches in Utica. They took 3 of 4 points against the Comets including a 4-0 shutout win. Dennis Hildeby earned the goose egg in a well-rounded team performance. The next night saw them fall 6-5 in a shootout. The Marlies clawed their way back with 2 goals in the 3rd period earning themselves a point, but ultimately couldn’t squeeze out the win. Scoring in these games came from all angles of the lineup as the Marlies depth has been noticeable of late.
Alex Steeves and Dennis Hildeby jetted off to San Jose for the AHL All Star events. Both had strong showings as they represented Toronto well.
Following Utica the Marlies had back-to-back home games against Laval, followed by a third home game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. These games brought us the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s start with the good! In the first game with Laval, Dennis Hildeby continued his strong play by stopping 31 of 32 shots, earning a victory. Captain Logan Shaw had a hattrick, while multiple Marlies had point nights in a resounding 6-1 win.
Let’s do the bad and the ugly at the same time here… In the second game of the back-to-back with Laval, they lost 7-1. A couple of days later against the Penguins, they lost 6-1. Not much to note here, they never got going in either game. One of the few positives that came from these matches was Roni Hirvonen’s first goal of the season. We all know how long his road has been; it must have felt great to find the back of the net. Another positive that shouldn’t be overlooked is that Cameron Gaunce played in his 800th AHL game. It’s hard to fake your way through 800 games, congrats to Cameron and his family!
Following those disappointing performances, the Marlies had three games in four days, the first of which was against Belleville. Toronto stumbled out of the gates as Belleville had a 2-0 lead halfway through the game. Luke Cavallin got the nod fresh off a call-up from Newfoundland. He shook off those goals and gave the Marlies a chance to win. The powerplay ran hot in the back half of the game going 2-for-3, and they tacked on another to jump ahead 3-2. Belleville tied it up before Kiefer Bellows continued his solid season scoring in the third. They held on to get back in the win colomn, which was also Cavallin’s first AHL win – congrats to him!
The following day the boys hosted the Hershey Bears. Once again Cavallin got the nod, and once again he made good on his selection. The Marlies found it difficult to score up until the last seven minutes of the 3rd period. Down 2-0, Joe Blandisi sniped one post in to cut the lead in half. A minute later Dylan Gambrell deflected a Willian Villeneuve point shot home to tie the game up and force overtime. Unfortunately, Hershey scored in the extra frame.
In their third game in four nights the Marlies hosted the Rochester Americans at the Scotiabank Arena. Dylan Gambrell got the party started with his 9th goal of the season with a neat backhand. Rochester evened the game up early in the 2nd period, and the score held firm through 60 minutes. Once again, the Marlies found themselves off to overtime. In the extra frame they couldn’t capitalize on a couple of solid scoring chances, and Rochester scored with under 20 seconds left.
After a few days off, the Toronto Marlies travelled to La Belle Province for back-to-back games with Laval. These weren’t just any games, as the orgnanization arranged a mentors trip. Check out the video below as the mentors intoduced the starting lineup:
Joseph Woll was back between the pipes for the first time since December on a conditioning stint. Boy did he remind everyone just how good he can be. Woll shut the door on Laval making 36 saves on 37 shots. On most nights that would be more than good enough for 1st Star, but Joseph Blandisi managed to one-up his teammates performance. He led the way for the Marlies in their 4-1 win notching his first professional hattrick against his old team with his Mother (mentor) in the barn. Does it get any better than that?
The next day the two teams went at it again. Not to be outdone, Dennis Hildeby stopped 22 of 23 shots in another very strong eprformance. Blandisi had another multi-point night, and Kiefer Bellows notched his 20th and 21st goals of the year in a 5-1 drubbing. Maybe the Marlies should try to bring the mentors around more often… They outscored Laval 9-2 over the two games, and clearly good times were had by all involved.
In their final match of the month, the Marlies jetted out to the division leading Cleveland Monsters. Goals from Gambrell and once again Blandisi had the Marlies within one late in the 3rd period. With Hildeby pulled, Kiefer Bellows scored with 1:26 left on the lock earning the Marlies a point. Unfortunately the Monsters had the extra tally in overtime.
There were some callups to the Maple Leafs that happened in February that should be recognized. Max Lajoie played in 3 games with the Maple Leafs and notched his first point with the Buds. I thought he played well, and didn’t look out of place. Alex Steeves featured for the first time this season agains the St. Louis Blues. He played just over 1o minutes as the Leafs won 4-1. Dennis Hildeby backed up but didn’t feature.
The biggest callup that occured was for Marshall Rifai. Stick taps to the aforementioned Lajoie and Steeves, but there’s nothing like your first big-league game. Congratulations to Marshall, hopefully many more come during his career.
With the trade deadline right around the corner, the Marlies lineup could look vastly different next week. I’ll be going over who could hold value, and I’ll evaluate the players on the year thus far in the coming days. Enjoy this lovely Spring weather!

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