Marlies Weekly: Two games, two wins, the Marlies double up Grand Rapids

Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Bennett Jull
2 months ago
The Toronto Marlies had two games on the calendar last week. They hosted the Grand Rapids Griffins on Tuesday and then again yesterday at the Coca-Cola Coliseum with Tuesday’s match bringing the return of a couple of familiar faces in Zach Aston-Reese and Michael Hutchinson. Aston-Reese has struggled since signing with Detroit’s organization, with no games as a Red Wing under his belt and an underwhelming 7 points in AHL 20 games. Hutchinson got the nod Tuesday night between the pipes and didn’t fair all too well.
Dmitry Ovchinnikov got the party started with his 7th of the year. Assists on his goal went to Pontus Holmberg and Zach Solow, who is a player I’m growing increasingly fond of as the season continues. He brings a relentless work ethic and dogged puck pursuit. While there may not be enough offensive upside to his game, he has showcased that he can be trusted day in and day out at the AHL level in various roles.
Mikko Kokkonen and Kyle Clifford both scored before the end of the second period as the Marlies held a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes. Clifford’s goal was particularly nice as he managed to get enough on it while screaming in all alone to knock it through Hutchinson’s legs. Joseph Blandisi had assists on both goals, more on him later.
Grand Rapids came out firing with two quick goals to start the final frame, with the aforementioned Aston-Reese potting his 4th of the campaign. With less than five minutes left in the third, William Villeneuve rifled home his first of the season, bringing the score level. Kokkonen and Shaw both picked up helpers and their second points of the game.
The sides both settled for at least a point, and off to overtime we went. We didn’t have to wait long for a winner, as less than a minute into the extra frame, the Marlies found a way. Joseph Blandisi capped off his three-point night with a beautiful tuck. The first star of the game entered the zone on a two-on-one and patiently waited for a passing lane to open up. After slamming on the e-brake, he realized there truly was no pass option, and deeked Hutchinson out before sliding it home.
In between the Tuesday and Sunday games, an unfortunate injury occurred to Joseph Woll. Woll started this season off in strong fashion and had just wrestled the starting spot down before suffering a high ankle sprain against the Ottawa Senators last Thursday, which will keep him out week-to-week. This puts a little more pressure on the organizations’ netminders, but thankfully, Samsonov played arguably his best game of the season on Saturday night, while Martin Jones came in for the injured Woll on Thursday, and backed up on Saturday. As the Leafs play back-to-back games tonight and tomorrow, Jones will likely feature.
It’s no secret that Dennis Hildeby has also enjoyed a strong start to the season. I’m sure there are some fans out there clamouring for his callup with Woll’s injury, but it may be best for him to string a run of games together here for the Marlies. The Marlies are now left with Keith Petruzelli and Hildeby as their netminders, so a run of games for Hildeby offers another step forward in his development.
Back to the ice, as the Marlies hosted the Griffins yet again yesterday afternoon. It was Topi time in the first period, as Niemela wired home his 3rd of the year. He finished off a nice passing play from Steeves and Abruzzese. With the assist, Alex Steeves continued his scoring streak, which now extends to 13 matches. It was good to see him back healthy, long may that continue.
Abruzzese had a particularly strong game. After his pretty backhand feed to Niemela, he decided to take it a step further early in the second. With the Marlies on the powerplay, Abruzzese and Shaw worked a pretty give-and-go to enter the zone. If he can showcase that type of speed on a more consistent basis, he will be another player knocking on the Maple Leafs’ door. On another note, the Marlies have started to find some success recently with the extra man. Rich Clune was added as an assistant coach, and his addition seems to have breathed new life into the Marlies powerplay.
Pontus Holmberg scored the third and final goal of the game halfway through the 3rd period off assists from Villeneuve and Ryan Tverberg. It was great to see Tverberg back in the lineup again, I’m eager to see what he can bring over this next stretch. Hildeby stopped 20 of 21, and the Marlies were victorious 3-1.
Looking ahead to this week, the Marlies will travel South of the border for a couple of games. They are away to the Providence Bruins on Friday and the Hartford Wolf Pack on Sunday. The Leafs meanwhile have a very busy week. They play tonight and tomorrow against the New York teams, before returning home on Thursday and Saturday to host Columbus and Pittsburgh. There are plenty of storylines to pay attention to. Could John Tavares notch his 1000th point tonight against the Islanders? Wouldn’t that be poetic… Saturday brings the return of Kyle Dubas, which will be interesting to watch.
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