Marlies Weekly: Overcoming adversity, the Marlies win 2 out of 3

Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Bennett Jull
8 months ago
The Toronto Marlies had three games on the schedule this week as they finally wrapped up their seven-game road swing. A trip to Milwaukee was followed by back-to-back games against Grand Rapids. Winning is great and taking four of six points is awesome, but how they did it was inspiring. Buckle up for this one, as multiple players were called up and sent down from the Leafs to the Growlers, making their victories even more impressive.
Let’s get the blemish out of the way first. Milwaukee hosted the Marlies on Wednesday, November 8th in a matinee game. Captain Logan Shaw didn’t dress, and this was their first game without Nick Robertson due to his call-up. The Marlies went with 11 forwards, and before they knew it they were down 4-0.
Kiefer Bellows had a goal and an assist, while Robert Mastrosimone notched his first professional point earning a helper on the Bellows tally. Nick Abruzzese scored his second of the year, and Joseph Blandisi ripped home a power play one-timer after a nice sequence with Alex Steeves and William Villeneuve.
Pontus Holmberg was sent down earlier in the week, which was merely a paper transaction as he was recalled the next day. Max Lajoie was sent down to the Marlies due to the return of Jake McCabe, as he slotted back into the Maple Leaf’s lineup for their Friday night matchup with Calgary.
Here is where the adversity kicked in. While Lajoie returned to the lineup, Bobby McMann was actually called up an hour before the Marlies dropped the puck in their Friday night match at Grand Rapids. Max Ellis was sick and Logan Shaw was still injured. Add in the Robertson and Holmberg call-ups, the forward group was stretched super thin.
The Marlies dipped into the organization, as Keenan Suthers was called up from Newfoundland. This wasn’t just any call-up situation, as Suthers left Newfoundland in the wee hours of the morning to make the trek to Grand Rapids. After 13 hours of travel, he made his AHL debut. To make it all even sweeter, he notched his first point on Josiah Slavin’s first-period goal. Certainly a night the 6’8 (yes, 6’8) forward won’t soon forget.
The Marlies went with 11 forwards once again, with Dmitry Ovchinnikov making his way back into the lineup. More on him shortly… Early in the 2nd period, Kyle Clifford received a game misconduct. The Marlies played the bulk of this game with 10 forwards. There were additional game misconducts for Josiah Slavin, Robert Mastrosimone, and Matteo Pietroniro, but those all came in the last minute of the 3rd period. The Marlies have snot.
So, how did the Marlies manage to score seven goals and win 7-3 without so many bodies? Joseph Blandisi, Alex Steeves, and Nick Abruzzese all found the points column. Max Lajoie had three assists in his return and Keith Petruzelli was solid between the pipes. This night, however, belonged to Dmitry Ovchinnikov.
The 2020 5th-rounder notched his first professional hat trick and was the game’s first star. Could this be his coming out party? The Russian-born forward is currently up to five points in six games, and while he hasn’t earned himself a consistent spot in the lineup, perhaps the hat trick will push him on. His progress is definitely something to keep an eye on over the next little while.
No rest for the wicked, as the two teams suited up for battle the very next day. The Marlies once again dipped into the Growlers, as forward Tate Singleton made his AHL debut. Once again, an undermanned Marlies team came out and controlled the play. Joseph Blandisi and Kiefer Bellows sniped home their 4th goals of the year, and Nick Abruzzese had a hat trick of helpers. The Marlies finished off the road trip strong, blanking Grand Rapids 4-0.
Shoot to get hot, shoot to stay hot. Ovchinnikov kept up his fine form, adding another goal and assist. Alex Steeves continued his strong play, finishing off a gorgeous pass from Dylan Gambrell. Dennis Hildeby slammed the door shut, earning his second consecutive shutout. While the Marlies have a crowded crease, it may be time for him to get more games, as his recent play has been very strong.
The Maple Leafs don’t suit up again until Friday the 17th. Bobby McMann made a very strong case to stay in the lineup, as the 4th line of McMann – Kampf – Gregor combined for a couple of goals. McMann himself had two assists in the strongest game for a Maple Leaf’s 4th line this year. Nick Robertson has also developed strong chemistry with Max Domi and Calle Jarnkrok, and it doesn’t look like he will be back with the Marlies anytime soon.
As they head to Sweden, I hope Pontus Holmberg features in a game (the Leafs will likely carry a couple of extra bodies). William Lagesson will surely be enjoying life, as his steady play has warranted a run of NHL games, and he thoroughly deserves to play in his homeland.
The Marlies have earned the week off, and don’t play again until next weekend. They are home on the 18th and 19th at 4pm, hosting the Manitoba Moose both nights. I strongly suggest making the trip out to Liberty Village and catching a game (or two)!

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